Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thanks, Judge Blue

William D. Blue, who retired as a judge of the District Court about a dozen years ago, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday.  Judge Blue was appointed to the bench by Governor Jim Exon, a couple of years before I became a police officer. Our careers in criminal justice overlapped for a quarter century, and our acquaintance for a decade beyond.

I had immense respect for Judge Blue.  He presided over the most emotional case of my career (for me, at least), the trial of Terry Reynolds, who murdered my colleague, Deputy Sheriff Craig Dodge, in 1987.  Judge Blue also presided over my first homicide case, the prosecution of Clyde Rice for the death of Donald Edelman in 1977.

He was on the bench for many of the most notable cases of the 1980s and 1990s in Lincoln, and from the time I was a young police officer, until my mid career as the Lancaster County Sheriff, and later the Lincoln police chief, I saw him in his element on many occasions.  Judge Blue was simply the model of judicial restraint, deportment, and objectivity.  Not every ruling fell in the direction I personally wished, but I never, ever doubted that this man was committed above all to the law and to justice.

After he retired, Judge Blue moved into my neighborhood, right around the corner. For the next decade, Tonja and I would frequently encounter him on our daily walks and enjoy a conversation with both he and I "out of uniform" for a change.  A couple years ago, the Judge moved into Legacy Estates, where my mother-in-law, Joyce, also resides. There our paths continued to cross once or twice a month.  He was almost always chuckling with someone, and never alone.  Judge Blue was an instigator of fun at the Legacy--an informal social director, always meeting, greeting, laughing, and story telling.  I enjoyed seeing him in this role very much, and I know how sorely he is missed by his friends, family, and his fellow residents and the staff at Legacy Estates.

I never felt very comfortable addressing him as "Bill," but you would find no more affable, likable  and admirable man than Bill Blue, with a dry sense of humor that never ceased to bring a crease to my face.  One of my fondest memories was an encounter with the Judge outside Pershing Municipal Auditorium in the mid-1980's, accompanied by another esteemed jurist, on their way to a boxing smoker.  Out of the robe, His Honor was as down to earth and friendly as any man on earth.  Doing his job, he was a serious jurist who understood the awesome power and responsibility of a District Court judge, and rose to the task each and every time.  I am fortunate to have been his student, and honored to have been among his many friends.

1 comment:

NorthCentral CommStars said...

I echo your comment on Judge Blue. After having cases in many other jurisdictions in Nebraska, I came to appreciate the quality of the judges in Lancaster County and Judge Blue was a great example.