For 20 years, District Court Judge David Sivright has held onto a newspaper clipping.
Headlined “Here comes the judge,” a reference to a sketch on the long-canceled television show “Laugh In,” the article details the path that led him to the 7th Judicial District.
A former partner in the law firm of Shaff, Van Scoy, Sivright and Kross, Sivright applied for a judgeship after receiving several recommendations from friends and colleagues. His demeanor was befitting a judge, Sivright’s friends said.
Now, two decades and 188 jury trials later, Sivright is stepping away from the bench. He doesn’t plan to fade away, but for a while at least, he will have some time to reflect on the memorable moments of a long career.
Sivright said that each of the 11 class A felony cases he’s presided over are memorable for some reason or other. But he found two to be especially impactful.
“Probably the cases that are most memorable and stick with you the longest are the ones where children were hurt or children are the victims,” Sivright said.
In 2010, Dameon Tucker was convicted of killing a woman and setting her apartment on fire, killing her young son in the process. And in 1997, Sivright presided over a case where a toddler was killed after being violently shaken.
“Those are difficult cases, when you have a child victim,” Sivright said.
Another memorable moment with a happier conclusion, which Sivright dubbed a “highlight,” was when he encountered a knife-wielding defendant whose recognizance release had just been revoked. The 19-year-old, facing charges of forgery and second-degree theft, pulled a knife after his court appearance and threatened to kill himself to avoid going to jail.
Sivright’s assurances that the young man would receive treatment instead of incarceration defused the situation.
Another highlight was the renovation of the Clinton County Courthouse, which was completed in 2003. Sivright praised the Clinton County Board of Supervisors for their “responsible” funding of the project, which he said updated the building while retaining its unique, historical properties.
“We now have courtrooms and judges chambers that are the envy of the state,” he said.
A lot has changed in Sivright’s judiciary years. Funding levels have been drastically reduced in recent years, as an economic downturn gripped the nation. He said he has seen staffing levels greatly decline, even as workloads increase.
“The judiciary branch is starving,” Sivright said, adding “there are more cases and less staff to handle them.”
Though he has cleared out his office to make way for his successor, Sivright’s presence will not be completely gone from the courthouse. He will likely continue as a senior judge, a part-time position that will have him preside over cases on a “fill-in” basis.
He also hopes to continue what has become a long-standing side career as a competitive swimming official. His son’s interest in competitive swimming sparked Sivright’s interest in the sport. In his years serving as a swim official, Sivright has twice been awarded the “Swim Official of the Year Award,” by the National Federation Officials Association for officiating boys meets in 2002 and girls meets in 2007.
Sivright will officiate state swim meets for both girls and boys during the upcoming school year, and will continue to stay involved when possible.
Stepping away will require saying goodbye to a number of people Sivright has worked with on a daily basis. Though he will still see them from time to time in his duties as a senior judge, Sivright said he will miss working everyday with courthouse staff.
“I’m going to miss working with the people here,” Sivright said. “Many of them have touched me deeply and I truly appreciate that.”