Ocean Beach 05

Michael Lew Woods

May 25, 1942 ~ March 19, 2022 (age 79)


 Michael Woods passed away on March 19, 2022, with Elise (Tink) his loving wife and best friend of 38 years, along with his twins, Ashley and Dylan, at his side.

Michael was born on May 25, 1942, in Abilene Texas. His Dad, Leon, was a traveling salesman and his beloved mother, Lalla Louise, was the anchor, keeping everything operating smoothly. Jerry, Michael’s older brother, was his mentor throughout the many years they had together and taught Michael the fundamentals of baseball, and life. Michael’s sister, Holly (12 years younger), was the family’s joy. Michael cherished his childhood days, miniature golf, bowling, ping pong, riding his bike to school, delivering the newspapers on his bike in the early morning hours, maintaining a clubhouse (where one had to jump off the roof to gain membership), going with his Dad on Saturdays to stock the sugar shelves in grocery stores, running the cotton candy machine and playing 45 rpm records when his Dad had a sale on sugar at a grocery store.

The Woods family moved to Tyler, Texas in 1951, and Michael was active in Student Council activities, either as President or Vice President in grade school, junior high and in high school. A left-handed pitcher, Michael had visions of playing professional baseball, winning most outstanding player in 1953 and eventually lettering in baseball at Texas Tech University. When the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Michael knew he wanted to be a trial lawyer.

Michael went on to Law School at George Washington University, class of 1967, where he was active in the Legal Aid Society. On Thursday mornings, Michael would watch oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court. To make ends meet, Michael worked afternoons for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of General Counsel.

Following graduation from Law School, Michael was chosen for the first class of Reginald Heber Smith Fellows (“Reggies”) who trained at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and were then assigned to various legal services programs throughout the United States. Michael was assigned to the Houston Legal Foundation and immediately made an impact. His first case was a jury trial in juvenile court. He won it on appeal (see Leach v. State (1968) 428 S.W.2nd 817 (Tex.Civ.App.)(admission of probation officer’s opinion, based in part on admissions made to her by the 12-year-old child constituted a violation of federal due process where counsel for the child was not timely appointed to safeguard her rights and there had been failure to warn her of her constitutional rights and privileges). Michael also successfully litigated Robinson v. Hackney (ND TX 1969) 307 F.Supp. 1249, a class action for injunctive and declaratory relief against enforcement of a maximum grant provision of state aid to dependent children program before a three-judge federal district court (mooted when the state cancelled the unconstitutional provision). As part of this program, Michael had his Forest Gump moment when the Reggies were honored at the White House in the Rose Garden and LBJ shook their hands and thanked them for their service.

In 1968, Michael headed west for the second year of his Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship at the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation and brought numerous class actions (e.g., challenging unconstitutional welfare provisions and violations of consumer rights). When the Fellowship ended, Michael was hired as a staff attorney for the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation and continued litigating cases in federal and state court.

In 1970, Michael headed to Harvard Law School, having been chosen to receive a Ford Foundation Fellowship in Clinical-Legal Education, and obtained a Masters of Law in 1971.

Michael returned to the San Francisco Legal Foundation where he resumed his work as a staff attorney. However, Michael wanted more jury trial experience and accepted a position as a Deputy Public Defender for Alameda County in 1972. Although Michael tried many cases during those two years, for family reasons, Michael gave up his position in 1974 and entered private practice for the next five years.

In 1979, Michael joined the Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), a part of the University of California, where he was Editor-In-Chief of the highly successful Civil Litigation Reporter. He authored numerous articles, one was cited by the California Supreme Court in Wells v. Marina City Properties, Inc. (1981) 29 C3d 781, 789-790. Michael managed CEB’s Reporter Department for fourteen years and then became Manager of CEB’s Civil Litigation Practice Area, where he was in charge of both Publications and Programs for the next five years.

Michael served as an arbitrator for the Alameda County Superior Court from 1979 to 1992 and was an arbitrator for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California from 1980 to 1995.

He also served as a Judge Pro Tem for the Berkeley-Albany Municipal Court for several years.

In 1998, Michael joined The Rutter Group as a Senior Principal Attorney Editor and edited numerous Practice Guides, concentrating on Federal Civil Trials & Evidence, California Civil Trials & Evidence and Alternative Dispute Resolution. Michael worked tirelessly until the end of his life, meeting his deadlines, and keeping his authors abreast of his updates.

He was a good baseball player and later on, a talented softball player (playing for years on various softball teams, including the Upstarts, ranked 6th in California) and won an award as the Most Valuable Player of a softball tournament. He was a member of the Orinda Roadrunners for many years. (Elise still is an Orinda Roadrunner). In his childhood, he loved the Yankees and Micky Mantle, but once he moved to California, he became a longtime San Francisco Giants fan.

Michael loved life, his family and friends. His smile was infectious. He was generous, honest, and was an example of a person who worked hard with integrity.

Michael is survived by his wife, Elise, and by three children, all of whom he was very proud. Ashley Woods of Orinda, CA, Dylan Woods of Orinda, CA, Audrey Woodsmith of Venice, CA, as well as one granddaughter, Lhasa.

A celebration of Michael’s life will be held on May 7, 2022, at 1:00 pm at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley, California. For those who wish to attend virtually, a zoom link will be provided. Please RSVP to woods.elise@gmail.com.  In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Ukrainian humanitarian effort, cancer research at UCSF, or a charity/foundation of your choice in Michael’s name.    




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