Sexist Judge Saves Husband in Divorce Case

Chick Iverson

Chick Iverson left his mark in more ways than one.

California lawyer Frank Zotter sent in Iverson v. Iverson, a California divorce case in which the trial judge, in Frank’s words, “demonstrates once again the wisdom of the old saying, ‘it’s best to keep your mouth shut and have everyone think you a fool than to open it and leave no doubt.’”

The case involved the validity of a prenuptial agreement and the question of which of the parties had initiated the idea of marriage. The trial judge concluded that surely the wife had pursued the marriage. After all, the judge said, she was “lovely,” but “[h]ad nothing going for her except for her physical attractiveness.” Specifically, she “did not have much of an education, and did not have much of a background in business, and did not have much by way of material wealth.”

The judge simply couldn’t fathom the notion that the husband, Chick Iverson, would have been crazy enough to pursue marriage when “[h]e had just gone through a divorce which cost him a million dollars.” Marriage, the judge said, “would be the last thing on his mind. And why, in heaven’s name, do you buy the cow when you can get the milk free, as we used to say. And, so, he’s getting the milk free. And Cheryl is living with him in his home.”

The Court of Appeals reversed, ordering a new trial before a different judge on the basis that the trial judge’s sexist perceptions of the couple’s relationship made it impossible for the wife to have received a fair trial.

Who the hell was Chick Iverson? The case makes it sounds like he’s a big deal and he must have been because he told John Wayne he wanted The Duke to be best man at the wedding. Internet research discloses Iverson was the first Volkswagen dealer in L.A.

McClurg footnote: A source who requested anonymity sent this interesting follow-up information about the Iverson case:

Chick Iverson and John Wayne were best friends. That’s why John Wayne was the best man at his wedding to Mrs. Iverson. Mr. Iverson has since passed away and is actually buried next to John Wayne.

Chick Iverson owned the first VW dealership in Orange County, not LA. He imported the first Porsches to the west coast after WWII, and established a Volkswagen, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Audi and Chevrolet dealership in Newport Beach in the 60s which was sold in the 80s. It was the largest and best selling Volkswagen dealership in the United States.

Mr. Iverson made a hefty sum selling the wonderful bug to many a hippie. Mr. Iverson and Cheryl Iverson had a bitter divorce that would rival any Dynasty episode. The judge’s screw-up with his comments costs Mr. Iverson close to a million dollars in attorneys’ fees as he was paying for his attorney and Mrs. Iverson’s. Eventually, Mr. Iverson won and the prenuptual agreement was upheld.

Another McClurg footnote: More inside info about the apparently colorful Chick Iverson, courtesy of Carl “Skip” Williams, a friend and former employee:

“Who the hell is Chick Iverson?” I had to laugh when I read that. You’re not from Orange County, CA. Let me add these few choice pieces to the article.

John Wayne and Chick were like Oprah and Gail. John Wayne was the Godfather to Chick’s son, who died at the age of 21 when he took a used Jaguar of the lot and ran off the cliff on his way to Laguna. Chick introduced John Wayne to his wife who worked on his ranch in South America. Chick Iverson was the executor to John Wayne’s Estate and controlled all the money for his children.

Chick Iverson was lucky in business and a genius. He was the son of immigrants. He had the largest cattle ranch in Oregon and the sixth largest in the US. He started as a salesman selling cars, with a high school education. His biggest decision was a fluke. He worked his way from salesman to general manager at a Porsche dealership in Chicago. He then opened up the first Porsche dealership in Orange County. Two years later he went looking to add another brand. His first choice was American Motors, second was Volkswagen.

When he decided to go with American Motors; he invited the representatives over to his house. One made a remark that offended his wife, so he went with Volkswagen and the rest is history.

In re Marriage of Iverson, 11 Cal. App. 4th 1495, 1499 (1992). Thanks to Frank Zotter.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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