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Judge Boyack retires, but still on bench

Knowing that the unforgiving hands of the timeclock will no longer dictate your life is normally one of the first benefits of retirement.

Not so for newly retired Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Doug Boyack. At least not yet.

    “On my first day of retirement, I got up and went to court,” said the 63-year-old Boyack, who has meted out justice in black robes and his characteristic bow tie since he was elected to the position in 1991.
    His last official day as a superior court judge in Tuolumne County was Dec. 31, 2010.
    However, with a new governor who may not make judicial appointments for months, leaving would have deprived the county of one of its five judges and have quickly created a backlog of cases.
    Given that, Boyack estimates he has another six months to a year on the bench before Gov. Jerry Brown appoints a new judge to replace him. While he does get paid for the work, Boyack donates half of the proceeds back to help the beleaguered court system.
    “I don’t want to give it up entirely,” he said. “I’ll have the opportunity to continue to sit on the assignments as I want through the assigned judge program.”
    The program circulates judges through different courts across the state on an as-needed basis.
    “I like what I do, but it will be a little less fun without Doug,” said Presiding Judge Eric DuTemple. “We’ve been colleagues, coworkers and friends for so long. The good thing is I don’t feel that he’s retired, because he’s still here.”
    Boyack’s quiet retirement caps a nearly 35 year career in law. It began in private practice, then moved to the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s office and then the bench.
    At the DA’s office, Boyack worked with both former district attorney DuTemple and one-time prosecutor Eleanor Provost, all of whom are now on the bench.
    Boyack enjoyed his time as a prosecutor, but after 14 years on the job, he was looking for a change.
    “A good lawyer is a street fighter in a suit,” he said. “That was never in my nature.”
    He won a judge’s seat in a close race with colleague Provost, and ascended to the bench in 1991.
    Friend Gary Coates manned the telephones as part of the year-long campaign.
    “I think he’s an inspired judge,” Coates said. “He’s the most honest guy I’ve ever met.”
    Over time, the judges managed to carve out personality-specific caseloads. Boyack took charge of the misdemeanor criminal calendar, felony preliminary hearings and juvenile traffic.
    “It’s high people involvement,” Boyack said. “Much of it is the fruits of alcohol and drug abuse.”
    The selection seems uniquely suited to his patient, mentoring demeanor, his fellow judges agreed.
    “I think he wants to make a difference in people’s lives,” Provost said. “He really wants to help them get off of drugs and alcohol. He really tries.”
    Where some would throw up their hands, Boyack remains steadfast and optimistic about the fate of the people that come before him.
    “I don’t think there’s almost anyone incapable of recognizing errors in judgment, making better choices and coming to higher ground,” he said.
    When he assumed office, Boyack made a point to ask other judges for their advice on how to approach the new role.
    Unlike his position as prosecutor, the bench required him to be an independent decision maker, prohibited from asking the advice of others as he determined the future of those in his court.
    “The advice I received had to do with humility, with not stepping into the court believing you have all the answers, ready to dispense justice according to your sole belief of what that is,” Boyack said.
    He would give the same advice to anyone who comes to fill his shoes.
    When he retires completely, Boyack plans to travel to see his far-flung family with his wife, Pamela. The Boyacks have two grown sons, Nathan and Seth, and Daniel, who is a senior in Sonora High School. Their daughter, Hannah Cook, lives in Utah.
    The Boyacks recently lost 27-year-old daughter Megan Boyack Smith to acute myeloid leukemia on Nov. 8, 2010. Her newborn baby, Rylee Smith, is the newest member of the family, and splits time between Portland, Ore., and her father in Buffalo, NY.
    Boyack also intends to explore volunteer opportunities within the community — particularly in schools and mentoring.

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