R.I.P. Judge James M. Fitzgerald, 1920-2011

UPDATE:  A remembrance event for Judge Fitzgerald has been scheduled for Sunday, April 17, 2011 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., at the Marriott Hotel in Anchorage.

WC has an email from Senior U.S. District Judge H. Russell Holland:

It is with sadness that we inform you of the passing of Senior Judge James M. Fitzgerald of the District of Alaska. Surrounded by his family, Judge Fitzgerald died on the morning of April 3 at his home in Santa Rosa, California.  He was born in 1920 in Portland, Oregon, married his wife Karin in 1950, and is survived by his wife and four children.

Judge Fitzgerald was nominated for appointment by President Ford and received his commission as a district judge on December 20, 1974.  He was elevated to chief judge in 1984, serving in that capacity until 1989 when he took senior status.

Judge Fitzgerald was a decorated World War II veteran, serving with the Marines in the South Pacific.  He was educated at University of Oregon and Willamette University, receiving his LL.B. from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, in 1951.

Prior to Alaska statehood, Judge Fitzgerald served as an assistant United States attorney in the First and Third Divisions of the Territory, and later as Anchorage city attorney and legal counsel to Alaska’s first governor, William A. Egan.  Between 1959 and 1974, he served as Alaska’s first commissioner of public safety, a superior court judge, and an associate justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

Alaska has lost a distinguished jurist and a good friend.

WC tried his first federal case to Judge Fitzgerald back in 1976. It was a case that eventually made its way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, and all of the subsequent cases WC had before him, Judge Fitzgerald was fair, careful and well-informed. If a bit reluctant to try cases in Fairbanks.

The folks who helped make Alaska a state are leaving us. Jim Fitzgerald was one of them. He left his mark on Alaska. He will be missed.