Thursday, October 31, 2002
Retired Superior Court Judge Robert Fratianne Dies at 72
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services are scheduled Sunday for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Fratianne, who sat on the county trial bench for 11 years.
Fratianne, 72, died Monday of complications from pancreatic cancer.
The judge was remembered by friends and colleagues yesterday as an outgoing judge, mediator and lawyer who loved the law so much that he remained actively involve in it for 11 years after his retirement from the court.
“He loved the law because he just loved its ability to act as a problem-solver between people in an orderly fashion,” Steven Davis, a partner at Alternative Resolution Centers, the mediation firm where Fratianne worked after his retirement, said. “As much as he enjoyed people, and he really loved the give and take with attorneys, he just always came back to the law.... He had a tremendous burning desire to come to the right conclusion on things.”
His friends also said he was a “people person” whose outgoing nature helped him succeed as a mediator.
“He was a nice man. He just was. A good friend,” Superior Court Judge Charles Peven, a friend of Fratianne’s from his days in private practice, said. “I doubt if you’ll find anybody that will say a bad word about him.”
After a case was resolved, said Davis, Fratianne had been known to go out to socialize and discuss the case—with both sides of the dispute.
“He loved to hold court, where it was in a courtroom or a conference room or over dinner,” Davis said. “That was when he was at his best and really enjoying himself.”
Dennis Mulcahy, a Woodland Hills lawyer who said Fratianne was a mentor to him during their two decades of friendship, echoed that praise.
“Everybody liked Bob, and Bob was the friendliest person anybody could ever meet. He had an open door for anybody who would want to talk to him,” Mulcahy said.
Fratianne was proud of his Italian American heritage, Mulcahy said, and helped to start the Italian American Lawyers Association in the mid-seventies. The current president of that organization, Judith Cannavo, grew up in the same parish as Fratianne’s children, attending the same church, and knew the family socially. She remembers him as a fun-loving and positive man who “loved all things Italian.”
“He always had a hug for me. Even when we saw each other at the Italian American Lawyers meeting, he always gave me a hug and a kiss,” she said. “It was genuine and it was heartfelt and that’s why this is such a loss.”
Born in Cleveland in 1929, Fratianne earned an undergraduate degree in business from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was a brother in Sigma Nu. He entered the U.S. Coast Guard after graduating, then attended Southwestern University School of Law, graduating in 1959, and was admitted to the California bar in 1960.
In his final year of law school, Fratianne was hit on the freeway by a wrong-way driver who was later convicted of driving while intoxicated. Friends say it didn’t stop Fratianne from leading an active life, but when he was a municipal court judge, he told a reporter that the pain caused him to pass out while taking the bar exam—twice. The accident left him with a shortened leg, causing a pronounced limp that eventually led to knee and hip replacement surgeries. Ironically, the injuries made him a favorite among medical malpractice lawyers during his career as a mediator, Davis said, because of his understanding of pain and joint issues.
In 1981, Fratianne made headlines as a judge who was almost jailed for contempt of court when he was unable to pay alimony and child support to his ex-wife. Fratianne said at the time that he had financial problems stemming from his support of his daughter Linda, a champion ice skater who won a silver medal at the 1980 Olympics.
After 18 years in private criminal practice, Fratianne was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court bench in 1978 by then-Gov. Edmund Brown. Brown elevated Fratianne to the Superior Court the next year, and he remained there until his retirement in 1989. During part of that time, he was the supervising judge for the San Fernando branch court.
After retirement, he and his wife Peggy moved to Indian Wells, where Fratianne continued to work as a mediator for Alternate Resolution Centers until 2001, when he became too ill from chemotherapy to work.
Fratianne is survived by his wife, as well as his children, Mary McConville, a court reporter; Nicolas Fratianne, a Los Angeles deputy city attorney; Linda Fratianne; Angela Weltman; and Robert Fratianne, also a deputy city attorney; his stepchildren, Peggy Anne Wyrick and Pamela Heilman; a sister, Virginia Cirino; and 17 grandchildren.
Sunday’s memorial mass is set for 11:30 a.m. in the mortuary chapel at Holy Cross Cemetery, 5835 W. Slauson Ave. in Culver City, which can be reached at 310-836-5500. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Fratianne’s honor be sent to the St. John’s Health Center Foundation, 1328 22nd St., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company