Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, August 25, 2011


Page 3


Retired Fourth District Presiding Justice David G. Sills Dead at 73


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Services are pending for retired Court of Appeal Presiding Justice David G. Sills, who retired from the Fourth District Court of Appeal in June.

Sills died Tuesday evening, after a lengthy illness, at the age of 73, a court spokesperson said.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye yesterday said she joined the branch in observing “the passing of an extraordinary and accomplished person” who “led a remarkable life.” She praised Sills as “an acclaimed jurist, a courageous veteran, a respected mayor and an exemplary branch leader,” and sent her “thoughts and prayers to his family.”

Sills, who served more than 25 years on the state trial and appellate courts, had served four separate terms as mayor of Irvine in the 1970s and 1980s.

A native of Peoria, Ill., Sills first came to Orange County in the 1950s for a Boy Scout “jamboree,” then later returned in 1962 while on active duty in the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, where he eventually attained the rank of captain. 

He majored in political science at Bradley University in Peoria and earned his law degree at the University of Illinois in 1961 before coming west.

After concluding active duty in 1965, he was admitted to the California State Bar and went into private law practice, setting up his own office on Dove Street in Newport Beach, and also becoming involved in local poltics.

His then-father-in-law, Ronald Reagan, was elected governor the following year, and appointed him to the state Republican Central Committee in 1967, the same year he and Maureen Reagan divorced.

Sills was elected to the Irvine City Council in 1976, five years after the city was founded.

In 1982, Sills mounted an unsuccessful primary challenge to Republican Assemblyman Nolan Frizelle, but remained a councilman until his appointment to the bench in 1985.

He had been a political supporter of George Deukmejian, who tapped him for the Orange Superior Court in 1985, and five years later,  named Sills presiding justice of Div. Three.

During his tenure on the appellate court, he authored more than 2,400 majority opinions, almost 400 of which were certified for publication, and became known for his ability to colorfully turn a phrase in several of his decisions.

Sills was among the first jurists in the state to confront the legal issues inherent in surrogacy, and also originated the use of videoconferencing to allow lawyers to argue their cases from the Fourth District’s San Diego courtroom rather than have to travel to Santa Ana, where Div. Three sits.

A branch spokesperson said Sills was also instrumental in the construction of the new appellate courthouse in Santa Ana at the intersection of Ross Street and Santa Ana Boulevard, working collaboratively with Orange County legislators for almost a decade to gain authorization and funding for the building after the court outgrew its old quarters.

Several of his practical suggestions—such as that the building have two elevators to facilitate the transfer of bulky case files upstairs—were incorporated into the final building, which won an award of merit in the government/public category of California Construction’s Best of 2009.

In October 2010 the jurist was awarded the inaugural David G. Sills Award for Appellate Excellence by the Orange County Bar Association.

He spoke with the MetNews shortly before his retirement earlier this year and said he planned to vacation in Hawaii, and spend time in Vermont, studying cabinetry and woodworking, after he left the bench.

Sills is survived by his wife, Susan, his brother Dan, and numerous nieces and nephews.


Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company