Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge William McLafferty — known for his bow ties, affability and even disposition on the bench — died Friday after a month-long illness. He was 70.

McLafferty had been battling complications from early December lung surgery and he died Friday afternoon at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Family friends and a court official told Noozhawk on Saturday that one of McLafferty’s lungs had been removed decades ago as a result of a tumor. A similar mass reportedly developed last year in his remaining lung.

Appointed to the Superior Court bench in 1997, McLafferty presided over criminal and then civil cases during his 12 years as a judge. His most recent high-profile case was the legal challenge to 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr’s 2008 election. The losing candidate, Steve Pappas, alleged that voter fraud from UCSB and Isla Vista precincts resulted in Farr’s approximately 800-vote victory out of 35,000 ballots cast. McLafferty rejected the challenge in March 2009, ruling that no evidence of fraud had been presented.

“Judge McLafferty was one of the most highly regarded judges to have ever served Santa Barbara County,” said trial attorney John Poucher, a partner at Hollister & Brace. “I’ve been at this for over 40 years, and thought he was the best.

“He was decisive, but fair. He listened, and he let attorneys try their cases. He was all business, but he was known to have a sense of humor and made people feel comfortable in his courtroom. I really admired him and liked him as a person.”

Born June 14, 1939, in Butler, Pa., McLafferty attended Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa., and Duquense University in Pittsburgh, and he graduated from Duquense Law School in 1968.

After practicing law in Pennsylvania, he moved to California in 1972 and, in 1975, joined Archbald & Spray, becoming a partner of the Santa Barbara firm in 1979.

He was a board member of The Barristers Club of Santa Barbara from 1974-1976, serving one term as president; was a director of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association from 1980 to 1982; and was a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He also served as an arbitrator in the local municipal and superior courts, as well as in Ventura County, and served as judge pro tem for settlement conferences in Santa Barbara Superior Court.

McLafferty is survived by his wife, Carol. Funeral services are pending.

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William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.