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Carmen Combs papers

Identifier: 0490

Scope and Content

The collection, reflecting Combs' interests in many aspects of juvenile law beyond those in which she had personal involvement, includes reports, conference proceedings, committee minutes, studies, seminar and institute materials, pamphlets, Combs' own lawyerly analyses of problems and topics, legislation, speech transcripts, and memoranda to Court Referees. Of historical interest are a series of studies on juvenile delinquency and probation (4.2) published by the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in the 1920s (4.2), a 1936 report to the public entitled "Your Los Angeles County Juvenile Court" (3.2), and a 1938 judge's call for reformed legislation entitled "An Appeal on Behalf of the Childhood of California" (2.1).


  • 1923 - 1979


Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

The use of archival materials for on-site research does not constitute permission from the California Social Welfare Archives to publish them. Copyright has not been assigned to the California Social Welfare Archives, and the researcher is instructed to obtain permission to quote from or publish manuscripts in the CSWA's collections from the copyright holder.

Biographical note

Carmen Combs was a 1927 graduate of Yale Law School who began her career in Los Angeles by combining practice with a small firm and volunteer work as chief of the Domestic Relations Department of the city's Legal Aid Clinic. In 1937 she was appointed as Referee in Los Angeles Juvenile Court, where she served both regularly and on an "as needed" basis for the next 35 years. Meanwhile she worked on a variety of committees, commissions, and research projects devoted to the improvement of juvenile justice and the treatment of troubled or neglected children. Earl Warren first appointed Combs to his Governor's Advisory Committee on Children and Youth in 1947, a position which she retained through the governorships of Goodwin Knight and Pat Brown. As Chair of the Special Study Commission on Juvenile Crime, sponsored in 1957 by the Governor's Advisory Committee, she wrote a report on "California Children in Detention and Shelter Care" (3.7, 3.10, 7.2, 7.6, 8.2) and worked for its implementation on the "Subcommittee on Structure and Organization". On the Special Study Commission, Combs directed a survey of the administration of juvenile justice, which led to the repeal of California's existing juvenile court law, much of which had been in place since 1913, and the passage of a new law, effective on September 15, 1961, substantially embodying the recommendations of the Commission.

Combs' skills as a committee member and as an advocate in letters and presentations to state and county legislative bodies are apparent throughout the collection, as is her facility as a collaborator. Scattered through the files is her correspondence with contemporary leaders in the juvenile justice field in California, such as Karl Holton and Heman Stark, and with judges and officials across the country. In Los Angeles, Combs worked for improvement in public provision of protective services for abused and neglected children. Her concern for the conditions of juvenile detention evidently stemmed from a 1955 visit to the Los Angeles County Jail, following which she wrote a strong letter of protest to the County Board of Supervisors about the practice of routinely housing adolescent boys awaiting disposition of their cases with adult criminals. Combs served on the Los Angeles Grand Jury in 1956 and 1966, was chairman of the Los Angeles County Youth Committee, and of the Committee on Protective Services of the Los Angeles Bureau of Public Assistance, and her name appears on the rosters of many other short lived committees. As a career volunteer, among officials and politicians, her name on such listings is often followed by the designation - "Citizen At Large".


5.03 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Carmen Combs papers contains reports, conference proceedings, committee minutes, studies, seminar and institute materials, pamphlets, analyses of problems and topics, legislation, speech transcripts, and memoranda to Court Referees, and personal notes. The documents generally focus on the welfare of children. There is much attention given to the juvenile court system.

Finding aid for the Carmen Combs papers
Natalie Camacho
2014 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States