This page is dedicated to honoring the memory and preserving the legacy of Kern County lawyers that have passed away in recent years. If you would like to suggest an addition to this page, please contact the Kern County Bar Association. To view more information about a particular attorney listed here, please click on their name to be directed to the article written in their memory.
December 12, 1958 – December 27, 2016
Rod Hutton grew up in Bakersfield. He was active in the Boy Scouts and earned his Eagle Scout Award in 1976. He graduated from Bakersfield High School in 1977 and attended Bakersfield College. Rod completed the Peace Officer’s Standards and Training Academy (POST) and joined the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, first as an Explorer and Reserve Deputy, and then as a Deputy Sheriff. Much of his career was spent as a courtroom bailiff, and he kept litigants, jurors, and lawyers entertained with his stories of Kern County history and interesting trivia in general. Rod was very active in the Boy Scouts, spending summers and many weekends at Camp Kern on Huntington Lake. He contributed countless hours volunteering and mentoring the youth of Kern County, both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. He was always ready to serve and support the community. Rod was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He is greatly missed by his wife, Joanne; his children, Heather Hutton, Laura Teasley, Cameron Hutton, and Hayley Hutton; as well as many other relatives and friends.
Clarence Westra, Jr.
August 13, 1935 – December, 2016
Clarence Westram, Jr. was born in Artesia, California but grew up in Ripon in Northern California. He earned his BA degree from the University of California, which fostered a lifetime love for and loyalty to the Cal football. He earned his juris doctor from the University of California, Davis in 1971 and joined the Kern County District Attorney’s Office in 1972. He was described as a brilliant trial attorney. In 1983 he was appointed to the Kern County Superior Court. Following his retirement in 2008, Judge Westra traveled the world and loved hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. He was a man of strong Christian faith. He is greatly missed by his four siblings and their spouses, Ralph and Carolyn Westra, Geneva and Jerry Kooyers, Earl and Fran Westra, and Tracy and Stan Vander Veen, as well as many other family members and friends.
Charles E. Murray
January 26, 1941 – October, 2016
Charles “Chuck” Murray was born in Illinois and moved to San Bernardino when he was a teenager. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Riverside and his juris doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law. He was admitted to the California State Bar in 1972. He practiced first in San Bernardino before moving to Bakersfield. Here he founded Kern Mediation. Chuck’s hobbies included participation in triathlons, golf, and photography. Chuck is greatly missed by Pat, his wife of 58 years; his daughters, Leslie and Carolyn; grandchildren, William, Shane, Kaylee, and Connor; and numerous friends.
Peter Dae Lewis
November 9, 1939 – September 29, 2016
Pete Lewis was born in Iowa, but spent most of his childhood in Bakersfield. He graduated from BHS in 1958, and earned his undergraduate degree from his father’s alma mater, the University of North Dakota. He earned his juris doctor from Hastings College of Law in 1965. Pete and fis first wife, Mary, were married while he was in law school. They moved to Bakersfield after Pete graduated from law school, and he joined the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. In 1969 he joined the firm which became known as Wagy, Bunker, Hislop & Lewis. He was active in both the State Bar and the Kern County Bar Association. He served as President of the KCBA twice, first in 1972-1973 and again in 1988-1989. Pete retired from the practice of law in 1990. After Mary died, Pete found happiness again with Linda, whom he married in 1994. Pete loved traveling, golf, dominos, cards, and red wine with his many friends and Linda. He is greatly missed by Linda; his daughter, Jennifer; son, Stephen; Steven Saunders; and numerous other relatives and friends.
