Judge authors book about life on bench

Judge authors book about life on bench

When it comes to slipping his way through life's loopholes, young Mr. Shuckin had few peers.

"He has avoided most of life's responsibility by smooth talking or sweet talking or just plain shoveling bovine dung," wrote Judge Robert Bluth in "Muni Court: A View From the Other Side of the Bench."

Bluth, 57, of Medford, the current municipal court judge in Shady Cove who also served in that capacity in Eagle Point for 16 years, offers a humorous yet poignant perspective on small-town courtrooms is his 190-page hardback, which was published last month.

To protect the innocent as well as the guilty, Bluth doesn't identify anyone in the book. Most of the characters are composite, with names such as Ms. Touche, Mr. Budunwiser, Miss Prissy, Mr. Hitme.

"The intent was not to embarrass anybody," Bluth said. "These are individuals whose stories I thought were either interesting, had a bit of humor or were unique in some way.

"Many of these people represent more than one person," he added. "Some people learn, others don't. The ones that don't often come back. Mr. Hitme never learned."

He was referring to an angry young man who appeared before him for numerous traffic citations on multiple occasions.

"Somewhat similar to Ichabod Crane in appearance," Bluth wrote. "Greasy, dark, medium-length hair. Jeans probably two sizes too small and thus very tight. So tight that perhaps the jeans were contributing to what appeared to be his overall discomfort with or anger at life in general."

Published by iUniverse, the hardback is $26.95; paperback goes for $16.95. It is available at Barnes & Noble Booksellers and other bookstores as well as through online vendors.

"The first three chapters I wrote — I went back and read them and decided I had been writing legal stuff way too long," he said. "They were horrible. It took me quite a few times of rewriting to find a voice."

The chapters now read like you are looking over the shoulder of the good-natured judge. The anecdotal chapters are reminiscent of those from James Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small" series.

After working at a series of jobs, including driving truck where he once appeared before a Gallop, N.M., municipal court judge for having a bald tire — he pleaded guilty and was fined $15 — Bluth graduated from Willamette University School of Law. He was 38.

He began practicing law in the Rogue Valley in 1990. When the Eagle Point municipal court judge position became available in 1993, an attorney friend suggested Bluth apply.

"I thought it would be interesting to sit on the other side of the bench for a change," Bluth said. "So I put my name in the hat. There were four or five of us who appeared before the City Council."

The Council gavel came down on the side of Bluth.

In addition to serving as the judge in Shady Cove, he also served as the city attorney for Jacksonville and is the general counsel for Harry & David. He and Kelly, his wife of 38 years, have seven children.

As a municipal court judge, he has the authority to impose minimum or maximum fines, or something in between.

"What I try to be is equitable and fair," he said, noting that both city councils impressed the importance of that approach.

He has recommendations for anyone appearing in his court or before any other judge.

"Be honest, be cordial, be polite," he said. "Being angry, being rude, being indignant, people are free to act that way but it doesn't change my outcome. If you are guilty, plead guilty."

The book is filled with largely humorous tales of municipal cases that include everything from traffic fines to barking dogs. In Mr. Shuckin's case, the stepmother of the defendant stood up in court and asked that her stepson do jail time to teach him a lesson.

"I had one recently who pled not guilty because they had just changed the speed limit on that section of the road," he said. "She thought she should get at least one bye ... . People are just fascinating."

Most people who come before him are ordinary folks who have made ordinary mistakes, he said.

"They come in, you give them the minimum fine and the world moves on," he said. "But for those who think the rules don't apply to them, then we escalate the fine until it reaches a point where it is not worth it to them to do whatever they are doing wrong."

Indeed, scofflaws have found themselves in handcuffs in his court.

"I have told a glaring defendant, 'If your fondest expectation came true and I dropped dead right now, they'd just go hire another old fat lawyer and you would still have to go through this,' " he said. "Anyone who thinks they can bully their way through, that doesn't work in court."

More information on the book is available at

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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