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Judge James Macken

Judge James Lee Macken

Sunday, February 17th, 1929 - Monday, November 2nd, 2020
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James Lee Macken, retired district county judge, 91, of Scottsbluff, passed away Monday, November 2, 2020 at Regional West Medical Center. A Rosary Service will be held at St. Agnes Catholic Church on Friday, November 6, 2020 at 6:00 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:00 am Saturday, November 7 at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Scottsbluff. Rev. Vincent Parsons will celebrate the funeral Mass. Burial will follow at Fairview Cemetery, Scottsbluff. The family respectfully requests that in lieu of any flowers, memorials in James’ honor may be made to St. Agnes Catholic School Foundation. Online condolences may be made by viewing James’ memorial page Bridgman Funeral Home of Scottsbluff is entrusted with arrangements.

The Funeral Mass and Rosary will be live streamed on Bridgman Funeral Home and St. Agnes Church Facebook pages. Face coverings are required for the Rosary and the Funeral Mass.

James was born Feb. 17, 1929 to Ervin and Julia Macken in Alliance, Neb. He attended St. Anthony Catholic School, Casper, Wyo. through eighth grade and graduated from Natrona County High School. After two years at Casper Junior College, he completed his undergraduate education and law school at Creighton University, Omaha. He received his Juris Doctorate degree from Creighton University School of Law in 1952.

Following graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve Infantry. He was promoted to first lieutenant and served two years as a court martial trial lawyer in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG).

On Dec. 28, 1954, he married Iris Killday in Colorado Springs, Colo. They were the loving parents of Stephen, Julia, Anne, James, and Laura.

In 1955 the family moved to Scottsbluff where he was in private practice. They then moved to Bridgeport where he was in private practice and served as Morrill County Attorney. He also served as president of the Bridgeport school board. In addition, he taught high school catechism classes and was a cantor in the music ministry at All Soul’s Catholic Church.

James served three years as a county judge in Scotts Bluff County. In 1972, Gov. Norbert Tiemann appointed James as district county judge for the 12th Judicial District, which includes Scotts Bluff County and the Nebraska panhandle. He served as district judge for 28 years.

He loved the law and enjoyed applying the laws in seeking justice. He often spoke at conferences and at various colleges in Nebraska, and had a great impact on his students, many of whom later pursued careers in law.

James served as president of the Scotts Bluff County Bar Association, president of the Nebraska County Judges Association, and president of the Nebraska Juvenile Court Judges Association. He devoted many years to the improvement of Nebraska juvenile court laws and procedures and founded the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association. His judicial peers and attorneys recognized him for his genuine concern for those who appeared in his court, and for encouraging and supporting treatment for those with substance abuse problems.

James was a member of St. Agnes Catholic Church and served as a cantor in the music ministry. He was a 3rd degree Knight with the Knights of Columbus in Scottsbluff. His true passion was singing in church, accompanied by Iris on the piano and organ. He performed at numerous weddings and funeral services, as well as his daughters’ weddings. The Mackens entertained many groups and were known for their St. Patrick’s Day performances at the Gaslight Restaurant. He was a longtime member of the Oratorio Society and Platte Valley Singers. His performances were memorable, and those who knew music well claimed he had perfect pitch.

James is survived by his children, Stephen of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Julia (Daniel J.) Marshall of Scottsbluff; Anne (Phil) Davey of Hilton Head Island, SC; James of Rapid City, SD; and Laura (Jeff) West of Gettysburg, Penn.; grandchildren Anna (Drew) Hanna of Westminster, Colo.; John (Katy) Marshall of Scottsbluff; Aaron (Emily) Shafenberg of Thornton, Colo.; Reid (Katie) Shafenberg of Thornton, Colo.; Kate Macken of Arlington, VA.; Courtney West of Denver, Colo.; and Brooke West of Clearwater, FL; great grandchildren, Aydan, Asher, Ella, Cruise, Ledger, Svea, and Elin Shafenberg; Rhett and Kane Marshall; Austin and Connor Hanna; brother-in-law Patrick (Marlene) Killday; Barbara Allen; and numerous nieces and nephews.

James was preceded in death by his wife and musical partner of 50 years, Iris; brothers Eugene and Donald; and sister Anna Mae Forsythe.
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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Friday, November 6th, 2020 | 5:00pm - 6:00pm
    Friday, November 6th, 2020 5:00pm - 6:00pm
    St. Agnes Catholic Church
    2314 3rd Ave
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Rosary Service will be held at 6pm at St. Agnes Catholic Church on Friday, November 6, 2020
  • Service

    Saturday, November 7th, 2020 | 10:00am
    Saturday, November 7th, 2020 10:00am
    St. Agnes Catholic Church
    2314 3rd Avenue
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Father Vince Parsons
  • Interment

    Fairview Cemetery
    4109 5th Avenue
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Tom & Mary Thompson sent flowers to the family of Judge James Lee Macken.
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Michele Weitzel

Posted at 09:29am
Laura and family - SO sorry to hear of the passing of your dad, Judge Macken. Did so much in our community and for people. It is so hard to have our parents age and pass away, I pray for peace and many smiles as you continue to remember him!

Michele and Morgan Weitzel (Thornton, CO)
Wilbur Weitzel

Hood Charlotte

Posted at 09:15pm
Two favorite memories. First, I was a deputy County Attorney. Needed a middle of the night warrant. We did the work, reviewed it and called Judge Macken. He said give me 15 minutes to get dressed. Male co-workers previously told me he would review warrants in pajamas and robe. After that first time I would call, tell him what we had, officers involved and that I would not be coming along. No reason for him to get dressed in the middle of the night just because the attorney was female
My second is a local attorney, whom I shall not name, mixed up the names of 2 defendants and subsequently mixed up their appearance dates. One of them ended up being arrested for failure to appear. The attorney asked if I would meet him in Judge Macken's chambers prior to another appearance (same day). The attorney was seeking to have the arrest warrant recalled and his client released. Judge Macken looked at the attorney, pen in hand, and said 'I'm going to sign this but I hope he sues your A**".
Amazing man! I remember when his wife went to a care facility and Judge was so thrilled they would bring him lunch also so he could share a meal with Iris. She was obviously the love of his life.

Ed O’Bryan

Posted at 05:44am
My condolences to the family of Judge James Macken. What a gentleman and caring person he was. May God be with and bless all of you as you celebrate his life!

Tom & Mary Thompson

Posted at 03:43pm
Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
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Trevor hergenreder

Posted at 02:26pm
I was fortunate enough to have met him many years ago through Anna and John marshall. He had a wonderful family. Your in my thoughts and prayers - Trevor

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