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Jim Gray

Former Judge, California
The son of Elizabeth Polin Gray and a highly regarded federal judge, “Judge William P. Gray“, Judge James P. Gray was raised in the Los Angeles area and attended schools in both La Canada and Pasadena. Between receiving his undergraduate degree in US History from UCLA in 1966 and a Juris Doctor degree from USC in 1971, Jim Gray served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Palmar Norte, Costa Rica. During that two years as a Volunteer he taught physical education as a professor’ de education’ fisica in its high school and also set up and oversaw programs of community recreation and health in his community. As he tells it, he probably should be cited in the Guinness Book of Records for brushing his teeth in front of more elementary school classrooms than anyone else in history. After law school, Jim served for almost four years as a criminal defense attorney as a lieutenant in the Navy JAG Corps first at the US Naval Air Station in Guam and then at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, California, after which he was a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, where he eventually headed a unit that prosecuted frauds against the VA and FHA.

After working in civil litigation for a private law firm for about five years, Judge Gray was appointed to the Santa Ana Municipal Court in 1983 by Governor George Deukmejian and, in 1989, elevated by Governor Deukmejian to the Superior Court. Throughout his career within the legal and judicial community, Jim Gray has not only donated hundreds of hours of volunteer time to existing community service-oriented activities, he also has created and implemented a number of innovative programs of his own, each one a success story in itself.

For instance, it was Jim Gray who probably started the first drug court in the country for alcohol-related offenses within six months of being appointed as a judge. This program was successful in keeping defendants who had the disease of alcoholism off alcohol for six months, which was as long as he was able to keep statistics. Judge Jim also introduced Orange County to the Peer Court System, where juvenile defendants travel to a school outside their district to have their actual cases heard by juries of high school students who, after asking questions of both the subject and his/her parents, deliberate and then recommend a sentence to a real judge. Thereafter, if the subject completes the sentence within four months, the underlying charges are dismissed and the subject emerges without a criminal record.

Gray also worked closely with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to form a MADD DUI panel in 1987 whereby defendants were sentenced to listen as victims of drunk driving collisions told their heartbreaking stories. This program has been recognized as one of the most effective within the MADD organization and the court system. In addition, as a member of the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Program’s Drinking Driving Program Advisory Committee, Judge Jim also helped to establish a program whereby youthful offenders of drinking driver laws were sentenced to visit the Western Medical Trauma Center, where these young people witnessed some of the devastating injuries caused by similar offenders. This program was also cosponsored by the Volunteer Center of Orange County, where Gray had served as a board member.
Other organizations Judge Gray helped to found include the Association of Former U.S. Attorneys, which has met yearly since 1979 to share ideas and continue with the camaraderie of that great office, and the William P. Gray Chapter of the American Inns of Court, which eventually named after his father and was founded to increase ethics, education, and professionalism for judges and lawyers.

Judge James P. Gray served as a trial court judge for 25 years in Orange County, California. During that time, he was awarded honorary doctor of laws degrees both from Western State University School of Law and Chapman University School of Law, and the “Judge of the Year” Award from the Business Litigation Section of the Orange County Bar Association. Not only was Judge Gray also the recipient of the “Judge of the Year” Award from the Orange County Chapter of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, that steller group later named that annual award after Judge James P. Gray. And on January 16, 2020, Judge Gray received the 2019 Judge Franklin G. West Lifetime Achievement Award from the Orange County Bar Association, which is its highest honor.