Magistrate judge 'had a perfect judicial temperament'

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
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As a magistrate judge for more than 40 years, Paul Komives oversaw many cases as well as interacted with many attorneys and parties. And throughout his time on the bench, colleagues recall a constant calm.

“He had a perfect judicial temperament,” said Christina Farinola, a former clerk for more than 15 years. “He was just very special.”

Mr. Komives died Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, at his home. He was 86.

Much of his legal career was spent as a magistrate judge, a position he was appointed to in 1971, when the Metro Detroit native became one of the first to hold that title in the country, according to a profile by the Federal Bar Association’s local chapter.

During that tenure, he heard cases involving child pornography suspects, police officers linked to a drug ring, an Imlay City man charged with trying to kill his estranged wife using a mail bomb and a computer programmer suspected of planning to shoot former co-workers, Detroit News archives show.

“He was very even-keeled. He was extremely intelligent and dedicated to our profession, had a tremendous amount of criminal law and criminal procedure experience,” said Martin Crandall, a criminal defense attorney who clerked for Komives in the 1970s. “He gave us 40 years of steady guidance as the pre-eminent U.S. magistrate for this district.” 

Mr. Komives was known for his approach.

Once, when Farinola was in court with him for a proceeding, a witness voiced confusion with the judge’s ruling on an objection. “He responded in a very even-keeled tone, explaining how things work in a courtroom," she recalled. "There was no anger, no elevation of the voice.”

The legal professional had long prepared for his role.

Born July 12, 1932, to Hungarian immigrants in Detroit, he earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1958 and joined the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., relatives and associates said. 

He later returned to Detroit to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Michigan at the request of the Kennedy administration.

By then, his encyclopedic knowledgealready was apparent. One day, during a break in a trial, colleague George Googasian needed help in the office searching cases to back his position.

Mr. Komives gave him page numbers in multiple volumes and “there were the cases, right on point to my issue,” said Googasian, a past president of the State Bar of Michigan and the Oakland County Bar Association. “He had an absolutely photographic memory, and I’ve never met anyone before or since whowas as brilliant as he was.” 

Mr. Komives also was chief of the criminal division before becoming a special prosecutor in Wayne County Circuit Court, family and colleagues said. He worked in private practice until his magistrate appointment.

When retiring in 2015, he was “the longest serving magistrate judge in the history of this country,” the Federal Bar Association, Eastern District of Michigan Chapter reported. 

Mr. Komives was active with judges’ groups and taught at the Detroit College of Law as well as the Wayne State University Law School, his family said.

“He was a role model for magistrate judges,” said U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman. “He was the best. He was what everybody wants to be as a judicial officer.”

Mr. Komives also was on the International Heritage Foundation board, according to the group, and led the board for the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, associates said.

In his spare time, he was known as a devout Catholic and family man who devoured as many books as possible, Farinola said. "He would read very serious books chalk full of data and history."

Survivors include his wife Martha; daughters Susan Vawter, Andrea Hofmeister and Kristine Komives; a son, Michael; 11 grandchildren; and siblings Judy Martinek and S. Michael Komives.

Services were Monday.


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