Richard FitzGerald, an acclaimed juvenile and family court pioneer, has died
Andrew Wolfson, Louisville Courier Journal Published 12:21 p.m. ET Dec. 28, 2017
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Retired judge Richard FitzGerald, a nationally recognized leader in juvenile and family law who advocated for children on and off the bench, died Wednesday. He was 71 and suffered from liver disease.
A friend, Tom Payette, said FitzGerald, who was universally known as “Fitz,” died at home in Louisville with his wife, Marjorie and other family by his side.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said FitzGerald was “the pioneer voice in defining juvenile justice nationally. His legacy and basic premise was that kids needed to be treated like kids and with the hope they can get back on the right track.”
But Brooks said FitzGerald also was pragmatic. “He was smart about justice, and not just tough. It is important that we remember him.”
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FitzGerald was named judge of the year by the National CASA Association and received the National Council of Juvenile and Family Courts Judges Award for Meritorious Service to the Juvenile Court System. He also was co-author of “Juvenile Practice” for West Publishing Co. and contributing consultant in the drafting of “The Resource Guidelines for Improving Practice in Abuse and Neglect Cases.”Judge Richard FitzGerald
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A native New Yorker and graduate of Manhattan College, he came to Eastern Kentucky in the 1960s as a social worker with the Christian Appalachian Project, an anti-poverty organization. He also was a junior high school teacher in East St. Louis.
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He spoke out against the death penalty after his wife’s parents were murdered in LaPorte, Indiana, where his father-in-law was mayor; the couple was attacked by a disgruntled city employee.
“I witnessed the grief and pain their slayings brought to my wife and her six siblings,” he later wrote.
“Personally, I had problems saying the Lord’s Prayer in church.”
He said the judge in that case allowed the family to decide whether to seek the death penalty and they elected against, in part because of their belief in the sanctity of life.
After the murders, he no longer tried criminal cases.
“I could not trust myself while still struggling with grief and anger,” he said.
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FitzGerald, Richard [MC???? RIP]
Guestbook: None cited
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FitzGerald, Richard J.
Judge Richard J. FitzGerald, 71, (known universally as “Fitz”) passed away on December 27, 2017 after a brief illness. A native of New York City, Fitz first fell in love with Kentucky while volunteering for the Christian Appalachian Project in McKee County. After graduating from Manhattan College, he taught English at Hughes-Quinn Junior High School in East St. Louis before moving to Louisville to study law at the University of Louisville. After a brief stint in private practice, Fitz was appointed to the Juvenile Court bench in 1975, at age 29. Fitz served as Chief Judge of Juvenile Court for more than 10 years and was instrumental in the creation of the concept of a unified “family” Court, from which he retired in 2000.
Fitz devoted his entire career to advocating for the welfare of Kentucky’s abused and neglected children. For his efforts, he was recognized as Judge of the Year by the National CASA Association and received the Chief Justice’s Special Service Award for Outstanding Service to the Courts of Kentucky. He also received accolades from the Louisville Bar Association, the Justice Resource Center, the National Counsel of Juvenile & Family Court Judges and the Urban League. He was most rewarded, however, by hearing directly from the many children and families whose lives he touched. He firmly believed that “there are no unwanted children, only unfound parents” and celebrated his greatest joys from the bench: finalizing adoptions of children in foster care and returning children to homes that were healed. Fitz was deeply involved in his community, and served on the boards of the World Affairs Council, Actors Theater, and the National Association of Counsel for Children.
He shared his passion for family law, juvenile justice, and education by serving as adjunct faculty for the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law and as a visiting professor at the ChildLaw Center at Loyola University. He was delighted to receive a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in 2003 from Bellarmine University. An avid banjo player, sailor, world traveler, storyteller and gardener, Fitz spent his retirement years serving as a mediator, consultant, mentor, educator, and doting grandfather, all while sporting his trademark bow tie.
Fitz is survived by his wife of 46 years, Dr. Marjorie Rumely FitzGerald, his daughters Nora Meldrum (Brian) and Molly Perry (Timothy), and granddaughters Lucy Perry and Abigail and Emmeline Meldrum. He was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Ruth FitzGerald and his older brother, Edward FitzGerald, Jr. His surviving family members include his brother Tom FitzGerald (Patricia), sisters Maureen Morrell (Rob) and Jane FitzGerald, and his Rumely family in-laws: Pete and Lois Rumely, Antoinette Rumely, Marti and Henry Kuehn, John and Christine Rumely, and Frances and Terry Jones. He also leaves behind dozens of nieces and nephews, who will forever treasure memories of banjo sing-alongs with their Uncle Fitz.
There will be a memorial service on Saturday, January 6 at 12 p.m. at Pearson’s, 149 Breckenridge Lane, 40207. Visitation will be on Friday, January 5 from 4-7 p.m. at Pearson’s.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to CASA of the River Region or the Kentucky Resources Council.
Published in The Courier-Journal from Dec. 30, 2017 to Jan. 1, 2018
Guestbook: Same link
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I believe that the Judge is a member of the Class of 1970.
May He Rest In Peace.
McEneney, Mike (MC1953)
[JR: Thanks, Mike. Much appreciated.]
FitzGerald, Richard [MC1970 RIP]
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Colon, Philip J. (MC1962) added this request to his prayer circle.
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