Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Retired Judge Robert A. Wenke Dies at 88
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert A. Wenke, a former presiding judge of the court, has died.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Wenke told the MetNews his father died Friday from complications of pancreatic cancer at the age of 88.
ROBERT A. WENKE
A native of Stanton, Neb., and the son of a Nebraska Supreme Court justice, Robert Wenke attended high school in that state’s capital of Lincoln, where he graduated from the University of Nebraska School of Law following naval service in World War II.
In 1950 he moved to Long Beach, where he married his wife of 65 years. He began the practice of law in Long Beach, then moved to Washington, D.C, where in 1959 and 1960 he served as legislative assistant to U. S. Senator Thomas H. Kuchel. R-California.
He thereafter returned to Long Beach and resumed the practice of law until 1965 when he was appointed to the Long Beach Municipal Court. The following year he was elevated to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
He served as presiding juvenile court judge in 1969 and 1970, and in 1973 became assistant presiding judge. In 1975 he became the youngest-ever elected presiding judge and held the post through 1976.
As presiding judge, acting on petitions by shooting survivor Paul Schrade and by CBS, he ordered a panel of experts to reexamine the ballistics evidence in the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy.
The panel found there was no evidence to support claims that a second gunman assisted convicted killer Sirhan Sirhan, and his father never believed otherwise, Thomas Wenke said.
Robert Wenke is also credited with having conceived and implemented the concept of allowing the public to directly apply for service on the grand jury, and he appointed the first woman to serve as foreperson of the grand jury. He also appointed the first woman to serve as supervising judge of a department of the court, his son noted.
He served on the Judicial Council of California and he was a member of the Anglo-American Law Exchange of 1973 in London, during which he was granted a private conversation with Queen Elizabeth II, his son said.
He served as a director of the American Judicature Society and the National Center for State Courts, a member of the Board of Counselors for the USC School of Law and the Board of Visitors of the Whittier School of Law, and wrote a number of articles on court administration and four books for lawyers in the fields of evidence, domestic relations, jury selection, and negotiation.
One of those, “Making and Meeting Objections” has sold over 200,000 copies nationwide and is still being published. He retired from the court in 1986 and worked for 27 years as a private judge.
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne Wenke, son Thomas Wenke, and daughter Cynthia Shoustra and a grandchild. His brother, former State Bar President William Wenke, died May 28.
Services will be private, Thomas Wenke said, recommending that those wishing to honor his father make contributions to their charities of choice.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company