- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

Last month, Superior Court Judge Robert R. Rigsby spent his days considering the arguments of D.C. teens busted for hand-to-hand drug deals, petty theft or the like. Next month, his courtroom will be in a combat zone and he'll be deciding the fate of U.S. soldiers charged with crimes like disobeying orders or mistreating the enemy.

Judge Rigsby, who also serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, is scheduled to be deployed on April 25 to serve six months in Iraq and Kuwait. He is the first sitting D.C. judge sent to war.

“I can't tell you enough how honored I am to be able to serve my country this way,” Judge Rigsby told The Washington Times during an interview Thursday in his chambers. “My dad was a soldier, and he would expect nothing less.”

About 150 of Judge Rigsby's friends and colleagues gathered to wish him well during a reception later Thursday in the atrium of D.C. Superior Court, where Chief Judge Lee Satterfield said Judge Rigsby's departure would be “a loss to the D.C. community.”

“But we do understand that you are not just serving the D.C. community, but the nation,” Judge Satterfield said.

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz of the D.C. National Guard told Judge Rigsby “you will set the standard for all those who follow you.”

“I commend you for answering your nation's call to duty,” said Brig. Gen. Clyde J. Tate II, Chief Judge of the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. “Thank you for putting your boots on the ground when your nation needed you.”

Though this is Judge Rigsby's first deployment overseas as a judge, he has served as a legal adviser in Egypt, South Korea, Japan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He was on active duty in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps from 1987 to 1992.

Eager to be an officer, Judge Rigsby entered an early commissioning program as a 19-year-old and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves.

“We have a duty to commit to public service,” said Judge Rigsby, who joined the D.C. court in 2002. “That is our responsibility. I don't get to pick and choose what that duty is or that commitment is. When the Army calls, you go. That's the way that we were raised to believe.”

Like many other soldiers, Judge Rigsby said the hardest part of his deployment will be leaving his wife, Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, an associate judge for the D.C. Court of Appeals, and their 11-year-old son.

“My wife and my son both understand how important this is for me to serve,” he said.

He said he has encountered “incredible support” as well as questions about why he did not try to get out of his service.

His response: “We took a vow to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States and that's something every cook realizes, every airplane mechanic, every fighter pilot. It doesn't matter what the job is, we all took the same oath.”

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