Worcester Federal Court Judge Timothy Hillman to retire in July

WORCESTER — Timothy S. Hillman, the longtime former county judge who presided over Worcester federal court for the past decade, will retire from regular active duty in July, the court recently announced.

Hillman — who served as a Fitchburg city attorney before being appointed as a judge of the Gardner District Court in 1991 — was appointed a U.S. District Court judge by President Barrack Obama in 2011.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will name a successor, although Hillman will not leave the bench entirely. He will continue to serve as senior judge, a semi-retired status in which judges continue to hear cases at a reduced rate.

According to the Federal Court Administrative Office, senior judges “essentially provide pro bono services to the courts” and collectively handle about 15% of the federal system’s caseload each year.


Born in 1948 in Chicago, Hillman grew up in Wisconsin before moving to Lunenburg as a teenager and eventually settling in Fitchburg.

A former Worcester County prosecutor, he served as a city attorney for a dozen years in Fitchburg and was appointed county judge in Gardner District Court in 1991.

Hillman was appointed presiding judge of the Worcester District Court in 1997 before being named a superior court judge the following year. He was appointed as a U.S. District Court Judge in 2006 and a U.S. District Court Judge in 2012.

“Throughout Judge Hillman’s impressive judicial career, which includes four different appointments to federal and state courts, he has been known as a remarkably wise judge with a very human approach,” said F. Dennis Saylor. IV, Chief Judge of the United States District Court of Massachusetts. , said in a press release.

“He leads his courtroom with a firm belief that the law has a direct impact on people’s lives and that those before him must be genuine participants in the legal process.”

Sitting on a bench in Worcester

Hillman, while sitting on the Worcester bench, often made a point of clearly explaining court proceedings to defendants.

“Make this a beginning and not an end,” he often tells those he condemns, frequently urging them to lean on and justify family or friends who have vouched for or supported them.

United States District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman

The judge can often be seen consulting with court staff and probation officers before making decisions, a collaborative practice that won him praise in his early days as a county judge.

“He’s one of the nicest judges we’ve ever had,” Cindy Ayer, a procedural clerk at Gardner, told the Telegram & Gazette in 1997.

Gardner’s chief probation officer at the time also praised Hillman, and Saylor in his statement highlighted the judge’s longstanding emphasis on working with probation.

“Throughout his long tenure on the federal and state benches, Justice Hillman has been passionate about reducing recidivism and promoting public safety by improving outcomes for those involved in the justice system. “Saylor said.

The Chief Justice noted that Hillman partnered with the US Probation Office in Massachusetts in 2006 to launch the RESTART (Reentry: Empowering Successful Todays and Responsible Tomorrows) program, a “voluntary reintegration program designed to support people in probation or on probation who are facing a difficult situation”. risk of recurrence”.

Hillman, whose family includes his wife Kay, three children and three grandchildren, is “unquestionably one of the court’s most beloved and respected judges, not only among his colleagues, but among court staff at all levels,” Saylor said. .

“Anyone who has been in his presence knows well his disarming humor, his dynamism, his humility and his common sense,” he added.

The rolling stones

As Gardner’s court staff noted when he left in 1997, Hillman is never shy about speaking his mind or cracking a joke. He had a knack for playing St. Nick at holiday gatherings, employees said at the time, and decades ago he regaled a T&G reporter with Rolling Stones follow-up stories across the country. in the early 1970s.

The Stones, along with Eva Cassidy and other singer-songwriters, can often be heard during jury trials in his courtroom, where he began using music rather than traditional white noise to conceal what is said during the boxes with lawyers.

“If you don’t like the music selection,” he told jurors at a recent trial, smiling as jurors laughed, “Never mind.”

In addition to his service on the bench, Hillman taught courses in advocacy at Clark University and law and psychiatry at the Massachusetts School of Law.

“He remains an active member of the state and local legal communities and has taught various continuing legal education programs on topics including evidence, juries and expert witnesses,” the government said in its news release.

Hillman declined an offer to comment on Thursday. His post will be the third vacancy in the Massachusetts court due to his senior status, Robert M. Farrell, clerk of the courts for the Massachusetts federal system, said in an email.

The president will appoint judges to fill vacancies which, as Hillman was in 2012, will need to be confirmed by the US Senate.

In Massachusetts, U.S. senators previously created a committee to select nominees, Farrell noted. That committee has been chaired in recent years by retired federal judge Nancy Gertner — the same judge Hillman replaced in 2012.

Contact Brad Petrishen at brad.petrishen@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @BPetrishenTG.

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