Barry Brandt, Barrister Extraordinaire, Firm Principal With Don Maroney & Community Pillar, Gone At 89

Barry Brandt, a mainstay in a law firm which by multiple yardsticks was one of the most accomplished in San Bernardino County history, has died.
A self-made man with a fierce streak of independence who quietly celebrated his personal iconoclasm, he nonetheless was rooted in tradition and the establishment, where he functioned professionally by networking with divergent elements of the community.
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on December 13, 1933 to Irene Brandt née Kelley and Adolph William Brandt, he was of Swedish, Irish and Polish ancestry. The Brandt family was well-established in Connecticut, and one of his great-great grandmothers sewed bridles for the Union Cavalry during the Civil War.
His father was the owner of a successful cable building company. Adolph Brandt was inventive, and had recorded patents for a type of hook and cable used to land planes and another patent for an electrical cable bundle used in household settings for placement underneath a rug.Raised in a strict Catholic home, Barry Brandt as a young man was intent on becoming a priest. With that in mind, he matriculated at Holy Cross College, which he attended from 1951 until 1955.  He then attended and graduated from the University of Connecticut Law School, in Hartford, Connecticut.
By virtue of his time in college, Brandt had missed being drafted into the military during the Korean War. Having achieved the status of being a college graduate with a law degree, he was able to enlist in the Air Force, which was his preferred branch of service. He served four years in the Air Force’s Judge Advocate Office.
He married, and his wife, Barbara, accompanied him when he was stationed at various places with the Air Force, including at Wiesbaden Air Force Base in Germany. While he was stationed in Germany, he was a member of the base basketball team, which competed against other military teams in Europe. While at Wiesbaden, Barbara gave birth to the couple’s first son, Brian.
After his return stateside, his final station before he was discharged was at Vandenburg Air Force Base in Lampoc. There, his and Barbara’s second son, Brendan, was born.
Around the time of his discharge, Brandt decided against returning to Connecticut. He passed the California Bar in June of 1963. He had two immediate options at that time, one with a law firm in Santa Barbara and another in Upland. He chose Upland.
He moved his family into a modest – what his children referred to as a “crackerbox” – home on Ninth Street, not too distant from San Antonio Hospital.
In 1965, he formed a partnership with another attorney, Don Maroney. That firm would have multiple permutations, at one time being named Maroney, Brandt & Busch. Later it was known as Maroney, Brandt & Demchuk and in its final go-round as Maroney Brandt and Rogers.
In addition to being admitted to the bar to practice before the California and Connecticut state courts, he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Brandt concentrated on personal injury law, family law, real estate and municipal law, including land use litigation. He was the lead counsel in a number of major cases in those fields. There were two significant cases he was involved in that he initially lost at the trial court level but which he appealed. In those cases, he ultimately prevailed, obtaining rulings that form the basis for case law in California.
He was a celebrated divorce lawyer, and was deemed an expert in the field of alimony, child support, child custody and complex property settlement agreements. He was among the first ten attorneys in California to be provided with Family Law Specialist certification, a designation earned by less than one percent of the bar.
The firm of which he was a part employed a bevy of heavyweight and high achieving attorneys. These included Henry Busch, Philip E. Schaefer and Kenneth Ziebarth, all of whom became Superior Court judges, practicing out of the San Bernardino Superior Court courthouse then located at Sixth Street and Mountain Avenue in Ontario. Other notable members of the firm were Diane Robbins, who is now the city attorney in Montclair; Richard Holdaway, who was formerly the city attorney in Loma Linda; and Eugene Demchuk, who was the general counsel for the Foothill Fire District before that entity was subsumed by the City of Rancho Cucamonga.
At one time or another, the Moroney Brandt law firm or its attorneys served as the city attorneys with the cities of Chino, Montclair, Upland, Norco and La Quinta. While Maroney was Upland City Attorney, Brandt filled in for him in the capacity of deputy city attorney, giving Brandt special status within the city where he resided.
