Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Page 1


Appeals Court Portrays Retired Lawyer as Victim of Gold Digger


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed decisions of the Los Angeles Superior Court thwarting the apparent efforts by a woman to nab the assets of a retired lawyer she married in his dotage.

Two unpublished opinions, issued Friday, gave a victory to the conservators of the person and estate of octogenarian Richard B. Hershberger, a former deputy district attorney and brother of a deceased first lady of California. One opinion lent short shrift to the appeal by the woman who recently married him contesting the accounting by the conservators, and the other decision, also brief, upheld the nullification of the marriage, obtained by the conservators.

The appellant is Melike Dewey Hershberger, a San Bernardino real estate broker who has been on the Administrative Office of the Courts’ vexatious litigant list since 2007. She represented herself in the appeals.

In the opinion rebuffing the challenge to the accounting, Justice Frances Rothschild of Div. One noted:

“In June 2010 (before the conservatorship proceedings were initiated), Melike picked up Richard from his residence, drove him to Las Vegas, married him there, and dropped him off at his residence a few days later, having charged all expenses for the trip to his credit card.”

Hancock Park Residence

His residence is a Colonial-style house in fashionable Hancock Park once occupied by Goodwin J. Knight, California’s governor from 1953-59, and his wife, Virginia Knight, Richard Hershberger’s late sister. At the time of Virginia Knight’s death on Nov. 29, 2010, Richard Hershberger was occupying the house with her.

In the three-page slip opinion rejecting Melike Hershberger’s contentions concerning the accounting, Rothschild said:

“Insofar as Melike seeks to challenge the trial court’s overruling of her objections, the appeal lacks merit. Melike’s objection document (which is three pages long, including caption and signature pages) contains no intelligible criticism of the accounting.”

Judgment of Nullity

In a separate opinion, Div. One upheld the judgment of nullity. Rothschild wrote:

“Melike’s only argument on appeal is that the judgment is not supported by substantial evidence, because the witnesses who testified at trial did not know Richard at the time of the marriage and consequently could not know whether he was of ‘unsound mind,’ within the meaning of subdivision (c) of Family Code section 2210, at that time. The argument lacks merit. At trial, the court admitted expert testimony to the effect that Richard was of unsound mind when Melike married him in June 2010. The expert acknowledged that she did not meet Richard until October 2010, but she nonetheless was able to offer an expert opinion as to whether he was able ‘to understand the condition of marriage’ in June 2010, and she explained the basis for that opinion, which Melike does not address. The expert’s testimony constitutes substantial evidence to support the trial court’s determination that Richard was of unsound mind when he married Melike.”

Rothschild also authored an Aug. 31, 2012 unpublished opinion which spurned challenges to the Sept. 23, 2010 establishment of a temporary conservatorship and subsequent orders, including institution of a permanent conservatorship.

That opinion noted that according to the 2010 petition, Richard Hershberger was 80 and “has given most of his money away, to anyone who asks him for it, including another woman he recently met, telemarketers, charities, sweepstakes and anything or anyone else who requests money from him.”

Melike Hershberger, who is 25 years younger than the man she wed, challenged the orders on the ground that the notice to her of the hearings on the petition to establish a conservatorship were sent to her residence address, rather than her Post Office box.

“Neither the record on appeal nor the superior court file contains any evidence that the address to which those notices were sent was not Melike’s residence address at that time,” Rothschild responded.

Richard Hershberger, who graduated from UCLA School of Law, was admitted to practice in 1957. He has been on inactive status since 2000, except for a single day in 2001 on which he activated his membership.


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