Memorial services are pending for U.S. District Court Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell of the Central District of California, whose death was announced by the court late Tuesday.
O’Connell, 52, collapsed on Sept. 15 while participating in a program titled, “So You Want to Be a Judge?” co-sponsored by the State Bar and California Women Lawyers. She suffered a brain aneurysm, went into a coma, and died Sunday.
Chief Judge Virginia A. Phillips said in the announcement:
“Mere words are inadequate to express the depth of our loss. Judge O’Connell justly earned her reputation as a brilliant and exceptionally hard working judge. Those who appeared before her appreciated her wisdom and fairness, as well as her innovative use of technology in the courtroom.
“Her judicial colleagues and all members of the court family were vastly enriched by her generosity, energy and dedication to justice. She made an indelible mark on our court, and we mourn our friend and colleague.”
The court said that flags will be flown at half-staff at District Court courthouses in the Central District.
Los Angeles Superior Court Daniel J. Buckley—on whose court O’Connell served from 2005 until her appointment to the federal court in 2013—said in an email to colleagues:
“For years Bev has been the most beloved judicial officer in our county—actually, in our state—no matter the jurisdiction, level or assignment. When you were in the room with Bev, she made you feel special. No one else mattered when she talked with you or did 20 different favors for you. I venture to say, so many who get this bad news are struggling with losing one of their best friends, or in fact their best friend.
“Few have contributed more to our Court, including after she moved to the Federal Court. She touched us as a colleague, leader, exemplary judge and teacher. She may have been the best teacher any of us experienced, whether she was teaching a [judicial education] class, a local bar presentation, or a law school class. When she was with us outside the classroom, she continued to be a teacher; she gave us daily lessons on how to be a better person.”
O’Connell regularly taught courses at Loyola Law School, Pepperdine University School of Law, and the B.E. Witkin Judicial College.
“Bev was a passionate, loyal Bruin fan” Buckley continued. “No one was prouder to be a Pepperdine Law grad.
“Bev brought this passion and pride to all she did—to our benefit.”
O’Connell earned her bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1986, and her degree, magna cum laude, from Pepperdine in 1990.
It was at Pepperdine that she met Dan O’Connell, who was to become her husband. Now retired, he was a deputy district attorney.
She practiced with Morrison & Foerster from 1990-95, then joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, where she served until her appointment to the Superior Court.
Terree A. Bowers, a former U.S. attorney for the Central District, now a partner in Arent Fox LLP, said yesterday:
“She was a dedicated and successful federal prosecutor. Her service as a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge and a Federal District Court Judge set a high standard that included wisdom, compassion, and an indefatigable commitment to justice. As part of the federal family, we will all miss her greatly.”
Charles “Tim” McCoy, a private judge and former Los Angeles Superior Court presiding judge, remarked:
“Bev brought perfect civility and genuine competence to the bench every day and gave it as a gift to every litigant and lawyer who entered her courtroom.”
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