Second District Judge David Roth said he finally figured out why 2nd District Judge John Wahlquist is retiring this month after 34 years on the bench.
Roth said it's plain and simple: politics. Wahlquist would rather have conservative Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter appoint someone to fill his shoes rather than take a chance on having a liberal environmentalist Democrat governor like Ted Wilson make the appointment."And how can you trust a politician who's never raped a public forest?" Roth asked.
His tongue-in-cheek comments were among many Friday when Wahlquist's friends and family gathered to roast the man who has been on the bench for more than three decades.
About 170 people attended the luncheon to listen to speakers poke fun at the judge.
Sitting proudly with a 1972 campaign button of former President Richard M. Nixon pinned to his jacket, Wahlquist chuckled, winced and laughed along with the audience.
Maurice Richards, former Weber County attorney and a long-time friend of Wahlquist, told the judge that he doesn't like him any better today then he did 50 years ago.
Richards said he practiced law before Wahlquist for about 30 years and the judge would always give the same speech in his courtroom.
First, Richards said, Wahlquist would tell his clients their rights and then ask the defendant, "Do you have an attorney with you?"
Standing next to his client, Richards would reply to the judge, "No, I'm standing here to get out of the rain."
State Court Administrator Bill Vickrey said now that Wahlquist is stepping down, most people will only see the judge occasionally. But Vickrey said he is stuck with Wahlquist because the judge is his father-in-law.
He said some people look at Wahlquist as having an "odd or cracked personality" but said the judge is a humble man because this was the first time in the judge's presence that Vickrey had been able to finish a sentence.
Attorney Jim Davis said Wahlquist is a great observer of the human condition because the judge was always able to figure out what was going on inside the courtroom without ever listening to the testimony.
Roth also pointed out that Wahlquist has been on the bench a long, long time. He said Wahlquist was elected a judge when President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office, Nixon was vice president and giant reptiles ruled the world.
Since Wahlquist announced he was going to retire, Roth said the local newspaper was getting fewer letters to the editor and the Utah Supreme Court was actually catching up on its backlog of cases.
When all was said and done, Wahlquist also poked fun at himself.
He pointed out that he was the first judge to wear a robe in the courtroom to bring dignity to the office. He said other judges started to do the same when they discovered that he got through three hot summers without wearing pants.
Wahlquist described himself as a "restless soul" who enjoyed working with "most" of the lawyers.
The judge admitted that he has sentenced thousands of men to prison, but in the end, he has been able to forgive.
"We forgive and we welcome into the fold," he said. "Can we all forgive one another for our shortcomings?"