In Memoriam – Commissioner James H. Libbey
Commissioner James H. Libbey passed away on February 13, 2021. Commissioner Libbey was a native of Contra Costa County. He graduated from Dartmouth College and obtained his JD from USF. He served as a Deputy DA in Contra Costa County for 3 years, then formed a law firm in Antioch with Richard Groff. In 1980 he was appointed Family Law Commissioner for the Contra Costa Superior Court, a role he held for 27 years until his retirement in 2008. When the Family Law section was formed in 1988, he was a strong supporter and advocate for the interaction between the Bench and Bar which exists today in the form of the Bench-Bar Committee. He was also an early supporter of family law mediation.
Commissioner Libbey was an editorial consultant to Matthew Bender’s California Family Law Monthly, a frequent lecturer to the California Judicial College and a panelist in CEB seminars devoted to family law issues. He was voted “Family Law Judge of the Year” by the Family Law Section of the State Bar. In addition to his work in the family law field, he was a member of the Antioch Unified School District Board and served on the Board of Trustees of both the Delta Memorial Hospital (now Sutter Delta Medical Center) and the Merritt Peralta Medical Center.
Here are thoughts from some long-time colleagues:
Jim served as a Family Law Commissioner with our court for more than 25 years before retiring in 2008. He was a statewide judicial leader, as well as a mentor, motivator and friend to all of our judges that served on the Family Law bench. I know that I wouldn’t have made it through my time there without his wise counsel and advice. While he was kind of cantankerous, his wit, warmth and kindness always shined through his gruff exterior. He was a favorite of court staff and the attorneys that appeared before him.
– Hon. Steve Austin
Thinking back to the Contra Costa Bench as it existed in 1980, there are not too many people left of that noble crew. Jim was one of them. He had great stories, not just about his time as a lawyer and Commissioner in Contra Costa, but also his exploits as a saxophone player working his way through Dartmouth College playing jobs in New England towns. Jim Libbey was a most entertaining personality.
– Hon. Richard Flier (ret)