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For Capitol Records, he drafted an exemption from certain sales taxes that the legislature approved, a bit of craftiness worth more than $1 million to one company in the LP-crazed '60s. Kennedy was retained by the giant distiller Schenley Industries Inc., a former client of his father's. Occasionally Kennedy, it was reported, handed out campaign contributions from some of his clients, a practice later banned in California, and he thrived, joining such exclusive clubs as the Del Paso Club, the Olympic Club in San Francisco and the Sutter Club, a block from the state capitol.
Land Park gave Kennedy a sense of security and confidence, his friends say, which reveals itself in his willingness to go his own way as a judge. "I think it affects him a lot," says Genshlea. "The secure background goes into his ability to speak his mind."
The lessons he learned as a working lawyer still feature prominently in his skull sessions with the clerks. Nearly every veteran of Kennedy's chambers interviewed for this article recalled the Justice's citing his experiences in front of a particularly disagreeable judge or intractable zoning board. This familiarity with local laws and concerns sets him apart on a court loaded with former government lawyers, law professors and appellate specialists. And it was, as things turned out, the key that eventually opened the door to the high court.
In 1967, a new governor named Ronald Reagan arrived in Sacramento, and soon Kennedy was doing assorted legal work for members of Reagan's staff. One thing led to another, and by 1973, with Reagan's eye on a higher prize, the smart and practical Kennedy was put in charge of drafting an amendment to the California constitution that would curtail the power of state government to tax and spend. This unsuccessful initiative, known as Proposition 1, nevertheless became a starred credential on Reagan's presidential rsum. In return, Governor Reagan arranged for Kennedy to be appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by then President Gerald Ford. At 38, Kennedy became the youngest Court of Appeals judge in the country.
Meanwhile, the boy who had been so bored in school became an enthusiastic teacher. In his constitutional-law classes at Sacramento's McGeorge School of Law, Professor Kennedy discovered a flair for the dramatic. For his lecture on the Fourth Amendment, which limits government powers of search and seizure, he arranged to have the chief of the campus police burst into the room and slap cuffs on him. To mark the Constitution's bicentennial, he donned a powdered wig and adopted the guise of James Madison. Kennedy came to admire the charismatic and tireless dean of the school, Gordon Schaber.