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. Dear Susan,
    I’ve known very few people in my life who held the respect of his peers and maintained the personal and professional integrity that David did. It was an honor to know him a little socially through my sister and see that his close friends and home life were his sanctuary. He will be so missed by everyone. I applaud your steadfast devotion and tireless attendance to him during his illness. Fondly, Suellen

  2. I will miss Dave’s mischievous sense of humor and that look in his eye when you got it! I will also miss his crazy birthday cards.

    Another reminder that we should spend time with people we love and not wait until it is too late.

  3. William says:

    David and I were in the Marine Corps together. While living in San Clemente, California, we spent a lot of time together while assigned to the same unit at Camp Pendleton. He had a great sense of humor and was very interested in politics at that time of his life. Often, we would have dinner at his apartment, on a weekend night, and spend several hours just talking and enjoying the moment. We kept in touch over the years and occasionally were able to get together for dinner during my infrequent visits to California. I always enjoyed David and very much appreciated his intellect and good nature. I will miss him and pray that I will see him again.

  4. Susan,
    We find it difficult to truly express in words the sorrow that we feel for your loss. I can only say how honored we feel to have known such a man as a brother in law, Uncle and friend. Others have used the words “grace, determination and humorous” to describe David. All true, though David was much more than that to us, he was a man of unquestionable character. He treated everyone with the utmost respect and decency, never wavering in his civility. My hope is that Tyler and Ryan will someday grow into young men with the values of such a wonderful man. We were all blessed to have known and loved David.
    Our endless Love,
    Waybe,Julie,Tyler adn Ryan

  5. Dan Sills says:

    Dear Susan
    While your many memmories of Dave are of the last 22 years, my early memmories of Dave will also be with me for the rest of my life. My earliest memmories are of our grade school years and our summer vacations to Washington D.C., Valley Forge, Gettisburg, and Mt.Vernon. Since we lived in the Land of Lincoln,our weekend trips to Old Abe’s homes in New Salem and Springfield, Illinois were many. Is it any wonder that Dave continued his interest in history for his entire life?
    Other memmories include Dave waiting for our Grandfather to deliver a supply of old orange crates and other scrap lumber that he could use to build tree houses, race cars, club houses, and anything else that only required an imagination, a hammer, a saw, and lots of old used nails that could easily be straightened. During the winter months it was indoors and an electric train layout half the size of our basement. He built the tables, did the electrical work, planned the village that eventually became a city complete with street lights. I often thought that as Irvine grew in size, it was just an extension of his electric train dreams.
    As our grade school years were becoming high school years, it was an effort to add a large desk for writing and study to our small bedroom. He was either doing research,writing long papers, or practicing speaches for contests with other schools. When he wasn’t busy with his school work, he was setting records on the school cross country and tract team. He was expected to win local school speech contests while qualifying for national events. College was more of the same while participating on the Bradley University debate team.

    After being with him most of his first 20 years, it was easy to predict his next 50 years. First his law practice mixed with political goals, and then many years as a judge. At the same time, running many miles every morning and wood shop projects on some weekends to relax. His whole life has been somewhat predictable, with one exception, his illness and passing at this early time in his senior years. His life was cut short, but his list of accomplishments was long and well deserved.
    Susan, you were a big part of those last 25 years that would not have been possible without you. Your love and careing was much appreciated and will be remembered for the rest of my life.

    Many Thanks
    Brother Dan

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