Monday, March 9, 2009
Services Scheduled for James P. Zarifes, Ex-Municipal Court Judge
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services are scheduled today and tomorrow for former Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge James P. Zarifes, who died Tuesday at the age of 77 after battling Parkinson’s disease.
Zarifes was appointed to the bench in 1991 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, and served for eight years until retiring after being diagnosed with the disease.
Born in Long Beach to Greek immigrants, Zarifes spoke Greek almost exclusively until entering elementary school, and later graduated from Long Beach Poly High School before going on to study economics at Stanford University on his father’s advice.
He served two years in the U.S. Army in Texas after graduating in 1953, rising from second lieutenant to first lieutenant, and then returned to California to attend law school at Stanford.
Admitted to the State Bar in 1959, Zarifes began his legal career as an associate with the firm of Denio, Hart, Taubman & Simpson. Four years later, he became a solo practitioner, practicing mainly in civil law with some criminal work, and later concentrating on probate practice.
Zarifes’ father, who only completed the fourth grade, reportedly impressed the importance of education on his son at an early age, insisting that Zarifes and his sister attend college. Despite pursuing a career in law, the judge took his father’s advice to heart and served as a trustee on the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education for 17 years before taking the bench.
He was also involved in several Long Beach clubs, and was voted most outstanding Lions president of 58 Lions Clubs in Southern California in 1970-71.
In a 1991 interview, Zarifes said his father had hoped he would be a senator, while his mother hoped he would become a priest in the Greek Orthodox Church.
He recalled telling his mother after becoming a judge:
“Well, mother, I’m not a senator and I’m not a priest. I’m sort of half way in between. I wear a robe like a priest, but I tell everybody what to do like a senator.”
Zarifes’ son, Peter Zarifes, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram last week that his father’s greatest gift was “his way with words.”
Peter Zarifes recalled:
“He truly cared about the people, and he wanted to touch everyone in a meaningful way…. He was quite selfless. He was a very appreciative person toward the people who touched his life and always looked for the good qualities in all people. He wanted to make an impact and a difference in people’s lives.”
Zarifes is survived by his wife of almost 50 years, Angie, his children Peter (and his wife Tina), Michael and Marina (and her husband John), three grandchildren and his sister, Helen Hansen.
Memorial services are scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 5761 E. Colorado St., in Long Beach. Funeral services are scheduled for tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Forest Lawn Cypress.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations be sent to The Parkinson’s Institute, 1170 Morse Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94089.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company