Thursday, May 1, 2003
Torrance Colleagues Remember Late Judge Mark H. McGee
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Justice Court Judge Mark H. McGee was remembered this week by his former colleagues as a man who cared about people, and who always tried to do the right thing.
McGee, a former San Bernardino County judge who most recently sat on assignment in Los Angeles County, died April 8 after a brief illness. He was 57.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Judge Thomas Sokolov of Torrance described McGee Wednesday as “a great human being.”
“He was able to do every assignment with great skill,” Sokolov said. “Whatever cases were assigned to him, he did, and he did it well, without complaining. He was always willing to help a fellow bench officer out.”
“He was not only a good judge, he was a good human being,” he added. “He just was a good person.”
Judge Dudley Gray, also of Torrance, described McGee as a “genuinely good guy.”
“He certainly had a thin crust,” he remarked. “He was a little bit curmudgeonly on the exterior. But underneath, he genuinely cared about people, and he had a broad view of life and the human condition. He genuinely tried to do the right thing.”
On a professional level, Gray said, McGee “had a commodity that is becoming a little more rare these days - compassion for everybody on both sides” of a court case.
Debbie Tillman served as McGee’s clerk for three years while he sat on assignment in Torrance.
“Judge McGee was a real down-to-Earth guy, “she said. “If you met him on the street, you would never have guessed that he was a judge.”
McGee, she reflected, “identified with the little person more than with the VIP’s.”
“Whenever you came to his courtroom, you got a fair shake,” she added. “He wasn’t afraid of controversy. He wasn’t afraid to anger a police officer, or a defendant - he always made what he felt was the correct call.”
Gray echoed those sentiments. He said he observed McGee’s handling of cases, and has spoken with lawyers who appeared in McGee’s courtroom.
“Without exception, everyone says they may not always have agreed with what he said, but they left knowing they had a fair hearing, and understanding how he arrived at his decision,” he said.
McGee was a native of Stamford, Connecticut. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.
He earned his law degree from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, then worked in private practice before joining the San Bernardino Public Defender’s Office, where he was assigned to Needles.
In 1986, he was elected to a justice court position in the Needles-Calzona district. He served one term, left the court, and became an assigned judge. He sat in numerous courts in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.
Tillman said McGee left Torrance March 3 to sit on assignment in Temecula, but soon learned he had leukemia. A few weeks later, he died.
Sokolov said he was stunned to learn of his colleague’s passing.
“I was just shocked,” he stated. “I knew that he had what I thought were minor health problems. I was shocked and devastated.”
“I miss him very much,” Sokolov added. “I see files with his name on it, and it’s hard to believe he’s gone.”
McGee was buried in Connecticut April 14. He is survived by his sisters Mary Leamy and Alice Sullivan of Fairfield, Ct; stepson Robert Jordan of Napa, and companion Debbie Smihula of Needles, as well as by several nieces and nephews.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company