Recall of retired SLO defense lawyer killed in car crash



James Maguire, seen here as a public defender, died in a car crash in Santa Margarita on Tuesday, November 24, 2021. He worked in San Luis Obispo County as a defense attorney for four decades.

A longtime San Luis Obispo public defender who represented serial killer Rex Krebs died in a car crash in Santa Margarita on Tuesday, plunging the local legal community into shock and mourning.

James “Jim” Maguire, 76, was killed when his pickup truck collided with a turning semi-truck on Pozo Road just east of Las Pilitas Road at around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday,

Maguire has spent most of his career practicing criminal defense after starting as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in 1972.

Maguire became a partner of the Maguire & Ashbaugh company in San Luis Obispo in 1980, retiring in 2016. He also owned the Riconada dairy farm in Santa Margarita with his wife, Christine.

In total, Maguire practiced law for 46 years.

Sunni Jackson, accompanied by her lawyer, James Maguire, appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court in June 2013. [email protected]

SLO County lawyer killed in crash grew up in military family

Born in Abington, Pa. On June 16, 1944, Maguire grew up in a military family and moved often. His father was a squadron leader and fighter pilot in the US Marine Corps, according to a 2016 article by defense attorney Raymond Allen in the SLO County Bar Bulletin.

Maguire attended Occidental College and later Hastings College of Law in San Francisco between 1965 and 1968. He was subsequently drafted into the United States Army.

“(Maguire’s father), who had been to Vietnam several times, told his son that the conflict was not” our war “and that he should do whatever he could honorably do to. stay out, ”Allen wrote. “He asked for a commission to become an officer and, as fate would have it, the army personnel office lost his file.”

When the file was finally found, “The military offered to make Maguire a lieutenant if he extended his service date, but he refused,” Allen wrote.

Maguire first met his wife, Christine Dawson, in 1975, when the couple were formed by friends over dinner in North Beach.

They looked for a rural place to live and settled in San Luis Obispo County.

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Rex Krebs appears with Public Defender James B. Maguire during his indictment in 1999. [email protected] David Middlecamp

The public defender was part of Rex Krebs’ legal team

At Maguire & Ashbaugh, Maguire and his 36-year-old partner, Patricia Ashbaugh, managed a team of more than 20 lawyers and around 15 support staff, including investigators.

During a lengthy, widely publicized trial in 2001, Maguire was part of the legal team that defended Krebs, who was ultimately convicted of raping and killing two young women in SLO County in the 1990s. Krebs is currently on death row.

In defending the serial killer, Allen wrote, Maguire spoke of “the story behind the story – the broken house Krebs had fled and the abuse Krebs suffered.”

“He reminded the jury that we are all made up of good and bad,” Allen wrote.

“(Maguire) was a wonderful litigator because all of these things that Jim was as a person as a man went before a jury,” said Ashbaugh, another member of Krebs’ defense team. “He was honest, he was compassionate and he was fair, so when Jim spoke people listened and they cared.”

“We really never had a disagreement,” she added. “The way Jim was, you just sat down and talked about things and reached a place where we were both happy and comfortable. I always feel like it was a huge privilege, quite honestly, to be in a business relationship and to have that kind of friendship with someone.

Jim Maguire feeds goats and sheep at Riconada dairy farm in Santa Margarita in 2014. Rinconada dairy processes sheep and goats, makes cheese, and offers farm stays and tours. [email protected]

Maguire balanced his duties as a defense lawyer with his passion for agriculture.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge Matt Guerrero, who worked with Maguire as a public defender for 15 years, recalled that Maguire visited the barn at Riconada dairy farm at 5 a.m. then had left in time to go to court.

“Then he would go home and work after dark,” Guerrero said. “No one knew where he got his energy from.”

Maguire died about half a mile from his farm, said Steven Rice, a partner at Maguire’s former company, now known as San Luis Obispo Defenders.

When the accident happened, Ashbaugh said Maguire was returning home after picking up an order for pizza.

Jim Maguire brings hay and grain to the pigs and sheep at the Rinconada dairy in Santa Margarita. [email protected]

Legal community reacts to defense attorney’s death

On Wednesday, members of the legal community expressed their admiration for Maguire and his legacy.

“I’m heartbroken,” Guerrero said. “Jim was a wise man who used his intellect to show compassion towards others. Although most of us had known him for decades, I never heard anyone criticize him or say negative work. He was respected and loved and sought after for his advice.

“Most of us cried (after hearing of her death) because we lost a role model and a friend,” Guerrero added.

Rice called Maguire a humble but “stubborn advocate.”

“Like most public defenders, he has handled thousands of cases,” Rice said. “Jim was best known for his patience and mentorship. He has always had an open door policy. He always took the time to speak with us, the lawyers, for advice or whatever else we needed. “

SLO Defenders partner Brian Buckley, who started working under Maguire in 2007, said the late lawyer “has never been frustrated with lawyers or clients.”

“It was great to learn from him as a young lawyer,” Buckley said. “Even though I gained more experience, he still had a lot to teach and always wanted to be of help.”

In a joint email, Allen and his wife, Jennifer Alton, called Maguire a “kind, noble and honorable” who was “viewed with immeasurable reverence, consideration, respect and love.” … Our collective hearts cry.

And SLO County Public Defender Ken Cirisan, who worked with Maguire for almost 40 years, called the late lawyer “the best boss you could ask for.”

In a statement, San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow praised Maguire’s “boundless energy and passion”, noting that the community has lost a “good and honorable man”.

“He embodied the best qualities and character traits a lawyer could exhibit,” said Dow. “It has been a privilege to serve together in our courthouse.”

“Jim made a lasting impression on me as an honest, humble and hardworking friend and advocate who has earned the trust and respect of his clients and opposing lawyer,” said Dow.

Former Assistant District Attorney Dan Hilford echoed that sentiment.

“We were in court everyday, for hours together, and it was always a pleasure to deal with him,” Hilford said over the phone. “She was a good person outside the courtroom. He was a good lawyer in the courtroom.

“We could arm wrestle as well as anyone, but I don’t think there is anyone who would say a mean, bad or mean word about Jim,” Hilford said. “He just left a huge mark on the legal community and I think he’s a guy everyone looked up to.”

This story was originally published November 25, 2021 at 8:00 a.m.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly on K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.


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