Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Coroner’s Office Says:
Judge Alan G. Buckner’s Death Is Apparent Suicide
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An autopsy is scheduled today for Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alan G. Buckner, who was pronounced dead by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics on Sunday morning as a result of what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The death of the 65-year-old jurist, who has suffered from heart problems and been treated for prostate cancer, is believed to be a suicide but officially remains under investigation, a coroner’s investigator told the MetNews.
Buckner had been a Superior Court judge since 1995 when then-Gov. Pete Wilson named him to the court. He had previously practiced law for 28 years, primarily in insurance matters, including bad-faith defense, subrogation, and coverage issues.
Buckner earned his undergraduate and law degrees from UCLA. He served on the State Bar’s standing committees on administration of justice and group insurance, and taught under the auspices of Continuing Education of the Bar.
He began his career at Long & Levitt in 1967. He moved to Schwartz & Altschuler in 1971, then spent several years with Bogert, Ehrmann, Halpern, Haille & Buckner before opening a solo practice in Marina del Rey.
Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr recalled his first meeting with Buckner, when Mohr joined Schwartz & Altschuler in 1973.
“He immediately asked me to sit in on a deposition,” Mohr remembered. “Buck was a superb lawyer who approached the practice with gusto. Ask him a question as he trotted down the hall, and he immediately reeled off the case on point.
Having him as a colleague on the bench was a delight. I’ll miss him.”
Retired Superior Court Judge Arnold Gold described Buckner as one of his closest friends on the court.
“He was a dear, sweet, nice wonderful friend,” Gold remembered. The retired jurist said Buckner was “always concerned about me and my life, and his death is just really tragic.”
Both Gold and Assistant Presiding Judge William MacLaughlin said they saw Buckner in the courthouse late last week and that he looked fine. “He gave me a big bear hug,” Gold said.
MacLaughlin recalled that Buckner “came to the bench with strong background in civil litigation” and spent most of his career as a civil trial judge downtown.
“He was always willing to pitch in and participate,” MacLaughlin recalled. “He was very easy person to work with and be associated with.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Helen Bendix commented yesterday:
“I had the great pleasure to be the buddy court for Judge Buckner. He was kind, supportive, practical and witty. He was never too busy to be a friend.
For instance, when I started in Department 18, and was having a particular challenging time on a long trial, I bumped into Judge Buckner in the parking lot. It was late and I explained my travails. The next day, I found a lovely note on my desk from Judge Buckner providing encouragement and support. I keep that note in my chambers to remind me of the balm of simple human kindness.
“He was that kind of friend and colleague. I will miss him and cannot quite imagine not seeing him again.
“He was a man of great integrity and intelligence as well.”
Buckner is survived by his wife, Irene Nava, and by two estranged adult children by his marriage to Deputy District Attorney Roberta Sue Buckner. That marriage lasted from 1962 to 1975.
Roberta Buckner said that most people who knew her former husband “probably could guess” the reason for his apparent taking of his own life. She added that “it’s a long story” and she did not want to explain it in order to protect her children.
MacLaughlin said the judge’s family has asked that friends “respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company