Citizen Staff Writer
Services tomorrow for Judge Alley, 63
By PATTY MACHELOR
Citizen Staff Writer
Presiding Pima County Superior Court Judge Gordon Thomas Alley died Tuesday night after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 63.
Memorial services are scheduled for 4 p.m. tomorrow at St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave.
Judge Alley was appointed to Superior Court in April 1990 by then-Gov. Rose Mofford. He was named presiding judge in January 1999 by Thomas Zlaket, chief justice of Arizona.
“Gordon was a tremendous asset to the court and such a great person. His loss is going to be felt for a long time,” said Judge Kenneth Lee, who is the current acting presiding judge.
Judge Alley is survived by three children, Nina Alley, Judy Alley and Gordon Thomas “GT” Alley III; and sisters Margaret Farrell and Ruth Larsen.
Nina Alley, 38, said her father’s passion for the law came second only to his love for his children.
“He was a fabulous, fabulous father. You could never ask for a better dad,” she said. “He was there for us in the worst times, in the best times. He was non-judgmental, no matter what we did.”
Judge Alley was born in Ajo. He received his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Arizona. His legal career was launched in 1964 when he became a deputy Pima County attorney. Three years later he entered private practice.
Judge Alley served as president of the Pima County Bar Association from 1980-81 and as president of the State Bar of Arizona from 1986-87. He was president of the Southern Arizona Trial Lawyers Association in 1973.
He was also a member of Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Volunteer Lawyers Program, Christ Church United Methodist, Episcopal Youth Fellowship, Cactus Little League, 20-30 International and the Roadrunner Kiwanis Club.
Nina Alley said her father loved reading, crossword puzzles, and the University of Arizona’s football and basketball teams. He was a jogger and “a bit of a spitfire.”
“He really fought this battle hard. He was dignified, and he was courageous, even to the very end. He never complained,” she said.
Zlaket met Judge Alley in law school in the early 1960s, and the two became close friends. The chief justice said Judge Alley had called about a week ago and asked him to name another presiding judge.
“He told me that over the last few weeks he had not been going to the office, that he had no energy at all,” Zlaket said. “He was quite disappointed because, for Gordon, his job was very important, and he took it very seriously.”
Zlaket said next year’s incoming chief justice, Vice Chief Justice Charles E. Jones, will select a new presiding judge.
Dave LeCompte, Judge Alley’s bailiff throughout his judicial career and a friend since the early 1960s, remembers with humor how he met the judge years ago while playing basketball on an opposing city team. LeCompte was guarding Judge Alley, and tensions rose. They got into a fistfight.
“And then we became really good friends,” LeCompte said, laughing.
LeCompte had just closed a business in 1990 when he talked with Judge Alley about becoming a bailiff.
“I thought I might do it for six months, but it became such a part of me that here I am today,” LeCompte said. “I’ve lost a great friend. We’ve cried a lot today, and we’ve laughed a lot today.”
LeCompte said he and Judge Alley had coffee and lunch together each day. LeCompte enjoyed hearing about cases and the reasons behind Judge Alley’s rulings.
The judge permitted a first-time sentence in Pima County in May 1999 with the case of Christopher E. Mejia, who killed Karla Taylor-Grijalva while driving drunk. At the victim’s family’s request, Judge Alley sentenced Mejia to five years of intensive probation and a year of visiting Taylor-Grijalva’s grave once a week. Mejia normally would have faced from one to 3fl years in prison for the negligent homicide charge.
Attorney Sean Healy, son of Judge Alley’s longtime friend, the late-William Timothy Healy, fondly remembers his father’s friendship with Judge Alley.
Attorney William T. Healy, who died in July, encouraged Judge Alley’s legal career when they first met in 1964. Along with Zlaket and LeCompte, the friends enjoyed annual skiing trips and took their last one together in February.
“They’re probably up there planning a ski trip right now,” Sean Healy said.