Recently, the Santa Barbara community lost its judicial giant, Joseph Lodge. Many very good words have been subsequently printed about Judge Lodge, but none as good as that from his wife, Sheila.
In response to what Sheila Lodge wrote, Carmen Lodise sent me the following:
Allow me to express my gratitude to Mayor Sheila Lodge for her moving eulogy to her husband, Superior Court Judge Joe Lodge.
In it she mentions the time he ordered the release of some 350 people who had been arrested in a peaceful sit-in in Isla Vista’s Perfect Park on June 10, 1970. Those of us active in Isla Vista politics and community affairs during the Vietnam War era will forever honor Joe for his brave and principled rulings in that case.
As Sheila notes, he could well have lost the job that he loved when he said, in effect, that the offense of torching the Bank of America three months earlier could not be used to restrict the entire community’s right to free speech and assembly. The demonstrators who made that point in Perfect Park were amazed to come before a judge willing to stand firm in the face of overwhelming pressure from the sheriff, the DA and a large swath of public opinion.
By the time he was an institution on the bench, Joe was even more forthright in publicly discussing that case when he appeared as the featured speaker at a reception launching the website www.islavista.org on Feb. 25, 2000, the 30th anniversary of the night the bank burned. That he actually showed up to address about fifty people gathered at the Isla Vista Medical Clinic was a surprise; what he had to say was downright astonishing.
“I looked out at those young people who had been arrested in Perfect Park, and in letting them go I felt I was taking sides in a revolution,” he said to gasps from the audience.
In 2002, hundreds of people attended the anti-retirement party Mayor Lodge threw for Joe at the Montecito Country Club. I thought it remarkable that four of the six speakers mentioned that his releasing the demonstrators back in 1970 was the ruling that most impressed them about the judge in his nearly 50 years on the bench.
I think of Joe’s words and example each time I visit the monument to the international anti-war movement in Perfect Park.
Barra de Navidad, Mexico
PS Thanks to Kevin for some help polishing this note.