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Retired Justice William A. Stone

Posted by Rick · January 31st, 2006 · No Comments

Retired Justice William Stone passed away Saturday. The world has lost a good, kind and fair judge.

The first case I ever argued in court was before Justice Stone. At the time — hard to believe it was more than a year ago now — I was intimidated not just because I was going to be arguing my first case, but because I was arguing it before a former Appellate Judge. Justice Stone was then working in the Superior Court after having retired from the District Court.

But Justice Stone made me comfortable. As we argued our case, he questioned me, but not roughly; it was clear he was trying to listen to what I had to say and was asking his questions in order to get more information and not to argue with me, or hassle me. Sometimes, frankly, judges I’ve seen — and I won’t name names here, but I’m sure they and others know who they are — are clearly biased. They couldn’t give a rat’s ass about following the law. Your client was arrested? Charged? He must be guilty. Every procedural, evidentiary, or other type of ruling from them will go against the defense. These types aren’t even judges and they’ll certainly never be “justices,” regardless of their titles; we call these guys “prosecutors in black robes.” Justice Stone did not demonstrate any of that.

The motion I argued that day involved a gang injunction. And although we ultimately lost the motion in that parts of it were upheld, it wasn’t a total loss. Justice Stone agreed with us that some parts of the injunction were unconstitutional and struck them down.

More than anything, though, it was a good experience for me. I’ll often think of how lucky I was to have the opportunity to argue before Justice Stone. That day, our client didn’t “get off,” but Justice Stone was fair in his application of the law, listened to me and his questions clearly indicated that he didn’t have his mind already made up — and made up against us, as seems so often to be the case in criminal defense.

As an attorney said this morning when we were talking, “Justices like him are the ones who give me hope for our system.”

The world has lost a good judge. The world has lost a good man. Sleep well, Justice Stone.

Categories: Obituary


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