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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | Obituaries

* Richard W. Abbe; Retired Appellate Justice

September 06, 2000

Retired 2nd District Court of Appeal Justice Richard W. Abbe, one of the founding members of the district that serves Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, died Monday after an illness. He was 74.

Known for his integrity and sense of humor, Abbe served eight years on the appellate court and played a role in shaping state law with rulings on issues of employment discrimination, environmental protection and family law.

"His wit was like a fine wine--dry, with a subtle flavor," Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert said Tuesday. "He loathed hypocrisy and cant, and brought distinction to the Court of Appeal."

After his retirement, Abbe, a Santa Barbara resident, served as a substitute judge in Ventura County Superior Court.

In recent years, he presided over several high-profile cases, including the legal skirmish between Ventura and Oxnard over regional shopping malls and a 1994 case involving a ballot measure for the Weldon Canyon landfill.

Abbe was born in Paris on Jan. 6, 1926, the son of a foreign correspondent. He traveled extensively and, with his siblings, wrote a book, "Around the World in 11 Years," offering a child's-eye view of prewar Europe.

Abbe graduated in 1953 from Hastings College of Law in San Francisco after serving as a Navy tail gunner during World War II.

After five years in private practice, he joined the Shasta County district attorney's office, eventually serving as district attorney from 1962 to 1965.

He was appointed to Shasta County Superior Court by former Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Sr. and served 18 years before his appointment to the appellate court in 1982 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

Abbe is survived by his wife of 47 years, Pauline Kirkpatrick Abbe, and daughters Jenny Abbe of Redding, Jessica Abbe of La Honda, Sally Osborn of Lake Tahoe and Martha Salzman of Berkeley.

A local memorial service is expected to be held later this year.

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