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Archive for Friday, October 2, 1998

JUDGE CATT RAPS GAVEL LAST TIME, MOVING ON

October 2, 1998

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After being Lawrence's municipal judge for more than 26 years, George Catt says there are no excuses that he has not heard.

Judge George L. Catt sat on the bench for one last time on Wednesday as Lawrence's Municipal Court judge.

It wasn't a remarkable day in court.

``It was just like every other,'' Catt said.

After 26 and a half years, it is time to move on, he said. Catt retired from the bench Wednesday to concentrate on his private practice.

``I never anticipated being a judge that long,'' he said. ``The years just kind of creep up on you.''

Catt took the bench in May of 1972. Before that, he served as pro-tem judge for the Douglas County, juvenile and probate courts and as the assistant city attorney. During his years as a judge, Catt has watched Lawrence grow and law change.

``The types of cases hasn't changed much,'' he said. ``There are probably four or five times as many cases as in 1972. ...

``The volume has gotten so much it's becoming more impersonal.''

The staff at Municipal Court has grown three or fourfold. Computers have helped handle the workload, Catt said.

``We still have lots of paperwork, but we can get to it a lot easier,'' he said.

The bench hasn't always been in the same place, either. In April, the court moved into a new space in the Berkeley Plaza building at 1006 N.H.

``It's the third place for offices and the fourth place for the court,'' he said. ``When I started, it was in what you know as the Senior Services building.''

Municipal Court handles almost 40,000 cases a year, from cat-at-large to petty larceny.

``Municipal Court may be the only place people may see a court,'' he said.

``Most people who come to Municipal Court are just like you and me. ... They ought to see it as a place were there can be fairness and dignity.''

Catt said he will miss the court clerks and the state municipal judge's association. But he said he had seen it all from the bench.

``There were no new excuses; there were no new stories,'' he said.

Randy McGrath, formerly the court's pro-tem judge, has been hired as the new municipal judge. The position is only part-time; cases are heard weekday mornings.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is fhaynes@ljworld.com.

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