100 YEARS of PBA

As we gather on November 7 at the Athenaeum to celebrate the Pasadena Bar Association’s 100th anniversary, it is worthwhile to look back to the time when the PBA began and what was happening during that year and the beginnings of the legal profession in Pasadena during that era.

It’s 1917 and Pasadena will be 31 years old since its incorporation (population in 1886 was 2,700).  The third Rose Bowl game opened the year where Oregon defeated the University of Pennsylvania 14 to 0.  The United States was on the verge of entering World War I under President Woodrow Wilson.  The United States paid Denmark $30 million to purchase the Dutch West Indies, which became the US Virgin Islands.  The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded.  Also during this year Ella Fitzgerald, John F. Kennedy, Dean Martin, Lena Horne, Andrew Wyeth, Phyllis Diller, Robert Mitchum, Caspar Weinberger and Dizzy Gillespie were born. 

Prior to the organization of the PBA, there were many early lawyers who began their practices in Pasadena.  These early lawyers included Benjamin S. Eaton, a famous local citizen, who lived in Pasadena, and participated in the establishment of many institutions in the area. He was the District Attorney of Los Angeles County and served as Associate Justice of the Los Angeles County Court. He was one of the founders of the City of Pasadena and various institutions and geographic locations bear his name.  Harvey W. McGee also was active in Pasadena’s incorporation and was the City Attorney in Pasadena.  The leading law firm in the early years was Metcalf & McLachlan.

In 1891, two attorneys commenced their separate practices which have continued without interruption until the present time. Benjamin W. Hahn, who had previously studied law in the offices of Metcalf & McLachlan, opened his own office. That practice continues now as the firm of Hahn & Hahn. Judge J. H. Merriam also started his practice in Pasadena in 1891, and it has continued through successive partners, first for a long period as Merriam, Rinehart & Merriam, now known as the firm of Palermo, Barbaro, Chinen and Pitzer.  Most of these early law firms clustered around the intersection of Colorado and Fair Oaks.

There is some question as to when the Pasadena Bar Association first came into being, There was at least an informal organization in 1916, which may have been more in the nature of a social organization. There apparently was little Bar Association activity until the middle of the 1920’s.  At that time the lawyers of Pasadena were very anxious to have a Superior Court Branch established in Pasadena. This was due, in part, to the fact that Long Beach did have a branch Court and the Pasadena lawyers felt that this area was equally entitled to have a branch. As an organized group, they combined their negotiating skills, their powers of persuasion and their political clout to accomplish that goal. Due in considerable measure to the Bar’s activities, the Pasadena Branch Court was established and the Association continued to exercise its influence in matters pertaining to Court structures and personnel.

When the members of the Bar decided to become more active as an organized bar association, they named as the first President, Judge George W. Gibbs. Other presidents in the 1920’s were Benjamin W. Hahn, C. M. Simpson, and A. Lincoln Rowland.

The Pasadena Bar Association’s purpose was stated to be: “To advance the science of jurisprudence, to promote the administration of justice, to encourage a thorough legal education, to maintain the honor and dignity of the profession of law and to cultivate social intercourse among its members.”

At the time that the early lawyers were practicing in the Pasadena area, there were many interesting local ordinances. Among the early local provisions were items such as the following:

ORD. NO. 16 Licenses required- Passed August 2, 1886

  • For every Restaurant charging 50 cents per meal-$10,00
  • For every Restaurant charging less than 50 cents per meal-$5,00
  • For the business of Banker
  • $2.00 street poll-tax on every male inhabitant between the ages of 21 and 60.

ORD. NO. 18 Passed August 18, 1886

  • City Marshal’s duty to clean streets and disinfect when necessary

ORD. NO. 26 Passed September 24, 1886

  • Required owners of property to trim trees so the branches thereof would not interfere with the way of foot passengers on sidewalks nor of persons passing in buggies

ORD, NO. 37 Passed December 4, 1886

  • Made it unlawful to ride in or drive a vehicle or any animal or team at an immoderate rate of speed along any street; also unlawful to leave a horse unhitched and unguarded in a public place or where it could escape into a public place.

ORD. NO, 87 Passed November 26, 1887

  • Adding to Ord. 37, prohibition against dangerous or fast bicycle riding and prohibiting riding or driving an animal along the sidewalk.

During the first three decades of the 20th century, many outstanding individuals entered into the profession of law in Pasadena. Herbert Hahn joined his father, Benjamin Hahn, and his uncle, Edwin Hahn; other lawyers joined other firms or started their own practice. These included Harold G. Simpson, Raymond G. Thompson, Jay D. Rinehart, James Boyle, Robert H. Webster, Kenneth C. Newell, James Morin, John Joslyn and many others.

After having operated as an unincorporated association for many decades, the Pasadena Bar Association was incorporated on January 4, 1967. The Association has carried on, and still continues to provide many services of benefit to the profession, its members and the community. 

Although the practice of law has changed over the decades since the founding of the Pasadena Bar Association, the reasons for the Association remains.  The Association provides a community of professionals who interact with each other, the judiciary and the community at large.  The services the Association provides continue to serve its members with high quality, affordable and practical legal education.  In addition, the various sections that organize and schedule this important legal education maintain the profession’s high standards of providing excellent legal services to clients.  Beyond all of this, the Pasadena Bar Associations knows it holds an important place in the larger community it serves and so it continues to support the next generation of attorneys who will carry on the traditions of this important and unique organization.

Pasadena lawyers have attained a high degree of respect and recognition in California. Many judges have been appointed or elected from the local Bar.  Most notable was Donald R. Wright who served with distinction as Chief Justice of the State of California.

The Officers and Trustees of the Pasadena Bar Association encourage the members to participate in the activities of our Bar, to attend the monthly meetings, to accept committee responsibilities, and by suggestions and cooperation, help the Association to continue to provide its services to this profession, to its members and to the public.


Anglin Flewelling Rasmussen Campbell & Trytten LLP

Calleton, Merritt, De Francisco & Bannon, LLP

Fierstadt & Mans, LLP

Hahn & Hahn LLP

Lagerlof, Senecal, Gosney & Kruse, LLP

Larson & Gaston, LLP

Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer

Law Offices of Sajan Kashyap


Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP

Lucas, Horsfall, Murphy & Pindroh, LLP

Mondragon & Assoc. Insurance Services

Pansky Markle Ham LLP

Palermo Barbaro Chinen & Pitzer, LLP

Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell

Whittier Trust Company