Members of the Juneau legal community, family, and friends attended the dedication of the Robert Boochever United States Courthouse on March 3, 2014. The courthouse is located on the ninth floor of the Hurff Ackerman Saunders Federal Building in downtown Juneau.
Many of those who spoke during the event remembered his honesty and integrity, his work as a champion for the disadvantaged and the individual, and his community involvement with the first Juneau Planning Commission or many other Juneau civic groups. Many referred to his own high standards as a fierce competitor in the courtroom and on the tennis or basketball court, but someone who was a gracious loser who also believed in sportsmanship and fair play, and who was kind and compassionate to all.
The attorney and judge passed away in October 2011 at the age of 94.
Workers were still finishing the new signage on the ground floor windows as U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess and U.S. Senator Mark Begich were making their comments and cutting the ribbon upstairs.
It essentially took an act of Congress eighteen months ago to kick off the ceremony. The naming of the Robert Boochever United States Courthouse was first proposed by Alaska Congressman Don Young in March 2012 and signed into law by President Obama in the following October.
Boochever continued to hear cases until the age of 90 as a senior member of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the first-ever judge appointed from Alaska. He even returned to his Juneau chambers to hear cases at the courthouse that now bears his name.
Prior to his federal appellate appointment by President Jimmy Carter in 1990, Boochever served as justice and chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. He was appointed to the state’s highest court by Governor Bill Egan after working as a private attorney for 25 years at the firm Faulkner, Banfield & Boochever.
Local attorney Mary Alice McKeen worked as a law clerk for then-Justice Boochever, and said she remembered his thoughtfulness and knowledge of the law. But it was the little acts of kindness that had the biggest impact.
McKeen remembered a note of praise that Boochever wrote on Alaska Supreme Court embossed, colored stationary that was sent to her father at Christmas.
“It just made his day!” McKeen said. “He recognized that even though we weren’t minors that our parents would still love to hear that.”
Boochever initially arrived in Juneau in 1946 – soon to be followed by his wife Connie and their new baby – to take up a job as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Territory of Alaska.
Daughters Anne Boochever and Barbara Boochever Lindh said their dad occasionally sent home opinions after hearing cases during his time on the Ninth Circuit. But otherwise it seems that he rarely brought his work home with him.
What they remember the most are the flyfishing, the classical piano, and the poetry and storytelling.
“He, to me, is a marvel of living a balanced life,” Ann Boochever said of her father who was devoted to his family. “I think it’s very difficult to achieve. I don’t know how he did it.”