Paul Miller hasn’t been a Riley County District Court judge forever, though it might seem that way for residents who moved here in the last 30 years. As a story in Sunday’s Mercury observed, Judge Miller, who’s been chief judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit for the last 15 years and whose last day on the bench will be Tuesday, has served this county as a judge since 1982.
What struck us as he reviewed some of the memorable moments of his career wasn’t the notorious cases he’s tried. Rather, it was the professionalism with which he approached the job, the changes he witnessed and the perspective — the wisdom — he gained along the way.
In hearing cases, for example, he said, “I always tried to do what I thought was right, what I thought was the law and what I thought was good common sense.” As he acknowledged, a judge’s rulings leave “half the people” mad at you, but he strove to respect each individual’s “day in court.”
More and more people, it seems, have their day in court, whether they want it or not. As Judge Miller noted, civil and criminal caseloads have increased over the years. Regardless of whether one regards the rising number of lawyers a response to that phenomenon or a contributing factor, the upshot is that our society s more litigious.
Given that trend and the demands of the job, it is not surprising that Judge Miller hopes the person who replaces him combines knowledge of the law with a sense of fairness, good communications stills and patience.
Those traits would serve the public well… perhaps as well as Judge Miller has for three decades.