Walter H. Condley
December 28, 1923 – August 20, 2016
Walter Condley was born in Bakersfield and attended local schools, graduating from Kern County Union High School in 1941. He earned both his undergraduate and juris doctor degrees at Stanford Law School. Between college and law school he served in the United States Marine Corps in the South Pacific as a leader of an infantry rifle platoon. Walter returned to Bakersfield after graduating from law school in 1949, joining the firm which became Borton, Petrini, Conron, Brown & Condley. He continued to serve as a reserve officer in the Marine Corps and was called back into service for duty in Korea. He graduated with honors from the Naval School of Justice in Newport, Rhode Island and was certified by the Secretary of the Navy to be a judge for general court martials in Korea. In 1953 Walter married Norma, who had grown up across the street from him and attended all the same schools, including Stanford. Walter engaged in many forms of community service during his 17 years as an attorney, including serving as President of the KCBA. Walter Condley served as judge in Kern County, first as a Municipal Court Judge, and then as a Superior Court Judge. When Judge Condley retired from the bench, he and Norma moved to Hollister, to be near family. Judge Condley is greatly missed by Nowa, son-in-law Eric, and their children, Alexandra and Madison; and numerous friends.
Howard Levich was born in Brooklyn, NY, and he grew up in California. He married his high school sweetheart, Wanda Lou. Howard worked his way through law school by working at a grocery store. He worked his entire career at the Kern County Public Defender’s Office, retiring after 30 years. He underwent a heart transplant after he retired. Howard enjoyed restoring and racing cars, shopping at Harbor Freight, and restoring slot machines. He is greatly missed by his wife, Wanda Lou; their daughter, April; and many friends.
Judge Earle Gibbons was raised in Coalinga. His family moved to Bakersfield in 1944, and he graduated from Bakersfield High School. His basketball prowess at Bakersfield College led to a scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley. Following his graduation from Cal, Earle enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a combat squad leader in Korea. He was awarded a Bronze Star of Valor in 1953. Earle married Joan in 1954 and started teaching at North High School. In 1956 in entered law school at UCLA. He practiced with Bradley, Wagy, Bunker, Hislop and Gibbons from 1959 to 1969, at which time he was appointed to the Bakersfield Municipal Court. Judge Gibbons left the court in 1979 and served as President of Karpe Real Estate Company from 1979 to 1995. He ultimately established his own investment company, in which he worked the rest of his life. Earle Gibbons’s wife, Joan, preceded him in death after 58 years of marriage. He is missed by three sons, Eric, Jeff, and Greg Gibbons, and one daughter, Grace Cabalka, as well as by his brother, Jerry Gibbons.
Louis Peter Etcheverry
June 25, 1940 – January 1, 2016
Judge Louis Etcheverry was born and raised in Bakersfield. He graduated from Garces Memorial High School, and he was a member of the Garces Memorial Hall of Fame. He attended St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Califonria and San Francisco State University before enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1960. Louis Etcheverry served as a Marine for ten years, including two tours in Vietnam, the latter as a helicopter med-evac pilot. Louis was proud to be a Marine and to serve his country as a pilot. After leaving the Marine Corps with the rank of Major, he earned his J.D. degree from the University of Idaho School of Law in 1973, where he was a member of the Law Review. He returned to Bakersfield to practice law, and he is a Past President of the Kern County Bar Association. While practicing law, Louis also served as a part ime U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District, until he was appointed as a Court Commissioner for the Kern County Superior Court in 2002. In 2005, he was appointed to the Kern County Superior Court where he served until he retirement in 2013. Judge Etcheverry was a devout Catholic who was devoted to his church, his family, and the law. Judge Etcheverry is greatly missed by his wife of 50 years, Eleanor, their children, Paige and Joh, five grandchildren, and many friends and colleagues.
January 20, 1950 – October 2, 2015
Susan Wilkinson developed a love for the law while working as a legal secretary for the Kern County Counsel in the juvenile court. She was particularly drawn to children whose life circumstances were unfortunate. Susan entered law school at California Pacific School of Law in Bakersfield and completed her studies at Lincoln Law School in Sacramento, earning her J.D. degree in 2001. She was a sole practitioner in Sacramento for two years. She returned to Bakersfield in 2013, working briefly for the Kern County Counsel and then for the California Department of Corrections. After she retired from the practice of law, Susan and her husband, Keith, divided their time between homes in Las Vegas and Texas. Susan is greatly missed by Keith; their son, Ryan; her siblings Donna, Laurie, Michael, Connie, and Roseann; and many friends and colleagues.
February 20, 1955 – October 6, 2015
Mark Madrigali earned his J.D. degree from the Santa Barbara College of Law. He became a member of the California State Bar in 2003. Mark will be missed by friends and colleagues.
Ralph L. McKnight, Sr.
April 9, 1924 – September 9, 2015
Ralph McKnight was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma. After graduation from Longview High School in Texas, he enlisted in the Army Air Corp in December 1942 and proudly served his country during World War II in the European theater. Following his discharge in 1945, he moved to Bakersfield, attending Bakersfield College. He earned a B.S. in accounting from UCLA and worked as a CPA. After many years as a CPA, Ralph returned to UCLA and earned his J.D. degree in 1956. He came back to Bakersfield and opened a private law practice. Ralph is a Past President of the Kern County Bar Association. In 1966 he was appointed to the Kern County Municipal Court. However, he found that he missed being an advocate for his clients, so he returned to the practice of law, eventually founding the law firm of McKnight, McKnight, McKnight and McKnight. Ralph loved to work for the “underdog”. His faith, compassion and wisdom were evident to all who knew him. He is greatly missed by his wife of 68 years, Helen; their four sons, Ralph, Jr., Cleve, Benton, and Charlie; eleven grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and many friends and colleagues.
September 6, 1950 – July 24, 2015
Rocky Ritchie was raised in Bakersfield, graduating from Foothill High School. He served in the United States Air Force for four years, the last year in Guam. He was discharged as a Sergeant. He earned an AA degree from Yuba College and a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Sacramento. Rocky returned to Bakersfield and worked as an Officer for the Bakersfield Police Department for 16 years. When he retired, he entered law school, and in 1997 he earned his J.D. degree from California Pacific School of Law and was sworn into the California State Bar. He practiced law most recently in Lake Isabella, CA. He is greatly missed by his wife, Chris Ritchie, daughter Karri Ruenzel, his six-year-old grandson, Rocky Ruenzel, and many friends and colleagues.
Lawrence K. Karlton
May 28, 1935 – July 11, 2015
United States District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton was born to Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his J.D. degree from Columbia Law School before being drafted into the United States Army in 1958. He served until 1962 as a civilian legal officer. Lawrence Karlton practiced law for 14 years, representing labor unions, the ACLU, among other clients. He was appointed to the Sacramento County Superior Court in 1976. In 1979 his appointment to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California by President Carter was confirmed. Judge Karlton served as the Chief Judge of the district from 1983 to 1990, took senior status in 2000, and stepped down from the bench in September 2014. He is remembered for his knowledge of and dedication to the law. He is greatly missed by his wife, Sue; his stepdaughter, Emily; and many friends and colleagues.
October 26, 1946 – May 26, 2015
Nick Palmisano grew up in Sylmar, California. He served in the Army for three years after high school;, as a Drill Sergeant. Following his discharge from the Army, Nick had a variety of jobs, including working as an actor, a stuntman, and driving a taxi. After taking several college courses, Nick enrolled directly into law school. He earned his J.D. degree from Western State University in Fullerton in 2983. He first practiced civil law as a sole practitioner in San Fernando, CA. In 1988 he moved to Modesto, where he worked for ten years as a Deputy for the Stanislaus District Attorney. In 1998, Nick opened a private defense practice in Modesto. Three years later he joined the Kern County Public Defender’s Office. In 2005 he became a Deputy for the Kern County District Attorney. Nick retired in 2013, but continued working until he completed an ongoing murder trial. He is remembered as a hard-working lawyer who had a wonderful sense of humor. Nick is greatly missed by his wife of 35 years, Kathy; their children, David Franco, Samantha Clark, Alissa Giva, and Adam Franco; their ten grandchildren; and many friends and colleagues.
