Talk to people who have worked around or known Presiding Circuit Judge Keith Sutherland for any substantial period of time and certain expressions become common.
Professional. Well-organized. Compassionate. Conscientious. Fair.
Sutherland will retire when his current term expires next Tuesday, Dec. 31.
His successor, Associate Circuit Judge Wes Dalton, says he has “big shoes to fill” as the next presiding circuit judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit.
“He always keeps up with changes in the law,” Dalton remarked. “He’s one of the most organized people I know.”
Dalton, who spent 12 years as an attorney in private practice, also tried cases before Sutherland and praised his objectivity.
“He was always fair,” Dalton remarked. “You knew you would always get a fair shake.”
Additionally, Dalton said Sutherland is a man of great integrity.
“He’s one of the most conscientious people I know,” Dalton said. “He’s definitely a man of few words.”
Beth Schulze, who worked as Sutherland’s court reporter for much of the past 12 years, said she enjoyed working for him.
“It was really good to work with someone who’s been a friend and a boss all these years,” she stated. “He’s a judge when he has to be a judge, but he also knows how to be a friend. I’ve never seen him not show compassion for people.”
Schulze noted that many people at the Warren County Courthouse are happy Sutherland will be serving as a senior judge following his retirement.
Of all the people with whom Sutherland has worked through the years, Circuit Clerk Brenda Eggering began working for him when he was in private practice.
“I always enjoyed working with him,” Eggering said. “He was a mentor for me, and he taught me a lot.”
She described Sutherland as being “very thorough” in his education and if he was ever faced with a question he was unsure about, he would take the time to research the correct answer.
“He’s a very good book person, and that made him a good attorney and a good judge,” Eggering said. “He’s very up-to-date on anything involving the practice of the law.”
Tim Joyce, a Warrenton attorney, described Sutherland as “always being on an even keel. He tries to treat everybody fairly and the same way,” Joyce said.
“If you go to the dictionary and look up ‘judicial temperament,’ it’ll say Keith Sutherland,” Joyce added.
“He always appears to be in a good mood, but he also takes his job very seriously and he was a hard worker,” he continued.
Another characteristic that Joyce recalled was that Sutherland always kept in mind that trials and court cases involve people.
As a result, he said, Sutherland tried to maintain as relaxed an atmosphere as possible in his courtroom, regardless of the seriousness of a given situation.