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William Hogoboom, 84; Judge Was Expert on Juvenile Law, Divorce

August 26, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

William P. Hogoboom, veteran Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, lawyer and administrator who was an expert on juvenile law and co-wrote the book on California divorce law, has died. He was 84.

Hogoboom died Sunday at his Pasadena home of heart failure, said his wife, Katherine.

Named to the Superior Court in 1968 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, Hogoboom served for 16 years until he left at the end of 1983 to spend a decade as vice president and counsel for USC.

Known for his skill at administration, Hogoboom served as presiding judge of the Juvenile Court division, of the Family Law division and, in 1977, of the entire Los Angeles County Superior Court, which at that time had 171 judges.

Born in Pasadena, the only child of a Los Angeles city engineer, Hogoboom had five children and spent much of his life -- in court and outside of it -- working for the betterment of youngsters.

As head of the juvenile division in the early 1970s, when it had 34 judges and 35,000 cases a year, Hogoboom constantly advocated enactment of "just laws" and their equitable application, releasing juveniles to families whenever possible, and to adequate noninstitutional facilities. President Ford named him to the 21-member National Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and he also served as president of the California Children's Lobby.

As head of the Family Law section in the days after the passage of a "no-fault" divorce law, Hogoboom drafted rules for the new law's implementation and was coauthor of the attorneys' guidebook "California Family Law Practice."

As head of the full court, Hogoboom lobbied for additional judges and, in order to clear civil case backlogs, advocated such techniques as halving the number of jurors from 12 to six and trying many civil cases without juries.

As a courtroom judge, and later as a mediator and arbitrator, Hogoboom estimated that 10% of the matters he handled were criminal. Nonetheless, he had his share of high-profile cases.

In 1977, Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted murderer of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, asked Hogoboom to allow him to return to the scene of the 1968 crime at the Ambassador Hotel in the hope that such a visit would revive his memory and help prove his innocence.

Hogoboom turned him down, likening approval to operating the court on the basis of old wives' tales. "Once a year," the judge said, implying that the Sirhan claim of innocence fell into the same dubious category, "I get invited to a luncheon at which I'm told that John Wilkes Booth didn't kill Lincoln."

Hogoboom also presided over the 1980 trial of Synanon drug-rehabilitation organization founder Charles E. Dederich and others for conspiracy to kill attorney Paul Morantz by placing a rattlesnake in his mailbox. Noting that he would not imprison the 67-year-old Dederich because of his poor health, Hogoboom sentenced him to five years' probation, including severing contacts with Synanon and fines of $10,000.

The judge's civil cases included one in which he protected the Terminal Island nesting sites of the California least tern and another over actress Valerie Harper's ouster by NBC from the series "Valerie." In 1988, a jury in Hogoboom's court awarded Harper $1.4 million, 12.5% profits from the show and $440,000 in lost wages for her and her husband, Tony Cacciotti.

As comfortable as he was in the spotlight, Hogoboom could maintain a low profile when asked. After he presided over the divorce of entertainer Johnny Carson from his third wife, Hogoboom in 1987 quietly married Carson to his fourth wife outside Carson's Malibu estate with only the bridal couple, Carson's brother Dick, Hogoboom and his wife present.

Hogoboom graduated from Hollywood High School and later served as president of its alumni association, and he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Occidental College, where he later served as a trustee. He was a Navy lieutenant aboard a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II, then went to USC, where he was student body president, was on the board of Law Review and earned a law degree with the Order of Coif. He earned a master's degree in public administration there.

Until his appointment to the bench, Hogoboom worked in his own law firm, Iverson & Hogoboom, specializing in business litigation.

He was president of the Los Angeles Rotary Club, served on the boards of the Los Angeles YMCA, Phi Beta Kappa, the Western Justice Center Foundation and Wellness Community-Foothills, a cancer support group, and was a trustee of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. and its foundation.

Hogoboom devoted particular attention to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, which teaches youngsters about the U.S. Constitution and encourages them to participate in government. He became active in the organization in 1975, going to high schools to talk to classes, and served as president from 1980 to 1983.

He volunteered as a judge in mock trials and led its "Judge in the Camp" program, in which judges visit probation camps to explain the legal system to youths sent there.

Widowed in 1989 by the death of his wife Betty, Hogoboom remarried and is survived by his wife Katherine; two sons, Bill and Chris, two daughters, Katy and Lissa, and two granddaughters. One son, Peter, preceded him in death.

The family has asked that memorial donations be given to one of the charities Hogoboom supported or to a charity of the donor's choice.

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. Friday at the Western Justice Center, 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena.

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