Gene Gomes, Court of Appeal justice in Fresno, dies at 72

Justice Gene Gomes
Justice Gene Gomes

Gene M. Gomes, a justice on the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno, has died. He was 72.

He died Tuesday at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno after battling a respiratory ailment for several weeks, according to friends.

Gomes, a native son, was loved for his wit and wisdom, his fellow judges said.

"He was a one in a million person," said Fresno Superior Court Judge Michael Idiart. "For 40 years, we had a so-called deer hunting club. We don't really hunt deer … He was the life of our party. He kept us all together."

Gomes was respected for his good sense on the bench, Idiart said. "He was not afraid to find justice," he said.

Gomes was born in Fresno in 1946. He graduated from Fresno High in 1963 and Fresno State in 1969.

He received his law degree in 1972 from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and was a prosecutor in the Fresno County District Attorney's Office from 1972 to 1977.

Following that, he went into private practice with the firm of Gomes, Gomes, Fisk and Berman.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Gomes to the Municipal Court in 1980 and to the Fresno Superior Court in 1982, where he served as presiding judge of the criminal department for 11 years.

In 2002, Gov. Gray Davis named Gomes to the Court of Appeal.

Retired Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Bob Freed said everyone in the law world liked Gomes.

"He was bigger than life," Freed said.

Freed said that at the Superior Court, Gomes was in charge of the sentencing court overseeing plea deals for criminal defendants and was known statewide for his work there. When he left, it took more than one judge to replace him, he said.

Justice Brad Hill, presiding judge at the 5th District Court of Appeal, said Gomes was well-read and well-informed.

"He always brightened a room," Hill said. "He was witty, he was fun, but there was a lot of substance there."

He is survived by his wife Rebecca, who he married in 1970, and two children, Elliott Gomes and Leslie Yengoyan.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold