Robert S. Warren, attorney, philanthropist, community- and professional leader, passed away peacefully, with his family surrounding him, at his home in San Marino on February 13, 2021.
His life exemplified a blending of whole-hearted appreciation of life and the good things in it, with hard work, commitment, integrity, and service to his family, friends, profession, and community.
He was born December 9, 1931, in Pasadena, California, and was raised in South Pasadena, graduating from South Pasadena San Marino High School.
Bob graduated from the University of Southern California in 1953, and USC Law School in 1956. At law school, Bob graduated as salutatorian and with honors, serving as an editor of the USC Law Review. Following graduation, he served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s School (“JAG School”) for two years. In 1959, he joined the firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, where he practiced for 41 years until semi-retirement in 2000. Even after his formal retirement, Bob continued to work as the lead trial lawyer in a massive toxic tort case representing Lockheed Martin Corporation. In his final case as an active attorney, Warren secured an order of dismissal by the trial court following the issuance of an unprecedented set of successful writs by the California Supreme Court in favor of Lockheed.
Bob was based in the firm’s Los Angeles office where he had a broad-based litigation practice. Bob was the consummate trial lawyer who could (and did) handle any kind of case. He became a self-taught expert on the First Amendment based initially on work for The Los Angeles Times. Over his career, he did significant work for Times Mirror and the Chandler family, Lockheed, NBC, Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other media, securities and financial firms. He approached each case with focus, passion and creativity, and always adhered to the highest ethical standards.
He served on the firm’s Executive Committee from 1981 to 1996. He was the longstanding Chair of the Hiring Committee, and was passionate about recruiting and training young lawyers. He was a mentor to generations of litigators.
Kenneth Doran, managing partner of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher said “Bob’s name will always be prominent on any list of our greatest trial lawyers of any generation. He was formidable in the courtroom. Bob was a ‘complete lawyer’ who mastered every aspect of the trade — painstaking preparation, excellent and persuasive writing, and extraordinary oral advocacy. He had an amazing memory, sharp wit, and folksy style. Like most great trial lawyers, Bob was a fabulous storyteller. He had a great sense of humor and a signature laugh.”
His practice included high stakes cases covering a broad range of issues that reached the highest courts of appeal, including the United States Supreme Court where he argued in Bateman Eichler v. Berner, establishing important legal precedent in the securities field.
Bob received many professional awards and honors, including the Shattuck-Price Outstanding Lawyer Award from the Los Angeles County Bar Association (1989); and the Ninth Circuit’s John P. Frank Award, which recognizes a lawyer who has “demonstrated outstanding character and integrity; dedication to the rule of law; proficiency as a trial and appellate lawyer; success in promoting collegiality among members of the bench and bar; and a lifetime of service to the federal courts of the Ninth Circuit.” (2008).
He was proud to serve on the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2003 to 2012) which is charged with writing instructions that are legally accurate and understandable to the average juror. It consists of trial judges, justices of the courts of appeal, and lawyers throughout the state. Justice Martin J. Tangeman, the present chair said of Bob: “He was a force for good, both personally and professionally. A true gentleman and scholar, patient and kind, while strong and confident.”
Bob was a lifetime member of the USC Law School Board of Councilors. He was a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers since 1974. Bob was a member of the California Supreme Court Historical Society, and the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society. He is a former officer of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, past president of the Los Angeles County Bar Foundation, and past president of the Western Justice Center in Pasadena, Calif.
Bob’s philanthropy included generosity with his time and legal expertise in addition to financial contributions.
After the death of his wife Betty Lou in 1991, he created the Warren/Soden/Hopkins Family Foundation. The primary focus of the Foundation is medical research.
Since 1991, the Foundation has made annual awards to USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center through the Betty Lou Warren Research Fund. Carmy Peters, Senior Director of Development, said “USC Norris is indebted and extremely grateful to Bob and his family for the many years of support of our cancer research programs. His primary focus was providing grants to our young, cutting edge scientists early in their career. Bob personally enjoyed meeting with them and hearing about their work. He was a humble, many talented, thoughtful and generous man who has left a legacy of commitment and generosity. Bob’s legacy of philanthropy will be part of our USC Norris fabric and the Robert S. Warren Cancer Research Laboratory which bears his name will be a lasting remembrance of a great man.”
Additional annual grants have been made to the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program and Duke Integrative Medicine; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center supporting colorectal cancer research; American Diabetes Association for type 1 diabetes research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society research fund; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for cancer research; and the Huntington Hospital.
Bob served on the board of the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino from 1996 until being elected Emeritus in 2017. He was also involved with the Fellows, Community Relations Committee, and the Library Collectors’ Council.
Bob played a pivotal role in advising the trustees of the Huntington in its negotiations with the California Attorney General to obtain permission to begin charging admission in 1996. Previously, patrons were asked to make voluntary donations, and the cost of each patron’s visit outstripped the average donation by $20 in 1995 alone — an unsustainable situation. Bob considered this to be one of his most valuable contributions, as it helped ensure the Huntington would remain a scholarly and botanical paradise for generations to come.
Randy Shulman, Vice President for Advancement and External Relations, noted that “He provided the institution with invaluable insight and counsel over the years. An early example of Bob’s legal advice was his work on The Huntington’s decision to release for worldwide scholarly research photographic copies of a large group of unpublished Dead Sea Scroll fragments which The Huntington held in the 1990s. This was a very courageous move at the time which made international headlines. This action allowed independent scholars access to the materials for the first time.”
Bob was also very active in the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena. He was the Club’s President in 2006. In the years before 2006, he served not only on the Board but as liaison to many of the Club’s committees. A highlight of his presidential year was riding in the Valley Hunt Club’s Rose Parade entry with his wife Anna Marie, and grandsons Christopher and Max.
Above all, Bob was devoted to his family, a support and champion in all stages of life, across the generations.
Bob’s parents were Harry Ludwig Warren, who was an engineer with Southern California Gas Company, and Maxine Hopkins Warren, who worked in her family’s bookstore/lending library in San Marino.
Bob was married to Betty Lou Soden Warren from 1955 until her death in 1991. He was married to Anna Marie Trench Pretzel Warren from 1993 until her death in 2014.
Bob is survived by his two children, Kimberly and Stephen, daughter in law Carol Ann, two grandchildren, Christopher and Maxwell, and by three stepdaughters, Cynthia Pretzel, Kathryn Pretzel Shiels, and Linda Pretzel-Roberts.
A virtual, recorded service will be available starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 9, 2021 at https://smccpby.com/warren-memorial . An in-person gathering will be planned later in the year.
In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome contributions to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (http://www.MichaelJFox.org) or the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens (http://www.Huntington.org).