Detroit federal Judge Arthur Tarnow dies at age 79

January 22, 2022 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — Arthur Tarnow, a federal judge in Detroit for nearly 24 years, died Friday, the court said.

He was 79 and had been under treatment for heart issues.

“I knew that he was very sick, but it still pains me greatly to hear of his passing,” Detroit-area attorney Steve Fishman told The Detroit News.

Tarnow spent much of his law career in criminal defense and appeals before President Bill Clinton nominated him to U.S. District Court in 1997. He was confirmed by the Senate in 1998.

He was one of the most liberal judges in the Eastern District and lately was known for releasing prisoners because of the risk of COVID-19 behind bars. Prosecutors, however, won appeals in some of those cases.

In 1999, Tarnow temporarily blocked a state law that would have banned a certain abortion procedure. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently struck down a similar Nebraska law, and Tarnow permanently stopped the Michigan law from taking effect.

“The legal community in Detroit has lost a giant, both as a federal judge and as a human being,” U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg said. “No one had a bigger heart, a sharper mind or a quicker wit.”

Indeed, Tarnow wasn’t reluctant to inject humor into serious matters. In 2011, a man who pleaded guilty to financial fraud said some of his investors nonetheless “probably got 12 times” their money back.

The judge asked: “Is there still time to invest?”