RIP: Judge William Wayne Justice

U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, known for his rulings on ground-breaking class-action suits that compelled Texas to integrate schools, reform prisons, educate illegal immigrants and revamp many other policies has died Tuesday at an Austin nursing home. He was 89.

Justice, who had taken senior status in 1998, nevertheless was presiding over cases until shortly before his death, the New York Times reports.

Appointed to the federal bench in 1968 by President Johnson, Justice was praised by those who agreed with his liberal decisions and reviled by those who considered him an activist judge.

In a lengthy news obituary about Justice, the NYT recalls a 1998 Molly Ivins column in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which made what she called the “painfully obvious point” that Judge Justice had lived up to his name. She wrote that, he “brought the United States Constitution to Texas.”

On the ideological flip side that same year, Lino Graglia, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Dallas Morning News, that Judge Justice “has wreaked more havoc and misery and injury to the people of Texas than any man in the last 25 years.”

Justice’s biographer, Frank R. Kemerer, told the NYT this week that the judge “had a transcendent value, which was to advance human dignity and provide a measure of basic fairness.”

Justice was a University of Texas law school graduate, who served in the Army in Asia during World War II, then joined his father in private practice. He became a U.S. attorney in 1962. He is survived by his wife, daughter and a granddaughter.

A service is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 19, at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin.

Also see:

Dallas Morning News: “Judge William Wayne Justice, champion to the downtrodden, dies at 89”

Associated Press: “Federal judge who shattered old Texas dies at 89”

Longview News Journal (opinion): “Judge Justice: He brought Texas into the twentieth century”

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