‘One of a kind’ judge Kathleen White succumbs to cancer

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Judge Kathleen White. (Courtesy photo)

Kathleen M. White, a longtime attorney who served 15 years on the Yolo Superior Court bench, succumbed to neuroendocrine cancer on Sunday, July 31, 2022, surrounded by family at her Monterey home. She was 68.

“Judge White was a person of extraordinary talents, and she will be missed greatly by the entire courthouse community,” Presiding Yolo Judge Daniel Maguire said. “Her intelligence, humor and energy were truly one of a kind.” 

White served as the court’s chief administrator prior to her judicial appointment, and was a driving force behind the design of the modern Yolo County Courthouse that opened on Main Street in 2015. 

She was born to James and Katherine White in Queens, New York, in 1954, the third of five children. Her family moved throughout the country during her childhood, following James White’s electronics industry career. 

At the high schools she attended in Deerfield, Ill., and Guilford, Conn., White “distinguished herself academically and as the concert master for her school orchestra,” her family said. “She was frequently asked to join other orchestras and quartets in need of her violin skills and musicianship.”  

After graduating with honors from Duke University in 1976, White found success as a theatrical agent representing television, film and theater actors in New York. Her family noted: “When confronted with contentious lawyers, she concluded they were much easier to handle than temperamental actors.”

White ultimately gravitated toward the law herself, graduating with honors in 1984 from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, where she edited the law review.

She was a litigator for the international law firm of White & Case in Los Angeles when she met and married her husband, Raymond Ramirez. Their eldest son Jim was born in 1989, followed by twins Jack and Matt in 1992. 

“She often remarked that nothing in her life was as joyous or as challenging as raising three rambunctious boys,” White’s family said. “She was immensely proud of her sons’ growth from mischievous youths into men of character, integrity and compassion.”

Appointed to the Yolo Superior Court bench in 2003, White earned a reputation for running a tight ship, but with compassion, civility and wit. 

“Her knowledge and experience in a vast variety of case types including complex civil, criminal, juvenile and family law were legendary,” court officials said. “Her dedication to serve, sharp legal mind and inquisitive approach to the law was self-evident to all that knew her.” 

White extended that knowledge to numerous local and statewide committees, as well as at teaching seminars where she spoke on judicial education and court administration issues. She chaired the design committee for the six-story, 14-courtroom Yolo County Courthouse, where a  commemorative stone at the building’s entrance recognizes her service. 

In retirement, White served on the board of directors for the Monterey County Salvation Army, who noted that “her generosity and passion were boundless,” according to her family. “She brought with her a lifetime of experience solving problems. She had a quiet demeanor but when she spoke the board listened.” 

Her other interests were “eclectic and vast,” White’s family said, including writing, music, gardening, knitting and trivia. “In her last few years, she found joy in kayaking Monterey Bay and spending time with her beloved Havanese, Chico, and her husband at their artfully restored historic Monterey home.”

In addition to her husband and sons, White is survived by her siblings Jeffrey White of Westport, Conn.; Dr. J. Douglas White of Potomac, Md.; Madeleine White of Coppell, Texas; and Michael White of Atlanta, Ga.; their spouses, as well as 10 nieces/nephews and five grandnieces/nephews.

White asked that her life be celebrated with “music, drink and joy in a classic Irish wake. No sad stories.” Her family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations go to Yolo County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) at yolocasa.org or CASA of Monterey at casaofmonterey.org to support advocates helping children under foster care.

Details regarding White’s memorial celebration are forthcoming. Anyone with urgent messages for the family may contact Matt White at Matt.m.ram@gmail.com.

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