Thursday, January 19, 2017
Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Timlin Dies
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Senior U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin of the Central District of California died yesterday at the age of 84.
Chief Judge Virginia A. Phillips informed the court of the death. TImlin, a bench officer for more than four decades, was appointed a district judge in 1994 and took senior status in 2005.
Phillips said in a statement:
“Judge Timlin embodied the finest values of the judiciary. He was universally lauded for his intellect, fairness and diligence, and all who appeared before him experienced his patient and kind demeanor on the bench. We will miss him very much.”
Timlin received his undergraduate degree in 1954, an LL.B. in 1959, and an LL.M. in 1964, all from Georgetown University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1957.
Following law school, he worked as counsel for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and then went into private practice. In 1961, he became a trial attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and then served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California from 1964 until 1966.
He then re-entered private practice, and served as city attorney for Corona and Norco. He began his judicial career in 1971 as a part-time federal magistrate for the Central District of California.
Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the Corona Municipal Court in 1976, and to the Riverside Superior Court in 1980. Gov. George Deukmejian elevated him to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, where he served from 1990 until 1994.
President Bill Clinton nominated him to the federal bench in April 1994, and he was confirmed by the Senate five months later. He was the first judge to sit in the court’s Riverside-based Eastern Division, then moved his chambers to Los Angeles when he took senior status.
Timlin’s ability to earn judicial appointments by members of both major political parties was explained by his onetime Corona neighbor, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert. The congressman told the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which profiled the judge in 2005, that Timlin was “not a partisan guy” and was someone “whom you would never question his ethics or his honor.”
Interviewed for that profile, Timlin said he enjoyed being a judge more than any other aspect of the law “maybe because I don’t have to be an advocate. ... I think I fit better as a neutral, as they say ... sitting back, listening to the evidence, applying the law ... I don’t get emotionally involved in the cases ... I enjoy the minutiae of the law and the spirit of the law.”
Among his highest profile cases was a 2002 challenge to the placement of a life-sized cross on federal land in the Mojave National Preserve. Timlin, a churchgoing Catholic with a Jesuit education, ruled that the cross “conveys a message of endorsement of religion,” and had to be removed.
He later told the Press-Enterprise:
“You’ve taken an oath. You’re serving your God by doing a proper job making decisions within the civil arena. ... That might be a contradiction to religious teachings. That’s your job to do it so you do it and indirectly you’re serving society as a whole.”
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