Judge Rodney Webb receives Light of Justice Award
U.S. District Judge Rodney Webb passed along some advice he once received from a fellow lawyer on how to deal with a judge who had a reputation for being crotchety.
"Stand up, smile and keep your mouth shut."
The room of North Dakota trial lawyers stood up for Webb, and smiled as they applauded him, but they didn't keep their mouths shut.
That's because they gathered Thursday to bestow upon Webb the North Dakota Association for Justice's highest accolade, the Light of Justice Award.
"To be honest, I can't think of a better recipient and a better example than Rodney Webb," said Jeff Weikum, a Bismarck lawyer and the group's president.
The award recognizes a lawyer for "outstanding contributions to the cause of protecting the rights of citizens and to preservation of the civil justice system."
"It is rarely given, actually," Weikum said after the luncheon ceremony. "It's not something we do on a regular basis, so it's as big as it gets in our business."
Webb, a senior judge who has served on the federal bench in Fargo for 22 years, called the honor "moving and overwhelming."
Webb, a native of Cavalier, N.D., practiced law in Grafton, N.D., where he also served as state's attorney before being named U.S. attorney and later U.S. district judge by President Ronald Reagan.
"I think the highest accolade that any judge can have is when people say he's fair," Bismarck lawyer Tom Dickson said. "That reputation doesn't come with the robe. You have to earn it."
In acceptance remarks sprinkled with humor and humility, Webb spoke fondly of his time on the bench and acknowledged his battle with cancer. He recently was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to the bone, and is undergoing treatments.
"What do you say beyond thanks?" the judge said. "I'm overwhelmed, very much."
Webb called the right to a trial by jury "the basic tenet of our whole justice system," adding it is a judicial system supported by jurors.
On hand were members of Webb's family, including his wife, Betty, and Wade Webb, a state district judge in Fargo, and fellow federal judges.
Webb thanked his family and his staff, including 21 law clerks from the University of North Dakota. "They had made me look good for a long time," he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522