Yada T. Magee, an Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge for 22 years before she stepped off the bench in 2008, died Sunday evening after a long cancer-related illness. She was 60.
Magee, who lived on the West Bank, presided over several high-profile cases during her years on the bench.
Perhaps the most famous was a class-action lawsuit against the Dow Chemical Co. over breast implants, with a jury finding that the company was negligent in implant testing and had deceived women about the potential health risks.
Friends described Magee as a devout Christian — she held a master of divinity degree — who melded her faith with her law career.
She wrote a Christian motivational book called “Subpoenaed for Service” and produced a seminar titled “The Church and 21st Century Legal Issues.” She also wrote a pair of Christian plays.
Magee was a former instructor at Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary and former superintendent of Myrtle Magee Christian Academy, named for her mother. She also directed Christian education at The Way Jesus Christ Christian Church in New Orleans.
Magee, whose parents operated the Magee Funeral Home, graduated in 1979 from Loyola Law School and worked first in the City Attorney’s Office. She then turned to private practice, first for herself and then as a partner in the Magee, Knighten and Slack firm in the mid-1980s, according to a court notice of her death.
She became active in legal circles, as recording secretary of the Louisiana Judicial Council of the National Bar Association and chairwoman of the council from 2009 to 2011.
Magee left the Civil District Court bench in 2008, having served for two years as chief judge, said lawyer Keith Doley, a longtime friend.
“She figured she had served her time and was going to allow someone else to come behind her and do it,” he said.
Magee never married and had no children, Doley said.
“She would tell you she was married to God,” he said. “Her faith drove her or guided her throughout her life. She had just a beautiful personality, but you always wanted to stay on her good side. You never wanted to get on her tablet in her desk drawer.”
Magee’s death drew a host of remembrances from the legal community. In a statement, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Judge Bernette Johnson described a 30-year friendship with Magee, from their days as young deputy city attorneys and their years on the civil court bench.
“I will miss her infectious laugh and her sage advice,” Johnson said in a statement. “We will all miss her spirituality and her love for the people who touched her life.”
Civil District Court Chief Judge Kern Reese described Magee as “a vibrant personality who wanted to be fair to all people ... a dedicated Christian who truly put God in every phase of her life.”
Gwiena Patin, one of Magee’s three siblings, described her as “a person who was very decisive. It was yes or no.”
She said Magee remained active up until the last seven months or so, following an earlier recovery from health problems.
Magee also is survived by a sister, Quivander Jiminez, and a brother, Zefferieno Magee.
Services were still being planned Monday, Patin said.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.