Aug 14, 2023
Vernon F. Smith (1943 - 2023)
Aug 14, 2023
By Gary T. Ragghianti
Judge Vernon F Smith died on July 28 at home in Novato with his family at his bedside.
I was privileged to have been a friend and colleague of his for over 50 years, which we both agreed passed too swiftly. Our long friendship started when we met in college. We attended law school together, worked in the Marin DA’s office as our first jobs practicing law, together, I introduced him to the woman (Linda) who would become his wife of 52 years, was the best man at his wedding and appeared before him when he sat as both a Municipal and Superior Court Judge.
Vern was born in San Francisco. His father and uncle were both lawyers. He moved to San Anselmo in 1955 when he was in the 8th grade. He attended what was then called Drake High School.
Vern attended college at USF where he graduated in 1965. He then attended USF law school where we were classmates. He graduated from law school in 1968 and shortly thereafter joined the Marin County DA’s office in the old courthouse on 4th street which burned in the 70” s and is now the site of the 1000 4th St office building.
When Vern arrived at the DA’s office I was already working there. During the several years we worked together, I witnessed his reputation evolve and grow quickly as an accomplished trial lawyer. He was competent, prepared and even tempered, qualities that stayed with him throughout his entire career.
Vern would stay 5 years in the D’A’s office before departing to commence private practice in Novato where he lived. He joined the firm of Trumble & Rush and would stay with them all his time in private practice, trying both criminal and civil cases. Vern’s reputation continued to display itself and preceded him wherever he went. Caring, competent, always prepared, and able to argue a point with an opponent aggressively without ever making it personal.
Vern applied for a position as a Court Commissioner in 1982 and got the job. He loved serving as a commissioner and acquitted himself with his usual excellence.
He would remain as a Court Commissioner until 1987 when he was elected to the then Municipal Court. He became a Superior Court judge when the Muni and Superior courts were combined and played a major role in the Court consolidation process. Vern was elected to both the Muni and Superior courts. In 1996 he rebuffed a challenger easily.
Vern’ reputation while on the bench was well earned. He was particularly well tempered, ran a firm, fair and courteous courtroom. Even on the bench, with its daily pressures, he was uniformly labeled a nice person. Quite a compliment indeed.
Vern retired on 1/4/2007. When he left the bench, he stated he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife Linda and his family.
After retirement he was recruited by local ADR provider Resolution Remedies. He served as a meditator for them until he stepped down in 2023. As a mediator he used all his gifts and legal experience to become a sought-after and very skilled mediator.
While Vern’s health issues were known to his close friends over the last several months that foreboding knowledge did nothing to lessen the delivery of a blow when he left us last month. I will treasure the memory of our friendship all my remaining time. Vern was a man of great class and unquestioned integrity with an unerring moral compass. As an accomplished lawyer and a judge who graced our bench for over twenty years, whenever I think of him, I shall always smile and say… “You made us all proud Vern”.
Thank you, dear friend.
May you rest in peace.
Gary T. Ragghianti
Services will be on Sunday, August 27 at 1 pm at Jonas Center, Novato