David George Sills

David George Sills

March 21, 1938 - August 23, 2011

David George Sills

March 21, 1938 - August 23, 2011


David George Sills
March 21, 1938-August 23, 2011

David George Sills, erstwhile presiding justice of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal passed quietly Tuesday, August 23rd, ending his life as he had lived it, cloaked in dignity and courage and surrounded by loved ones. The legal community will miss his leadership and incisive intellect, but everyone who knew him will mourn the loss of a kind and generous friend.

Born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, Dave was introduced to California as an Eagle Scout when he attended the Boy Scout Jamboree held in 1953 on property that is now Fashion Island. After completing a degree in political science at Bradley University, he obtained a law degree, excelling as a National Moot Court Finalist at the University of Illinois College of Law. After law school, Captain Sills served his country as a company commander and brigade staff officer in the Marine Corps from 1960-1965, before returning to southern California to practice law in Irvine, not far from the site of the 1953 Boy Scout Jamboree.

He was elected mayor of his adopted city in 1976 and served ten years on its city council including four terms as mayor, presiding over its transformation from a sleepy suburb to a city five times the size of the one he had moved into – a city nationally recognized for its intelligent planning and quality of life, both of which were accurate reflections of Dave s values and skills.

He was involved in every conceivable civic endeavor, his support and enthusiasm springing from an apparently bottomless well. He was the Chairman of the Irvine Health Foundation, on whose board he served 26 years. He also built a successful law practice and was appointed to the Superior Court bench by Governor Deukmejian in 1985. Five years later he was elevated to the position of Presiding Justice of Division 3 of the California Court of Appeal, a decision the voters confirmed three times.

He was born to run that court. He led naturally, easily, and by example, inspiring integrity by living it. He wrote with style and precision, and put his indelible stamp on the court system both as a jurist and an administrator.

While turning out an astounding 2, 000-plus opinions whose quality of analysis and rapier prose made him a force to be reckoned with in the development of California law – he also found ways to eliminate the backlog that had plagued the court since its inception, and he engineered its removal from charming but cramped rented quarters into is present showpiece court building on Santa Ana Blvd. and Ross. No one who knew him will ever enter that building without thinking of the man who made it possible – and remembering his ready smile and kind heart.

He is survived by his beloved wife Susan LaCroix Sills, his brother Dan, his bereft colleagues on the Court of Appeal, his Marine comrades, the citizens of Irvine, a grieving legal community, and people all over the state of California whose lives are better because of Dave Sills’ lifelong commitment to service and justice.

In lieu of flowers, you may make donations in David’s memory to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, www.marine-scholars.org; the UCI School of Law Scholarship Fund, www.law.uci.edu; and the Chapman University School of Law Scholarship Fund, www.chapman.edu/law/giving.

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83 responses to David George Sills

  1. Susan: in addition to the wonderful memories I already posted, I just want to be sure you know how much all of us appreciated you as well. David could not have had a better, more loving wife. You set an example for all of us with your attentive caring for David and his Mother. You have our sympathy and we hope you will continue the friendship David started and that you enhanced. In sympathy, friendship and appreciation of all that David stood for and represented to all of us, we wish you the best memories. Fondly,Carol and John

  2. From the halls of Montezuma, to the City of Irvine City Council, to the Gourmet Club, to the Irvine Health Foundation, to Superior Court, to the Appellate court, Dave’s wit, intellect, leadership, and friendship was sterling. I am flooded with memories too numerous to count, but a few stand out: When we did a Southwest theme for Gourmet Club and we picked cactus in the open space north of his home to make nopales or cactus salad, only to miss so many needles that we had to pull them out of our tongues for hours; When David and Susan hosted Gourmet Club with a Casablanca theme David, wearing a Fez, recited every line from the movie in a Humphrey Bogart voice; When IHF was in NY, he and Susan agreed to include me in their drive to Marblehead, MA to visit Susan’s Mom, but my luggage was so large that David wrote a very humorous piece about “Traveling with Carol” that I will always treasure AND resemble; Or when Gourmet Club was hosted by David early in his relationship with Susan at his cabin in Big Bear, it was a Halloween theme and Susan talked him into a biker outfit with spiked hair, I knew it was true love and the club welcomed her with open arms; Or the innumerable times his tact and strategic thinking led IHF to creative and innovative efforts to better invest our funds and better meet our mission. I will treasure all of my times with David including our last visit in the lovely backyard setting Susan created for him two weeks before his passing when he once again and finally shared his gracious wit with me. David: you “fought our country’s battles and never lost your nerve…and were always on the job”. Farewell my fine friend, Carol McDermott

  3. Linda Ruck says:

    Dear Susan,
    May all your memories with David keep you smiling. My deepest sympathies and sincerest condolences.

  4. Leah Lee says:

    I have known the Judge for 30 years. We moved 2 doors down from him when I was 1 year old. He watched me grow up. He watched me fall off my bike, and drive my parents nuts as a teenager. He waved goodbye as I packed up for college and later he sat in front of my lens for a portrait series. He watched me grow from a baby to a professional. The Judge, as we lovingly called him was an extraordinary man. Patient, poignant, loyal and always interesting. He had the smooth ability to make everyone at the dinner table laugh with a cracked smile and a soft spoken joke. He was a good man and will always have a very special place in my heart and memory. Watching Susan care for the Judge was a beautiful journey and taught me a lesson in love and loyalty. She stood by him and selflessly cared for him. She set an extraordinary standard as a loving wife. Judge, I know you will continue to watch me grow up, fall off my bike and get back up. You just have a better seat now!

  5. I was one year ahead of Dave all through Peoria Heights Grade School, Woodruff High School, and Bradley University where we debated together. Our families even belonged to the same church. A long history from many years ago. Please accept my deepest sympathy. All his accomplishments and accolades come as no surprise as he was always a fine person and a true and loyal friend.

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