The Face of Malibu is an ongoing public portrait project by portraitist Johanna Spinks to record the many unique personalities and newsmakers who shape the modern Malibu community. Each sitter is always painted in a single live sitting. If there is someone you would like to nominate, please email Emily Sawicki at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see more of Spinks’ portrait work, visit johannaspinks.com.
Justice Beth Grimes, 62, has been on the California Court of Appeal for almost seven years. Prior to that, she was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court. Her first judicial assignment was to the dependency court, after which she presided over a felony calendar court and then general jurisdiction civil courtrooms in the Central Civil Courthouse and the Santa Monica Courthouse. Grimes received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her law degree from Stanford Law School.
Grimes moved to Malibu in 2009 when her husband, Ron Toews, built their dream home. Grimes met Toews while she was at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and the two have been married for 32 years. They have two children.
The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who sewed most of her high school clothes herself, including her prom gown.
When and why did you decide to pursue law?
I decided after I graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in literature. Law was the best professional career for my skill set. I wanted to support myself. At that time, in the ‘70s, law schools were interested in admitting more women. Law was then emerging as an excellent profession to women who were determined in undertaking the challenge. Success was within reach.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a judge?
From day one, I’ve loved being a judge. Every day is a new challenge. But I’ve enjoyed all of it. Knowing when to make a decision, and when to wait; that is, learning which decisions have to be made with little time to reflect (like ruling on an objection to a question during a jury trial); which decisions can be foregone because counsel are likely to resolve their dispute without judicial intervention; and, as to the decisions the judge must make, knowing when to make them — that is, knowing when you have all the information you need and when you have done all the necessary research and analysis.
What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers?
Do the best you can for your client, but always with the highest integrity and courtesy toward other lawyers, judges and staff.
Without mentioning names, what case has been the most memorable for you and why?
I’ve issued significant decisions on matters of importance, into which I poured my heart and soul, but would you believe me if I said any case was more memorable than the one that required Keanu Reeves to sit in my courtroom a few feet from my bench every day for a week? The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Reeves after brief deliberations.
What was your experience at the Los Angeles Superior Court like?
My best professional years were on the Los Angeles Superior Court. I loved being a superior court judge. There was always constant human activity in the hallways and in my courtroom. There were lawyers and witnesses coming in and out. My challenge was to get everyone together in court to get things done. I got to watch the incredible diversity of problems that people get into. Real life is far more fascinating and engaging and unexpected than anything you see on television. It’s marvelous. You have to have love of humanity to be a good judge.
You met your husband at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. How is it having two lawyers under one roof for a lifetime?
He stopped practicing law in 1985 and has been doing business since. But I love it. It’s great for me because I care about my work a lot. I talk about it to him and he listens and understands. We are devoted to our work. We share our day with each other. It’s great. Now our son is in law school. So he talks like a lawyer too. I love it.
You have been married for 32 years. What’s the secret to a successful marriage?
Building trust based on mutual respect. We love each other but, more importantly, we like each other a lot. He still makes me laugh. He always has my back. At the same time, we give each other room. He goes on adventures without me and I go with my girlfriends for short periods of time.
If you could enforce one new law in Malibu, what would it be and why?
To control traffic and parking such that people can leave their car in existing parking lots and take shuttles or ridesharing vehicles to beaches and places where there’s limited parking.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Everyone has regrets, especially type A people. I always thought I wanted to go to medical school. I would have made a great doctor.
What is your favorite thing about Malibu?
The people. The clean air. The sound of the ocean. The extraordinary views. But the best is the community of people who live here. People chat with one another in the store, on the street and offer sympathy. People are generous here. It’s a great community.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
It was like stepping into a time warp. It was a magical escape into a special sanctuary where we got a glimpse into one another’s life. I cannot imagine how she summons the creative genius and strength to carry on conversations meant to relax and reveal the character of her subject while at the same time painting, gazing, wiping away, revising, and producing, in the end, a portrait that gives the subject fresh insight into who she is and how the world sees her.