Tag Archives: Mary Lou Robinson

Mary Lou Robinson Courthouse? Yes!

My hunch is that you can take this to the bank: Congress is going to attach a revered federal judge’s name on a courthouse in Amarillo, Texas.

I want to offer my heartiest applause from afar.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, both Republicans, have introduced legislation to rename the federal courthouse building in downtown Amarillo, the Marvin Jones Federal Building and Mary Lou Robinson United States Courthouse.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. However, Judge Robinson long ago deserved this honor.

The House of Representatives passed House Resolution 5772 by a voice vote this week. It’s headed to the Senate, where Sen. Cornyn is carrying this legislation.

I am honored to have made Judge Robinson’s acquaintance. She and I served in the Rotary Club of Amarillo together, which is where I got to know her.

She remains the gold standard for judicial candidates who seek elected office in the Texas Panhandle. I know that from my job as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, a job I held for nearly 18 years. Almost to a person, whenever I would ask a candidate after whom they might model their judicial performance, they would mention Mary Lou Robinson. She set the bar high and judicial candidates for county or state district benches would declare their intention to emulate her.

As the Globe-News reported: “Judge Robinson is a legal pioneer who is universally respected and admired,” Thornberry said in an email. “She has always set high standards for herself and others, and our system of justice has benefited. Having the name of these two outstanding public servants on our federal building and courthouse will be a perpetual reminder of their high standards and outstanding contributions to our nation.”

If enacted, this would be the first federal courthouse named after a woman within a five-state area.

She served Potter County’s judicial system, as a court at law judge and as a state district judge; she gravitated to the 7th Court of Appeals. Then in 1977, she received a federal judicial appointment from President Carter.

The building that eventually will carry her name is now known as the Marvin Jones Federal Building and Courthouse.

With all due respect to the great Marvin Jones, he will have to move over to make room for a true judicial giant.

I am delighted to hear about this pending name change.

Judge Robinson leaves gigantic legacy on Panhandle bench

Donald J. Trump has nominated someone to succeed a living legend among jurists in the Texas Panhandle.

It’s been slow going for the president of the United States as he has sought to make these appointments. I won’t get into the reasons for the snail’s pace in making these appointments. But the president finally made a pick for the U.S. District judgeship here in Amarillo, Texas.

Matthew Kacsmaryk is the president’s choice to become judge of the federal bench in Amarillo. I don’t know much about him, other than I understand he’s a rigid judicial conservative. According to the Texas Observer, he has worked to erode the wall separating government from organized religion.

Read the Observer story here.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson took senior status more than a year ago. She has earned it. She’s 91 years of age. Judge Robinson served on the 7th Texas Court of Appeals and on a Potter County bench before getting the call by — get ready for this one — President Jimmy Carter in 1979 to assume a newly created federal judgeship in Amarillo.

I didn’t get to watch Robinson in action during her years on the bench. I watched her from some distance as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

I became quite riveted when she was handed a celebrity trial in 1997 when a group of cattle feeders sued TV talk show superstar Oprah Winfrey because of a remark she blurted out on TV about eating beef. The cattle feeders agreed to let Robinson try the case in Amarillo. Winfrey brought her talk-show crew here and videotaped her talk show at Amarillo Little Theater.

Winfrey beat back the lawsuit. She won. Judge Robinson ruled from the bench against the cattle feeders. Amarillo made the evening news all across the land.

I don’t know Robinson well. We are acquainted, certainly. We both served in the same Rotary Club for a number of years. But she isn’t the most media-friendly person I’ve ever known.

What I want to point out, though, is this: I long ago lost count of the number of county and state judicial candidates who sought the Globe-News editorial board’s endorsement and who said they wanted to pattern their behavior on the bench after Judge Mary Lou Robinson.

Judge Robinson became the gold standard for judges in this part of the world. For 38 years she issued federal court rulings with toughness and fairness. Her total judicial career spans more than 50 years.

Imagine that for a moment. Candidates for a public office that demands supreme confidence defer to one of their own who has set a standard they all want to emulate.

That is a tremendous legacy.