U.S. magistrate judge retires with a record Goetz held job longer than anyone in nation

February 01, 1997|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

For more than 26 years, Clarence E. Goetz held the same job in Baltimore, making him the longest sitting U.S. magistrate judge in the nation. Yesterday, he stepped down from the bench, saying so long to his colleagues and friends during a crowded courthouse ceremony.

But Goetz, the chief magistrate in the Maryland district, says he's not ending his run but beginning another -- with a new family and a new future as a mediator in Baltimore.

"It's like I'm starting a whole new life," said Goetz as he leaned back in a leather chair in his eighth-floor chambers yesterday, a sweeping view of the city behind him. "I'm starting all over."

Goetz's legal journey began at the old Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., where he worked as a lineman after an Air Force tour during the Korean War. He said he listened to his colleagues complain about working in the bitter cold and driving rain, and then thought about trying his uncle's career.

His uncle, James Berkley Murphy, was the first in the family to attend college and graduate from law school. Nicknamed "sue 'em in the morning Murphy," he died a decade ago at age 85, as he was filing documents in court.

"He loved the law so much," Goetz said.

Goetz went to night school at the University of Baltimore, earning a bachelor's degree in six years while holding down his day job and raising a family. He then went to the same school to study law, graduating in 1964.

Goetz wound up at the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore in 1966. He was one of just 10 prosecutors at the time in an office where nearly 70 now work. In 1970, the district judges selected him as the first magistrate judge in Baltimore.

Magistrate judges handle arraignments and motions, detention hearings, misdemeanor criminal cases, civil disputes and medical malpractice cases, among others. Ten years ago, Goetz was named chief of the seven full-time and two part-time magistrate judges in Maryland.

Baltimore attorney Paul W. Grimm has been selected to take Goetz's job when he formally retires Tuesday on his 65th birthday, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel E. Klein Jr. will become the new chief magistrate.

Goetz said yesterday that after losing his first wife of 38 years to breast cancer in 1994, he's put his life back together. He has remarried, adding two stepdaughters to two sons from his first marriage.

Goetz said he's looking forward to working as a mediator, resolving disputes between private parties who want to avoid a courtroom. Still, he said, he'll miss his friends.

"My colleagues have really been wonderful."

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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