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Paul Gadola, a retired U.S. district judge who served two decades on the federal bench in southeast Michigan, has died at age 85.

Dodds-Dumanois Funeral Home in Flint said Gadola died Friday at the Burcham Hills retirement community in East Lansing. The funeral will be held Jan. 7 at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Flint.

Gadola spent about 35 years as a Flint lawyer before President Ronald Reagan named him in 1988 to the U.S. District Court in the Detroit area that includes Flint. He stopped hearing cases in 2008 because of health reasons and retired in 2009.

Among the survivors is a son, Michael, whom Gov. Rick Snyder this month appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals after he worked as the governor’s chief counsel since 2011. Paul Gadola Jr.’s father was a Genesee County judge who in 1937 signed an injunction ordering the sit-down strikers out of the General Motors and Fisher Body plants in Flint.

Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, called Gadola “an exemplary public servant and friend.”

“Throughout his career, whether as a lawyer or federal court judge, Paul was warm-hearted, kind and respectful to everyone he worked with,” Kildee said in a statement. “And despite our political differences at times, we were always friends first — the way it ought to be.”

Gadola had a reputation as a hard-working, low-key jurist. He headed the Reagan-Bush 1980 and 1984 presidential campaigns in Michigan.

One of his highest-profile cases involved the sentencing of former Detroit Police Chief William Hart for embezzling $2.34 million from a police secret service fund earmarked for undercover drug operations. In 1992, Gadola sentenced Hart to 10 years in prison and ordered him to repay all of the money though federal guidelines suggested a five-year sentence.

“The dismal, monstrous and intolerable consequences of the defendant’s outrageous and heinous misconduct in the embezzlement of funds which had been dedicated by the people’s elected representatives to the war against crime and criminals cannot be overestimated,” Gadola said in the sentencing.

The judge’s sentence was upheld by a federal appeals court.

Gadola was known as a judicial conservative and civil libertarian. In 2009, the Flint area branch of the American Civil Liberties Union named Gadola its civil libertarian of the year. He also was a former president of the Urban League of Flint.

In the 1960s, Gadola worked for free for the ACLU when he represented mostly black protesters in Flint who staged an all-night rally on the City Hall lawn in support of a local ballot measure to ban racial discrimination by real estate brokers and landlords, according to the New York Times. He won the case, and the measure was narrowly approved.

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