William W. Bedsworth

William W. Bedsworth

Associate Justice
Division Three
Since 1997

William W. Bedsworth was born in Long Beach, California, and grew up in Gardena. He played intercollegiate baseball, wrote for the school paper, represented day students in the student senate, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree (cum laude) from Loyola University of Los Angeles in three years (1968), and his Juris Doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall) three years later.

After graduation from law school he joined the Orange County District Attorney’s Office where he served as a trial deputy, appellate attorney, and finally as managing attorney in charge of its law and motion/appellate division. He handled cases in both the California and United States Supreme Courts, and his argument before the California Supreme Court in In re James D. (1987) 43 Cal.3d 903, was videotaped by the National School Safety Center for educational use. During his career as a prosecutor, he was twice chosen President of the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys and twice elected to the Board of Directors of the Orange County Bar Association.

In 1986, he was elected to an open seat on the Orange County Superior Court. He was re-elected in 1992, and in 1996, the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation of the state Bar rated him “exceptionally well qualified” (highest possible rating) for appointment to the Court of Appeal. He was appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, by Governor Pete Wilson in February 1997. He was then elected to that position in 1998 and re-elected in 2010.
Justice Bedsworth has taught law school classes at Western State University (where he was the commencement speaker in 2003 and 2021), Chapman University, the California Judicial College, and the University of California, Irvine Law School, where he now serves on the Board of Visitors. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and was a principal in Fair Share 502 (a charity whose 10 members raised almost a million dollars for homeless children).

He was the Hispanic Bar Association’s Judge of the Year in 1997, the Celtic Bar’s Judge of the Year in 2012, and received the LGBT Lavender Bar Association’s first Leadership Award in 2011. He received the David G. Sills Award, the Orange County Bar Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for appellate law, in 2015. He was the 2018 recipient of the Franklin G. West Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Orange County Bar Association. In 2017, the California Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates honored him by naming their only judicial award after him.

In addition to law review articles, he has published in the lay press, most recently in Sierra and Coast magazines. His monthly humor column “A Criminal Waste of Space” is nationally syndicated, and self-described as the most aptly named feature of the dozen legal publications in which it appears. He has won several awards for it, including five from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2019 he won the annual California Newspaper Publishers Association contest to identify the best newspaper column in California.

In 2010, he was chosen for one of George Mason University’s coveted Green Bag awards – the two other winners in his category were Nina Totenberg of NPR and Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker. In 2019, his opinion in Brady v. Bayer Corp. (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 1156, was chosen by Green Bag as the recipient of one of five awards nationwide for “exemplary legal writing.” His opinion in People v. Garcia (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 1269, was the first gay rights precedent in California history and prompted the California legislature to amend Code of Civil Procedure section 231.5 to bar peremptory jury challenges on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 2003, The Times of London gave him its Judicial Wisdom of the Year award for recognizing that “There is no non-culpable explanation for monkeys in your underpants.” His third collection of legal humor, Lawyers, Gubs and Monkeys, was published by Van de Plas Publishing in 2017.

Justice Bedsworth lives with his wife Kelly and their surfeit of cats in Laguna Beach, California. His primary recreational interests are his three children, four grandchildren, golf, country music, baseball, ice hockey, and the restoration of a 125-year old house in Seneca Falls, New York. He worked as a National Hockey League goal judge for 15 years (he proudly wears a 2007 Stanley Cup ring) and was the subject of a story in ESPN The Magazine entitled “Justice of the Crease".