WHEELING - His friends and colleagues refer to him as the "consummate gentleman," noting he's "a mentor, a leader" and even a teacher. He's also a husband, a father and a fair jurist, one who is looked up to by others on the bench.
This level of respect from his peers and his 24 years on the federal bench have led U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr. to receive the West Virginia Bar Association's Award of Merit.
The honor came earlier this month during the group's 128th annual meeting at The Greenbrier. Wheeling attorney James Gardill, president of the association, presented the award. U.S. District Court Judge David A. Faber, from West Virginia's Southern District, made introductory remarks.
Photo By Fred Connors
U.S. District Court Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr. works in his office in Wheeling.
Gardill said the award recognizes Stamp, a Wheeling resident, "for an outstanding lifetime of distinguished services to the legal profession and/or the judiciary in West Virginia."
"There have only been two recipients of this award from the Northern Panhandle, with the other being the late Judge Thomas B. Miller, who was a member of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals," Gardill said.
Stamp, 80, became a federal judge in 1990. He said he sees no immediate end to his 24-year career on the federal bench.
"I enjoy the work and hope I am making a meaningful contribution," he said.
"That is partly because I have dedicated colleagues on the bench, and outstanding administrative assistants and legal clerks; and I work with very good attorneys. I am still learning every day."
He's also teaching, with the courtroom serving as his classroom. U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey of Wheeling referred to Stamp as a mentor, a leader and a gentleman with a good sense of humor.
"He has been a tremendous mentor. He never tells me what to do, but he leads me to the answer," Bailey said. "Most people who appear before him do not realize that he has a tremendous sense of humor and can be quite funny."
Bailey points to Stamp as the ultimate courtroom gentleman.
"A few years ago, when everybody was wearing 'What Would Jesus Do?' bracelets, I thought it would be great to have a 'What Would Fred Do?' version," Bailey said. "Then, when someone in the courtroom angered me, I could look at it to remind me to be a gentleman."
Stamp has seen the federal legal system undergo a number of changes since he took the bench on appointment by President George H.W. Bush.
He said technology has been one of the most significant.
"Attorneys do case filings, briefs, motions, pleadings in criminal and civil cases. We can also do legal research on the Internet," he said.
Another change is in the federal sentencing guidelines created in 1987.
"Judges have a certain amount of latitude in sentencing," he said. "Pre-sentence investigation reports help us calculate the defendant's history and define certain enhancements or reductions associated with the case."
He said every judge, at the federal or state level, must approach sentencing with great caution because a person's life and liberty may be at stake.
"We have to gather as much information as possible," he said. "The object is to consider the nature and circumstances of the case, to provide just punishment, to protect the public, to reflect the seriousness of the offense, and to respect the law."
Former U.S. Attorney William Kolibash understands Stamp's respect for the law, as he held office when Stamp became a federal judge and has appeared before him a number of times. He referred to Stamp as the "consummate gentleman, both professionally and personally."
"In my opinion, he is the most courteous and professional attorney around, both in his time in private practice and as a judge," Kolibash said. "He's even-keeled, and he treats the attorneys that appear before him fairly. It's always a pleasure to appear before him."
Prior to his appointment, Stamp served as a partner in the Wheeling law firm of Schrader, Stamp, Byrd, Byrum and Companion and its predecessor firms. Two of his former private practice colleagues also remarked on his award.
"He deserves that award," Wheeling Attorney James F. Companion, also a former U.S. attorney, said. "I have known him since the late 1960s. I worked with him as a partner and I worked on cases where he presided. He works hard as a judge and is very dedicated. Also, he is always a gentleman who is respectful to both sides."
"Judge Stamp embodies all of the qualities of an outstanding judge," Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone, also a private practice colleague, added. "His work ethic, scholarship and sense of fairness make him an outstanding jurist. Perhaps Judge Stamp's greatest quality is the gentlemanly demeanor and genuine civility that he exhibits in and out of the courtroom to everyone he comes into contact with. It does not matter what a person's politics, upbringing or lot in life is, Judge Stamp treats all with dignity and respect. I simply cannot think of a more deserving individual to receive this award. I commend Judge Stamp and his family for his long overdue recognition."
Stamp and his wife, Joan, are the parents of two children, Andy and Elizabeth.