Professor Miguel Méndez Dies at 74
Professor Miguel Méndez, one of the foremost scholars of his generation in the field of evidence law, a prominent civil rights attorney, and a distinguished legal educator who taught for decades at Stanford Law School before joining the UC Davis School of Law faculty in 2009, died on May 25 following a long battle with cancer.
“Miguel Méndez was a wonderful person as well as a scholar, teacher, mentor, and friend,” said Kevin R. Johnson, Dean of UC Davis School of Law. “Caring and decent as well as brilliant and full of life, Miguel was as honorable a person as there could be. UC Davis and the entire Davis community mourn his loss.”
Méndez grew up in Brownsville, Texas and was inspired to pursue a legal career by his father, a prominent judge and labor lawyer. He earned his undergraduate degree and juris doctorate at George Washington University and worked as a law clerk for the United States Court of Claims, a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Alan Cranston, a staff attorney at MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund), Deputy Director of California Rural Legal Assistance, and as a deputy public defender in Monterey County, California.
In 1977, Méndez accepted an invitation to join the faculty at Stanford Law School, a decision that launched a spectacular academic career. He was known as a devoted and innovative instructor, teaching Evidence, Criminal Law, Trial Advocacy, and other subjects. He published extensively, authoring Evidence—A Concise Comparison of the Federal Rules with the California Code; Evidence: The California Evidence Code & the Federal Rules—A Problem Approach; Evidentiary Foundations: Proven Strategies and Techniques, and California Evidence. His articles appeared in some of the nation's leading law reviews, and his work was cited extensively in leading evidence scholarship.
Méndez won numerous honors for his scholarship and community work, including awards from the National Hispanic Bar Foundation (2008), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (1989), Hispanic National Bar Association (1993), Legal Aid Society (2003), and Public Advocates (1997). In 1997, the California Assembly passed a resolution recognizing his work as a professor. He held the Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law Chair at Stanford, where he taught for more than 30 years.
Attracted by the opportunity to work with Dean Kevin R. Johnson and eager to be near his daughter, who had enrolled as an undergraduate at UC Davis, Méndez joined the King Hall faculty in 2009. He taught Evidence, Criminal Law, and Advanced Evidence until his retirement from full-time teaching in 2014.
Méndez is survived by his two daughters, Arabela and Gabriela. A celebration of his life will be held at 1 pm Sunday, June 11, at Trinity Presbyterian Church in San Carlos. The Méndez family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to scholarship funds at Stanford Law School or UC Davis School of Law, or to the Community Outreach Fund at San Carlos Trinity Presbyterian.