Judge Monroe McKay Dies at 91
McKay was former chief judge of the 10th Circuit, taught law, served in the Marines and Peace Corps

by Avery Martinez

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Monroe McKay, 91, died of natural causes March 28 at his daughter’s home in Utah, according to a release from the court. McKay served as a former chief judge and circuit judge in the court since the late 1970s. His death was not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

“Judge McKay was a legend on our court,” 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge 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.”

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

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

Senior 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 U.S. Attorneys and served on the board of the Federal Justice Center and was 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,” Seymour said. “As a colleague, he was a wonderful combination of academic theoretician, seasoned practitioner and down-to-earth realist with strong convictions.”

McKay was born in Huntsville, Utah, on May 30, 1928. After graduating high school, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948. He then served as a missionary in South Africa for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years, beginning in 1950. In 1954, he married his wife, Lucile Kinnison, and the couple had nine children.

He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in 1957, followed by a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1960.

McKay clerked for Arizona Supreme Court Justice Jesse Udall for a year beginning in 1960. He was an associate with Lewis and Roca in Phoenix from 1961 to 1966, and again from 1967 to 1974. 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 Brigham Young, 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 again 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.