Hon. William M. Byrne, Jr. Chair

The Honorable William Matthew Byrne, Jr., a pillar of the Los Angeles legal community for six decades, built a legacy of justice in his lifetime. In addition to his work as chief judge of the Central District, Judge Byrne taught and fostered the Byrne Trial Advocacy Team at Loyola and lectured in countries with developing legal systems. His extensive work to improve legal education prompted Loyola to honor him with a chair in his name after his passing in 2006 at age 75. 

Judge Byrne—known simply as Matt to his friends and family—was born in East Los Angeles in 1930. He attended Loyola High School and University of Southern California, from which he earned a BS in 1953 and a JD in 1956. His father, William Matthew Byrne, Sr., also served as chief judge of the Central District and taught at Loyola. The Byrne Trial Advocacy Team is named in both men’s honor. 

Judge Byrne’s commitment to the courtroom began in the US Air Force, in which he served as a judge advocate from 1956-1958. He was later a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. He then went into private practice as a partner with Dryden, Harrington, Horgan & Swartz. In 1967, President Johnson appointed Byrne US attorney for Los Angeles. By 1969, his office was first in the country for criminal prosecutions with a 96 percent success rate.

President Nixon named Judge Byrne head of the Commission on Campus Unrest, which issued a report analyzing the Vietnam-era student protests. Shortly thereafter, in 1971, Nixon appointed Byrne to US District Court. At age 40, Byrne was the youngest judge ever named to the federal bench. Serving in that capacity for over 30 years, he presided over a number of high-profile cases including the 1973 Pentagon Papers trial, which was connected to the Watergate scandal. He later became chief judge.

Judge Byrne lectured throughout South America and the former Soviet Union to bring a Western perspective of justice to regions with developing legal systems. He also served on the boards of the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Norton Simon Museum, the Performing Arts Council of the Music Center and the Los Angeles Zoo Association.

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