Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Page 1


Retired Superior Court Judge David Finkel Dies at 83


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Funeral arrangements are pending for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David B. Finkel, who died Saturday at age 83.  

Santa Monica College reported on its website yesterday that Finkel, who retired from the court in 2002, died at his Santa Monica home on Saturday after a prolonged illness. Finkel served on the college’s board, and taught there as well.



Born in Newark, N.J., Finkel was the son of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Graduating from the University of Chicago in 1951, he later served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Ft. Ord in Northern California.

After leaving service in 1955, he attended USC Law School, graduating in 1959. He was admitted to the State Bar the following year, and joined the law firm of Margolis and McTernan, doing labor, employment, tort and civil rights law. He subsequently began his own practice, with an employment and civil rights focus, and practiced law until 1989.

He traveled to Mississippi in 1964 and 1965, the college noted, joining the Freedom Summer voter registration effort and later, a legal challenge to the seating of the all-white congressional delegation.

His work as a lawyer also included defense of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.

Moving to Santa Monica in the 1960s, he joined the then-fledgling pro-rent control group Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, or SMRR, and was appointed to fill a vacancy on the city’s Rent Control Board in 1981.

He was elected to the board in 1983, and to the Santa Monica City Council in 1986. He won an open seat on the Santa Monica Municipal Court in 1990.

He served as the court’s presiding judge in 1993 and 1994, and also served as an assigned Los Angeles Superior Court judge, as the area courts entered into an administrative and judicial coordination process in the years prior to full unification. He heard civil and criminal trials and civil settlement conferences.

He also sat on the California Judges Association’s Ethics Committee from 1994 to 1997, and taught ethics at the Center for Judicial Education and Research, where he also served on the New Judge Education Planning Committee. He was an early supporter of drug and domestic violence courts and served on committees on those subjects.  

When court unification came to Los Angeles County in 2000, he became a fulltime Superior Court judge, serving in that capacity until his retirement.

After leaving the bench, he worked as an arbitrator and mediator for six years, and also taught political science at the college until his election as a trustee in 2006. He continued to teach as a volunteer while serving on the board, to which he was reelected in 2010, the same year he served as board chair.

He resigned from the board last year, citing unspecified medical problems.

Jeff Shimizu, interim president of the college, said in a statement:

“David Finkel’s prolific, tireless and courageous work through the decades for education, equality and civil rights has left this world a better place—too many instances abound. He was a true champion for our students, and embodied all the ideals Santa Monica College holds dear. He will be deeply missed.”

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, artist Bruria Finkel, his brother George Finkel, his children Melva Colter, Wendie Colter, Amy Shimshon-Santo, and Adam Finkel, and four grandchildren, the college said.

Information about funeral services will be available by calling Lisa Rose at 310-434-4402, the college said.


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