Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Retired Superior Court Judge Weil Dead at 83
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert I. Weil, a former president of the California Judges Association, has died.
Weil , 83, had been in ill health for the last two years and passed away Saturday. Funeral services will be private.
“Robert Weil was a true giant of the California judiciary,” Court of Appeal Justice Paul Boland of this district’s Div. Eight said yesterday. Boland, who is also a former CJA president and served with Weil on the group’s board, said Weil handled “some of the most complex civil matters considered by the Superior Court [and was] widely regarded as one of the most effective CJA presidents in the history of that organization.”
Weil, whose varied interests included travel, journalism, politics, and religion as well as law, was a New York City native but came to Los Angeles at age five to live with an aunt and uncle following the death of his father.
He edited the school newspaper at Los Angeles High School and graduated from UCLA in 1943. After working briefly as a reporter in Ventura he enrolled in the graduate journalism school at Columbia University, earning a master’s degree in 1944.
His work as a journalist later took him to Europe, where he reported for the Associated Press before returning to this country to attend law school at USC.
Graduating in 1951, he went to work at the general civil practice firm of Pacht, Tannenbaum & Ross. He later became a partner in the firm of Aaronson, Weil & Friedman, where he worked from 1958 to 1975, primarily as transactional attorney in business matters.
Active in Democratic politics, he ran for the Los Angeles Community College board in 1968, a contest that featured more than 130 candidates, listed in alphabetical order, for seven seats. The winners included Jerry Brown, later governor of California, and Michael Antonovich, now a county supervisor, but not Weil.
Brown, whom Weil encouraged to enter the race, appointed Weil to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1975.
He held a variety of assignments on the court, including supervising judge of the law and motion departments downtown, and served for several years on the court’s Executive Committee. He also oversaw settlements of a number of major civil cases, serving as a fulltime settlement judge from 1987 until he retired to become a private judge in 1990.
The judiciary, Boland recalled, was “under attack” during Weil’s tenure as CJA president in 1985-86, with much public criticism of the bench and an increased number of re-election challenges to sitting judges. Weil, the justice said, was “a real champion of judicial independence.”
Weil returned to the CJA board in 1991 as a representative of retired judges, serving as a vice president of the organization for three years. Boland credited Weil with having served as a mentor to the active judges on the board.
Weil also won a number of awards, including the CJA President’s Award and the Outstanding Trial Jurist Award given by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Los Angeles attorney Manuel Klausner yesterday called Weil “a judge’s judge” who was willing “to approach cases with an open mind, even when he was preliminarily disposed to rule in a particular way.”
He recalled a case in which he represented a company that was the subject of a labor dispute. Weil, he explained, had tentatively ruled that the company was entitled to a preliminary injunction to bar violence by the union, but that the union was entitled to an injunction barring company employees from carrying weapons.
“The primary basis for his tentative ruling was the undisputed fact that a replacement worker — who had been previously beaten up by the striking workers — had placed a rifle on the passenger’s seat of his pickup truck, in plain view, when he drove across the picket line.
“Judge Weil said that no one would be permitted to brandish a weapon in a case in his courtroom. But when I raised the Second Amendment as granting rights that should be recognized by the Court, Judge Weil initially said no, then thought for a moment, and went on to rule that — based on the Second Amendment — the union was NOT entitled to an order granting the injunction that it sought.”
County Bar President Edith Matthai had a similar recollection, saying Weil “was always fully prepared on the issues before him and engaged counsel in lively debate” and “liked nothing better than to have an issue of first impression to ponder.” He was also, she recalled, “a supporter of women in the profession long before others and had no hesitation in commenting on firms or associations who had a dearth of women in prominent positions.”
In addition to his judicial duties, Weil wrote and lectured on legal topics, and was the co-author of The Rutter Group’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial. He also served for three years as president of Leo Baeck Temple, a West Los Angeles synagogue, and escorted several CJA study tours overseas.
Superior Court Judge Charles G. Rubin, who visited Oxford University with one of those groups, recalled Weil as “the ‘go-to’ man when you had an esoteric legal issue,” but added:
“Despite his intellectual demeanor, Bob had an easy laugh and wit. He will leave a void in our legal community.”
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company