Friday, January 18, 2002
Commissioner Marckese Killed In 710 Freeway Accident
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Jeffrey Marckese was killed yesterday on his way to the Compton Courthouse when a big rig slammed through a center divider on the 710 freeway during morning rush hour and crashed into Marckese’s sports utility vehicle.
Marckese’s white Chevy Suburban was the first vehicle to be hit by the out-of-control big rig and the vehicle sustained substantial damage to the driver’s side front to back, Los Angeles County Fire Department Investigator Ed Martinez said.
A man whose car was severely crushed by one of the big rigs was transported to County-USC Medical Center in critical condition and five others suffered minor to moderate injuries in the early morning accident that left traffic on the Long Beach Freeway at standstill in both directions for miles Fire Department Inspector Mike Brown said.
Marckese’s bailiff began to worry when the commissioner, a notorious early bird, did not appear in the courtroom, Judge Allen Webster told the MetNews. Having heard of the accident and knowing that Marckese’s normal route to work included the 710 freeway, the bailiff called the California Highway Patrol and told them that “her judge was missing.” The CHP called back and confirmed that Marckese had been killed in the accident, Webster said.
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge James Bascue, the CHP and county fire officials said Marckese was killed in the accident, but coroner officials would not identify him as the person killed in yesterday’s accident pending a positive identification of the body.
“He was taken too young,” Judge Victoria Chavez, former supervising judge in Compton, said.
Webster, who has parked next to Marckese at the Compton Courthouse for years, said he figured Marckese was tied up in traffic when he didn’t see the commissioner’s Cadillac with personalized license plates “KESE2” in its parking spot.
“It’s a shock to all of us,” Webster said.
The Suburban belonged to Marckese’s wife, Webster said.
A family friend, a law enforcement officer who coached youth sports with Marckese, was sent by the court to inform his wife of his death.
“All of a sudden your husband leaves for work and now you’re a widow,” Judge Jack Morgan said. “It’s a startling thing to come to grips with.”
Retired Superior Court Judge Cecil Mills went to Marckese’s home to be with the family after court officials told him of the death, Morgan said.
Marckese’s absence was painfully obvious to judges at the Compton Courthouse when the commissioner failed to show up at the weekly judges’ meeting, always held Thursday at noon, colleagues said.
Instead of talking about issues affecting the day-to-day operations of the courthouse, the judges took the opportunity to reminisce about the popular, dynamic Marckese, Morgan said.
“He was an absolute breath of fresh air,” Chavez said. “He was enthusiastic, hard working, and the litigants loved him.”
Marckese was also known for his down-to-earth personality that more often than not included colorful language, tongue-in-cheek comments and an always-present sparkle in his eye, judges said.
A certified specialist in family law, Marckese’s vast experience in the area was the commissioner’s biggest asset on the bench, colleagues said.
While still practicing law, Marckese served as chair of the Family Law Indigent Paternity Panel, where he represented those accused of willfully withholding child support.
“When he would appear before me I was so impressed with his intelligence and with his willingness to represent the needy, often without pay,” Northwest District Supervising Judge Paul Gutman said.
Gutman, who described himself as a mentor to Marckese, said the commissioner’s unselfishness attracted him to bring Marckese to the court as a referee.
Marckese served as a referee in Compton from Nov. 1997 until he was elected commissioner by the judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court last September. The court’s examining committee ranked him first out of more than 200 applicants for the position.
“He handled probate, civil, family law, anything they handed to him and he did it beautifully,” Gutman said.
Marckese ran for judge in 2000, but was defeated by then-Deputy District Attorney Katherine Mader. He had taken out papers to run for Judge Michael Pirosh’s open seat in the March 5 election, but decided not to pursue his candidacy partly due to financial concerns and partly to spend more time with his family, Webster said.
“He was a very well respected bench officer,” Bascue said, adding that the commissioner probably would have had a good chance of being elected or appointed judge.
While Marckese may not have won the approval of the voters, but by being electied commissioner, he won the respect of the Superior Court, Gutman said.
“He earned the respect of all the judges of this court and that comes at a high price,” the judge commented. “He will be missed.”
Chavez remembered Marckese as always willing to helping those people representing themselves maneuver their way through the court process.
“Having a bench officer who was knowledgeable about family law issues really streamlined the process,” Chavez said.
“He really understood the underbelly of life,” Webster said.
But Marckese’s devotion to the courtroom never got in the way of his family life, colleagues said.
His chambers were filled with pictures of his wife and two young sons and he talked about his family often, Chavez said.
“When people talk about their family you can tell if they are really devoted to them,” Chavez said. “He was one of those people.”
Marckese was very active in sports, as a member of the Burbank Men’s Golf Club, and coaching youth soccer, baseball, basketball and football through the Burbank Department of Parks and Recreation. He also coached a youth football team for his church.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Marckese graduated from Ohio University and he received his law degree in 1981 from Glendale University College of Law, where he was president of the Student Bar Association.
Marckese was very active in his parish, serving as chair of the St. Robert Bellarmine Ministry Committee, a group dedicated to renovating parish property, in 1999.
Funeral arrangements are still pending.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company