Masteller Toasted, Roasted And Sworn In 11/23/18 11/26/18 12:00:55 AM
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Judge James Masteller receives assistance in donning his robe from his three daughters, (from left) Justice, Gabrielle and Quintessa. (Photo by Lorraine Boyd)
Masteller Toasted, Roasted And Sworn In
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
It was hello and goodbye for James M. Masteller. He became the latest Douglas County District Court judge Nov. 16 when he was sworn in by Douglas County District Court Judge Horacio Wheelock.
There Masteller was praised by his former boss, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, for his appointment
and his future as a judge, while at the same time honoring him for his 17 years in the Douglas County Attorney’s office.
Kleine presented Masteller with a desk clock and a frame of a meaningful quote by Margaret Chase Smith that said: “Public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation.”
It was surrounded by the signatures of all his co-workers and an extra-special touch. Kleine related that Masteller often signed his letters, memos and e-mails “Godspeed.”
“I looked it up,” Kleine said. “It is an old English term, kind of personal blessing, meaning have a prosperous journey, or be safe. Everyone signed Godspeed with their name.”
Rev. John Vakulskas Jr., in his invocation, explained the robbing ceremony.
“It is similar to the robes a priest wears at liturgical functions,” he said. “It covers all the clothes. It covers a rich man’s clothes or a poor man’s clothes as a symbol that everybody is equal in the eyes of God. Jim, may you have the Wisdom of Solomon. … As prosecutor, Jim worked to seek justice. Now as a judge, he’s working to see that justice is done.”
While all the speakers heaped praise on the new judge, occasionally the ceremony took on the characteristics of a good-natured roast.
Kleine reminisced about how Masteller talked about his days in high school as allegedly a star sprinter and was then challenged to a race by another lawyer in the office.
“He was very competitive. That was one of the most well-attended out-of-office events we’ve ever held,” he said. “In fact, I just happen to have pictures.”
With that, he projected images on the room’s screens, showing Masteller crossing the finish line after the challenger.
“He gave it his all. He did his best. He finished last,” Kleine said. “Actually I guess I could have said he came in second, or was the runner-up. He didn’t win but he was still a good sport.”
Kleine went on.
“Here’s something you don’t know: Jim had pre-trial hair and trial hair,” he said. “You always knew when he was going to trial. Everyone’s wondering what his judicial hair is going to look like.
“I’ve heard court reporters are somewhat relieved he won’t be trying cases anymore, because one of the worries they always had was they would run out of exhibit stickers.
“We’re very proud of Jim, I’ve even heard that his dog, Bullet, is proud of him.
“He has all the qualities you would expect for someone serving on the bench. He’s patient. He’s kind. He’s a good listener. He’s very smart. All those things. And he’ll be just a great judge.”
City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse also gave advice “to people who are going to be working with him… I hope you enjoy a half-hour lunch, at most.”
Kuhse noted that Masteller is the latest in long line of prosecutors to become a judge.
“For the defense attorneys out there who might say, ‘OMG, another prosecutor became a judge; all he’s going to do his hammer people all the time.’” Kuhse said, “It’s not true. It’s the prosecutors who are going to be the ones facing
the biggest problem, because he’ll be up there silently judging them. ‘I can’t understand why they didn’t offer more pictures? Why did they not offer a close-up of exhibit number 47? Why not a close-up of exhibit number 47 with the EV marker next to it?”
These comments elicited uproarious laughter from people who knew well what he was talking about.
He spoke to the judges: “You will no longer have to have a series of exhibits numbered in the three digits. To Lisa Arrowsmith and Shelley Chapman, his new staff …. Good luck to you! Jim likes to work a lot, and if you don’t think he’s going to have hearings on the record at 4 o’clock on Friday or the day before a holiday, you are mistaken!
“Jim’s the smartest person I know. He loves the law more than anyone I know. All kidding aside, we all wish you good luck in this new endeavor.”
Masteller was appointed by Governor Ricketts to the seat held by Mark Ashford, who died suddenly August 1, 2018.
Helping Masteller celebrate were his wife and daughters, his mother Jan, and a host of relatives, co-workers and friends. His family already boasts a lawyer or two and a magistrate judge. A reception at The Paxton Ballroom followed the 4 o’clock program.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine presents Jim Masteller with a very special gift for his years in the County Attorney’s Office. Each signatory wishes him “Godspeed.”
A family portrait was called for on this auspicious occasion. Jim Masteller beams over his daughters and wife: From left, Justice, Gabrielle, Quintessa and Tanya. (Photos by Lorraine Boyd)