Judge Monroe McKay

2020 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Tenth Circuit

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA–The late Judge Monroe McKay has been selected to receive the prestigious 2020 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Tenth Circuit. McKay was a senior circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Salt Lake City and still hearing cases and writing opinions until his death in March at age 91.

“Judge McKay’s humble upbringing provided the foundation for a life caring for other people,” says Judge Robert Bacharach of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, who nominated his colleague for the professionalism award. “Judge McKay’s lifetime of good acts reflects the essence of character, integrity, and dedication.”

President Jimmy Carter appointed McKay to the Tenth Circuit in 1977. McKay served as chief judge from 1991 to 1993. He assumed senior status in 1994.

Born in rural Utah in 1928, McKay helped support his mother and seven siblings after his father’s death when McKay was just 13 by milking cows, farming, and driving a truck before becoming a sheep herder at age 16. After graduating from high school, McKay served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948. He served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints in South Africa before earning an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in 1957. He earned his law degree in 1960 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was managing editor of the law review and a member of the Order of the Coif.

McKay clerked for Justice Jesse Udall of the Arizona Supreme Court, then became an associate with the law firm Lewis and Roca. After a two-year stint as director of the Peace Corps in Malawi, he returned to the firm as a partner. In 1974, he joined the faculty of the brand-new J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young. He returned to South Africa on a mission for his church after taking senior status with the court.

McKay was a founding member of the A. Sherman Christensen Inn of Court in Salt Lake City, which was the first American Inn of Court to be established.

The father of nine children and grandfather to 31, McKay was a renowned storyteller and an avid birder.