Jewish Journal


October 19, 2009

“But I don’t wanna be an anti-Semite!”


Fear not. I’m not going to malign the hallowed name of Jerry Seinfeld, even though his comedic touch has slipped in old age. I was just looking for a good excuse to use the above clip from “The Puffy Shirt.”

The hook? An Oct. 12 gaffe from Los Angeles’ legal newspaper, the Daily Journal, highlighted on LAObserved by a letter to the Daily Journal from Arthur Gilbert, a presiding judge of the California Court of Appeal:

Attorney Jeffrey A. Lowe in his article, “Spotlight on Roman Polanski,” (Oct. 12) scores Judge Lawrence Rittenband for belonging “to a Los Angeles country club that barred Jews from membership.” Lowe proclaims that Rittenband, the trial judge, “apparently was clearly anti -Semitic.” Putting aside for the moment, the question of how one can be “apparently” and “clearly anti-Semitic,” Lowe got his facts wrong. About 27 years ago I served with Judge Rittenband in the Santa Monica branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court. However dissatisfied Mr. Lowe is with the manner in which the Polanski case was handled, Judge Rittenband decidedly was not anti-Semitic. He and I had lunch together at his country club, Hillcrest, a Jewish country club. You see, Judge Rittenband was Jewish and immensely proud of his heritage and culture. There is so much more I would like to say, but because the Polanski case could be characterized as a “pending case,” the California Code of Judicial Ethics require I say no more. Darn.

Fortunately for Lowe, you can’t libel a dead person, and Rittenband died in 1994 at age 88.

In his obit, The New York Times noted the handful of prominent cases that Rittenband had handled as a Superior Court judge.

Despite his vow to sit on the bench until Mr. Polanski returned, Judge Rittenband stepped down in 1989, saying, “I can’t wait that long.” But he added, “I’ll quote a Gilbert and Sullivan opera: ‘I’ve got him on my list.’ “

Two decades later ...

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