Robert Wallerstein, 76; L.A. Judge Had Handled Contracts for Writers

Times Staff Writer

Robert H. Wallerstein, a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge from 1983 to 1996 and later a private judge for an alternate resolution center, has died. He was 76.

Wallerstein died Thursday in Palm Desert of natural causes.

An appointee of former Gov. Jerry Brown in the waning hours of his administration, Wallerstein sat initially in the Los Angeles court’s busy traffic division and then spent several years in the Van Nuys branch hearing civil and small claims cases.

As a lawyer, Wallerstein handled contracts for writers and other entertainment matters and divorces.


He found, therefore, that becoming a judge required a return to the lawbooks and consultation with veteran judges.

“It’s a fairly awesome responsibility when someone says to you, ‘Decide,’ ” he told the Daily Journal, a Los Angeles-based legal newspaper, four months after assuming the bench. “I’ve always been an advocate -- flip a coin, defense or plaintiff. I can get up and argue anything.”

Wallerstein said he was struck by his fellow judges’ humility and doubt -- noting that those he lunched with discussed their questions rather than their decisions.

“I was always used to hearing guys who knew all the answers. Attorneys know all the answers,” he said. “What has impressed me is the judges are really looking at the issues rather than the answers.”


Born in Chicago, Wallerstein moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 15. He attended UCLA, and later opted for jobs in newspapers and advertising agencies for several years. He was 31 before he decided to enroll in night classes at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles.

After earning his degree in 1962, he represented a savings and loan company for seven years then went into private practice, quickly attracting clients from the entertainment industry.

Wallerstein is survived by his wife, J.J.; his mother, Kay Wallerstein; a son, David Wallace; a daughter, Lauren Havens; a sister, Dena Marienthal; and one granddaughter.

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. Thursday at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.

The family has asked that memorial donations be sent to the Foundation for the Retarded of the Desert, 73255 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260.