Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, November 21, 2005


Page 1


Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert C. Nye Dead at 85


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Services were to be held Saturday for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert C. Nye, who died last Tuesday at age 85.

Nye was a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge from 1971 to 1972, when then-Gov. Ronald Reagan elevated him to the Superior Court. He retired in 1987.

The jurist was a Los Angeles native and longtime resident of the Westchester area. His father, Clement D. Nye, was a Los Angeles Superior Court judge from 1931 to 1963 and his maternal grandfather, Robert N. Bulla, was a longtime state senator.

Nye graduated from Loyola University before World War II, and returned to earn his law degree after military service in the Pacific. He was admitted to the State Bar in 1948 and was a Los Angeles deputy city attorney for six years before joining the law firm that eventually became Haight, Lyon, Smith and Nye.

Practicing primarily as a litigation defense attorney, he became a founding member of the American Board of Trial Advocates in 1961 and served on the group’s board. He left practice in 1969 to become a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner, where he helped develop the procedures for selection of juries by commissioners.

He spent most of his Superior Court career handling civil cases downtown. He won the Los Angeles Trial Lawyers’ Assn. Alfred J. McCourtney Award as Trial Judge of the Year in 1978.

One of his more unusual cases was a suit by Richard Meilecke, who also used the name Richard Compton and was the son-in-law of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Meilecke claimed that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies violated his federally protected civil rights by allowing a man named Nino Nicholetti—who was reputed to have organized crime ties and was later sentenced to 16 years in federal prison in an unrelated money laundering case—to repossess the plaintiff’s 110-foot-luxury boat, which was eventually recovered in unusable condition.

The parties agreed that the repossession had been illegal. The preferred ship’s mortgage on which the repossession was based had been obtained by coercion, and even if it was valid, the federal Ship Mortgage Act did not permit self-help repossessions. 

Meilecke blamed the loss of the boat on the Sheriff’s Department, and specifically on then-Lt. Lee Baca, who headed the substation in Marina del Rey and allowed Nicholetti and an associate to take the boat over the plaintiff’s vociferous objections.

After the trial ended in a hung jury, the parties agreed to waive their rights to a jury and allow Nye to decide the case.

Nye ruled that Baca had acted improperly, but in good faith, and absolved him of liability on the basis of qualified immunity. But he found that the county had deprived the plaintiff of his property through a policy of allowing self-help repossessions in violation of the federal statute and gave a judgment for property damage, emotional distress, and loss of profits—the boat had been used for charter parties and as a recording studio—that ran to about $9 million.

The Court of Appeal affirmed in 1991. The state Supreme Court denied review, although it depublished the Court of Appeal opinion.

Nye’s family asked that any memorial donations be made to the St. Jude Foundation.


Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company