|April 14, 2003
Justice McKinnon championed civil liberties, mediation, jazz
By Leslie Hoffman
The Associated Press
Former state Supreme Court Justice Dan McKinnon III has died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 63.
McKinnon was appointed to the high court by former Gov. Gary Johnson and served from 1996 to 1998. He ran for a seat on the court in 1998 but lost in the Democratic primary.
He was hospitalized April 7 in Florida and flown days later to Albuquerque's Lovelace Medical Center, where he died Saturday, said his wife, Eleanor McKinnon.
Family members said they will remember the longtime Albuquerque lawyer as an honest, gentle and forthright man whose parting words were always "peace and love."
McKinnon, who was an advocate of the mediation process, also served as a special master in various cases across the state.
In one of those cases, he was appointed to decide whether the state was complying with a court-ordered funding system for school construction projects. Zuni schools filed a lawsuit in 1998 over the way New Mexico distributed money for such projects.
McKinnon moved to Albuquerque as a toddler when his family relocated from Rochester, Minn.
He graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1957 and then received his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of New Mexico in 1962. He studied law at the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating in 1965 and returning to Albuquerque, where he spent his entire career.
"He called himself a street lawyer," said his sister-in-law, June Romero, because of the variety of cases he handled.
In one case, Eleanor McKinnon said, her husband stood by his client steadfastly for almost a decade. She said the murder case against Pete Garcia, who was charged in the shooting death of a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy, spanned from 1969 to 1978 and ended in a voluntary manslaughter conviction that spared Garcia the death penalty.
Throughout his law career, McKinnon took a special interest in civil liberties issues and was a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, his wife said.
He was named a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1990 and received the Albuquerque Bar Association's outstanding judge award in 1998.
McKinnon also served on the Albuquerque Board of Education from 1971 to 1977 and the Technical Vocational Institute's board from 1988 to 1996.
He enjoyed music and was an accomplished jazz drummer.
"We believe he was the only Supreme Court justice who played jazz at his own swearing-in ceremony," Romero said.
Services are planned for Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Albuquerque's First United Methodist Church.
McKinnon's survivors include his wife, a daughter, a son, five grandchildren and two sisters.