Retired Judge Mark DeCaria, Key to Drug Court Success, Dies at 70 | News, Sports, Jobs
Standard-Examiner File Photo
OGDEN – Mark R. DeCaria, a retired 2nd District Court judge and four-term former Weber County attorney known for his efforts on behalf of the underprivileged, died on Sunday of complications from surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. He was 70 years old.
“He was one of those people who was on the good side of life,” retired judge Roger Dutson, who preceded DeCaria on the bench, said Tuesday. “He was one of the good guys and I will always cherish his friendship. “
When Dutson and others were working to create a drug court in Weber County, DeCaria’s support as the county’s elected prosecutor was essential, Dutson said. In drug court, an addict accused of a non-violent crime has a chance to have their charges dismissed after successfully completing a 12-month treatment and testing program.
“There was some opposition to dismissing criminal drug charges even for non-violent offenses,” Dutson said. DeCaria’s support for the program has helped overcome political opposition.
“We kind of shut down the revolving door like any other program has,” Dutson said. “His support meant a lot to me and to the people who advised me. Without it, we would never have been able to start the drug court. “
Photo provided, Meri DeCaria
Barry Gomberg first met DeCaria about four decades ago. Gomberg was teaching a constitutional law class at Ogden High School, and DeCaria, then in private practice, volunteered to coach one of the mock trial teams. It started a 40-year friendship.
Gomberg said DeCaria was compassionate towards the underprivileged, as in his work with the drug court and his “far-sighted acceptance of the right and need for transgender people to dictate their names” in name change cases.
“He firmly believed that as a judge of a district court his role was to interpret the law that had already been established, but I think he was also able, within this setting, to do moving the law forward in a progressive direction, ”Gomberg said.
He said DeCaria has shown an intense interest in drug court participants. “He was certainly concerned about the safety of the community, but he was willing and able to give someone the opportunity to try and change their life. If anyone was in danger of relapsing, he did not see it as a failure, but as one more step on the road to reintegration into society.
As a prosecutor, DeCaria was a hot commodity in Weber County – a Democrat who could win a countywide election. He served four four-year terms before the then government. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. appointed him a judge in 2009.
“He was the only Democrat who could win such support,” Dutson said. “He was very popular among all the politicians. “
Dutson said DeCaria’s friendly demeanor “could never be mistaken for anything other than being genuine.”
Gomberg, Dutson and DeCaria’s wife Meri spoke of the retired judge’s vast network of friends.
“Mark had an immense love for life,” said Meri DeCaria. “He loved people and loved helping people. He was passionate about almost everything. He was just such a fun and loving human being.
She said her husband was in great shape and enjoyed biking, hiking, skiing and golfing. But four years ago, doctors discovered the aneurysm. They monitored him as he grew older, and two months ago, as the risks of the aneurysm increased, DeCaria made the difficult decision to have the surgery, his wife said.
“We did the surgery to extend his life, so he could dance with his grandchildren at their weddings,” she said. But the complications of the surgery could not be overcome.
DeCaria, said Gomberg, “was just a beloved person. And barely 70 years old. He should have had a lot more time to live with Meri and their two daughters and grandchildren. It is truly tragic. “
DeCaria attended St. Joseph’s Elementary School, graduated from Ogden High, and attended Weber State University before graduating from the University of Utah. He received his law degree from Hamline University Law School in Minnesota.
As a county attorney, he helped form the Weber-Morgan Domestic Violence Coalition.
According to his obituary, the family will celebrate his life next spring.