02/28/05 — Opinion: No-nonsense judge

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Opinion: No-nonsense judge

By Gene Price
Published in News on February 28, 2005 1:45 PM

My long-time friend Superior Court Judge Russell Duke and I had lunch recently at Wilber's Barbecue. Wilber joined us in swapping stories. "Rusty" Duke is a regular at Wilber's when he's holding court here.

He has not been the favorite of some defense lawyers and their regular clients when he comes to this or some other counties. It is common knowledge that Russell Duke is seen as a tough, no-nonsense judge. Some lawyers early on had been inclined to move for continuances of their cases upon learning Judge Duke was coming to town.

And perhaps with good reason.

But law enforcement officers and law-and-order conservatives love him.

He has been known to verbally slap lawyers down for showing up late for court or trying to postpone their cases ostensibly because they needed to represent defendants in other jurisdictions: "You have known for weeks this case was scheduled. Motion for continuance denied."

Then there was the instance when a member of a jury pool showed up wearing a T-shirt with an obscenity printed on its front.

Judge Duke, a person of deep but not fanatical religious convictions, squinted at the young man in the jury pool. Then, pointing his finger, he instructed the bailiff: "Bring that person up here."

Reaffirming his reading of the obscenity, Duke told the bailiff:

"Escort this man to the jail. Remove that shirt, and keep him there until he is brought one that is acceptable in this courtroom."

I'm confident that there might have been some ultra-liberal activists ready to assail the judge for encroaching on the fellow's "freedom of expression."

But that complaint sure wouldn't fly in Rusty Duke's court -- or with the regulars around the "conference table" at Wilber's Barbecue.