Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Will Garwood (pictured) died in an Austin hospital on Thursday from complications related to a heart attack. He was 79. Then-President Ronald Reagan appointed Garwood to the 5th Circuit in 1981. Garwood also briefly served on the Texas Supreme Court in 1979 when then-Gov. Bill Clements appointed him to that bench, making him the first Republican to serve on the Texas high court since Reconstruction, but he was later defeated in the 1980 general election by Democrat C.L. Ray, says 5th Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones. Jones, who served on the court with Garwood for 26 years, says Garwood “was regarded by all of us as the finest gentleman and one of the finest legal minds we’ve had the pleasure to work with. He had an incredible ability to recall legal cases and precedent, and he worked harder than any other judge on the court to perfect his opinions.” Garwood wrote many notable opinions after he took senior status in January 1997, chief among them U.S. v. Emerson, a 2001 opinion that was the first in decades to find that individuals have a right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Jones says Garwood worked hard on every opinion he issued, but he couldn’t always produce the kind of opinion he wanted while he served as an active judge because of the docket pressures of the busy court. “When he was a senior judge he could work at his own pace. And that was why he was able to turn out these incredibly scholarly opinions,” Jones says. A service for Garwood will be held on July 29 at 1 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin.
-- John Council