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Country music to retire from bench

December 07, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Like Judge Roy Bean, who held court in his saloon along the Rio Grande river in Texas, Judge John Walker dispenses Western justice - country and western justice, that is.

"The one thing that pops into my mind is, 'Do you listen to country music?'" It's a question Walker often poses to defendants about to be sentenced, said Billy Washington, a court crier in the judge's courtroom for the past 13 years.

"I'm breaking rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won," Walker crooned Friday near the end of a retirement reception held in the courthouse's jury assembly room. "When I have someone with a DUI (driving under the influence), I'll tell them, 'If you drink and drive, do the watermelon crawl.'"

Walker is retiring Jan. 2 after more than two decades on the bench. Before that, he was the county's district attorney.

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"Well probably never hear the lovely refrain of a country tune coming from the bench again," Public Defender Michael Toms said.

"Country music has a lot of down-to-earth, homespun wisdom," Walker said about his quoting lines from the bench.

Washington said working as a court crier in Walker's courtroom has been an experience.

"It's been a pretty good seat. You don't get any closer to what's going on," Washington said.

The judge is not ready for the rocking chair yet. He has a jury trial Monday and will work three days a week as a senior judge next year until his replacement is elected.

Later this month, he will also be heading with his wife, Gloria, to the Caribbean for a week.

"That's practice for retirement," Walker said.

Residents of the 39th District of the Court of Common Pleas, which includes Franklin and Fulton counties, will be electing two new judges in 2009. One will fill Walker's seat, and a fifth judge was approved for the district last year by the General Assembly and governor.

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