Monday, February 9, 2009
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert P. O’Neill to Retire in April
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert P. O’Neill confirmed Friday that he will retire April 6 after 21 years on the bench.
O’Neill, 60, indicated he will serve his last day on the bench March 6 before using accrued vacation time, and said of his decision to retire that “it was just the right time to do it. You just know when it’s the right time, and this is it…nothing more to it than that.”
The jurist said he hopes to do some assigned judging and volunteer work, and to “explore other opportunities in an area other than the law.” He also said he was looking forward to having more time to spend with his family, and on his “other passions,” like surfing, skiing, and golf.
“I’m sure I’ll do some traveling,” he added.
Admitting he would miss his colleagues at the courthouse, O’Neill reflected that he has been “surrounded by exceptional people” throughout his career including “the clerks, the administrative staff [and] court reporters,” and he said he had been “very fortunate over the years to interact with a wide array of dedicated counsel.”
He also remarked that he had “a lot of interesting cases,” and that, “having served the whole time in criminal, I’ve seen it all.”
Among O’Neill’s most memorable cases, he said, were his prosecutions of former Los Angeles Police Department officers Richard Ford and Robert Von Villas, who were convicted in separate trials of murder, conspiracy, and attempted murder.
As a trial judge, O’Neill presided over the trial of Rollen Stewart, known as Rainbow Man, who wore a rainbow colored afro-style wig and held up signs reading “John 3:16” at stadium sporting events in the 1970s and 1980s. Stewart was convicted of kidnapping a hotel chambermaid while trying to get out his message that the end of the world was coming.
O’Neill also presided over the trial of Dante Michael Soiu, an Ohio pizza delivery man who was convicted of stalking actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
The jurist began his judicial career on the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1988 after being tapped by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, and later served as supervising judge of the traffic court in 1990 before his elevation to the Superior Court in 1992 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson.
Prior to taking the bench, O’Neill served as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County for 11 years, spending five years in the Organized Crime and Anti-Terrorist Division.
The Newark, N.J. native graduated from Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y. in 1970, and then joined the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of First Lieutenant before leaving in 1974 to work for U.S. Steel in New York City, and then moving to Los Angeles.
O’Neill interned with the Pasadena City Prosecutor for one year prior to his graduation from Southwestern Law School in 1977, and then worked as a law clerk for the former Los Angeles firm of Smaltz & Neeley until his admission to the State Bar in 1978.
He is also a member of the New York State Bar.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company