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Sweet Justice

September 30, 1998|DONNA MUNGEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When he's not serving on a three-judge panel deliberating cases sent to the appellate department of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Robert Louis Roberson Jr. spends his free time doing justice to the pastry recipes he formulates in his home kitchen.

And like hundreds of other Southern California hobby and home cooks, he took his cooking to this year's Los Angeles County Fair for judging in a different court. Each year, there are approximately 400 ways for kid and adult cooks to compete at the fair, which ended Sunday. Pickles, jams, cookies, gingerbread houses, even Spam can be a winner.

Roberson stuck to what he knows best--pies--and the verdict is in. His chocolate mousse pie won a blue ribbon in the "Other" Pie category of the fair's Better Living Division.

Roberson credits what he calls his "dynamic crust," the full, rich taste of his chocolate mousse filling and his topping of whipped cream and walnuts.

Before submitting his pie to the county competition, Roberson used the methodical approach to decision-making that has guided him in his almost 40 years in the legal field. He took a pie to his Hill Street courthouse and offered samples to his fellow jurists, seeking a balanced, fair judgment. They gave him a resounding vote of confidence, leaving not a morsel on the pie pan.

Over the years, he has shared peach cobbler; cherry, apple and lemon pies; and other baked goods from his Altadena home kitchen.

Roberson caught the cooking bug as a young boy watching his mother and grandmother prepare baked goods in their kitchen. But his real interest in cooking didn't jell until his teens when, as a member of the Dorsey High School football team, he decided to enroll in the boys' cooking class. He thought it would be an easy grade.

"But to my joy," Roberson remembers, "I learned how to make a pie crust." It was the beginning of a lifetime interest in the culinary arts.

The cooking gene seems to be passing onto the next generation. Roberson's granddaughter, 14-year-old Ariana Roland, won first place in the American Youth Division at the fair for her pecan cup cookies, and her younger brother, 12-year-old Charles, earned third place for his raspberry bars.

Roberson is already looking ahead to next year. He's in the beginning stages of planning a pastry that could be another blue ribbon winner. And after serving almost 20 years on Los Angeles Superior Court bench, Roberson is contemplating retiring at the end of the year.

If he does, he will have more time to bring justice to many a deserving taste bud.

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