Steven Finz: Plaintiff editor, law professor and would-be farmer

2010 January

Steven Finz, a law professor and long-time contributor to Advocate and Plaintiff magazines, for which he edited the Appellate Reports column, died Sept. 17 at Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa of a heart infection. He was 66.

Finz was the founder of Advance College of Continuing Legal Education which offered MCLE credits from courses on audio-tapes that Finz wrote and recorded.

Finz was chair of the Torts Department at Western State University College of Law (now Thomas Jefferson School of Law) in San Diego until 1990. In addition he was a member of the adjunct faculty at National University Law School in San Diego. He also served on the faculty of the California Appellate Justice Institute in 2000.

Nearly four decades ago, Finz, his wife Iris, their three children and a large St. Bernard named Simba embarked on an adventure of a lifetime. It was the 1970s and Finz had become disillusioned with practicing law in New York City. So he bought a bright orange step van, spent months turning it into a house on wheels, packed up his family and took to the road. For two years they crisscrossed North America, stopping along the way so Finz could pick up odd jobs, including harvesting apples, working in a cedar mill and building campers.

They let their whims guide them — a rodeo in Wyoming, the white sands of Acapulco, an open market in Guatemala — finally settling in San Diego. Finz was offered a position teaching torts at Western State University College. The family bought a small piece of land and a modest home in a rural area of the county and little by little began adding to the homestead. First it was a few chickens, a rabbit and a goat. Soon their small menagerie grew into a full-fledged farm.

Before Finz left each morning to groom the next wave of lawyers, he helped his wife milk the goats and muck out their stalls. Later they would make their own cheese, yogurt and butter. It wasn’t what his New York, Jewish parents would have envisioned for their eldest son, a graduate of the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. But bucking the expected was always his charm.

“Steve was a beautiful, magnificent oddball,” said his uncle, the honorable Leonard Finz. “He was off beat, but every beat was right.”

In 1994, after their children had grown and Finz had started his own business of providing lawyers and judges continuing legal education, the couple became restless. Once again they packed up their belongings to move to Sea Ranch, the beautiful seaside community they had passed in their travels and had vowed to some day return to. Finz could just as easily run his company while looking out over the Pacific. When he wasn’t researching the most recent legal rulings, he was debating politics and philosophy in the letters to the editor of local newspapers.

Besides his wife of 48 years, who he fell in love with when he was 12, Finz is also survived by his three children, Stacy, Laura and Noah, his brother Gene, sister Janet and four grandchildren, Kaley, Zachary, Paulina and Garyn.

Editor’s Note: We thank Professor Finz’s daughter, Stacy Finz, for her contributions to this obituary.

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