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Judge James Collins was outstanding legal mind

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Jim Collins of Negaunee last week. Judge Collins, as he was more commonly known, died Dec. 20 at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. He was 91.

We won’t attempt to recount everything Collins accomplished in a life well lived. Other than building a successful and respected law practice that was capped by nearly two decades on the district court bench, Collins was a world traveler, a SCUBA diver, U.S. Navy veteran and long-time Rotarian who was active in the Sister City program between the cities of Marquette and Higashiomi, Japan.

What we’d like to note for the record in this writing was Collins’ respect for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. He truly believed a working, viable and independent press was critical to the proper functioning of government and said as much on many occasions.

Not that he disclosed information inappropriately. He didn’t. What he did was take it upon himself to educate the press in the workings of the court system.

On more than one occasion, he stayed long after hearings in the courtroom or in chambers and explained what had just happened, why and what was coming next. In that way, he was much like former Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Edward Quinnell, who often wore an instructor’s hat when dealing with the press, especially young reporters just learning the ropes. On the federal side, former Magistrate Judge Tim Greeley did the same thing in helping to school youthful hands. We are profoundly grateful to all.

The bottom line for the average reader was, the information we were able to provide them was of a much higher quality than it otherwise would have been as a result of their work. In educating the press, Judge Collins and the others educated the general public. He not only respected the letter of the First Amendment, he respected and honored the spirit.

By all accounts, he was an outstanding attorney and jurist who lived to the fullest. He will be missed.