What Does One Call a Judge Who Graduates From Divinity School? : BUSINESS AND LAW

Compiled by James S. Granelli, Times staff writer

After former Orange County Superior Court Judge William Sheffield graduated from Yale Divinity School last spring, some of his lawyer friends were trying to figure out how to address him. The Honorable Reverend seemed a bit complicated.

“I think it’s safe just to call me Bill,” one lawyer recalled Sheffield saying.

Now, the offbeat, colorful former judge has affiliated with the Tustin office of Edwards, Chambers & Hoffman, a firm specializing in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

But you won’t find Sheffield working there. Instead, he has set up shop in Hong Kong, where he moved last month with his wife and fourth child, who was born in October. There, he is handling legal services for the Mormon Church and its Far East holdings and activities.


As a lawyer in Santa Ana for 12 years before his 1982 appointment to the bench, Sheffield came to the aid of a hippopotamus that had run away from now-defunct Lion Country Safari, sued the Pope over a St. Bernard dog that Sheffield ordered from a Swiss monastery but never received, and offered advice to India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on her defense in an electoral corruption case in 1975. Sheffield spent 20 months on the bench before resigning in September, 1984, to go to Yale. During that time, he angered both prosecutors and the county’s staff attorneys with controversial rulings, sparking a boycott of his courtroom by the county counsel’s staff.

He also came up with new ideas to push pretrial civil proceedings through the court system, again raising objections from some lawyers who disdained settling differences casually over coffee and doughnuts.