Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Services Set for Florence Pickard, Retired Superior Court Judge
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services are scheduled this weekend for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Florence Pickard, who died Friday at age 69.
The cause of death was cancer, her eldest daughter, Janeen Gibbs, said.
Pickard retired in October 1997 after 20 years on the Superior Court bench. She was appointed to the court in 1977 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who had named her two years earlier as a commissioner of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
She was presiding over a downtown civil department when she retired, after having tried felony cases—including death penalty matters—during her early tenure on the court. She worked with Alternative Resolution Centers in Los Angeles after leaving the court.
In an interview shortly before her retirement, Pickard described herself as a “people person,” who would miss the attorneys in her court and her staff, but wasn’t going to regret leaving the “push-push-push of the fast track” behind.
Her daughter echoed that description yesterday.
“She was great an inspiration for all who knew her,” Gibbs told the MetNews. “She had a charming personality...and she thoroughly enjoyed working on the bench and interacting with the attorneys.”
Gibbs said she followed her mother’s advice and pursued legal studies. She is a recent graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and hopes to practice in the field of wills and trust and estate planning, as well as tax law.
The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Pickard was born in Harlem, lived in the Bronx, and graduated from a New York City high school. Her parents moved in the 1950s to Los Angeles, where her father had a downtown tailor shop.
Pickard graduated from UCLA in 1955, with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and earned her law degree from Southwestern University Law School in 1960. She spent five years as an information attorney for the WCAB, then eight years in private practice before her appointment as WCAB commissioner.
She once said that she was surprised by the appointment, because as a black woman who was a Republican, she had few high-powered political contacts. She joined the GOP, she told a reporter, because she felt that African Americans would have more influence if they did not show an allegiance to a single political party.
She faced an early political test when then-Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Clarence “Red” Stromwall challenged her for election to a full term on the court in 1978. Stromwall said that he was running for the office, not against Pickard.
Pickard was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and rated “well qualified” by the County Bar—her opponent was rated “qualified”—and won the election with 61 percent of the vote.
Viewing for Pickard is scheduled for Friday at the Inglewood Mortuary, 1206 Centinela Avenue, Inglewood. The mortuary’s phone number is (310) 677-8137.
Jack & Jill, an organization that promotes the interests of African American children and of which the late judge was a member, will hold a memorial celebration at the mortuary at 6:30 p.m. Friday. That will be followed by an “Ivy on the Wall” memorial service, sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha, at 7 p.m.
Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday at St. Bernadette’s Church, 4196 Marlton Ave., Los Angeles. Burial will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery, 5835 W. Slauson Ave., Culver City.
In addition to Gibbs, Pickard is survived by two other daughters, Annette Pickard and Chelsea Wasserwald.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company