Judge celebrated more than a year after his death

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gavel and sounding block on desk

Hundreds of people gathered in November to honor the life of a judge who died in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge William Enright, 94, died of a heart attack in March 2020 at his Mount Helix home in La Mesa.

A celebration of his life was postponed due to COVID-19 until it was safer for people to mix and gather.

In November 2021, 230 people gathered at the First United Methodist Church to pay tribute to one of the longest serving judges in San Diego history.

Though he was a Democrat, he was appointed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. The reason he was still a judge at age 94 was due to his accepting senior status over 30 years ago in which he selected cases he wanted to hear, and it was a reduced caseload.

“He is the reason I became a judge,” said Superior Court Judge Joan Weber to the congregation, which included three dozen current and retired judges and dozens of attorneys.

“He was the most brilliant trial judge I ever had. He became my mentor, my idol,” said Weber. “He will always be the gold standard in this town.”

“You all remember that speech. The Enright-isms. The Enright lecture,” said Weber. “I was terrified when I heard the Enright lecture and I was the prosecutor.”

Enright would often begin a sentencing by telling a defendant that “today the bill collector comes due” and “today the bell tolls for thee.”

Enright would say the defendant “must have thought” of other actions that he/she could have done other than the crime.

Defense attorney Milt Silverman, said he remember Enright giving another lecture when he placed people on probation.

“He took a key out of his pocket and gave it to them. This key is your freedom and is in your hands,” Silverman quoted Enright as saying.

Enright would tell people they had to fulfill terms of probation completely and remain law abiding. If not, they could go to prison for violating terms of probation.

“Bill Enright did justice his entire life. He was a man of compassion and understanding,” said Silverman.

“He was humble. He was not puffed up,” said Silverman. “He’s walking on a road called truth, beckoning others to follow.”

U.S. Judge Jeff Miller recalled how he and Enright passed the fitness room for judges at the federal courthouse, but didn’t go in. Enright, who was in his early 90s at the time, told Miller, “Oh, to be 85 again,” said Miller.

“He enhanced the image of our profession in the courts,” said Miller. “Judge Enright hasn’t left us, but Bill Enright has left us.”

Judge celebrated more than a year after his death