Our community lost a great man on February 24 with the death of Stan Simrin. In a testament to the respect and affection earned by this man, the downtown courts were closed to allow the legal community to attend Simrin’s funeral, and the judges hosted the Meal of Condolences, which was catered by Café Med.
Stan Simrin was born in New York in 1929. Although his family was Jewish, they did not steep their children in the rituals of the religion. Stan and his father were great baseball fans, though they were not fans of the same team. Stan was a New York Giants fan, and his father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. They would listen to games in separate rooms, coming together afterward in neutral territory (Stan’s sister Tyna’s room) to discuss the game.
Stan wanted to be an attorney. When he consulted a family friend who was a lawyer, however, he was advised to choose a different profession, as there were already too many lawyers in New York. (He apparently gave his own son different counsel, as he became an attorney.) So, Stan became a pharmacist. He married and became the father of four children, Steve, Susie, Amy, and Andy. When Stan learned that pharmacists in California were earning twice as much as those in New York, he took the California Pharmacists’ Exam and moved his family to Bakersfield, where Stan became a single father with custody of his children.
Appalled at the lack of educated people he was meeting in Bakersfield, Stan joined Temple Beth El, in order to meet other people who read books. This led to a crucial meeting that resulted in his marriage to his soulmate, Sonia. Or, as Stan’s son Andy described her, “the lovely, Jaguar-driving Sonia.” Stan and Sonia raised his four children and later their granddaughter Echo.
While working as a pharmacist, Stan studied the law through a correspondence course offered by LaSalle University. When his daughter-in-law Shelly first met her future father-in-law, she called him the matchbook lawyer. After Stan passed the bar (on the first try), his neighbor Don Moloughney learned from a Bakersfield Californian article that Stan had studied through a LaSalle correspondence course. Don was then going through the same course of study, and he walked across the street and introduced himself to Stan. In 1977 Don and Stan were both working for Jim Faulkner when they decided to open their own law firm. They tossed a coin to decide the name of the firm. The winner of the coin toss would have the first name in the firm, while the loser would get the biggest office. Stan won the toss, and Simrin & Moloughney was created. For 32 years Stan and Don practiced law together and were the best of friends. Many have memories of them walking to and from their office and the Bell Tower Club, where they dined at the same table every lunch hour.
Andy Simrin told of watching his father defend a man accused of abusing his own child, when Andy was ten and Stan had only recently passed the bar. Following an effective cross-examination of an expert witness for the People, a member of the defendant’s family asked young Andy how long his father had been practicing law. They were stunned to hear Andy reply, “Oh, about six months.” Presciently, they responded, “If he’s this good after six months, just think how great he will be!”
Sylvia Lopez said when she came to Bakersfield in 1982 as a young Public Defender, she heard many speak of Stan Simrin as the best criminal defense attorney in town. She imagined him to be tall and imposing like Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. When Sylvia finally met Stan, she was shocked that he was so short and unassuming. After she watched him dominate the courtroom however, she realized what a large man he was.
Stan Simrin served as President of the Kern County Bar Association in 1984. He received numerous honors from the legal community, including the Kern County Bar Association’s two most prestigious awards, the Bench and Bar award and the Atticus Finch award.
Temple Beth El members Mike Miller and attorney Phil Rudnick told of Stan Simrin’s Thursday evening Torah classes. They explained that Stan employed the Socratic method of teaching. When a student gave an answer Stan thought was correct, he answered, “BINGO!” Each student treasured the “Bingos” he or she received. One student clearly expected a “Bingo” after she gave what she thought was a particularly insightful answer. Instead, Stan responded with, “WRONG!” The student argued that she believed her answer was correct. Stan answered, “Of course you do; that’s why you said it!” However, he explained, she was still wrong.
Shelly Simrin said Stan chose life over death whenever given the choice. He worked diligently to recover from the severe stroke he suffered days after Thanksgiving and the medical issues which followed, even when he knew his efforts would bring him only a few more days.
Stan Simrin was a great lawyer, a community leader, a legal scholar, and student of the Torah. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend. He will be greatly missed, but his lessons will continue to teach. Bingo, Stan!
by Susan M. Gill
This article was originally printed in the April 2009 edition of the Res Ipsa Loquitur.
The Bakersfield California obituary for Stan Simrin can be found here. A local new story on his death can be found here.