Inyo County lost a long-time public servant and well respected community member Tuesday afternoon.
Born Oct. 20, 1946, retired Inyo County Superior Court Judge Patrick Canfield passed away shortly before noon Tuesday of apparent cardiac arrest.
A life-long athlete with a passion for football and rugby, Canfield graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1964. He went on to study at Stanford University, where he joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He also spent a year studying abroad on Stanfordâs Florence, Italy campus in 1966.
Canfield earned his law degree from Hastings School of Law in San Francisco, graduating in 1971.
From there he opened a private practice in his home town of Santa Barbara before taking a position as a deputy district attorney in the Fresno County D.A.âs office in 1972.
In 1974 Canfield moved to the Eastern Sierra to take a Deputy D.A. position under D.A. Frank Fowles. During his time at the Inyo County D.A.âs Office, Canfield worked under Fowels and D.A. âBuckâ Gibbons.
In 1981, when Canfield was 35 years old, he was appointed by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to serve as a Justice Court Judge. Over the years, Canfield helped guide Inyo courts through a reorganization of the court system that eliminated the Justice Court Judge position and changed that position to the Municipal Court Judge. Eventually, the Municipal Court Judge was renamed the Superior Court Judge.
Over the course of his career as an Inyo County judge, Canfield was reelected several times without opposition.
Retired District Attorney Phil McDowell, who began work in the Inyo D.A.âs Office at about the same time as Canfield, said he was close with the judge over the years. âHe was a popular judge, well respected. He never had any of his decisions challenged,â McDowell said, explaining that Canfield leaves behind a legacy âand tradition of fairness, even-handedness. He was unflappable. When you went into his court you knew he had total control. But he was calm in his demeanor. Itâs a subtle trait, calm confidence.â
McDowell and current D.A. Tom Hardy said that Canfield had an extensive knowledge of the law, which he applied in both his career as a prosecutor and as a judge. âHe did very well as a prosecutor for nine years. He seemed to enjoy both jobs,â McDowell said, adding that Canfieldâs ascension from prosecutor to judge was result of his drive to serve the community. âHe did it for the best of reasons,â McDowell said.
Hardy said Canfield was a well-respected colleague and mentor to him personally. âHeâs probably one of the most important people in my professional life,â Hardy said. âWhen I was assistant D.A. in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he handled the criminal calendar (as a Superior Court Judge) and I worked with him almost every day. As far as Iâm concerned, he was one of the finest and most honorable judges I ever encountered. He was an absolute professional and it was always an honor to be in court with him.â
Canfield retired in 2002, but continued to serve as a part-time assigned judge. McDowell said he worked mostly in Inyo and Mono counties, but also traveled throughout the state when needed.
In recent years Canfield joined the Board of Trustees of the Donald M. Slager â Sunset Foundation, which provides scholarships to local students each year, and he was very involved in the United Methodist Church Menâs Group. He was also a longtime member of the Bishop Rotary Club.
Canfield leaves behind his wife, Dori; three children and their spouses, grandchildren and a grateful community.
âHe will be terribly missed,â Hardy said. âItâs just hard to believe heâs not going to be around anymore.
McDowell agreed. âAll of us, whether we were friends or we knew him professionally, will miss him very much,â he said.