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Judge Ross' Obituary
Posted by: Betty (ID *****2917) Date: March 10, 2007 at 06:18:55
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James Randal Ross, 80; O.C. judge wrote book on
great-grandfather Jesse James
By Dennis McLellan
Times Staff Writer

March 9, 2007

Retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Randal
Ross, the great-grandson of Western outlaw Jesse James who
was once criticized for selling copies of a book he wrote
about his notorious ancestor from his chambers, has died.
He was 80.

Ross, a Fullerton resident, died of a heart attack Monday
at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, said his
daughter, Liza Ross-Suwczinsky.

Ross, who spent 29 years as an attorney in Los Angeles,
served as a Superior Court judge from 1983 until his
retirement in 1995.

During that time, he gained notice for his 1984 ruling
that Disneyland had violated the civil rights of two gay
teenagers when security guards removed them from the
Anaheim amusement park for dancing together. In the next
year, Disneyland ended its longtime policy prohibiting
partners of the same sex from dancing together.

In 1997, Ross also made headlines when he was accused of
four counts of misconduct during court proceedings that
took place before his retirement. They included
accusations that he dozed off on the bench on several
occasions during two trials, told an off-color joke during
a sexual abuse case with the victim present, used the
court to sell copies of his book and humiliated and
intimidated attorneys.

In a letter to Ross, the state Commission on Judicial
Performance offered to drop three of the charges if Ross
pleaded guilty to the one accusing him of exhibiting an
angry demeanor to attorneys in a personal injury case.

But in his written reply, Ross refused to concede to any
of the accusations.

"I will not back down," he wrote. "As a direct descendant
of Jesse James, no one in our family backs down."

At the conclusion of the hearings, during which the
71-year-old Ross represented himself, a panel of three
judges upheld all the allegations except for falling
asleep during trial. In 1998, the panel censured Ross
who had continued to hear cases part time in retirement
prohibiting him from receiving assignments, appointments
or references of work from any state court.

Ross was born July 6, 1926, in Independence, Mo., and
moved with his family to Long Beach when he was 10 months
old. He went to Wilson High School and graduated from UCLA
in 1949 and from what is now Southwestern Law School in

Ross' grandfather Jesse James' son, Jesse E. James had
accompanied the family to California, and as a boy Ross
used to listen to his grandfather tell stories about the
outlaw, who, along with his brother Frank, fought with
Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War and then
launched the string of robberies that made them famous.

Ross tapped those stories in writing "I, Jesse James," his
1988 book published by Dragon Publishing Corp.

"He did a lot of research of facts, and then he filled in
the facts with what his grandfather had told him, a lot of
family history," Ross' daughter said.

In a 1995 interview with The Times, Ross said the
experience of writing the book, which is narrated in the
first-person voice of Jesse James, strengthened his bond
with his family heritage.

"I don't know what he actually said or thought, of course,
but I feel I know so much about him that I can capture the
way it might have been," Ross said.

In writing the book, his daughter said, "he wanted the
accurate story of Jesse James told, both the good and the
bad, and let people decide for themselves."

The book and Ross' relationship to Jesse James gave the
judge a degree of courtroom celebrity.

During the Commission on Judicial Performance hearings,
Ross said he "never instigated or announced the book from
the bench." People, he said, had approached him to ask
where they could buy the book and request his autograph.
And to avoid disruptions, he said, he told the bailiff
that he would have copies available in his office.

Ross-Suwczinsky said her father, who once appeared on a
History Channel segment on his ancestor, had a collection
of Jesse James memorabilia, including a gun and holster, a
rifle, boots and other family heirlooms, which he donated
to the Jesse James Farm & Museum in Kearney, Mo., about 15
years ago.

Besides his daughter, Ross is survived by his wife,
Rosemary; another daughter, Bonnie Jo Barnes; two sons,
Randal and David; and five grandchildren.

Services will be private."



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