M/cloudy
36°
M/cloudy
Hi 60° | Lo 48°

Greenville

Municipal court judge  recalls 42 years on bench

Robert Taft to talk

  • Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk on his experiences at the court at the Greenville library on Sunday.

    Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk on his experiences at the court at the Greenville library on Sunday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk on his experiences at the court at the Greenville library on Sunday.

    Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk on his experiences at the court at the Greenville library on Sunday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk about his experiences at the court, located at the Greenville library, on Sunday.

    Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk about his experiences at the court, located at the Greenville library, on Sunday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk on his experiences at the court at the Greenville library on Sunday.
  • Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk on his experiences at the court at the Greenville library on Sunday.
  • Robert Taft of Peterborough, the last judge to preside over the Greenville Municipal Court, which closed in 2000, will be giving a talk about his experiences at the court, located at the Greenville library, on Sunday.

GREENVILLE — In 1959, Robert Taft took up the position of the Greenville Municipal Court justice. It was a position that both his grandfather, Herbert J. Taft, and his father, James Chamberlin Taft, had held before him.

Herbert Taft was the first judge to rule there when the court opened around the year 1900, according to his grandson. His son assumed the mantle after his father’s death, and was the judge there until about 1946 shortly before he passed away. There would be another 13 years and two judges before Robert Taft, the third in the line, would resume the family tradition.

When the state reordered the court system to make a district court instead of a municipal court in the mid-1960s, they called up Taft to see when he would be retiring. After doing a little quick math in his head, he replied, “The year 2000.” Taft had taken the position of judge at the relatively young age of 28, and New Hampshire judges are not required to retire until they turn 70 years old. Because of his young start and his commitment to the job, serving in the court for just under 42 years, Greenville was the last town in the state to close the doors of its municipal court.

He’ll be talking about the experience on Sunday at 2 p.m. in a free event hosted by the Greenville Historical Society in the Chamberlin Free Public Library — the same building that once held the court he presided over for so many years.

Taft, now a resident of Peterborough, is a Greenville native, he said in an interview at his Peterborough law office Wednesday. He grew up on Main Street, right next to the Town Hall and library, which share a building. The court, while he presided there, was held in the lower level of the Town Hall, in what is now the Community Room. At the time he was nominated to serve in the Greenville Municipal Court, he was working as a lawyer. Instead of disrupting his practice, he said, he elected to hold court in the evening. It wasn’t really a popular decision with the Nashua lawyers who had to appear before him, he recalled with a grin.

“The attorneys that came before me were not always happy about having to come down to little Greenville at 7 o’clock at night,” he said.

Taft was paid the lofty price of $200 a year to preside over the court. Even that seemed a little rich for the blood of one Select Board member, Taft recalled with a sly grin, who told Taft one year when he was collecting his pay that the honor of serving at the Greenville Municipal Court should be enough reward in itself.

“I’ll never forget that,” Taft grinned.

It wasn’t always easy presiding over his own community’s court, he said. He used to warn those who came before him to ask any questions they might have about his rulings in court, to avoid being approached on the street. “I didn’t want to be a judge 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

Although, he was so well-known in that role for so long, that even years after he retired, people in the community were still referring to him as Judge Taft. “I was never just Bob,” he laughed.

There were a few memorable cases over the years, he recalled. One in particular, he said, involved a young female juvenile. He was going to send her home, he said, but knew that she was not currently getting along with her parents. So instead of making the ruling, he called a recess to step out and call his wife, to ask if he could bring her home for the night, until she could make arrangements to live with a nearby relative.

For more information abut Sunday’s talk, call Marshall Buttrick at 878-4117.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.