Wednesday, February 9, 2011/lk
The gavel fell at 9:30 a.m., on Feb. 1, the case concluded and the courtroom doors opened to allow in a stream of well-wishers.
Not the usual scene following a trial, but on this day, the celebrants were there for the judge, not the suspect.
Will Carey, municipal court judge for the City of Hood River, has now been "seated" for 30 years. An impressive showing of former and current city employees and friends filed in to acknowledge the dedication and service Carey has brought to that venerable seat.
Bob Francis, Hood River city manager, presented Carey with a certificate of appreciation for his service and expressed the appreciation of the citizens of Hood River for the quality and care Carey has taken in conducting judicial process.
"Judge Carey is one of the best resources we have in our judicial system. I hope that he will carry on for another 30 years," Francis said.
In a semi-serious reply, Carey agreed to extend his contract another 30 years, as long as he continued to have the help of the people in the room.
"Everyone here has been a big help to this court," said Carey. "We are all really fortunate to live in this beautiful city that has been good to us and good for us. I truly thank everyone."
Sgt. Stan Baker from the Hood River Police Department teased Carey a bit, noting that several of the current police officers "were born around the time you took office."
"What I really appreciate about Judge Carey is that he takes time to really talk to the people who come before him, instead of just dropping the hammer," Francis said.
Arthur Babitz, mayor of Hood River, showed up to share an old photo of Carey, posing with the Crag Rats mountain rescue group at their 1991 reunion.
With exceptional memory skills, Carey proceeded to name off many of the faces in the photo, chuckling along the way with remembered stories for each.
Francis recalled a particularly good story that he felt illustrated Carey's wisdom on the bench.
"A few years back, Judge had an older guy come into court refusing to pay his traffic ticket. He asked to be sent to jail instead. Rather than accommodate his wishes, Judge sentenced him to write out a history of Hood River."
Carey laughed at the recollection, "Yes, he was a crusty old guy. I planned on submitting his written history to the paper for publication, but it turned out to be just a lot of dirt on a lot of people around town, so I thought better of it. I do remember he lighted up though when I read him his sentence."
Several of Carey's current and former assistants and Spanish language interpreters also joined the crowd of admirers.
"We are all like a big family here," said Angeles Gomez, Hood River court administrator.
Gomez also presented Carey with a thank you gift on behalf of the court and city staff. "Thank you for your service and the wonderful job you have done for our community," said Gomez.
Carey opened the handcrafted pen set and thanked the room again, his voice showing a slight embarrassment at all the attention.
Carey has maintained a private law practice in Hood River since 1973, following his move here in 1972, and has served in many public capacities.
Originally a deputy district attorney for Hood River County, Carey has also served as Hood River County legal counsel; Cascade Locks city attorney and land use attorney for the Hood River County Commission.
Carey was a graduate of the University of Oregon law school and served a tour in Vietnam as an army captain where he received military honors for injuries sustained during the Tet Offensive in 1968.