Michael Olecki, 58, a “lawyer’s lawyer” from Los Angeles and an even happier gentleman rancher from Three Rivers, passed away from unexpected medical complications on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. He was a brilliant, funny, kind, generous person with a great sense of adventure and enough enthusiasm to savor most anything, most any place, pretty much any time.
He became friends with legal adversaries, clients, and acquaintances, and was considered family by close friends. His friends and family will miss him deeply and truly.
Michael’s best professional decision was to found Grodsky & Olecki, LLP, his Santa Monica-based law firm, widely admired by other lawyers for its unusually harmonious relationships and humorous holiday cards. Michael’s passion for justice resulted in multimillion dollar settlements for civil rights violations and other unfair or questionable business practices.
He successfully represented entrepreneurs, inventors, investors, manufacturers, importers/exporters, communications companies, producers/directors, medical businesses, and practitioners. At the same time, he was a quiet, modest pro bono legal resource for many here in Three Rivers, as well as in Los Angeles.
Clients became friends. Even opposing counsel appreciated his character, integrity, and sense of fair play. He loved to win and was deeply competitive, but never lacked compassion.
The true love of Michael’s life was his wife, Karen Bodner. The “Bodleckis” met while federal court law clerks, collaborated as attorneys over the years both formally and informally, and adventured widely and enthusiastically.
They hiked the Appalachian Trail and in the local Sierra, canoed, snowshoed, mud-raced, muckfested, took cooking classes in France and Italy, scouted taco trucks in Central California, and crossed the U.S. and Canada by train. They lived abroad separately before marriage, in several different states as partners, and simultaneously in Los Angeles and Three Rivers as spouses.
Their most memorable adventure — aside from finding each other — was the acquisition and preservation of their Three Rivers home, Walkabout Ranch.
While in Three Rivers, the Bodleckis enjoyed hiking, rubber duck flume racing, classical music concerts, do-it-yourself Shakespearean plays, Brats-N-Brew, and numerous other potluck get-togethers, as well as Scotch tasting. Michael was an enthusiastic mixologist, woodworking aficionado, competitive grill master, and a consummate host. The Bodleckis’ hospitality was known far and wide.
Michael loved his Polaris and sometimes led hair-raising rides through Walkabout, for which he donned his cowboy hat, boots, and oilskin, and hosted annual New Year’s Day hikes. He could often be found sitting on the patio or in the sauna telling stories and maybe even the occasional tall tale about the size of the foxes he’d encountered. His wry sense of humor was surpassed by his keen observation and ability to see right through anyone to what was arrogant, pompous, wrong, or unfair.
His law associates consider him to have been an exacting father figure with a keen attention to every detail, a passion for accurate language, and a commitment to each person’s growth, opportunity, and equal treatment under the law. When Michael was around, justice prevailed, and victories were honorable.
Raised in Cleveland and an active alumnus of Haverford College, Michael proved to be a true Jeffersonian scholar from the University of Virginia, where he earned his JD. He was editor of the Law Review there and admitted to the California Bar in 1988.
He was honored as a California Lawyer of the Year in 2007 for his landmark civil rights case “Ramirez vs. County of Los Angeles,” which brought an $18 million judgment against the L.A. Sheriff’s Department for wrongful incarceration and prosecution. He also was Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year, Western Law Center for the Handicapped (now Disability Rights Legal Center).
At a memorial in Los Angeles recently, numerous clients honored his legal, personal, ethical, and moral accomplishments, and several of their children cited him as a role model for their own professional accomplishments.
Michael’s philanthropic gifts to Three Rivers have been largely anonymous but substantial. Ours is a great loss, but each of us is much richer for his friendship.