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William A. Rutter

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William A. Rutter Obituary

October 21, 1928 - February 2, 2012

William A. Rutter ("Bill") passed away peacefully Thursday evening, February 2nd, 2012, with his wife Sally, the love of his life, and all of his children, by his side.

Bill received his B.A. degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara; his M.P.A. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles; and his J.D. degree from the University of Southern California School of Law, where he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. As a youth, he was an Eagle Scout; and as a young adult, Bill served our country during the Korean War.

Bill shared his knowledge and skills in almost every facet of the legal profession: as a practitioner, as a law school teacher, as a publisher, and as an author. For 15 years following his admission to the Bar in 1955, Bill maintained a general civil law practice, specializing in business litigation and appellate work. At that point, he withdrew from the practice of law and began his career as a visionary and trail blazer in legal education. Since then, Bill devoted his life to legal education and publishing law study aides and Practice Guides.

In 1979, he founded The Rutter Group, which grew under his leadership to become a leading and most highly respected provider of continuing legal education publications and programs in California and nationwide. The standards he set through the Rutter Group Practice Guides have been imitated but never matched.

Bill also wrote and published all of the original Gilbert Law Summaries, the most popular study aides for law students, and founded the BAR/BRI Bar Review, which became the largest Bar Review course in the country.

In 1996, Bill joined a very select group of legal scholars when the California State Bar Board of Governors honored him with the Bernard E. Witkin Medal recognizing those "who have altered the landscape of California jurisprudence." This honor particularly singled Bill out as an "extraordinary contributor to the California legal community."

Bill was also a very quiet and private philanthropist. Among his countless goodwill gestures, he and his wife Sally, for almost 50 years, sponsored dozens of foster children in many countries. They underwrote a French Horn Chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And when the Philharmonic reached out to them to sponsor one of the four Wagner Horns the orchestra desperately needed, they provided all four.

Tributes have poured in, including the following:

"Bill Rutter was a giant of the law . . . Bill was also a dear and loyal friend of many, many years." Justice Ming W. Chin, California Supreme Court

"The contributions of Bill Rutter to the practice of law over the past half century cannot be overstated . . . Because of Bill's efforts, even a sole practitioner today has the ability to quickly deal with otherwise unfamiliar issues. He well deserves his place in the pantheon of legal scholars and leaders." Justice H. Walter Croskey, California Court of Appeal

"Bill Rutter's contributions to the legal profession and, through it, to justice and the administration of justice are immeasurable, and indelible. He altered the course of legal education forever . . . And he did his work with enormous skill and energy, complete integrity, and grace." Presiding Justice Norman L. Epstein, California Court of Appeal

"Bill's passing marks the end of a legal era. He is one-of-a-kind." Justice Rebecca A. Wiseman, California Court of Appeal

"Bill was an outstanding legal scholar. His knowledge of the law was so broad and infused all of The Rutter Group publications . . . Bill was also the kind of human being we should all aspire to emulate. He earned the respect of our entire legal community." Justice William F. Rylaarsdam, California Court of Appeal

"Working with Bill was always such a pleasure. He was a brilliant man who had a unique way of explaining complex legal issues in concise, understandable language, and he was so kind . . . His work is a lasting legacy." Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon, Los Angeles Superior Court

"Bill left us with impossibly huge shoes to fill. We will not let him down. We will miss him dearly." Linda Diamond Raznick and Kalman S. Zempleny II, The Rutter Group

Bill is survived by his adoring wife Sally, his children Paul, Joanna, Barry and Charlie, and their respective spouses, 13 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. And the "other love of his life," Missy, Bill's rescue Westie. He was the most loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather to all of them.

There will be a public Memorial Service celebrating Bill's life on Saturday, February 18th, 2:00 p.m., at the Westwood United Methodist Church, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90024.

In lieu of flowers, gifts in honor of Bill Rutter can be made to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association-Music Matters.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 8, 2012
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