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Renowned Criminal Defense Lawyer Gary Proctor Commits Suicide

Posted Mar 10, 2008 6:59 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: One of the high points of Gary Proctor's life was represented by the quote he kept on his office wall from Harry Reasoner of 60 Minutes. It tagged Proctor the best criminal defense lawyer in Orange County, Calif.—as Reasoner also informed millions of viewers of the television news magazine's segment about Proctor's celebrated defense of a child victim who killed the man who molested him.

Recent times, however, have not been as good to Proctor, 63, who apparently committed suicide yesterday at his home in San Jose, Calif., according to the Orange County Register.

"His friends said that Proctor had been in chronic pain for years with a bad back, and was depressed over recent criticism he was receiving in the San Jose Mercury News over his management of the juvenile defenders' contract in San Jose," the newspaper reports.

A lengthy article in the Mercury News (reg. req.) last month, for instance, accuses Proctor's firm of "shortchang[ing]" adult clients in abuse and neglect cases because of a lack of investigation. Around the same time, Proctor told employees at his law office that he wouldn't seek to renew the court contract under which he provided these legal services, according to another Mercury News article. Both characterized the firm's advocacy on behalf of parents facing the loss of their children as "timid."

A later Mercury News article reports Proctor's apparent suicide, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and notes that he was loved and respected by many.

"It's a great loss," Judge Katherine Lucero, who oversees Santa Clara County's Dependency Court, tells the Mercury News. "I don't know what's in store for us in the future as far as what are the lessons to be learned from this."

In addition to his renowned skills as a criminal defense lawyer, Proctor is also remembered by colleagues for his generous mentoring of junior attorneys, the Orange County newspaper writes.

"He was a hero to me," says Ken Reed, a Santa Ana attorney. "He taught me everything I know. When I was still in law school trying my first case, he was sitting right beside me giving me advice."

Updated at 12:58 p.m., central time, March 11, 2008, to include additional Mercury News article.

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