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Fellow jurists on Thursday recalled William Channell — a former presiding judge in Contra Costa County and a First District Court of Appeal justice for five years — as the “consummate” lawyer and judge. Channell, 82, died May 7 from Parkinson’s disease. “I’ve never heard anyone discuss Bill Channell without calling him ‘the consummate gentleman,’” said First District Justice Mark Simons, who tried his first felony case as a deputy public defender in 1973 in front of Channell in Contra Costa County Superior Court. “I’m from a generation of judges in Contra Costa County who I’m certain when applying for their position and were asked, what judge do you know that you would model yourself after, would have said Bill Channell.” First District Justice Douglas Swager, who appeared before Channell as a “newly minted attorney” in the early ’70s, and retired Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Richard Arnason, who served on the court with Channell, recalled the jurist’s sense of humor. Simons said Channell could diffuse a tense courtroom with “easygoing humor,” while Arnason said Channell had a “funny way of laughing.” “He loved to chuckle,” Arnason said fondly. “And even though he was not a heavyset guy, his stomach would kind of roll a little bit.” Born in Oakland, Channell was a World War II veteran who served as an infantryman in the European theater. He took pre-law courses at Stanford University prior to his military service, graduating from Hastings College of the Law in 1949. Channell was a deputy district attorney in Alameda County for three years, followed by 10 years at Oakland’s Berry, Davis, Channell & McNamara and seven years with Walnut Creek’s Channell, McNamara & Lewis. He specialized in casualty defense work. In 1970, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed Channell to the Contra Costa County Superior Court, where he served as presiding judge three times. The Alameda-Contra Costa Lawyers Association named him “Trial Judge of the Year” in 1977. Former Gov. George Deukmejian elevated Channell to the First District in 1985. He retired in 1990, working for a while with JAMS. Channell is survived by his wife, Patricia, of Lafayette; a daughter, Nancy Dunn, of Clayton; and a son, William Channell Jr., of Sunnyvale. A memorial celebration will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Claremont Country Club at 5295 Broadway Terrace in Oakland. Justice Swager said he and other appellate justices plan to attend. “He was a judge’s judge,” Swager said.

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