News Release

In Memoriam: Justice Norman Epstein

The Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District on Friday announced the death of Justice Norman Epstein, who retired in 2018 after a nearly 45-year tenure with the judicial branch.
Mar 24, 2023

LOS ANGELES—The Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District on Friday announced the death of Justice Norman Epstein, who retired in 2018 after a nearly 45-year tenure with the judicial branch. He was 89 years old.

Said Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero“Justice Norman Epstein represented the very best of our judicial branch. He dedicated nearly 45 years to judicial service at every level of our branch. Justice Epstein received judicial appointments from four Governors–Governors Reagan, Brown, Deukmejian, and Schwarzenegger—a testament to his fidelity to the law irrespective of ideology. Justice Epstein shared his legal brilliance with the next generation of scholars by hiring annual law clerks and later inspiring other justices on his court to do so. Justice Epstein will be remembered as one of our most exceptional jurists.” 

Said Administrative Presiding Justice Elwood Lui, of the Second Appellate District, Division Two: “Justice Norman Epstein will be missed. He was a brilliant colleague who dedicated himself to a lifetime of public service. He was respected for his commitment to his judicial duties. The work on his many judicial education projects was exceptional. A kind and sincere man who was devoted to his family and friends.”

Below is the full tribute from the Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District:

In memoriam: Norman L. Epstein, a dedicated and respected member of the California judiciary, who passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 24, 2023.

Norman L. Epstein's life and career were marked by a steadfast commitment to the law, fairness, and justice. Born on April 9, 1933, in Los Angeles, he attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his B.A. in 1955 and his J.D. in 1958. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1959 and embarked on a distinguished legal career that spanned more than five decades.

Epstein's dedication to public service was evident throughout his career. He served as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California from 1959 to 1962 before becoming the General Counsel and Vice Chancellor of the California State University and Colleges, now California State University, Los Angeles, where he served from 1962 to 1975.

In 1975, Governor Ronald Reagan appointed Epstein to the Los Angeles Municipal Court, where he served for five years before being appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by Governor Jerry Brown Jr. in 1980. Epstein served on the Superior Court for a decade before being appointed to the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division 4, by Governor George Deukmejian in 1990.

During his time on the Court of Appeal, Epstein was recognized for his sharp mind, unbiased approach, and unwavering commitment to the legal system. After serving as an Associate Justice for 14 years, he was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the role of Presiding Justice of Division Four in 2004. Epstein was a strong advocate for continuing education among justices, actively supporting the Judicial College from its inception throughout his entire tenure on the bench. He frequently shared his expertise through lectures and written works, including his contributions as an author to the Witkin & Epstein California criminal law and other publications.

Throughout his career, Epstein was known for his kindness, humility, and collegiality. He was respected by his colleagues and peers for his deep knowledge of the law, his fairness, and his commitment to justice. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and the entire legal community.

The legacy of Norman L. Epstein will continue to live on through the countless lives he touched and the contributions he made to the legal profession and the justice system. His passing is a great loss, but his legacy will endure.