Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Page 1


Retired Judge James Natoli Dies After Lengthy Illness


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James P. Natoli died yesterday after a lengthy illness.

He was 84. No funeral services are planned for the long-time San Marino resident, who died from renal failure and fluid in the lungs, his widow, Mary Natoli, told the MetNews.

The son of an illiterate Sicilian immigrant, Natoli grew up in the small town of Urichsville, Ohio, where his father worked as a miner until a back injury forced him onto the workers’ compensation rolls. Determined to avoid work in the mines, he once told a reporter, he saved enough money by working after school to enroll at Ohio State University.

Bank of America

After service in World War II, he returned to the university, using his GI Bill benefits to graduate from the law school in 1948. He moved to California and became an attorney in the trust department of Bank of America.

After a brief stint in private practice, he returned to the bank and specialized in administering probate estates until 1960, when he became a Superior Court probate attorney. That led to appointment in 1964 as a Superior Court commissioner.

His assignments included family law, civil law-and-motion, and criminal court. He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1971 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and elevated to the Superior Court by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1981.

As a municipal court judge, he sat for several years at what was then the Criminal Courts Building downtown. One of his colleagues there was Norman L. Epstein, now presiding justice of Div. Four of this district’s Court of Appeal.

“Talk about a gentleman,” Epstein commented yesterday. “That defines him.”

Hard Work, Fairness

Mary Natoli said her husband did not consider himself a legal scholar—“he always used to say that ‘there are many judges who are far more intelligent than I,’ ” she said yesterday—but prided himself on hard work and fairness.

“He was so fair it was unbelievable,” she said. “It meant a lot to him” to have lawyers who appeared in his court believe that they had been treated fairly, she recalled.

Natoli retired from the Superior Court in 1989. He did private judging for several years but had been “totally retired” for the past 10 years, devoting himself to golf and gardening, and had been in ill health the past two years, his wife said.

Besides his wife, Natoli is survived by four children—San Francisco attorney Maria Natoli; Mark Natoli, a judicial assistant in the Superior Court’s East District; Ventura County Deputy Sheriff Laura Natoli; and Diana Natoli Meyers, a homemaker and teacher—as well as two grandchildren.

Mary Natoli said any memorial donations should be sent to the Ohio State University College of Law, Columbus, Ohio. Her husband was “a Buckeye through-and-through” and attended the Rose Bowl game whenever his alma mater played in it, she said.


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company