DeVore has horse, gavel |

DeVore has horse, gavel

Susan Wood

Attorney Dave DeVore, 56, has lived and worked by the principle that balance is good for society.

And come June, the Feldman, Shaw and DeVore lawyer – who’s worked both sides of the courtroom aisle – will be able to practice that theory when he takes a judgeship on the Alpine County Superior Court bench. He’ll be sworn in June 2.

The avid equestrian who balances work with riding, fishing and hiking may commute to work from his Markleeville house on his horse.

“Actually, I could. A trail goes right by our house and through Markleeville,” DeVore said of his 3-year home.

Following a lengthy process, Gov. Gray Davis appointed DeVore last week to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Thomas Kelly. He left the post a year ago this week.

“The governor is always looking for the best and the brightest, and Mr. DeVore seems to fit that role,” Davis’ spokesman Roger Salazar said. “We think he’s an excellent choice.”

DeVore, who will receive an annual salary of $133,051, said he won’t miss Lake Tahoe because he still feels connected with the community. He expects to serve the bench in Lake Tahoe on occasion.

DeVore’s business partner, Lew Feldman, said he’ll miss his confidante of 22 years.

“We’re proud of Dave. We’ve been really supportive of this effort,” Feldman said.

DeVore’s wife, Joyce, was pleased about the news the couple discovered last week. The English and French teacher will retire after this year at South Tahoe High School, where their son Grant is a senior. Their daughter, Kate, is a junior at University of California, Davis.

“They’re not necessarily in awe,” DeVore said of his children’s reactions. “They help keep me grounded.”

It appears DeVore’s background and experiences also ground him.

He’s worked in both the El Dorado County District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices. He has tried 150 cases, including 40 jury trials.

In DeVore’s most memorable jury trial, he was tapped by a San Diego judge as the sixth lawyer representing an ex-convict with a weapon.

“I told the judge, ‘this guy is going to get hot. He’s going to take (the situation) out on me,’ ” DeVore said of a man that looked like Hulk Hogan from a diligent weight-lifting routine in prison. “The judge said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll have extra security there just in case.’ “

When the bailiff announced: “Please rise,” the defendant went berserk.

He heaved a 7-by-4-foot, solid wooden table over the court clerk and recorder’s head. It landed on the bench of the judge, who quickly scurried out of the courtroom.

“People were screaming, women’s purses were flying, and there was a pile-up at the (courtroom) door. It looked like a fire in a movie theater,” DeVore recalled.

The defendant made a bee-line to DeVore, who tried to cut out the door before he was tackled and forced into a wrestling match with the man he represented.

The defendant’s wrath didn’t end that day.

Two days later, he spit on a new jury that consequently convicted him.

After getting out of jail, the defendant’s alleged first stop was the California Bar Association to hunt down DeVore for a substandard defense in the felon’s eyes.

The most heart-wrenching cases have been domestic abuse situations – especially the ones involving children.

“My first homicide case involved a child. It affected me deeply,” he said.

These types of cases remind those on the front line of the legal field how important it is to draw a professional-to-personal line.

Looking back on his civil cases, DeVore was pleased with the outcome of a case in which a delivery worker was injured when his load fell on him as a result of potholes in a Lake Tahoe store’s drive-up area.

The judge suggested the plaintiff should accept damages amounting to $75,000, the amount of the man’s medical bills. DeVore declined, and the supermarket was found negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $400,000 in the civil verdict.

As a prosecutor, DeVore admitted how difficult it is to encounter those people put in jail on the streets of a small town like South Lake Tahoe.

“Being in any kind of public service in the legal field puts you in a fish bowl,” he said. DeVore considered this before taking the judgeship, an honor he said he never had aspirations for early in his career.

DeVore’s most “chilling” prosecution involved a man charged with murder, who was raised in a Nazi party family.

“(The appointment) has given me cause for reflection. In the last 25 years, I’ve worked with good lawyers and top-notch forensic scientists,” he said.

DeVore earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from California State University, San Diego. He received his doctorate from the University of San Diego Law School.

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