Beyond being a partner in the City of Upland’s major law firm, Brandt became a pillar of the community in another way, serving 13 years on the Upland School Board.
As chairman of the Capital Campaign of the Scheu Family YMCA in Upland he was instrumental in raising over $10,000,000.
He was a member of the Upland Lions Club.
In its heyday, the Maroney Brandt firm was a legal juggernaut on the west end of San Bernardino County, given the skill of its lawyers, their political connections and resources, not to mention that a good portion of the judges sitting locally had once been members of the firm.
Former clients relate the dual roles of Maroney and Brandt, thusly: Someone with a prospective suit or who had been sued would come into the office, and eventually be shuffled into an audience with Maroney, who would listen attentively, at which point Brandt would happen into the room. After the would-be client would conclude with an account of how he had been wronged or was being unfairly accused of having wronged someone, Maroney would then concisely lay out the weaknesses in the contemplated case or the defense, expressing doubt about taking on the matter. Brandt, after summoning a paralegal whom he told to gather documentation on a handful of specific codes and statutes and relevant cases, would then override Maroney’s reluctance and agree to take on the case, either as a plaintiff’s attorney or defense counselor.
In many cases, the matters were settled in short order, based on a letter Brandt composed to the opposing party’s counsel. In other cases, the matters went considerably further, on occasion to trial.
Al Pattison, a major commercial property owner during Brandt’s legal career and a Maroney Brandt client, said, “Barry took on a lot of cases, including some very difficult and complex ones. He won most of those.”
Brandt was in the 1980s the president of the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association.
With three of his firm’s members having acceded to the bench, at one point Brandt, in a major way, flirted with the idea of himself becoming a judge. At that point, the Inland Empire was heavily Republican, and, in some measure because Brandt was a registered Democrat, he never fulfilled that ambition.
Nevertheless, his thwarted desire to become a judge had an impact on the course of local public authority, albeit an indirect one. Both of his sons, Brian and Brendan, followed in his footsteps, becoming lawyers themselves. At the point where his father’s legal career was winding down and the prospect of Barry becoming a judge had passed, Brendan thought he might assume the robes of a jurist as a means of achieving his father’s goal vicariously and transgenerationally. If he were to do so, the younger Brandt realized he needed to ticket punch. So, like his father, he ran, successfully, for the Upland School Board. In 2002, when City Councilman Michael Libutti was appointed to a judgeship by then Governor Gray Davis, Brendan Brandt was appointed to replace him and then, five months later, won election to the council in his own right. Brendan Brandt was reelected to the council in 2006 and 2010. Though he never moved into a judge’s position, Brendan Brandt furthered the Brandt legacy as a leading light in Upland, and cut a swathe through the legal community as an attorney of some renown, practicing in the fields of business law, real estate and real property, labor and employment law and civil, commercial and business litigation, notably with the firm of Gresham, Varner, Savage, Nolan & Tilden and later as a partner with Varner, Saleson & Brandt.
Barry Brandt’s other son, Brian, achieved status in the Upland Community by becoming a board member of the San Antonio Water Company and an attorney, by some measures at least, of greater renown than his father or his brother. In 2011 Brian Brandt along with another attorney, Christopher Purcell, took on the representation of Kylie and Blaine Asam, 9- and 10-year-old siblings who survived a fiery crash when their family’s vehicle slammed into a semi-trailer truck owned by the Bhandal Bros. Trucking Company which had been illegally parked by the driver, Rudlolph Ortiz, on Interstate 210 on a dark November morning in 2010. The children, who were able to climb out the back window, witnessed their mother, trapped in the front seat of the SUV in which they were driving, burned alive next to their already dead father and older brother. While Brian Brandt and Purcell were shepherding the case against Ortiz and Bhandal Bros. Trucking through the court system, 11-year-old Blaine, on the date of his mother’s birthday, committed suicide. In 2013, the trial concluded with a $150 million award, which still stands as the largest personal injury verdict in California history. Brandt and Purcell prevailed in the case, which involved the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, one of the most prestigious law firms in California, serving as the defense counsel.