James Randall “Randy” Plumley
February 28, 1947 – May 21, 2015
Randy Plumley was born in Hope, Arkansas. He grew up on the same street as a former President, though they did not know each other. Randy served as a Marine in Vietnam, and he was discharged with the rank of Sergeant E5. He graduated from Los Angeles Valley College and earned his J.D. degree from the University of San Fernando College of Law. Randy was a Deputy District Attorney for his entire career, beginning in Clear Lake, California, as a Deputy District Attorney for the Lake County District Attorney. In 1981 Randy moved to Bakersfield, where he worked as a Deputy District Attorney for the Kern County District Attorney until his retirement in 2006. He is remembered as a generous and kind man who never had a bad word to say about anyone. Randy is greatly missed by his wife of 40 years, Roberta, and his many friends and colleagues.
October 5, 1943 – March 4, 2015
Edyne Frassinelli was born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles. She worked as a secretary and a telephone installer before finding her true calling, court reporting. Edyne moved to Bakersfield in 1981 to work as a court reporter in Kern County Superior Court. Her first assignment was with Judge James G. Bowles. She worked with many judges during her 34-year career, most recently with Commissioner James Compton until her retirement in 012. Edyne never minced words; she was direct and to the point, and she had a wonderful sense of humor. She is greatly missed by her husband, Lou; her children Dion and Michael; her granddaughters, Christine and Jacqueline; and many friends and colleagues.
John D. Jelletich
March 28, 1927 – March 3, 2015
Judge John D. Jelletich was born in Los Angeles and raised in Bakersfield. He graduated from Kern County Union High School and earned his undergraduate degree from Pepperdine College (now University). He received his J.D. degree from Hastings College of the Law in 1952. Judge Jelletich was appointed to the Buttonwillow Judicial District in 1955, and he began working in Bakersfield Municipal Court in 1963. He was appointed to the Kern County Superior Court in 1965, where he served until his retirement in 1987. Judge Jelletich treated all with respect. He is remembered for his kind and gentle nature, and the most wonderful smile. He is greatly missed by his wife, Sammye; their three sons, Patrick, Mike, and Matt; grandchildren; and many friends and colleagues.
Christine “Chrissy” Elizabeth Mettler
May 12, 1988 – December 14, 2014
Chrissy Mettler was born in Kwangju, South Korea. She became a part of the Mettler family, joining her mother, Sharon; father, Steve; and brother, Matthew at LAX on September 13, 1988. Chrissy attended local schools, graduating from Centennial High School. She was a gifted athlete, dancing and participating in karate as a young child, skiing and snowboarding, playing softball, tennis, and swimming. She was a gifted soccer player and golfer. Chrissy also had a strong love of music of all kinds. During Chrissy’s junior year of college at California state University, Bakersfield, she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. She persevered and earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications in 2010. At the time of her death she was working as a marketing coordinator for Klein De Natale Goldner. Chrissy Mettler is survived by her parents, Judge Sharon Mettler and Steve Mettler; her brother, Matthew Mettler; and numerous family members and friends.
Robert T. Baca
January 27, 1925 – November 3, 2014
Robert Baca was born in Socorro, New Mexico. Upon his high school graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He flew 45 bombing missions throughout the Pacific Theater in a B-24 Liberator. His flying troupe was known as the Bomber Barons. Returning from the war, Robert earned his undergraduate degree attended the University of Southern California and his law degree from Loyola Marymount University. He worked as a criminal defense attorney in East Los Angeles from 1957 to 1968 and was active in political and civic organizations, serving as an early member of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and a legal advisor for the G.I. Forum, a civil rights organization for Hispanic veterans. He worked briefly as a Deputy District Attorney in Merced County, before moving to Bakersfield in 1969, where he was the Chief Trial Attorney for the Kern County Public Defender’s Office. In 1976 Governor Jerry Brown appointed Robert to the Bakersfield Municipal Court and three years later to the Kern County Superior Court in 1979. Judge Baca retired from the bench in 1992, but he continued to sit as a retired judge until 2004. Judge Baca is survived by his wife, Marion; his sons Richard, Tom, and John; his brother, Gilbert; grandchildren; great-grandchildren; and many friends.
