Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Judge C. Robert Simpson Jr. Dies Only Days Before Scheduled Retirement
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge C. Robert Simpson Jr. has died less than a week before he was scheduled to retire at age 80.
Court officials said yesterday that Simpson, who served on the court for over 16 years, died over the weekend. He was appointed in 1988 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian.
Simpson had planned to retire on Friday, just six days after his 80th birthday.
Norwalk Supervising Judge Peter Espinoza noted yesterday that Simpson had served “entire career” in the Norwalk courthouse.
“Above all, he was a scholar and a gentleman,” Espinoza said. “He was extremely well respected by the bar and his colleagues, and well known for his eloquent written decisions.”
Espinoza said he and other members of the court’s staff had just heard of Simpson’s death.
“We were all pretty shocked by the news,” he commented, explaining that despite the judge’s advanced age it was only very recently that he had talked about retirement. He had not been ill or away from the courthouse in the last weeks of his life, Espinoza said.
“He was certainly one of our more productive judges,” Espinoza said, describing Simpson as “an able settlement judge.”
Espinoza said the judge’s family had not yet advised the court of plans for services. Family members could not be reached for comment yesterday.
“He’s going to be greatly missed by everyone who knew him,” Espinoza declared.
Presiding Judge William A. MacLaughlin said that though he did not know Simpson well, he was aware that the judge and his wife had made plans to travel after his retirement at the end of this week.
Presiding Justice Paul A. Turner of Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal called Simpson a “consummate gentleman, both off and on the bench.”
Superior Court Judge Stephen Petersen echoed Turner’s remark, noting that he became acquainted with Simpson “during committee work on the right of the trial judge to comment to the jury on the evidence and disputed issues at the close of trial.”
Peterson observed in an email message:
“Bob was studious in his investigation of judicial comment, and interested in the experience of the English judges. I found his work scholarly, and I found Bob a warm friend and consummate gentleman.”
Simpson was chief deputy director of the California Department of Industrial Relations a the time of his appointment to the bench. He had previously been chief of the state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
After earning his law degree at Cornell University Law School, Simpson spent two years as an associate with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher before joining Southern California Edison, where he served as a staff attorney from 1953 to 1960. For the next two decades he held a variety of management positions with SCE before taking an early retirement and opening his own labor and employment law practice in 1980.
Simpson was born in Bismarck, N.D. He spent much of his youth in Bakersfield, graduating from high school there and earning his undergraduate degree from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. while serving in the Navy during World War II.
A longtime Republican Party activist, from 1976 to 1983 he served first as a member and then as president of the Board of Trustees of the Lowell Joint Elementary School District in Whittier.
In 2002, Simpson successfully fended off a challenge from Glendale trial attorney Kenneth E. Wright, retaining his seat by raking in 66.82 percent of the vote compared to Wright’s 33.18 percent. Wright had questioned whether Simpson was too old to be sitting on the bench.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company