Superior Court Judge from the “Wrong Side of the Place Across the Tracks”
Los Angeles seems to be not only a place for the stars of our entertainment industry, but also our criminal justice system. Today we will look at the legacy of Earl C. Broady Sr., a criminal justice pioneer, who rose from what he called “the wrong side of the place across the tracks” to become first the deputy district attorney of Los Angeles County, and then a Superior Court judge.
Earl Broady began his career in law enforcement in 1929, when he joined the Los Angeles Police Department. In his 17 years with the department, he rose through the ranks to become one of the first African American police officers to achieve the rank of lieutenant and watch commander. But Broady had larger ambitions for his career in the legal system. Beginning in 1940, while he was still serving as a police officer, Broady attended night classes at the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles College of Law in order to obtain his law degree; in 1944 he passed the California Bar Exam. He left the LAPD with the rank of lieutenant, and began to practice as a criminal defense lawyer, primarily representing Blacks who had been accused of murder, although he did claim to have a general practice as well.
In his work as a defense attorney, he was often criticized for defending Black Muslim clients, especially after he defended several clients accused of rioting in Los Angeles mosques. He emphasized the necessity of looking beyond someone’s religion in order to administer justice most effectively in the American system. He is quoted as saying, “The way I looked at it, I was representing 14 men accused of assault and violating the penal statutes of the state of California, the same way I had represented Protestants and Catholics and, in one instance, a Buddhist and some who may have had no religion.”
Broady practiced criminal law for 19 years, during which time he was elected president of the Criminal Courts Bar Association of Los Angeles, became chief deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, and the first Black lawyer to hold the number two spot in that highly regarded office. On June 7, 1965, Broady was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court as a judge, where he presided over a number of headline-making cases, including that of Vaughn Greenwood, otherwise known as the “Skid Row Slasher.” While in office, he even served on the McCone Commission, which sought to identify the causes behind the Watts Riots, which plagued Los Angeles in 1965.
Broady retired from the bench in 1978 and passed away from cancer in 1992 at his home in Beverly Hills. His legacy lives on through his son, Earl Broady Jr., who continues to practice law just like his father.
Black Trailblazers in Blue is created in partnership between the National Law Enforcement Museum and the National Black Police Association to celebrate the triumphs of African American leaders in Law Enforcement.