La Cañada Flintridge resident and longtime legal analyst and commentator Royal Oakes knows the importance of being in the right place at the right time.
On April 29, 1992, after four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted in the beating of taxi driver Rodney King, Oakes was providing commentary on KFWB-AM radio about the court case when the station got news that riots had broken out on Los Angeles city streets.
“My commentary was on the not-guilty verdict,” Oakes recalled. “And as the afternoon ticked off, it became a riot story.”
Two years later, on June 17, 1994, Oakes was in the green room of the “Larry King Live” show, waiting to comment on the legal underpinnings of the O.J. Simpson case when news broke that a low-speed car chase between Simpson and LAPD officers had begun.
“It quickly morphed into a story on the low-speed chase and the escape,” Oakes said of his on-screen appearance that evening.
Those would be two important milestones in Oakes’ long and storied career, which go on to include countless appearances on “Inside Edition,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “Extra,” two Golden Mike awards from the Radio and Television Assn. of Southern California and a national talk show on CRN Digital Talk Radio, launched in July.
On Friday, the ABC News and KABC legal analyst and father of three hit another milestone when he was recognized by the Los Angeles City Council in a special presentation recognizing 30 years of commentary and service to the community.
“Royal is a lifelong Angeleno born and raised right here in Los Angeles,” L.A. City Councilman Curren Price said in the Aug. 18 meeting. “(He) is dedicated to giving back to the community and has provided hours of thoughtful and provoking legal commentary on his home station KABC.”
After the ceremony, Oakes took a moment outside Council Chambers to reflect on the long arc of his career. He said he was initially inspired by the style and format of Boston radio commentator Neil Chayet, who for decades elucidated complex legal cases in his one-minute “Looking at the Law” segments.
“He made it really provocative and entertaining,” said Oakes, who created his own “Focus on the Law” after graduating from UCLA Law School in 1987.
“Every time I was on the air, I wanted to make sure I grabbed people, to make sure it was entertaining and informative,” he continued.
General counsel for the Radio and Television News Assn. for the past 20 years, Oakes was integral in persuading Judge Lance Ito to allow cameras to remain in the courtroom. It’s a viewpoint he continues to assert, even in federal cases.
“My take, in a nutshell, is to let people see what their judicial system is up to,” he said. “Sunlight is the ultimate disinfectant. People behave better when they know they’re being watched.”
Wife Lauren — who attended Friday’s City Council presentation with son Connor, daughter Claire, son-in-law Ilya Florentin and grandson Ben (daughter Faye is away at Duke University Medical School) — said their marriage has led to numerous healthy conversations on a number of world topics. But while they don’t always agree on every issue, Lauren Oakes described her husband as someone with boundless energy and curiosity who’s well-versed in many subjects.
“He is great at assessing a situation and saying what’s going to happen down the road — and he’s always right,” she said. “He’s been a great husband, a great father and now a grandfather.”
“The Royal Oakes Show” airs live every Saturday at 3 p.m. at crntalk.com, with podcasts available for download.