York County's chief public defender from 1982 to 1996, Evanick was depicted as an enigmatic man with vast legal knowledge, a brilliant mind and a dedication to the field of law. Though he was noticeably lacking in accepted social graces, he was well-respected by those who could get close to him.
Those who worked for him said they enjoyed it. But none wanted to face him in a courtroom.
“He was probably one of the finest minds in criminal defense work that I've ever met,” said Bruce Blocher, who replaced Evanick as the county's public defender. “He was a great trial lawyer. He was not a major socialite. I don't know any different ways to say he was extremely bright.”
Evanick died of a massive coronary, according to his wife, Brenda. She said a private service already has been held, and Evanick will be cremated according to his wishes.
Born in Scranton, Evanick was York County's first law clerk, assisting the local bench that then numbered seven judges. With a degree from Duquesne University School of Law in 1974, Evanick was tagged with the nickname “The Wizard” by the judges, Blocher said.
“If he thought a judge was wrong, even as a law clerk, he would tell him,” Blocher said. “He never backed off.
Several of Evanick's acquaintances pointed to David MacVeigh, a longtime public defender, as the person closest to Evanick. MacVeigh confessed he worked for Evanick for 12 years and “knew him no better when he left then when I started.”
“Bruce was exceptionally hard to describe and hard to get to know,” Mac- Veigh said. “He was an outstanding lawyer and smarter than anyone he dealt with.
“He was arrogant. I was trying to describe him without using that word. But he was smarter than you, and he let you know it. People did not give him the respect he actually deserved. He was an outstanding lawyer. He didn't care what people thought about him at all.”
Judge John H. Chronister preceded Evanick as chief public defender and later worked for Evanick as an assistant public defender.
“Bruce was extremely intelligent,” Chronister said. “He probably knew more law than any lawyer I know. He stood up to anyone - a judge reading him the riot act or a district attorney with his own idea of resolving a case.
“If he upset someone or they took it personally, he didn't care. He didn't worry about that. It wasn't necessary for him to play the game that lawyers played.
“It was either do it his way or you are going to war. He was very confident that he could make it tough for you. And he was right.”
Evanick left York and a career of defending indigent people to work for a New Orleans law firm representing, among others, DuPont.
“He used to laugh and say, 'I went from representing the have-nots to representing the DuPonts,'” MacVeigh said.
Barbara Krier, Evanick's first full-time assistant public defender, said, “If he wanted you to be in his little group, under whatever terms he chose to accept people, it was a good thing. He would teach you anything you wanted to know. If you did something stupid, he let you know.”
Chronister said it was now-First Assistant District Attorney Bill Graff who gave him insight into Evanick's peculiarities.
“Bill said, 'Forget about his manner and the way he is saying it and listen to what he is saying,'” Chronister said.
Graff characterized Evanick in colorful but unprintable terms after learning of his death.
“Mr. Evanick was already there (in York County court) when I got there,” Graff said. “He was a bit of a pain in the ass for a young prosecutor. But he taught me some lessons the hard way. He was a decent person, but he was a quirk.”