Eric Wendell Matlock
April 28, 1949 – September 21, 2014
Eric Wendell Matlock was born and raised in Bakersfield. He graduated from Bakersfield High School and earned a B.A. in Public Administration from California State University, Bakersfield. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from CSUB and was in the first class of CSUB Hall of Family honorees. Eric joined the Bakersfield Police Department in 1970. He worked in every aspect of the department. He became a detective in 1974 and rose from the ranks as a Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief and finally Chief of Police. He retired from the Bakersfield Police Department in 2004. Eric Matlock was an avid student and talented teacher. He loved all sports, actively participating in running, skiing, and golf. He is survived by his wife, Illene; his daughters, Stacey and Korey; his father, Oliver, and stepmother, Arneta; brother Steven; sister, Tracey Hicks; grandchildren, and many other family members and friends.
January 12, 1938 – September 17, 2014
Sonia Simrin was raised in Bakersfield. She graduated from Bakersfield High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Southern California. Returning home to Bakersfield, Sonia went to work as a social worker for the Kern County Welfare Department. Sonia then began her life’s work in finding jobs for people. She started as an employment counselor for Snelling and Snelling, and then opened her own business, Rand Personnel. She married Stan Simrin in 1964 and became mother to his four children. Along with her husband, Sonia was a leader in Bakersfield’s Jewish community. Sonia is survived by her children, Steve Simrin, Susie Easley, Amy Knight, and Andy Simrin, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and many, many friends.
J. Richard “Dick” Thomas
February 24, 1923 – July 21, 2014
J. Richard “Dick” Thomas was born in Alhambra, California. In high school he won the CIF Valley Championship in tennis. When World War II broke out Dick left Stanford University and transferred to Midshipman School at Cornell University. He served in the North Atlantic as a line officer. He returned to Stanford after the war and subsequently earned his JD degree Hastings College of Law. Dick Thomas was a sole practitioner throughout his career as a lawyer. Although Dick Thomas’s competitive tennis career ended with the war, he enjoyed playing tennis his entire life. He also traveled all over the world. His favorite place was Kauai, Hawaii, to which he returned twice each year. Dick Thomas is survived by his two daughters, Renee Wylie and Sharon Thomas, as well as grandchildren and many friends.
Kenneth Keith Cooley
December 21, 1951 – June 11, 2014
Kenneth Cooley was born in Missouri and raised in Southern Illinois and Ohio. He moved to California with his family when he was in high school. Upon graduation from high school, Ken entered the United States Army Academy at West Point. After his first semester, he returned to California and enrolled in San Diego State University, where he earned a degree in Sociology. After graduating from college, Ken enlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to the Airborne Infantry, where he served with distinction. Following his discharge from the army, Ken earned his JD degree from Western State University School of Law in San Diego. He moved to Bakersfield in 1990 and went to work for the Kern County Public Defender’s Office. In 1994, Ken left the Public Defender’s Office to start his own practice, specializing in criminal defense. All who speak of Ken recall his sweet disposition and his innate kindness. Ken Cooley is survived by his sister, Laurel Cooley; his brother, Robert Clague Cooley; special friend Kathy Furlong; and many friends.
Stanley Mosley, Sr.
May 9, 1951 – April 13, 2014
Stanley James Mosley, Sr. was born in Fresno and moved to Bakersfield with his family in 1953. He attended local schools, graduating from Bakersfield High School. He served in the United States Army from 1970 – 1973, which included a tour of duty in Vietnam. Following his honorable discharge from the Army, he returned home and became an officer and ultimately a detective in the Bakersfield Police Department. When he left the BPD, he started his own Private Investigation Services, providing investigative services in many criminal cases. He is survived by his ex-wife and good friend, Valerie Strong Mosley, son Justin Mosley; Mother, Algie Mosley; his brother, McKinley Mosley; and his sisters, Shirley Ray and Carolyn Womack; as well as many other family members and friends
Guy Joseph Gattuso, Jr.
