I will never forget the first time I met him. He was sitting in his chambers, black robe hanging from his shoulders. He was slightly stooped, almost bald with a bright shock of white hair, a closely trimmed beard and a too thin mustache.
And I was scared to death of him. Presiding Judge.
The guy who could make my life miserable.
He was known as the man with the steel trap mind. A man who did not suffer fools or idiots. And an unprepared attorney was worse than either a fool or an idiot or both. This judge actually READ the case files, the briefs, the memorandum, and he knew the case law.
He treated every one the same. It didn't matter if you were a prosecutor or a defense attorney. It didn't matter if you were privately retained or on the public trough. He wanted you prepared on your case.
I tried a lot of cases in front of him. I didn't always like his rulings but if I asked I got a logical reason why he did what he did. I could argue with him in court and he would actually listen. Occasionally, I won.
Gradually, over the years and through the cases, we became "friends". But really, he became my mentor. He taught me how to act in court, what to say, when to say it. By sitting in readiness conferences with other attorneys, arguing motions, or sitting and listening in his courtroom waiting for my cases to be called.
And when I went through a really low period in my private life, he gently and discreetly, pointed me in the right direction. He never crossed that ethical line. And he never betrayed a confidence.
When I moved to the Central Coast we were finally able to speak as friends. I would never stand before him as counsel for a defendant and he would never rule on a case involving me or my client. He guided me in the opening of my office ( he had been a successful practitioner before he became a judge) and he guided me through the maze of civil case law when I tried that particular brand of law. I would occasionally ask his advise on a case or on a legal issue.
Then he called one day and told me that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The doctors gave him maybe 6 months and with treatment maybe a year. That was three years ago.
Now it had spread. It is now in his brain. That steel trap brain that holds all that knowledge.
I have lost many people in my life lately. I may lose more. But to him, on this planet or not, I will always be grateful.
And I wanted to say that before he could not hear it.