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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 5, 2004


Family, friends extol Judge May’s career

May caps 18 years in 5th District Court

Express Staff Writer

James J. May has clearly earned respect and admiration from his peers, family and friends. Many assembled last week in Hailey to cap his career with a festive retirement reception in the 5th District courtroom where May presided for the past 18 years.

"Great judges are not born. They are made," said George Haney, one of May’s long-time friends and hunting partners.

Friend after friend and colleague after colleague praised May at the reception Friday, April 30, for his unwavering character, for his leadership and his lessons.

"As you know, Judge May has rendered many important legal decisions in his 18 years," said Blaine County Commissioner Mary Ann Mix. "Some of them we have supported wholeheartedly and others we enthusiastically appealed to the state Supreme Court."

There’s more to James May than an attorney and judge. Some of his family and friends gave a glimpse of the man behind the black robe.

May’s son, J. Dee May, said his father is a husband, a father and, most of all, a man.

"As successful as he has been as a jurist, the role he would judge his success in life most by is that of a father," J. Dee May said.

The son used an anecdote to illustrate the man his father is.

He said he remembered a time when a neighbor came to the door to borrow a tool. After looking around, his father apologized to the man because he did not have the item in question. When the neighbor left, James May went to the hardware store and bought the tool his neighbor needed. He dropped it off with a note that said that, after looking, he had found the tool.

"That was my Dad. That is my Dad," J. Dee May said.

Monte Barney, May’s daughter, pointed out that her father has a tender heart and is not above tears. Many of the stories told Friday also jabbed May for his Mormon heritage and passion for hunting.

"I’ll tell you, as a renegade, there was no better bishop to have than James May," said Lloyd Webb, a colleague and friend. "If I make it into heaven, it’s all because of Jim."

But he was also a successful lawyer and judge.

"I want to pay tribute to Jim May, the man," said Gordon Thatcher, an attorney from Rexburg. "He’s the kind of lawyer we ought to aspire to be. I thank him for his example."

A number of May’s law clerks from throughout the years paid him high honors. "The 18 months that I was Jim May’s law clerk had a profound effect on my career," said Craig Haukaas, who now works as a prosecuting attorney in Wisconsin. "It was an honor to be his clerk, and it was even a greater honor to be considered his friend."

Matt Miller, who lives in St. George, Utah, summarized his comments thus: "I love you."

High praise from a former employee.

Hailey Attorney Keith Roark said the occupational disease that afflicts many talented judges is arrogance.

"I never saw a hint of arrogance from Jim May. I never saw him raise his voice, speak an unkind word or belittle an attorney," Roark said. "As long as people remember that name, as long as there are attorneys who remember appearing in front of Jim May, the unwavering compassion and untarnished integrity will remain."


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