damn in the old days you didnt have to go to college to become a lawyer.

Yale McFate, an attorney in private practice, a prosecutor, even a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, he never went to law school. Instead he "read the law" as a clerk for a Prescott attorney and then passed the State Bar exam.


'Miranda' judge McFate, 96, dies He never went to law school

Michael Kiefer The Arizona Republic Feb. 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Yale McFate, the Maricopa County Superior Court judge who presided over the 1963 rape case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court's Miranda decision and the police incantation that starts "You have the right to remain silent," died Jan. 28 of cancer. He was 96.

McFate was a lawyer from another century. He was born in Arizona before it was a state, and he served in its Legislature and on the Corporation Commission.

And although he had been an attorney in private practice, a prosecutor, even a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, he never went to law school. Instead he "read the law" as a clerk for a Prescott attorney and then passed the State Bar exam.

"He knew the law," said Judge Robert Gottsfield. "I had no idea he never went to law school."

Jay Dushoff, who has practiced law in Phoenix since the 1950s, said, "He was a good solid judge, soft-spoken yet always in control of the court. He had marvelous judicial temperament."

McFate was born in 1909 in Thatcher, in the Arizona Territory. He studied at the Northern Arizona State Teachers College in Flagstaff. But he decided to be a lawyer instead of a schoolteacher, studying law by himself at night until he passed the Bar in 1934. In 1943, McFate was elected to the state Legislature from Prescott. But shortly after his election, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor during World War II.

In 1957, Gov. Ernest McFarland appointed McFate to the Superior Court, where he remained until he retired in 1979 at age 70. He went on to hear cases at the Arizona Court of Appeals.

While on the Superior Court bench, McFate presided over three cases of international importance.

In 1960, he dismissed a drug possession charge against a Navajo woman who had been arrested for using peyote during Native American religious ceremonies. McFate ruled that banning the use of the drug was a violation of the woman's constitutional right to freedom of religion. The case was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

And in 1962, following Arizona law at the time, he refused to allow Sherry Finkbine, star of a local children's educational TV show, to get a legal abortion. During her pregnancy, Finkbine had taken the drug Thalidomide, which had been found to cause birth defects. She later went to Sweden to have the abortion.

But the most infamous case to pass through his courtroom involved a man accused of rape and robbery. In 1963, Phoenix police arrested Ernesto Miranda on suspicion of raping one woman and robbing another in two separate incidents. After police led Miranda to believe that he had been identified in a lineup, he wrote his confession.

But Miranda's defense attorney argued that he had a right under the Constitution to have a lawyer present while being questioned in the police station. McFate allowed the confession into evidence. Miranda was found guilty in back-to-back trials.

Although the state Supreme Court upheld McFate's ruling, the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and changed the way police handle arrested suspects.

"Judge McFate was never a fan of the Miranda decision," said Gary L. Stuart, who wrote a book about the case. "He believed the Constitution did not require police officers to remind defendants of anything."

McFate is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sandra, and by two daughters, Joyce McFate of Phoenix and Sheri Kerr of Maui.

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