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Philanthropy news

School of Law Receives $1 Million Gift for Appellate Courtroom


A gift of $1 million from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation will fund construction of a new appellate courtroom in the UC Davis School of Law’s King Hall. The new courtroom will accommodate real and mock trial proceedings that will provide invaluable training for students, and is expected to bring sessions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, California Supreme Court, and California Court of Appeal to the UC Davis campus. The facility will be named the Paul and Lydia Kalmanovitz Appellate Courtroom.

“The generous support of the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation will benefit the UC Davis School of Law students, faculty, staff and alumni for generations to come,” said law school dean Kevin R. Johnson. “We are extremely grateful to Paul and Lydia Kalmanovitz and are excited to name the new appellate courtroom in their honor. We are also very thankful to our dedicated alumnus Yeoryios Apallas for his central role in helping to bring about this exciting gift.”

Polish immigrant Paul Kalmanovitz was a true believer in American justice — so much so that in 1980 he proposed to then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein the building of a “Statue of Justice” on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay to mirror the Statue of Liberty in New York, recalled Bernie Orsi, who worked as Kalmanovitz’s assistant and who is a trustee of the Kalmanovitz Foundation. A colorful personality and avid philanthropist, Kalmanovitz once wrote a check for $500,000 to West Point on the spur of the moment, inspired by a viewing of the movie “Patton” to make a donation in honor of the great general.

Though he arrived in the United States in 1926 with little money to invest, jumping ship from a merchant marine vessel, Kalmanovitz was a shrewd businessman who ultimately amassed a considerable fortune. He met his wife, Lydia, in New York City shortly after his arrival, and they wed and moved to California in 1935, purchasing a nightclub that would be the first of many profitable investments.

“He owned 26 nightclubs during the Second World War in the Los Angeles area, and he did very well with those. A number of people who later became very famous performed in those clubs, including Nat King Cole,” Orsi said.

Using capital acquired from the nightclubs and other investments, the couple began buying breweries, including Pabst Brewing Company, Falstaff Brewing Company, Olympia and Lucky Lager. During that time, Kalmanovitz was frequently involved in litigation, defending the rights of his companies and his business plan, said Apallas, a 1972 graduate of the law school who, as a deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice, has represented the Kalmanovitz Foundation in challenges to the estate.

“When he would acquire a brewery in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he followed a fairly standard model,” said Apallas. “He would cut out a lot of the overhead and a lot of the advertising, and pursue a minimalist approach to harvesting the values of the brand. Of course, when you do that, you step on a lot of toes, including those of advertising agencies, contractors for barley and malt, and so forth. There was litigation over that, but ultimately he either prevailed or settled to his advantage.”

In one instance, Efron v. Kalmanovitz, he was part of a seminal case defining the fiduciary duties of a majority shareholder to a minority shareholder. Kalmanovitz was very interested in the law and enjoyed discussing legal principles, said Orsi. “If he could have had a different career, in my opinion, it would have been as a lawyer.”

Kalmanovitz, who died in 1987, was a lifelong philanthropist who gave to many causes. After Lydia Kalmanovitz died in 1994, the Kalmanovitz Trust was established to continue the couple’s charity, which has benefited primarily hospitals and universities.

Apallas has twice successfully defended the trust in court challenges, and was instrumental in informing the foundation trustees regarding the law school’s King Hall expansion and renovation project, which will construct a new east wing for King Hall and renovate the existing building, which has been largely unchanged since the building first opened in 1968. The Kalmanovitz Foundation previously had given $150,000 to name a seminar room in the expanded King Hall.

Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the UC Davis School of Law is one of the nation’s top law schools. Known for its outstanding ranking, small size, unusually accessible and dedicated faculty of renowned scholars, and uniquely supportive learning environment, the law school offers a challenging academic program with diverse specialties including business law, environmental law, international and comparative law, intellectual property, immigration law, constitutional law and public-interest law. The school also offers award-winning trial and appellate advocacy programs, clinics, and externships, five student-run journals, and more than 40 active student organizations.

About UC Davis

For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science — and advanced degrees from five professional schools: Education, Law, Management, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine. The UC Davis School of Medicine and UC Davis Medical Center are located on the Sacramento campus near downtown.

This article was originally published by UC Davis News Service.