It’s not every day, outside of a Hollywood film set, that spectators in court burst into applause.
But that’s what happened during Princeton circuit court in December, when Judge Gale Sinclair, 69, announced his retirement and expressed his pleasure over 30 years of presiding in judgment over the Town of Princeton.
“I have always enjoyed coming to Princeton, and I would like to say that for the record.”
Sinclair has been as much a fixture in Princeton court as his dais and his gavel.
In an interview with The Spotlight, he reflected on a career that brought him to town frequently, although he was reluctant to name the highlights.
“There’s been some interesting stuff but I can’t really pin point anything.”
Sinclair said he has always enjoyed a casual court atmosphere.
“I think that’s fair. I like to sort of be on the same plane as people so I like to keep it casual and friendly.”
During one remarkable sitting earlier this year, a defendant addressed the court and asked Sinclair if he would like to go for coffee.
“We can do that when I retire,” said the judge.
Sinclair has watched people grow up in Princeton.
“I had a grandpa as a client [forty years ago when he was a lawyer in Penticton]. I’ve had his son and grandson in court.”
He has often seen the same defendants, over and over again, before his bench.
“I just look and think ‘my goodness you are back here again. What are you here for?’”
And he expressed empathy for many of the people that have appeared before him.
“I’m just a guy and I don’t judge people. I judge what they have done. There are so many people that are so disadvantaged. You have to do your best to accommodate them.”
He well remembers Princeton lawyer Stan Turner, who died two years ago.
“I loved Stanley Turner. It’s just not the same without hi…so put a plug in there for him okay?”
Sinclair said he has always liked the variety that circuit court provides.
“Give me a good civil case. I enjoy that…I like criminal cases but my least favorite is family cases because they are so tragic.”
While Sinclair will never preside in Princeton again, he has a few more months on the bench in Penticton.
After that, he plans to travel with his wife and spend more time with his stepson.
Parting from the law is not bittersweet, he said.
“I know it’s time for me to go, so I’m going to go.”