Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Services Pending for Los Angeles Attorney James Robie
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services were pending yesterday for James R. Robie of Robie & Matthai APC, who died Sunday, at the age of 61, while scuba diving near Catalina island.
Robie practiced complex litigation with his wife, Edith Matthai, a past president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and was the president of the Association of Defense Counsel of Southern California as well as a member of LACBA’s executive committee.
Kyle Kveton, a partner with Robie & Matthai, said Robie was “the most fearless trial lawyer I ever met in my entire life,” who “did everything with a level of honesty and integrity that you just don’t see these days” and served as “a great friend and mentor.”
Robie also “didn’t believe in hierarchies in law firms,” and “treated everybody…with the same level of respect and caring” no matter “what title you had or didn’t have,” Kveton said.
LACBA President Alan Steinbrecher described Robie as “a natural leader who people respected and genuinely liked.” He recalls that when he first met Robie, “it was absolutely crystal clear to me that Jim was a man of great intellect, great compassion, and great humility.”
Steinbrecher noted that Robie “demonstrated his leadership abilities in numerous ways over the years,” and said he “expected that [Robie] would arise to the top levels of leadership in the bar association.”
Robie, a County Bar trustee at the time of his death, had served as chair of the LACBA Litigation Section, the group’s Superior Court liaison, and as part of the Judicial Election Evaluation Committee. He was also a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, Federation of Defense and Coverage Counsel and Association of Business Trial Lawyers Association.
He was a frequent author of legal articles and continuing education lecturer on litigation and insurance coverage issues, and his name regularly appeared on lists of the top attorneys in the region. He represented insurance clients in a number of major battles, including dozens of cases arising from Hurricane Katrina, in which Robie represented State Farm insurance companies.
Linda Miller Savitt, president-elect of the Association of Defense Counsel of Southern California, said that Robie was “a remarkable human being in addition to being a remarkable lawyer” and “a wonderful friend.”
Robie “was so positive and upbeat and enthusiastic,” Savitt said, emphasizing how he “brought such energy to our organization” during his tenure as president.
“He was a default-to-yes guy,” she added, explaining “whenever you would ask Jim a question, or had an idea or wanted to do something, he would default to ‘Yes’ ” as his answer.
Savitt remarked that tomorrow would have been Robie’s final meeting as head of the group, and said she does not plan to cancel it, or a retirement dinner for the group’s executive director which Robie had organized and is scheduled for next week.
“We’re going to move forward with all of his plans,” Savitt said, choking up with emotion.
“Jim would be the first to tell you he’s just one person in a very strong organization,” she added, vowing:
“The organization is going to remain vital, if for no other reason than to honor him.”
Former LACBA president Gretchen Nelson said Robie “was such an extraordinary person that words just can’t adequately describe my feelings and thoughts.” She praised him as “the best husband, the best father and the best friend.”
Robie is survived by his wife, son Raymond, and daughter Leigh, who Kveton said, were “his world, and his pride and joy.”
He graduated cum laude from Claremont McKenna College in 1972 before attending Loyola Law School and joining the State Bar in 1975. He served for a time on the law school’s Board of Governors.
Kveton said Robie’s family and firm “would be honored” if, in lieu of flowers, contributions in his honor could be made to Public Counsel, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, or Heart of Los Angeles.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company