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Federal Judge William L. Dwyer Dies

February 13, 2002

SEATTLE (AP) _ U.S. District Judge William L. Dwyer, a former tough-as-nails lawyer whose rulings from the bench halted federal logging and sought improved treatment for sex predators, has died. He was 72.

Dwyer, who scaled back his judicial duties in 1999 and worked until January, had Parkinson’s and lung cancer. He died at his home Tuesday, said family friend Fred Brack.

``He stands out as a lawyer’s lawyer and a judge’s judge _ an intellectual powerhouse and a guy who shoots straight and plays it right down the middle,″ said Todd True of Earthjustice, an environmental group.

Dwyer, a liberal Democrat with a national reputation as an antitrust attorney who also helped keep major league baseball in Seattle, was nominated to the federal bench in 1987.

Dwyer brought federal logging to a standstill in 1991 in Oregon, Washington and much of Northern California when he ruled the federal government had no plan to protect the threatened northern spotted owl.

He found the Forest Service was violating laws by not maintaining a ``viable population″ of all species found within a particular national forest.

In the late ’90s, Dwyer took on oversight of Washington state’s Special Commitment Center _ where sexual predators are held indefinitely if deemed likely to re-offend after serving their time _ to ensure it met constitutional standards.

He pressed for effective treatment to allow residents’ hope of eventual release, working to protect the rights ``even of the most scorned people,″ plaintiffs’ attorney Bob Boruchowitz once said.

Dwyer reluctantly turned the monumental project over to Judge Barbara Rothstein earlier this year when he realized he would not live to see it completed.

As a trial lawyer, Dwyer sued baseball’s American League for permitting the Seattle Pilots’ flight to Milwaukee _ where they became the Brewers _ in 1969 after they played just one season and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Dwyer cross-examined baseball legend and American League president Joe Cronin so deftly that Cronin ``basically gave away the entire case,″ remembered Brack.

But when the Hall of Famer left the stand, he shook Dwyer’s hand.

The league eventually gave in before the case went to the jury and awarded Seattle a new franchise, which became the Mariners.

As a former associate once noted, Dwyer the attorney took courtroom opponents apart ``limb by limb, but in the nicest way possible.″

Born in Olympia, Dwyer grew up in Seattle, an only child raised by his mother, a secretary, after she and his truck-driver father divorced.

He attended the University of Washington and earned his law degree at New York University in 1953 _ delayed by a penchant for ducking out of classes.

He returned to the Northwest after three years in Germany with the Army. Last year, the University of Washington law school endowed a chair in his name.

Dwyer is survived by his wife, three children and five grandchildren.

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