Hon. Judge John Merrick, 93 - Malibu's legendary judge
(too old to reply)
2012-08-05 00:37:01 UTC
Sad news for me, personally, as Judge Merrick was someone who enriched
my life. I'm sure I speak for all of us who had the privilege of
knowing him when I offer my deepest condolences to Shelley and her


Malibu Judge John Merrick Dies at 93

Merrick served as a judge for more than two decades and helped shape
most of modern Malibu.

By Jessica E. Davis

Malibu's original judge, John J. Merrick, died Tuesday at the age of

A celebration of life service is set for noon Saturday, Aug. 25 at the
George Elkins Auditorium at Pepperdine University.

His son Brian Merrick, who is a realtor in Malibu, said his father's
death was not unexpected.

"He was a loving father and a good friend. We were pretty close he and
I, more than the others," said Brian Merrick, who has seven other

Brian Merrick added that his father had been in poor health for some
time as he got older.

"The doctors and everybody wrote him off three or four years ago … We
all just refused to believe that," Brian Merrick said. "We worked with
him. Those were some of the best three or four years that we’ve had."

The Merrick family has lived in Malibu since 1945 on Latigo Beach and
Point Dume.

Brian Merrick said it was difficult to sum up his father's life in a
short amount of words because he touched so many lives.

"When nobody wanted to be in Malibu, he was here. Before there was a
city council, he pretty much ran the town. He was the judge. The
county always consulted with him with the things that they were doing.
He’s responsible for so many things that we see today in modern
Malibu," Brian Merrick said.

The Merrick family released the following obituary:

Honorable Judge John J Merrick of Malibu passed away peacefully on
the morning of July 31, 2012.

Born February 10, 1919 in New Haven, CT and raised in the Bronx he
was the first born son of Irish immigrants. During World War II as a
commander of a tank destroyer unit, John was shipped out to Southern
California after Pearl Harbor where his job was to protect the
coastline from Manhattan Beach to Malibu.

At the conclusion of the war John elected to remain in California
and make Malibu his home. He worked as a trust officer for Beverly
Hills National Bank and as a comedy writer for the Edgar Bergen and
Charlie McCarthy radio show. A graduate of Southwestern School of Law
in Los Angeles John opened a private practice in Beverly Hills until
1964 when he was elected Judge of the Malibu Judicial District where
he served on the Bench for 22 years.

Known as "The Law West of Topanga" during his judgeship he
participated in many famous cases including signing of the search
warrant for Charles Manson and subsequent trials of Manson Family
members. His crowning achievement in Law was a stint on the California
Appellate Court where he wrote several published legal opinions.

As a Justice, John presided over many high profile wedding
ceremonies including Lee Marvin, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn and Madonna.

In addition to his public duties he taught at Pepperdine
University and Santa Monica College. Malibu was his true love and he
was one of Malibu's founding fathers.

John started and founded several charitable organizations
throughout Malibu including the Optimist Club, Pepperdine Crest
Associates, Malibu Historical Society, Heart Association, Malibu
Lagoon Museum, and the Township Council.

With a keen interest in the history of Malibu from the Chumash to
the Rindges, he wrote many books and was cited as the foremost
historian of Malibu.

John, a 66 year resident of Latigo Beach and Point Dume, was
preceded in death by his wife Marge Merrick and is survived by his
eight children: Shelly Merrick, Maria Merrick, Vicki Curran, John
Merrick, Liz Klein, Robert Rowland, Patricia Howard, Brian Merrick,
countless grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers the family asked that a donation be made to the
"John Merrick Law Scholarship" at Pepperdine University School of Law,
which is awarded to students with an interest in public service.
Donations can be sent to Pepperdine School of Law, 24255 Pacific Coast
Hwy, Malibu Ca 90263-4633; Attn: John Merrick Law Scholarship/Erin
"It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens." - Woody Allen

Wax-up and drop-in of Surfing's Golden Years: <http://www.surfwriter.net>
2012-08-08 22:43:23 UTC
Post by BobF
Sad news for me, personally, as Judge Merrick was someone who enriched
my life. I'm sure I speak for all of us who had the privilege of
knowing him when I offer my deepest condolences to Shelley and her

Legendary Judge John J. Merrick dies at 93

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 8:42 AM PDT

Malibu Judge John Merrick, who provided decades of service to the
community, died last week at the age of 93.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

As a Malibu founding father, World War II vet, benevolent judge,
outdoorsman, father of eight and sketch comedy writer, Judge John J.
Merrick crammed enough into his life to fill a shelfful of books. When
he died last week, at age 93, he left a legacy of evenhanded
jurisprudence coupled with deep devotion to preserving Malibu’s

“He was a brilliant, fair and compassionate judge, “ said Terry
Adamson, who had worked as a deputy district attorney in Merrick’s
court and was a longtime family friend. “He cared so much for the
people of Malibu. Really, just a prince of a man.”

