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About B.E. Witkin

Know the legacy of California's preeminent legal scholar

Witkin's illustrious legal career

B.E. Witkin's career spanned almost seventy years and took place as California law was experiencing exponential growth in both size and complexity.

Bernie, as he was known to all, was born on May 22, 1904, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to Russian immigrant parents. His family moved to San Francisco when he was five years old. Although raised in poverty, he grew up to challenge the legal system and create a new paradigm for legal and judicial education.

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley as both an undergraduate and law student, Bernie began his illustrious career as California's preeminent legal scholar. Using his carefully crafted and detailed bar review notes, he wrote the first Summary of California Law to help lawyers and law students to better understand the law. Treatises on Civil Procedure, Evidence, and Criminal Law followed, which together became known as the "Witkin Library."

Besides the Witkin Library, his works include the original California Rules on Appeal, the California Style Manual, and the Manual on Appellate Court Opinions. He was instrumental in creating the Foundation for Judicial Education to provide continuing education to California judges.

Whether as the author of the Witkin Library, the California Reporter of Decisions, a teacher to aspiring members of the Bar, and an advocate for legal reform, Bernie never tired of making California law understandable to all.

Bernie lived in Berkeley, California for most of his life.  He passed away on December 23, 1995.


All or part of the content of this page is © Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation 2019