While Brian was preparing the case and throughout the trial, Barry Brandt was at his elbow, observing and advising. Thereafter, Barry Brandt wrote a book pertaining to the landmark case, The Improbable Verdict: How One Person Beat the Cheats and Got Justice for His Clients, which is now available from Amazon and on Kindle.
Barry Brandt’s life was more than the practice of law. Indeed, beginning in 1981, even while he was a major legal practitioner, he became something of an anti-lawyer as the proprietor of a mediation service, which was intended to allow those angling toward litigation from actually having to sue by reaching an accommodation with the other party.
He had a deep and abiding respect for arts and culture. Stating that he was close to Los Angeles for a reason, Brandt regularly held season tickets to the Ahmanson Theater and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where he attended the performances of the LA Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Opera.
Based on his love of basketball, he was a die-hard UCLA Bruins basketball addict.
At once gregarious and quiet-spirited, he was active in social circles but could be every bit as comfortable curled up with a book at home.
After his 20-year marriage to Barbara ended, he circulated, and like Maroney, found himself the target of countless women who saw him and his law partner as their ticket to the upper class, successful men who might keep them in minks and their unemployed 30-something sons out of the gutter. At a shindig one evening, a blue-haired but still somewhat attractive woman in her late 40s engaged in some double-entendre-laced and suggestively-tinged banter with him, to the amusement of those who were around them.
“I’m interested,” the lady said, “but do you think you can afford me?”
“I guess we’ll never find out,” Brandt responded.
Brandt managed over the years to stay a step-and-a-half ahead of the legion of eligible bachelorettes at his heels, but did maintain a close relationship with one woman in particular, Sharan Cherbak.
He was a raconteur of the first order and a ribald joke aficionado.
He was a natty dresser, with his own sense of style.
A product of a Catholic upbringing, with a worldview that had been shaped by the doctrines of the church and an ability to make his way in the world that was an outgrowth of a long-practiced adherence to orthodoxy, Brandt had sought to give his children the same advantages, sending them to catechism, seeing to it they made their first Holy Communion and underwent Confirmation and having both of his sons attend Damien, the Catholic High School in La Verne. Yet, like many Catholics, there was a streak of apostasy in his nature, and by the time he was in his late 40s or early 50s, he considered himself an agnostic, and he had a subscription to Skeptic Magazine, copies of which were at display around his house. While he was in all likelihood not a member of the Skeptics Society, Brandt had indeed grown into a skeptic, and, while not actively, he certainly passively promoted an adherence to the scientific examination of reality and resisting pseudoscience, superstition and irrational belief.
Said Pattison, “Barry was opinionated, and he would tell you what he thought, but he didn’t force his beliefs on anyone.”
Brian Brandt said of his father, “He was straightforward. Whether he was dealing with you as an attorney of just as another guy, you always knew where my dad stood. He was honest. That, of all the things he taught me, stands out as the most important, that you need to be honest.”
Brian continued, “He was a lifelong learner. He had a great sense of humor. He was conservative in his manner, but he wasn’t conservative philosophically. He wasn’t flamboyant. He appreciated the finer things in life, but he was not extravagant. He was the kind of guy you could rely on, and he was easy to get along with.”
About four years ago, Brian convinced his father to leave Upland and move to Dana Point to live near him.
“So, he lived his last few years here, although he did spend a little time with Sharan at Upland Hills,” Brian said. “He was able to finish his book, which I think was something he really was devoted to. That was one of the last things he was able to accomplish.”
Barry Brandt is survived by his son, Brian; his daughter, Pamela; and seven grandchildren.
Brandt is to be interred near both his parents and sister at Oakhill Memorial Park in Escondido, on Monday April 17 at 11:30 a.m.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply