When Beverly Hills attorney John J. Merrick was elected judge of the Malibu Judicial District in 1964, it was considered only a part-time job: The population of the area stretching from the ocean to Calabasas didn't warrant a full-time municipal judge.
While continuing to maintain his law practice, Merrick heard cases on Mondays in a small courthouse in Calabasas that doubled as a dance hall at night. He spent the remaining four weekdays in the landmark 1930s-era Malibu courthouse on Pacific Coast Highway.
But he could also be assigned to hear municipal court cases in such far-flung locales as Glendale, Indio, Lancaster and Ventura.
"I was known as 'Have Robe,...