August 30, 1952 – March 23, 2014
Guy Joseph Gattuso, Jr. was born and raised in Punxsutawney, PA. An accident at age 11 resulted in his walking with crutches for the rest of his life. However, he was still able to accomplish all he set his mind to achieve. He earned his JD degree from McGeorge School of Law and moved to Bakersfield in 1983 to work for Borton, Petrini & Conron. Ten years later he opened his own law practice. Guy loved model railroading, grilling, cars, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates, gardening and playing trumpet, but mostly he loved hanging out with his family at home where there was always laughter and spirited conversation. He is survived by his wife, Debra; children Natalie and Guy Joseph; mother, Irmela Gattuso; two sisters, and many other family members and friends.
Walter Scott Binns
After earning a degree in Agribusiness, Scott worked as a produce salesman for ten years and then entered law school, graduating from Santa Clara University in 2005. Scott Binns had an infectious enthusiasm and welcoming smile and was a joyful parent of his 11 month old daughter, Josette at his passing in September 2013.
After being diagnosed with ALS in 1999, Michael Gagner served as an inspiration to many. He and his wife, Stacy Inman, became advocates for those afflicted with ALS doing much to bring call attention to the needs of those living with the diagnosis. Michael died November 12, 2013.
After serving as a Deputy District Attorney in San Bernardino County from, Dan Tobias was in the Ridgecrest City Attorney. He served as a judge of the East Kern Municipal Court and after retirement he worked in the assigned judges program. An avid reader with a keen interest in history, Dan Tobias passed away December 1, 2013.
Michael B. Ryan
Michael Ryan was a fabulous and effective trial lawyer whose effectiveness surfaced in his genuinely sincere blue collar appeal to jurors. He was a passionate Irishman who knew how and when to inflect his voice to make a point and exaggerate the phrase of a poem or story, just enough, to tug at the heart of jurors. Michael Ryan passed away February 20, 2014.
Jack B. Hislop
Jack B. Hislop passed away peacefully on November 8, 2011. Jack was a past president of the Kern County Bar Association and a recipient of the Bench and Bar award who was greatly admired and highly respected within the legal community.
Michael R. Gardina
Michael Gardina, a well-known Kern County defense attorney, passed away on March 25, 2011, after a short battle with cancer. He was 61 years old.
George Wright Quick
George Wright Quick passed away on March 20, 2011 at the age of 66. He is survived by his wife of almost 40 years, their son and daughter, and five grandchildren. He will be deeply missed.
James T. Lanier
Jim Lanier, a U.S. Navy veteran who pursued his law degree at night and on weekends while supporting a growing family in the 1960s, passed away on November 25, 2010. He was 75 years old.
Kenneth A. Holland
Ken Holland, a partner at Klein, DeNatale, Goldner, Cooper, Rosenlieb and Kimball, LLP, lost a short but courageous battle with cancer on September 16, 2010. Ken was a graduate of UCLA and received his J.D. from Notre Dame.
Joe Noriega, father of local attorney Rob Noriega and recipient of the Bench & Bar Award in 1995, was well-liked and well-respected in the Kern County legal community. After retiring from the bench, he focused his practice mainly on personal injury law. He lost his life to cancer on August 3, 2010.
Bruce Bunker passed away surrounded by his family on June 24, 2009 at the age of 84. A past president of the KCBA, Bruce’s 55-year long practice didn’t end after he “officially” retired in 2006; rather, he continued coming into the office daily for years.
Bob Self passed away at the age of 77 on June 11, 2009. Bob was a recipient of the Bench & Bar Award, successfully argued three cases before the California Supreme Court, and practiced business law and civil litigation for over 42 years before retiring in 2002.
Judge Lewis E. King
Retired Judge Lewis E. King passed away on January 4, 2013 at the age of 88 years. Judge King had a long and distinguished career in the Kern County legal community, first as a Public Defender, and thereafter as a Municipal and Superior Court Judge.