Malcolm Millar Lucas (April 19, 1927 – September 28, 2016) was the 26th Chief Justice of California. He was appointed to the position after his predecessor, Rose Bird, was removed by the electorate in 1986 for reasons including her staunch opposition to capital punishment, which was reflected in her voting for reversal in all 61 death penalty appeals that came before the Court during her tenure.
Born in Berkeley, California, Lucas earned a B.A. from the University of Southern California in 1950 and an LL.B. from the University of Southern California Law School in 1953. He was in private practice in Long Beach, California from 1954 to 1967. He was a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court from 1967 to 1971.
On July 8, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon nominated Lucas to a new seat on the United States District Court for the Central District of California (based in Los Angeles) created by 84 Stat. 294. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 29, 1971, and received his commission the same day. Lucas served on that court until he was tapped to join the Supreme Court of California in 1984. He replaced Frank K. Richardson, former Governor Ronald Reagan's only remaining appointee on the Court.
In the November 1986 California state elections, George Deukmejian was reelected Governor and the electorate ejected Chief Justice Bird and two other liberal justices from the state supreme court. Governor Deukmejian and Lucas had once practiced law together many years earlier in Long Beach. After Bird lost her retention election, Deukmejian announced on November 26, 1986 that he would be appointing then-Associate Justice Lucas, his old friend and former law partner, to the position of Chief Justice. On February 19, 1987, Deukmejian then announced the appointment of three new conservative Associate Justices, David Eagleson, John Arguelles, and Marcus Kaufman, thereby creating the first conservative majority on the Court in several decades.
In contrast to the interpretive tendencies of the Bird court, the decisions of the Lucas court were pro-business, affirmed death penalty sentences imposed by the trial courts, and tended to adhere to the textualist approach, interpreting the law in strict accordance with its written meaning and precedent. An effect of this tendency was that in matters of criminal law, the Lucas court's interpretation of the law favored the state government more than that of the Bird court. The Lucas court also reversed several pro-plaintiff landmark decisions of the Bird court in the context of tort law and insurance law. In 1988, Lucas implemented a practice that the justices produce opinions within 90 days of holding oral arguments. On October 1, 1995, he announced he would retire in May 1996 to spend more time with his family.
After retiring from the Court, Lucas went back into private practice and became an arbitrator for JAMS in Los Angeles.
Lucas died on September 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. He was 89.