Lives Lived: Judge Jerry King


Robert Thomas

If Moose Jaw ever had a member of the legal profession who would qualify to be portrayed in some form or other in a Hollywood movie it would have to be Judge Jerry King.

Flamboyant, often outspoken and outgoing, everyone in Moose Jaw seems to have known Judge King.

Whether you stood in front of him as a defendant, knew him from the old Moose Jaw Civic Centre, where he often voiced his opinions of the officials, loudly, or from his involvement with many local groups and charities, Judge King was one to remember.

I know people who appeared in front of him and said he would rarely look up at the defendant but continue with his note taking and files.

Justice could often be swift and sure in Judge King's courtroom, as he would interrupt the accused mid-speech, ask a couple of questions then render judgement.

I remember speaking to Judge King once and he told me how alcoholism had dominated much of his adult life. He spoke about how alcohol had been disabling and that he had turned him into someone he had not wanted to be.

When Judge King sat on the bench if you came in front of him with any vehicle offence involving even the hint of alcohol you were headed to a Driving Without Impairment course whether you liked it or not it.

After his retirement, I asked him what he thought about living in the same community where he had passed judgement on so many people and sent so many people to jail.

Judge King told me about the time he was in the parking lot of the former Moose Jaw Union Hospital and how he was confronted by a towering man who wanted to express his opinion about the judgement he had received in Gerry's courtroom.

Judge King admitted to me “I thought I was done for for sure” about the encounter and figured he was about to take a vicious beating.

But it turned out the man simply wanted to clarify that what Judge King had called him that day in court was wrong was wrong: an alcoholic.

He told Judge King he had quit drinking and his life was better but he wasn’t “an alcoholic like you called me in court.”

In some small way old Judge had had a positive influence on someone’s life.

For people who aren’t aware of it, Judge King was an instrumental member of the Saskatchewan Association of Community Living (SACL) Moose Jaw Chapter and had a role in the ultimate closure of the Valleyview Centre and the reintegration of the intellectually disabled back into the community.

“Those people don’t need to be out there,” he told me at least 28 years ago, when I worked at the paper.

I remember covering an SACL meeting and Judge King gave a legal lecture on how parents could ensure their loved ones were looked after and the Province could not take away their Social Assistance simply because they were left something. He explained how to legally circumvent the Province.

I thought it strange that a judge would tell people the legal means to circumvent the rule of law but years later I knew it was simply in his character to do such a thing.

I remember him, after he was retired, wearing that damn captain’s hat. At first I thought that just maybe he was doing it as a lark and was bored in his retirement but he actually took it seriously. He had pride in that cap.

One of the biggest jokes about Judge King was how tough he was.

I remember a couple of people telling me how they would like to see him handle a murder case. I asked why and their response was that he was so tough.

He wouldn’t throw the book at them but the entire law library
— anonymous, commenting on Judge Jerry King

I remember telling Judge King what the people though and he would just shake his head and smile.

Between periods at Warriors games Judge King was a fixture at the north end of the rink, coffee in hand. I once asked him why he wasn’t sitting in the upper deck with the movers and shakers in the community. “You miss the action up there” he said; and Judge King was just an ordinary person.

In one of the few times I covered his court room I remember him remanding an accused for two weeks. Before he left the court room the accused said very loudly “see you later Jerry.” At that moment I honestly thought the Judge might hit the jokester with a contempt of court citation but all Judge King did was look up and smile.

I doubt we will ever see another one like Judge King.

Judge Gerald King passed, suddenly, on September 17th; he was 81 years old.

READ: In Memory of Gerald “Jerry” Carlyle King