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Law professor's death probed as possible suicide

A Chapman University law professor who died after falling from a building may have committed suicide, authorities said Monday.

Orange County Supervising Deputy Coroner Daniel Aikin said "preliminary findings" indicated that Mary Katherine Baird Darmer, 47, took her own life Friday. But an autopsy is still pending and "our investigations are not complete yet," Aikin said. An official cause of death has not been determined, authorities said.

According to details released by the coroner’s office, Darmer fell from a parking garage in the 19700 block of MacArthur Boulevard in Irvine at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

profile on the Chapman University School of Law website notes that Darmer specialized in criminal procedure. Before joining the faculty full time at Chapman in 2000, she served as an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York, where she prosecuted public corruption, violent gang and narcotics cases. During her tenure in that post, she also argued seven cases in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, the website said.

Darmer received her A.B. from Princeton University with high honors and her juris doctor from Columbia University, according to the law school profile.  She clerked for the Honorable Kimba M. Wood in the Southern District of New York and the Honorable William H. Timbers on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. After her clerkships and before joining the U.S. attorney’s office, she worked for three years as a litigation associate at the Manhattan law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, the website said.

She was hailed as a champion of gay rights and equality and was founding member of the Orange County Equality Coalition, an organization founded in the wake of Proposition 8.  She frequently provided media commentary on issues such as marriage equality and the war on terror.

Admiration for Darmer is apparent in the flood of positive comments on the Orange County Register's website after the paper’s story about her death.

“Katherine was a truly wonderful person,” wrote Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine Law School. “She was a terrific teacher and scholar and a deeply committed activist who used her knowledge to make a real difference. Most of all, she was a terrific human being.”

Tom Vogele, a former student of Darmer, spoke of being “inspired and touched” by the professor.

“She pushed me to be a more insightful student and better listener, something I know makes me a better advocate,” Vogele wrote.

The newspaper said Darmer was married to Roman Ernest Darmer II, a partner at Jones Day, a worldwide law firm with offices in Irvine.

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-- Ann M. Simmons

 
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