Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, January 2, 2018


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Christian E. Markey Jr., Retired Judge, Bar Leader, USC Counsel, Dies at 88


By a MetNews Staff Writer




Funeral services are pending for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Christian E. Markey Jr., who turned down the role of the judge presiding over television’s “The People’s Court” and recommended Joseph Wapner for the job.

He died Tuesday at the age of 88.

Markey was almost president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, holding the post of president-elect at the time of his appointment to the bench by Gov. Ronald Reagan on April 11, 1974.

 “Judge Markey was a good friend and mentor to many and he will be sorely missed by those of us who knew him and valued his friendship,” Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Daniel J. Buckley said in a statement yesterday.

Markey was born in Montebello on Oct. 27, 1927. His father was a former justice of the peace in Imperial County.

He pursued undergraduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

Rose Bowl Player

“Judge Markey was a proud Cal Bear having played quarterback on the team in 1948-51 when Coach Pappy Waldorf took the Bears to three straight Rose Bowls,” Buckley noted.

During the Korean War, Markey served as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He returned home in June 1953, and on June 27 of that year was wed to Sharri Rodecker.

Markey obtained his law degree from UCLA in 1958. While a student, he was a clerk to attorneys Eugene McCloskey (later a justice of the Court of Appeal) and Robert Fainer (who became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge).

He went into partnership with McCloskey, then formed a partnership with Lester Olson, who was also to become a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. That firmed merged with the firm now known as Munger Tolles & Olson.

The lawyer served on the University of California Board of Regents and was president of the Alumni Association.

Bar Association Activities

He was active in the Los Angeles County Bar Association, at first in what was then called the “Junior Barristers,” serving on the Executive Committee, then as a member of the Board of Trustees of the association, and going up the leadership ladder. He was a few months from becoming president when he was given a judgeship.

On the Superior Court, he served first in the Family Law Department, sat in a criminal court, then returned to family law, supervising the department for two years.

Buckley quoted the current supervising judge of the Family Law Division, Thomas Trent Lewis, as recalling;

“Judge Markey was a giant in the Family Law field; very innovative, inspiring and approachable.”

Offered Television Role

While he was on the court, he became friends with television producer Ralph Edwards. He and executive producer Stu Billett were looking for someone to portray the judge on “The People’s Court.”

In a 2003 interview, Markey recounted that Edwards, whom he termed a “dear friend,” offered the role to him.

“I told him I could not do it as a sitting judge, and I was not about to retire,” he said, relating that he recommended Wapner, who had retired, and had been his tennis partner in judges’ tournaments.

Wapner was picked.

Viewing the Pilot

Markey recalled viewing the pilot one night at Edwards’s home. Present were he, Edwards, Wapner and their spouses.

“Everybody was fairly enthusiastic about it, except one Chris Markey,” he said, elaborating:

“I thought it was crummy. It didn’t seem to me to be anything anybody would be interested in.”

Markey said he remembers commenting: “Ralph, it will never sell.” He remarked:

“For years after, Ralph would remind me of that.”

After the Bench

Markey retired from the bench in 1988.

He and two other retired Los Angeles Superior Court judges had occasion to sue their former court.

On Dec. 9, 1996, Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal, in an opinion by Presiding Justice Paul Arthur Turner, wrote:

“Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judges William P. Hogoboom, Christian E. Markey, Jr., and Lester E. Olson, three of California’s most distinguished jurists, have filed an original petition for writ of mandate to compel the respondent court to set aside a $110 per party ‘Family Law Mediation Fee.’ ”

The state sets court fees, Turner said, declaring that the county court has no authority to do so. A writ was granted.

Olson, Markey’s former law partner, was the successful class plaintiff in Olson v. Cory in which the California Supreme Court invalidated legislation placing a cap on cost of living increases for judges as an impairment of vested rights. Hogoboom, a former presiding judge of the court, preceded Markey as general counsel for USC.

Feffer’s Recollections

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Feffer reflected yesterday that news of Markey’s death “took me back a quarter of a century, to my days as a student at USC law school, when I took Judge Markey’s community property class.” She said:

“Judge Markey had already retired from the bench, and was then USC’s General Counsel. Judge Markey was unquestionably a subject matter expert, who was approachable to his students, and taught us the seminal California cases in a clear and logical fashion. Judge Markey was such a pleasant professor that I enjoyed attending every one of his classes, and I definitely learned the subject matter. He leaves behind countless contributions to the Los Angeles legal community.”

Markey also taught at Whittier College School of Law and at Loyola University School of Law.

He is survived by his wife and four children, Michelle, Melinda, Christian and Jill.


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