Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, January 22, 2024


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Retired Judge Malcolm Mackey Reminisces

Is Honored by Southwestern Law School


By a MetNews Staff Writer



Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey tells of his “journey” at an annual judges reception Thursday night at Southwestern Law School.

Malcolm Mackey—who retired from the Los Angeles Superior Court on Jan. 2 after nearly 45 years on the bench—was honored Thursday night by his alma mater, Southwestern Law School, and the former jurist, 94, reminisced.

“I’m here to share my journey,” he announced, saying it is “a tale that began in Hoboken, New Jersey and unfolded into a Hollywood story in 1954,” the year he moved west after completing his studies at New York University.

The audience travelled with him along “memory lane.”

He talked about memorable figures, now deceased, including Tom Bradley, who was mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993. Bradley was a police lieutenant when he attended Southwestern, at night.

Mackey recalled:

“He was a quiet guy who sat behind me in the classroom and often smoked cigarettes. He encouraged me to run for judge and I did.”

He did so in 1968 and narrowly lost, in a Los Angeles Municipal Court contest, to the incumbent, Noel Canon, whom he described as “the mini-skirted judge.” (She was removed from office by the California Supreme Court in 1975.)

Mosk, Yorty, Sterling

Mackey mentioned other Southwestern alumni: Stanley Mosk, who became a member of the California Supreme Court, and Sam Yorty, who served as mayor before Bradley.

“Donald Sterling, former owner of Clippers basketball team, was in my fraternity, Sigma Lamba Sigma, the Court of St. Ives,” he noted.

“At Southwestern, we had some good professors,” he remarked, pointing, in particular, to Beverly Reubens, who became known for her bar review courses and outlines, and James Hastings, who served as a justice of the Court of Appeal.

He told the well-wishers, in a packed room:

“I met a fellow law student named Donald Gallagher and we became friends until his death in 2022. We were roommates at Bixel Street where LA Live is today. We could walk 25 minutes each way to Southwestern.

“We shared part of the house; the room was the size of a submarine cabin. We named the house RES IPSA LOQUITUR. When you turn on the oven, the cockroaches will stream out. The rent cost each of us $15 a month. We also had an avocado tree and parking space.”

Studies at Southwestern

In those days, $15 was also the per-unit cost of studying at Southwestern, then on the Fifth Floor of a building on Hill Street. It is now housed in the building that had been Bullock’s Wilshire.

He wound up at Southwestern, he related, after being expelled from Loyola. That was after he received a “D” in a summer class in corporate law.

“In September of 1955, I transferred to Southwestern Law School” he said. “They accepted almost all the courses that I passed at Loyola Law School. At that time, Southwestern was an unaccredited law school.

“Picture this: 30 to 40 eager minds crammed into a classroom.”

He continued:

“In 1958, I graduated with a JD degree and successfully passed the bar exam in 1959. My State Bar number is 25455.”

Gaining Employment

Mackey noted that Southwestern had no placement office, then, saying that new lawyers had to go knocking on doors to pursue employment opportunities.

“I was lucky to find my old professor from Loyola Law School, Otto Kaus,” he said, Kaus went on to become a presiding justice of this district’s Court of Appeal, then was appointed to the California Supreme Court.

 “He sent me to the Law Firm of Bolton, Gruff and Dunn an insurance defense firm, where I secured a position.”

One client, he brought to mind, thought he was married because he had been living with a woman for 15 years. He said:

“I told him he was not legally married and he paid me $10 for my advice. The firm fired me. That’s when I opened my own law practice.”

He told of handling a death penalty case, under appointment, in the California Supreme Court. The case was People v. Monk, decided July 20, 1961. A death sentence was affirmed.

“Despite losing the case and Monk receiving the death penalty for kidnapping with bodily injury, it prompted me to successfully lobby to change the death penalty in California,” he recited.

Judicial Career

“I ran again in 1978 for L.A. Municipal Court judge and was elected,” Mackey recounted.

 His first assignment was presiding in a small claims court, he said, noting that he wrote a guide about small claims. He almost presided over such cases on television, Mackey related, telling the audience:

“I came close to realizing my Hollywood dreams. It originally was supposed to be Judge Mackey instead of Judge Judy!”

He went on to say:

“I was elected to Superior Court in 1988. Then my last election was in 2018, I received 78 percent of the vote. Forget the Emmys—that’s a win worth celebrating.

“As a judge, I upheld large verdicts but also granted new trial for excessive damages. In Lane v. Howard Hughes, the jury verdict was $89 million. I granted a new trial.

“Because of the Lane v. Howard Hughes case the law of punitive damages was changed.

“I practiced law for 19 years, I handled an independent calendar for 26 years at Stanley Mosk Courthouse, and was a judge for almost 45 years.”

His service fell just six days short of 45 years.

Mackey advised:

“I say this to you: Do the right thing, uphold the rule of law.”

Also honored were Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Shelley Kaufman, who supervises the family law courts, and Ricardo Ocampo, who supervises the criminal courts.


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