Senior United States District Judge
Eastern District of California

by Arnold P. Peter, Vice-President
Legal and Business Affairs
Labor Relations
Universal Studios Hollywood

The judicial branch has neither the power of the sword nor the purse. Therefore, as Hamilton states in the Federalist, the judiciary must rely on persuasion and moral judgment "to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws." Dean Price pursued justice along a path that was often the less traveled and, in the highest traditions of the federal judiciary, rendered his judicial duties with passion, without regard for politics or popularity.

The poet Louis Untermeyer perhaps described the self of Dean Price:

Ever insurgent let me be,
Make me more daring than devout;
From sleek contentment keep me free,
And fill me with a buoyant doubt.

Open my ears to music; let
Me thrill with Spring's first flutes and drums-
But never let me dare forget
the bitter ballads of the slums.

Ever insurgent in seeking justice, Dean Price heard both the sweet music of the Spring and the sullen ballads of the slums.

It is said in the Talmud, that the world rests upon three ideals: truth, justice and peace. The Talmudic rabbis admonish that these three ideals are but one for when justice is done, the truth becomes an actuality and peace becomes a reality. In striving to do justice, one pursues truth and peace. Edward Dean Price refused to compromise in his pursuit of justice.

Biographical Information

Edward Dean Price was born in Sanger, California, in February of 1919. He was raised on a farm in the Sanger area. He earned his Bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1947, taking classes while serving as a Staff Sergeant for the United States Army. He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of California School of Jurisprudence two years later. In 1949 he joined the law firm of Cleary & Zeff in Modesto. The firm became Zeff, Halley & Price in 1954 after he became a name partner. He remained with that law firm 25 years, until 1979. The firm was later known as Price, Martin & Crabtree.

During his 30 years of private practice Judge Price also served as a part-time United States Magistrate in Modesto, California. He had numerous professional achievements, distinguished by his active status as a member of the American Bar Association, a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He served on the State Bar of California Board of Governors 1975 to 1976, was on the Advisory Board and Governing Committee of the Continuing Education of the Bar during 1963 to 1971 and the Judicial Council of California during 1978 and 1979. He performed pro bono activities serving as the Chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Committee.

His community activities included Rotary International, where he served as President in 1978 to 1979, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks where he served as Exalted Ruler in 1959 to 1970, and the Del Rio Golf & Country Club and the Modesto Lions 500 Club, where he served as President in 1953. Edward Dean Price was appointed to the Federal Bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. He took senior status and became a Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California December 31, 1989. His seat on the Court of the Eastern District was vacant until May 30, 1991, when his successor took the oath of office.

Judge Price is survived by his wife, Katherine M. Merritt Price, three children, Katherine O'Brien, Edward M. Price, and Janey Price. Judge Price was a student of the law and committed to exacting and meticulous practice before his Court. Judge Price maintained cordial relations with court staff and particularly the United States Marshals. During his career, Judge Price was assigned a high risk interstate drug trafficking case that required 24 hour, around-the-clock protection for him and his family. During this period of time, United States Marshals accompanied Judge Price everywhere and even maintained a post at his residence. The Marshals held Judge Price in high esteem, as he was always sensitive to the rigors of their job. Judge Price kept his residence in Modesto, as well as a residence in Fresno, during the 18 years he served the Federal Court.

Judge Price was particularly committed to the disadvantaged and persons who lacked the resources to participate in court cases. He strongly believed in equal access to justice for all. Judge Price was a committed student of the law. He enjoyed the intellectual challenge of judging. He was a supporter of and participant in legal educational programs to advance the competence of practice among lawyers and judges and the training of law students. He used his extensive background as a practicing lawyer and insight into the trial process to streamline and efficiently try the most complex of cases. As a case manager, Judge Price insisted that lawyers be prepared, know their cases, and meet the high ethical standards he required of himself and all who appeared before the court.

During Judge Price's term, the court experienced growth in caseloads from under 300 cases per judge when he arrived, to well in excess of 500 cases per judge at the time he took senior status. When his successor was not immediately appointed, Judge Price continued to carry a full caseload for a year and one-half, and even after his successor was commissioned, continued to carry a criminal caseload that materially assisted the other judges with the very large case load in the Fresno Division of the Eastern District.

Source: A speech by Judge O.W. Wanger to the Fresno County Bar Association


2001 United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Historical Society. Site Meter