Merrick was born in New Haven, Conn., but grew up in the Bronx. A
youthful athlete, he played baseball with the Associated Press team
while working as a journalist. The team would slip a few dollars to a
groundskeeper at the old Yankee Stadium, who would let them in to play
while the pro team was on the road.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a lieutenant during World
War II in Southern California. Merrick liked Malibu, so he stayed.

After the war, he wrote jokes for actor and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen
(and Charlie McCarthy) while serving as a trust officer at a Beverly
Hills bank, before deciding to attend law school. His degree allowed
him to run for an open judicial seat in Malibu/Calabasas in 1964.
Merrick ended up being Malibu’s presiding judge for 26 years,
developing a deep love of Malibu’s history and culture along the way.

“When Dad was first in Malibu right after the war, he turned down a
chance to buy two acres in Point Dume for $2,400. Everyone told him,
‘You can’t build on Point Dume because it’s too windy,’” Brian
Merrick, the judge’s youngest son, said. “So he took his G.I. Bill
loan and bought the last lot on Latigo Canyon.”

During his tenure on the bench, Merrick became known as “the law west
of Topanga,” and the de facto mayor of Malibu before the city was
incorporated. His authority led the charge to stop development of a
nuclear power plant in Corral Canyon and pushed the Las Virgenes Water
District to pipe water to Malibu’s growing population.

“He was extremely fair with everyone from the bench,” Louis Busch, a
friend of Merrick’s, said. “If they were guilty, he’d give it to them.
But if there was reason for leniency, he would be gentle. He was
really invested in his courtroom.”

He presided over the personal, like Madonna’s marriage to Sean Penn in
a supposedly secret Malibu bluff ceremony, and the chilling, like when
he signed the search warrant sending police to Spahn Ranch in
Chatsworth, where they arrested Charles Manson following the
Tate-LaBianca murders. He taught law at Pepperdine University and
Santa Monica College. Judicially, Merrick’s crowning achievement was
his stint on the California Appellate Court, where he wrote several
published legal opinions, his son said.

“Dad even wrote articles for The Malibu Times during the ‘40s and
‘50s,” Brian Merrick said. “I think that’s why he wanted to work on
the Appellate Court. He loved writing and knew he could publish his

Throughout his life, Merrick’s deep fondness for all things Malibu led
him to help establish a number of charitable organizations, including
the local Optimist Club chapter, the Malibu Art Association, the
Pepperdine Crest Associates, the Heart Association and the Township

He also established a scholarship at Pepperdine to award to students
interested in public service. When the city finally incorporated in
1991, Merrick ran for City Council, but came in sixth in the voting.
He was given the Dolphin Award by The Malibu Times in 1990.

But perhaps Merrick’s greatest contribution to the city was his
founding of the Malibu Historical Society and his efforts to preserve
the historic Adamson House at Surfrider Beach.

“Dad did an end-run around the developers,” Brian Merrick said. “He
worked with Ron Rindge to get the property registered as a historic
landmark so they could never touch it.”

The resulting public park with the Malibu Lagoon Museum and superb
examples of tile work are some of the only surviving examples of the
artisan craftsmanship created by May Rindge’s old Malibu
Potteries—about which Merrick then wrote and published a book, one of
several Merrick wrote about Malibu.

After he retired, in 1986, he spent his last 26 years as a “fill-in”
judge in beachside towns like Catalina and San Luis Obispo, writing
and exploring Malibu’s historical Chumash heritage.

Merrick was preceded in death by his wife Marge and is survived by his
eight children: Shelly Merrick, Maria Merrick, Vicki Curran, John
Merrick, Liz Klein, Robert Rowland, Patricia Howard, Brian Merrick and
numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“Dad was never about money, even though he came from nothing,” Brian
Merrick said. “When he lived in Malibu in the ‘40s and ‘50s, he was
friends with Ronald Reagan and the big studio heads. It was never a
big deal. He loved the ocean and hiking. And he always said that even
with all the politics and fights about development and growth, they
could never take the beach away from him. Because it was a new
landscape every day.”

Services for Judge Merrick are private, but the family is planning a
public celebration of his life Aug. 25 in Pepperdine’s Elkins
Auditorium at 12 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pepperdine School of
Law, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90263; attention: John
Merrick Law Scholarship/Erin Herrera.
"It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens." - Woody Allen

Wax-up and drop-in of Surfing's Golden Years: <http://www.surfwriter.net>
2018-11-15 14:22:23 UTC
Upon hearing about the fires in Malibu I immediately thought of my dear friend Maria who I knew at the dance department at the university of Utah way back when. I found this obituary and when it listed Maria as a survivor I assumed it must be the one I knew. I hope she is well and thriving and that she is ok!
All my best

Ann Kadesch