Like many people who had "visited" Judge John Merrick at the Malibu courthouse, this was not the first trip before the man known as "the law west of Topanga."
"The defendant stood there before him and said, 'If God was here, he would be merciful.' And Judge Merrick responded 'He's not. I am. Ten days county jail,'" Merrick's friend and fellow judge, Lawrence Mira shared to 300 family members, friends and community members during a celebration of service at Pepperdine University Saturday.
The humorous anecdote was one of several shared about Merrick, .
Merrick traveled back and forth between the courthouses in Calabasas and Malibu to hear cases, starting when he was elected Judge of the Malibu Judicial District where he served on the bench for 22 years
He turned to his friend, and fellow judge, Lawrence Mira to come up with a description for the "traveling program."
"He said, 'I think I will call it, 'Have robe, will travel,'" Mira recalled.
Beyond the bench, Merrick helped found the Adamson House, the Malibu Lagoon Museum and the Malibu Historical Society.
Merrick also taught a course at on the history of Malibu, married celebrities and founded several charitable organizations throughout Malibu.
"It feels as if I lost Malibu's greatest oral historian," Pepperdine President Andrew Benton said.
Merrick was also a father to eight children, including , a local Realtor.
"The testament of his impact is the turnout here today," Brian Merrick said during his remarks, stopping at one point to control the emotion in his voice.
He asked the crowd to close their eyes and remember his father, with whom he shared a close bond.
"Gone is the steady pillar, the calm voice of reason, the man who understood while we do not always see eye to eye, we can still walk hand in hand. Gone is the clear blue eyes of truth and justice, the quick whited humor and the familiar face of a trusted friend. No longer can we seek his counsel or soak up his wisdom. This loss has left a hole in the landscape of our hearts," Brian Merrick said.
He said there are many ways to see his father's death.
"I would prefer that today, together, we look upon his death as a celebration of an extraordinary man. A man who touched so many of our lives. Now we can open our eyes and celebrate. The judge is free of his bodily form. There are no more bad hips, knees or limiting illnesses to hold him back. We should not look at death as the end, but the beginning. The beginning of an existence that is so beautiful and powerful that we cannot even comprehend it," Brian Merrick said.
In lieu of flowers the family asked that a donation be made to the "John Merrick Law Scholarship" at Pepperdine University School of Law, which is awarded to students with an interest in public service. Donations can be sent to Pepperdine School of Law, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu Ca 90263-4633; Attn: John Merrick Law Scholarship/Erin Herrera.