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Julius M. Title, 1915 - 2008

Enthusiastic L.A. County jurist was oldest retired judge still hearing cases

September 24, 2008|Elaine Woo | Times Staff Writer

Retired Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Julius M. Title, who was the oldest retired judge assigned by the state to hear cases, died of heart failure Sunday at his home in Cheviot Hills. He was 93.

A former real estate lawyer, Title was appointed to Los Angeles Municipal Court by Gov. Pat Brown in 1966 and elevated to Superior Court by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970.

He formally retired in 1985 but quickly found that retirement did not suit him. Over the next decade, he worked as an arbitrator, special master and judge pro tem in civil disputes.

In 1997, he returned to the bench as a member of the Assigned Judges Program, which consists mainly of retired judges who are appointed by the chief justice to cover vacancies and illnesses and relieve congestion in the busiest courts. They exercise all the powers of the position to which they are assigned.

Of the 375 retired judges in the program, Title was the oldest, said Lynn Holton, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Council of California.

During his judicial career, Title heard cases in almost every department of the court. A number of his cases involved high-profile figures, including members of the Getty family, art collector Norton Simon and tennis star Billie Jean King.

He was presiding over small claims and traffic cases in November 2006 when it appeared that he would have to retire again.

Eight new judges had joined Los Angeles County Superior Court, eliminating the vacancies that Title, then 91, had been helping to fill.

He was soon back in action, however. By the next summer he was hearing cases on a daily basis at the Beverly Hills courthouse. Earlier this year, he was on the bench in a downtown criminal courtroom. He was lined up for a stint at Superior Court in Santa Monica until his health suddenly deteriorated a few months ago.

Colleagues said they marveled at Title's work ethic and unflagging enthusiasm for dispensing justice, no matter how small the case.

"Here was a guy who was 93 years old and just as sharp as any other judge on the bench," said Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg, who met Title 25 years ago as a lawyer appearing in Title's courtroom.

"He'd sit down with me and say, 'Look, I have to talk to you about this case.' Maybe they were arguing over $50, but he treated it like they were arguing over $50 million," Rosenberg said.

Title was born in New York City on Aug. 26, 1915. He earned his bachelor's and law degrees at USC and was admitted to the bar in 1941. He practiced real estate law for 20 years before reaching the bench.

He taught trial practice and advocacy at Whittier College of Law and was a faculty member of the California Judicial College and the National Judicial College.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the State Bar Commission on Access to Justice, which explores ways to improve access to civil justice for low-income Californians.

Title is survived by his wife of 58 years, Rita; two daughters, Susan of Beverly Hills and Barbara of Brentwood; a son, David of Beverly Hills; and three grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. today at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles.

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elaine.woo@latimes.com

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