Judge Richard Matsch, who died on May 26 at the age of 88, is best known for having overseen the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh. But that’s only part of his legacy. Matsch, who served as chief judge for the U.S. District Court in Colorado from 1994 to 2000 and remained on the bench until earlier this year under senior status, was one of the most powerful jurists in the state for decades, as evidenced by his frequent mentions in Westword.
Among the most contentious of Matsch’s rulings in recent years was his conclusion that Colorado’s sex-offender registry violated the due-process rights of three plaintiffs — a decision that prompted Montrose County to take its registry offline for fear that making it available might lead to future litigation.
This call may seem surprising, considering that Matsch was nobody’s idea of a screaming liberal; note that he was appointed to the federal bench by President Richard Nixon way back in 1974. But he had the courage of his convictions, and that earned him the respect of colleagues whether they agreed with him or not.