Woodland Hills personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg is trying to fight the negative lawyer stereotypes by attempting to live up to high ideals. By being active in the San Fernando Valley Bar Association as an elected trustee and performing with the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic and Big Band of Barristers, Mr. Goldberg meets several celebrities, politicians and heavy weights in the legal arena. However, none of them have compared to meeting and spending time with a San Fernando Valley icon and oldest active judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Hon. Harry Pregerson.
Judge Pregerson was once again honored with a Special Recognition last month by the San Fernando Valley Bar Association where I was able to steal some of Judge Pregerson’s time. I told Judge Pregerson that I would see him the following week because I was performing with the Lawyer’s Phil at “Harmony Helps” at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The proceeds from the event went to a charity primarily benefitting Judge Pregerson’s pet project to benefit homeless veterans in West Los Angeles. Judge Pregerson told me one of his few regrets was never mastering a musical instrument!
Back stage at his charitable event, while others were clamoring to meet notable celebrities like Ed Asner, Carol Lawrence and Fritz Coleman, I reminisced with Judge Pregerson about last performing at Royce Hall back in 1978. Judge Pregerson shot back that he was last on the Royce Hall stage in 1946 in an event raising money for newly returning WW2 vets. This fit with my daunting image of Judge Pregerson from my first few years practicing law and appearing in front of an imposing figure of the chiseled ex-marine.
Judge Pregerson personifies the possibilities of being a “mid-century” participant in the growth and development of Los Angeles with all of its opportunities and the overlap with the legal community. He was a First Lieutenant in World War II and was severely wounded in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. He graduated UCLA in 1947 and obtained his law degree in 1950 and set up his law practice in a Van Nuys store front. In 1965, He was appointed to the Municipal Court and then the Superior Court in 1966. A year later, President Johnson appointed him to the U.S. District Court where he presided until President Carter appointed him to the Ninth Circuit, where he has been the longest-serving judge in the history of the Ninth Circuit.
A distinguished legal career to be sure. However, what moved me about Judge Pregerson was his tireless commitment to his community. Since the 1960’s, Judge Pregerson has served as an advisor to International Orphans Inc., Jewish Big Brothers, the Salvation Army, the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, and a number of other charities.
As I learned firsthand, Judge Pregerson is a long-time advocate for the homeless and veterans—starting in 1946 at UCLA! Judge Pregerson has received numerous honors for his work toward improving the lives of homeless veterans. He founded the Bell Homeless Shelter in southeast Los Angeles and started the Westwood Transitional Village to provide furnished apartments for homeless families, which is named after him and his sister. In fact, he practically had to be pulled off stage while talking about the great work currently being done in Westwood with the Salvation Army and the Vets. His son, Judge Dean Pregerson, echoed that the commitment to charity was instilled in him early on and was “expected” as part of the privilege of practicing law in Southern California.
Judge Harry Pregerson is a Southern California legal legend.