Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Attorney and Councilman Edward Masry Dead at 73
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Private services are to be held today for Edward L. Masry, the lawyer made famous in the movie “Erin Brockovich.
Masry, 73, died of complications of diabetes at 11:30 p.m. Monday at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, his son Louis Masry said. Ed Masry, a former mayor of Thousand Oaks, had resigned from the City Council on Nov. 30 due to ill health.
Masry and Erin Brockovich, an unlikely self-trained legal assistant, started down the road to fame by winning a $333 million settlement on behalf of more than 600 residents of the town of Hinkley, Calif., who claimed that Pacific Gas & Electric tanks leaked carcinogenic poisons into groundwater supplies.
The legal team’s efforts were depicted in the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich,” starring Julia Roberts in the title role and actor Albert Finney as Masry.
“My father had a long career of over 40 years as an attorney,” Louis Masry said. “Even prior to the movie `Erin Brockovich’ he was always fighting for the underdog.”
“Mr. Masry’s passing is also a great loss to our community,” Thousand Oaks Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Pena said in a statement posted on the city’s Web site.
Masry was born on July 29, 1932, in Patterson, N.J., and moved with his family to California in 1940. He went to high school and college in the San Fernando Valley, and served in the Army from 1952-54.
He started his law practice in Los Angeles in 1961, which evolved into the firm of Masry & Vititoe, where his daughter, Louanne MasryWeeks, continues to practice. He was also an agent for professional football players early in his career, political consultant Fred Huebscher told the MetNews.
Huebscher, who ran Masry’s 2000 campaign in Thousand Oaks, called him “a man of strong character.”
Someone close to Masry, Huebscher recalled, once described him as “a great manipulator, in a positive sense,” who was a great lawyer because he “could get people to do things.”
Masry got involved in Thousand Oaks politics, Huebscher explained, by donating $50,000 to Elois Zeanah, a council member who was targeted for recall a few years before Masry ran. Zeanah was controversial because she was an outspoken advocate for slow-growth policies, Huebscher explained.
Zeanah was suspicious, Huebscher noted, and insisted on meeting Masry in person to find out why he would give such a huge donation to someone he didn’t know personally. His only motive, the consultant explained, was that “he was angry at what [her opponents] were doing to her.”
With fame came controversy. Masry was sued by a former associate, Kissandra Cohen—now a Sherman Oaks sole practitioner—who accused him of wrongful termination and religious bias. He and Brockovich, in turn, sued Cohen for slander, saying she had falsely accused them of having a sexual relationship.
Another lawyer, John J. Reiner, was convicted three years ago of attempting to extort more than $300,000 from Masry and Brockovich by threatening to circulate rumors that they had a sexual relationship. Reiner was disbarred earlier this year as a result of the conviction.
Masry’s firm said he attended the UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, and USC, although he never received a bachelor’s degree. He was admitted to Loyola Law School and earned a degree there.
Masry is survived by his wife, Joette; five children, Louis Masry, Louanne MasryWeeks, Nicole Masry-McAdam, Christopher Levinson and Timothy Engelhart, and 10 grandchildren.
A public memorial is to be held at a future date to be determined.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company