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Bar News - April 16, 2010

Opinion: Judge Muirhead’s Humanity Praised

I will miss appearing before Judge Muirhead. [See January 15 issue of Bar News]. He was a hard worker, intelligent and well-versed in the law. I am sure compliments and accolades will pour in from every corner of the state about Judge Muirhead’s professional abilities, and his attention to detail. Yet, I grew to like him after a very short time for entirely different reasons.

I know it is very difficult to be plucked out of an ordinary life and be placed in near isolation, where no one dare disagree with you, and all must formally address you with the highest degree of respect. Judge Sherm Horton once mused that the isolation and being surrounded by sycophants was so disconcerting that he had his daughter call him twice a day just to remind him that there is a life outside of the courthouse where people carry on normal conversations.

I certainly would not want to be a judge. I doubt if I could handle the social isolation. But Jim Muirhead never forgot that he is a simple fallible human being. He never forgot that he was dealing with simple human beings everyday. He showed respect to counsel, parties, witnesses, and staff. Although he strived for perfection, he never expected it from others. He made the lives of those who appeared before him easier to the extent he could.

Our profession is filled with pressure and stress. He always did what he could not to impose any artificial stress. He was fair, just and respectful, yet I enjoyed his humor, which always found a way to lighten things up. Even when I tried to get under his Scottish skin, he knew better and had a better comeback line. You could always expect some degree of levity while waiting between cases.

Jim Muirhead was far more than a good judge, or lawyer. He was and always remained a good human being. That is the highest compliment I can give a judicial officer. I will miss him. Yet I am very optimistic. My hat is off to Judges McAuliffe, Barbadoro and Laplante. They could not do any better than Landya McCafferty. She has been a good human being for as long as I have known her, and I am willing to place a wager that my colleagues at the Federal Bar will not be disappointed.

Tony F. Soltani

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