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J. Anthony Kline

Judge Anthony Kline co-founded Public Advocates in 1971 with Bob Gnaizda, Sid Wolinsky and Peter Sitkin. A native of New York, Kline’s long and illustrious judicial career began in the late 1960’s after earning his law degree from Yale Law School. It was at Yale Law School that Kline met fellow student Jerry Brown, who became a life-long friend. Kline was a law clerk for Honorable Raymond Peters at the California Supreme Court early in his legal career.

It was while he was in California that he met his fellow Public Advocates co-founders, including Peter Sitkin, and fellow Yale Law School graduates Bob Gnaizda and Sid Wolinsky. One of Public Advocates early issue areas was the housing rights of low-income tenants and the impact of redevelopment on these communities in the early 1970s. Said Justice Kline about this early work at Public Advocates, “and I do believe that that our litigation in those areas, had an extraordinary effect in this nation because it sensitized local redevelopment agencies, the department of housing and urban development and other municipal and County officials that the people they were displacing had rights.”

In 1975, Kline was named Legal Affairs Secretary to Governor Jerry Brown, served 6 years, and in 1980 was appointed by Brown to serve as a judge at the San Francisco Superior Court. Two years later he was elevated to presiding justice of the First District Court of Appeal, Division Two. On December 15, 2021, after nearly 40 years of service on the court, Judge Kline announced his retirement, saying in an article published by The Recorder that although he had not yet set his future plans, he was exploring activities and work that would be socially useful, fulfilling, but not as demanding.

The article noted that over the decades Kline’s opinions “touched on almost every hot-button issue including same-sex marriage, capital punishment, marijuana use and abortion.” Kline was critical of overcrowding in prisons, lengthy prison sentences and the practice of keeping elderly offenders in prison who did not pose a public threat. He was also supportive of the gradual increase in gender and racial diversity among judges that he saw during his long experience as a jurist.

In 2021, The Recorder quoted former Governor Jerry Brown on Justice Kline’s contributions during his outstanding career, “Justice Kline was a remarkable jurist with an unflagging commitment to the law as an instrument of justice,” Brown commented to The Recorder “Independent and passionate, he wrote opinions that will shape the thinking of judges for decades to come.”

Judge Kline graduated from John Hopkins University, attended Cornell University and received his law degree from Yale Law School.