Frank X. Gordon Jr., a former Arizona Supreme Court chief justice who drew high marks for how he presided over the 1988 impeachment trial that resulted in the removal of Gov. Evan Mecham, has died.
Gordon died Monday, three days before his 91st birthday, the state high court said in a statement Thursday. It did not specify cause of death.
Mecham’s impeachment trial resulted in the first-term conservative Republican’s removal from office for misuse of public money and obstruction of justice.
In presiding over the impeachment trial, Gordon earned the respect of senators who “understood that he was a leader,” said Robert Glennon, a University of Arizona law professor who has written about the case.
“He did great,”” Glennon said. “He was a consummate gentleman and he conducted himself in a way that reflected well on himself, on the bench and the entire legal profession.”
Paul Esckstein, one of the impeachment prosecutors, said Arizona was lucky to have Gordon as chief justice to preside over the trial.
He was courteous and fair but also firm, Eckstein said.
“It wasn’t easy to hold everyone in check but he did,” Eckstein said. “Just a great man for the position who served with incredible class and judgment.”
Daniel Adelman, a Phoenix lawyer who in 1988 was one of the judge’s two law clerks, said Gordon did a masterful job of educating legislators on how trials are conducted and avoiding the impression that he was encroaching on their duty to judge the facts.
“He made such an effort to let them know he was going to be fair and impartial and they all believed it on both sides of the aisle,” Adelman said.
Adelman and fellow co-clerk Frederick Petti wrote in a 2005 article about the impeachment case that Gordon each night during the trial had his clerks research likely legal issues that might come up the next day. Gordon was provided a state Department of Public Safety driver during the trial because of death threats.
Gordon was a Mohave County Superior Court judge when Gov. Raul Castro appointed him as a justice in 1975. He was the first appellate judge appointed under a new merit selection process approved by voters.
Gordon joined a Phoenix law firm after he retired from the bench in 1992.
Survivors include his wife of nearly 80 years, Joan, children Trey and Candy, three grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Son Scott Gordon died previously.
Memorial services will be held Monday after visitation at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Phoenix, followed by graveside services at noon Jan. 17 at Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman.