Monday, March 14, 2005
Retired Presiding Justice Robert K. Puglia, Who Led Third District for 24 Years, Dead of Cancer at 75
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Robert K. Puglia, presiding justice of the Third District Court of Appeal from 1974 to 1998, died Friday at age 75.
The cause of death was complications from cancer, a spokesperson for the state courts said. Services are pending, and a memorial service will be scheduled by the court for a later date.
A previously scheduled March 25 gathering at which the court was to honor Puglia’s service has been cancelled.
A native of Ohio, Puglia worked his way through Ohio State University. Following college, he enlisted in the army and fought in the Korean War, serving with the Third Infantry Division.
When he returned from the war, he enrolled at Boalt Hall School of Law in Berkeley, and worked as a dishwasher to pay his expenses. He graduated in 1958 and moved to Sacramento to take a job as deputy district attorney.
Rising through the ranks he became chief deputy before leaving in 1969 to become a partner at McDonough, Holland, Schwartz, Allen & Wahrhaftig. He left in 1972 when then-Gov. Ronald Reagan named him to the Sacramento Superior Court.
Reagan elevated him to the Court of Appeal in June 1974 and appointed him presiding justice five months later.
His 24 years as presiding justice were a record for the court. Following retirement, he returned to the offices of his former firm and worked as an arbitrator and mediator.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who knew Puglia for four decades, dating back to when they both served on the State Bar’s Criminal Law and Procedure Committee, remembered him as “a strong personality.”
George said in a statement:
“He was not shy about stating his beliefs, nor about challenging others to justify theirs.† But he was willing to listen to the views of others, willing to learn†—and willing to change his mind if warranted.”
Puglia served as California Judges Association president in 1980-81. Robert Feinerman, then a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, was vice president that year.
Feinerman Friday recalled Puglia as “a very bright, able guy” who took his work seriously and was a “very productive” leader, but who had a good sense of humor and got along with others, even when they did not agree with him.
He particularly recalled the repartee between Puglia and Third District Justice Coleman Blease.
Puglia was “very conservative,” while Blease, an appointee of Gov. Jerry Brown who had worked for the ACLU and for a Quaker group before joining the bench, was “very liberal,” Feinerman recalled. But the two were friends who really enjoyed needling each other, he said.
In a statement Friday, Blease said Puglia “could be formidable, even intimidating; but he had a delightful wit and a heart of gold.” His opinions, Blease said, were “clear and elegant” and “reflect a philosophy of judicial restraint and his passionate belief in the limited role of a judge in a democratic society.”
Puglia is survived by his wife of 46 years, Ingrid Puglia, and by four children and three grandchildren.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company