Mablean Ephriam, the ninth of ten children born to Robert T. and Mable Ephriam, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, is now known throughout the world as Judge Mablean, since her seven year run as the judge on the FOX television show, Divorce Court. She returned to television September 15, 2014, as the judge in Justice with Judge Mablean.
The family migrated to Los Angeles in 1955, allowing Judge Mablean to begin school in Los Angeles. She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1967 with honors. She was awarded a four-year academic scholarship to Pitzer College in Claremont, California.
After her undergraduate studies, she married and became a mother, delaying her childhood dream, since age thirteen (13) years old, to become a lawyer. During these times, she worked in investment banking at First Western Bank, as a correctional officer at the Federal Women’s Prison in Terminal Island, California and a legal secretary. She never gave up on her dream.
In 1974, she decided it was time to fulfill her dream. She began law school in the Fall of 1974 at Beverly Rubens College of Law (later changed to Whittier College School of Law). Judge Mablean attended law school at night. She continued work during the day as a legal secretary. In her third year of law school, she was employed as a Certified Law Clerk in the Criminal Division of the Office of the City Attorney of Los Angeles. There, she researched, wrote and argued criminal misdemeanor appeals before the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
She graduated from Whittier College School of Law in 1978, earning her Juris Doctor degree. During her law school years, she participated in Moot Court. Her team won second place in statewide Moot Court Honors Program. This was accomplished without neglecting her husband and children. She was admitted to the practice of law by the State Bar of California in November 1978, having passed the bar the first time.
Judge Mablean began her law career as a Prosecutor in the Criminal Division of the Office of the City Attorney, Los Angeles in November 1978. During her years as a criminal prosecutor, Judge Mablean was assigned as a filing attorney at the Bauchet Street Division, handling crimes against persons (CAP) filings. Her review of and filing of case involving domestic violence against women caused her much concern when the victims would call to ask for dismissal of the cases after filing and were reluctant witnesses. She met with and discussed remedies with the then presiding Judge of the Bauchet Street Criminal Court, Judge Madge Watai. Together, they devised a plan known as a diversion plan Judge Watai agreed when a victim was reluctant to testify and was asking for dismissal of the case, if the defendant were to agree to counseling program and no further criminal behavior for six months, she would dismiss the case. It was Judge Mablean’s work in CAP gave birth to the opening of The Family Law Center on 76th Street and Central Avenue. She sought the support of WLALA President, Patsy Ostroy, along with BWL members (who provided the legal representation, Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (who provided the supplies) and the Brotherhood Crusade (who provided the building) and opened a clinic to assist women in obtaining domestic violence restraining orders. This unorthodox, informal sentencing procedure by Judge Watai later became codified by the legislature as the Domestic Violence Diversion and Prevention Act.
Judge Mablean entered the Office of the City Attorney with a plan; gain trial experience, earn a good name and reputation as a trial lawyer, network and become well acquainted with others in the legal community, then open her own office. Her plan came to fruition in July 1982. She opened her own law practice, initially sharing office space with a law school classmate, Joan Whiteside Green. Her early practice emphasized criminal defense, personal injury and family law. In 1984, she moved her offices and shared office space with Katie Murff Trotter, later joined by Shirley A. Henderson.. She found her niche in family law. Her experience and skills gained as a trial attorney while a prosecutor, quickly earned her respect as a trial lawyer in family law court. . She earned a reputation in family law as the divorce attorney for police officers, judicial officers, doctors, lawyers and men. Judge Mablean, along with her colleagues, Shirley Henderson and Adrienne Konigar, formed a legal entity known as S.E.D.A. (Support Enforcement Division Attorneys) representing men in child support enforcement cases brought by the District Attorney Child Support Enforcement Division. After her employment in the entertainment industry in 1998, she formed a partnership with Carolyn Makupson, Law Offices of Ephriam and Makupson. She gradually decreased her practice as a lawyer. In 2004, the partnership was dissolved and Judge Mablean shifted from the practice of law to entertainment and public speaking.
Judge Mablean has volunteered in numerous legal and community organizations, such as; Member and Past President of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (1982-83). During her tenure, she co-founded and opened the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law (1982), a pro-bono legal services organization, that initially provided legal services and representation to women who were victims of domestic violence, and later expanded to provide services to low-income persons throughout Los Angeles County, in all areas of family law); Member of the American Bar Association, (serving on the Diversity Committee and in the Young Lawyers Division); State Bar of California- Family Law Section, Executive Committee; Los Angeles County Bar Assn. – Executive Committee; Langston Bar Assn. ,Calif. Assn. of Black Lawyers (CABL) and Women Lawyers Association, National Bar Assn.; (served a term on the Board of Governors as Representative of Local Bar Associations), Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) and California Women Lawyers (CWL); Board of Directors,- Union Rescue Mission, (first black woman). Her religious affiliation and services include: member of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, serving in the Youth Ministry; member, Board of Directors-Southern California Economic Development Corp. and member of the Executive Board of the Women’s Department – Church of God In Christ.
In October of 1998, FOX (Twentieth Television) selected Judge Mablean preside as Judge on the newly, revised half hour syndicated, television show, DIVORCE COURT. Judge Mablean did not seek the position. Through word-of-mouth regarding her legal talents (from her colleagues and friends, especially, Shirley Henderson), and an unknown entertainment attorney, FOX interviewed her and offered the job within seven (7) days. Judge Mablean attributes this to divine intervention.
Judge Mablean is involved in the day to day operation of her 501 © (3) non-profit, the Mablean Ephriam Foundation (www.mableanephriamfoundation.com), whose mission is to strengthen families, educate minds, financially empower the residents of the impoverished communities of Los Angeles County. The foundation has adopted two schools, Peary Middle School (Gardena) and her alma mater, Jefferson High School (South Los Angeles), providing both academic and cultural enrichment programs and scholarships for graduating seniors. She is the founder of an annual event, Honoring Unsung Fathers (H.U.F.) Awards and Scholarship Brunch. It is held on Father’s Day each year since 2004. The Foundation also awards scholarships to graduating high school seniors (throughout Los Angeles County). Judge Mablean also travels extensively as a much sought after public speaker. She is the owner of Mablean Ephriam Mediation Offices.
Judge Mablean attributes her success to God, her parents, her family and close friends. Her faith, religion and trust in God, keeps this mother of four and grandmother of ten, meek and humble.