Attorneys who had cases assigned to Judge Richard Matsch tend to remember a particular quirk about how he ran his courtroom: If you put your briefcase on the counsel tables, chances were you wouldn’t even get your bag all the way open before he lectured you. The formality of the courtroom setting was a sticking point for Matsch, who was known as much for his idiosyncratic procedural preferences and quick temper as his commitment to the fairness of the court system during his four-and-a-half decades on Colorado’s federal district bench. Putting personal belongings on his tables, in Matsch’s view, disrespected the formality of the court, as inappropriate interrupting him or wearing shorts to trial.
Matsch, perhaps most remembered for presiding over the Oklahoma City bombing trials of Timothy McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols, died May 26 at age 88. But having sat on Colorado’s bench since his 1974 appointment by President Richard Nixon, he saw a number of other high-profile cases. In the mid-2000s Matsch oversaw a lawsuit fi led by a hotel employee who accused Kobe Bryant of sexual assault. He presided over a 1987 case of two members of an anti-Semitic group accused of killing Jewish talk show host Alan Berg.