Hon. Judge Monroe McKay of the 10th Circuit Passes Away

McKay was former chief judge of the circuit, taught law, served in the Marines and Peace Corps

The Honorable Judge Monroe McKay of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals passed away peacefully of natural causes at the home of his daughter in Utah on March 28, according to a release from the 10th Circuit. McKay served as the former chief judge of the 10th Circuit, and circuit judge, since the late 1970s. The release also stated the passing was not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

“Judge McKay was a legend on our court,” Chief Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit Timothy Tymkovich said. “He epitomized the qualities of a great judge – patience, learnedness, open mindedness, and a strong work ethic. He was a leader in the way he approached his judicial duties and an unsurpassed promoter of collegiality and civility among our colleagues”

President Jimmy Carter was appointed to the 10th Circuit and received his commission on Dec. 1, 1977, and he served as the chief judge of the 10th Circuit from September 1991 until December of 1993. In January of 1994, McKay assumed active senior status and continued in that capacity until his passing.

“He had been in good health and continued to work until the end,” the release states.

Senior Circuit Judge Stephanie Seymour, who worked with McKay for over 40 years, recalled that when he was asked what he liked about judging, he said, “To be a judge is to be given a chance to play a role in the evolution of our society, to try to resolve disputes, and to write principles that will not only resolve disputes fairly but will also help people in shaping their lives. It’s a great challenge to the mind.”

Throughout his tenure on the bench, McKay taught Department of Justice courses in appellate advocacy for United States Attorneys served on the board of the Federal Justice Center and a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

“Monroe McKay was an outstanding judge, a brilliant raconteur, a wonderful mentor, and a delightful friend. As a colleague, he was a wonderful combination of academic theoretician, seasoned practitioner, and down-to-earth realist with strong convictions,” Seymour said.

McKay was born in Huntsville, Utah, on May 30, 1928. After graduating high school, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1946-48. He served as a missionary in South Africa for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) for two years starting in 1950. And in 1954 he married his wife, Lucile Kinnison, and the couple had nine children.

In 1957, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University, followed by a J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1960. 

McKay clerked for Arizona Supreme Court Justice Jesse A. Udall for a year beginning in 1960. He was an associate with the firm of Lewis and Roca in Phoenix from 1961 through 1966, and again from 1967-74. And between those years, he joined the Peace Corps and served as Director of the Corps in Malawi, Africa.

In 1974, McKay accepted an invitation to join the faculty of the new J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, where he remained until his appointment to the federal bench.

McKay received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Capital University Law and Graduate Center in Columbus, Ohio in 1993.

He returned to Africa in summer 1994 to teach law at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and in 1996, when his wife served on an LDS mission in South Africa.

A public memorial will be announced at a later time, according to the 10th Circuit. 

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