"He was a man of substance in a world that gives little thought to principle or moral introspection. Many of the judges in the valley would acknowledge that they owe him some part of their career for his encouragement and advice. I am sure there are many people outside the legal profession who owe him the same. I am proud to say he was my friend."
Presiding Justice James A. Ardaiz
"I had the privilege of knowing Hollis Best for many years, and he was an exceptional judge and wonderful person. He served with great distinction on the state trial and appellate benches for more than 21 years, followed by a career as a federal magistrate. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and worked with him."
Chief Justice Ronald M. George
"Hollis, it is our hope that we have all played a small part in your life because you have played a big part in ours. We will miss you."
Judge Robert E. Coyle
Highly regarded by all who knew him, Magistrate Judge Hollis G. Best enjoyed a long and distinguished history in California law that spanned more than a half-century. A long time resident of Fresno, Judge Best was appointed as a United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of California on March 1,1994. Judge Best was assigned to Yosemite National Park where he served on the federal bench in the Eastern District until his death. He once described his duty station "as being as close as you can get to heaven and still be in the legal profession."
Judge Best was born in Curry County, New Mexico on July 10, 1926. He served in the U.S. Navy and was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Pacific. He attained the reserve rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. After the war Judge Best attended Fresno State College, graduating in 1948, and Stanford University, where he received his law degree in 1950. He became a deputy District Attorney in Fresno County in 1951 and served two years as a prosecutor. He joined the law firm McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard, Coyle and Best and embarked on a 20-year career in private practice. He was also a past president of the Fresno County Bar Association.
Judge Best began his judicial career in 1972, when he was appointed as a Superior Court Judge for the County of Fresno by then Governor Ronald Reagan. He served on the court for 11 years, including several terms as Presiding Judge (1974-1977 and 1980-1981). In 1984, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District, and served in that capacity for ten years. He was the Presiding Justice from 1990-1993.
Judge Best was a member of the Judicial Council from 1991 -1993, participating on the Advisory Committee to Implement Gender Fairness Proposals, as well the Appellate Court and Court Management Committees.
He passed away on Friday, August 15,2003, at the age of 77, and is survived by his wife of 56 years, Kathryn Jeanne, by his two sons, David and Daniel, and by his two daughters Laurie and Kathryn, and by eight grandchildren.
© 2003 United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Historical Society.