Loren Sawyer may have retired from the bench but never from appreciating the law.

Loren Sawyer may have retired from the bench but never from appreciating the law.

The memorial service for the longtime Jackson County Circuit Court judge is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at Voorhies Mansion, 2301 Voorhies Road, Medford.

In keeping with Sawyer's dedication to charitable causes and the outdoors, his family is asking that donations to Mount Ashland's "Give a Kid a Lift" program or the Greenway Foundation be made in lieu of flowers.

Sandra Sawyer said her late husband was only 29 when he became a judge. Thirty-seven years later, he left the bench to practice mediation and arbitration.

"He was as busy as he wanted to be," she said. "He enjoyed settling disputes and saving people the cost and emotional expense of a trial."

Sawyer was a lifelong Oregonian, born in Redmond in 1931, who spent his time off hiking and skiing.

During his bench career, he was a vocal opponent of the "tough-on-crime" Measure 11 sentencing guidelines.

He believed money was better spent on drug and alcohol treatment rehabilitation programs, his wife said.

"He thought the money spent on punishment on what he considered to be a sickness or affliction was misspent," she said. "He felt that putting the money in education and rehabilitation would prevent crime."

And though he sometimes butted heads with prosecutors by not imposing Measure 11 sentences, those who tried cases before him often felt they were given a fair shake in court, according to Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

Huddleston began his career in the District Attorney's Office in 1981 and tried several cases in Sawyer's court.

"He always did a great job of making litigants and jurors feel comfortable with the setting," Huddleston said. "Trials can be tense situations. He was always kind and graceful in court."

Perhaps the biggest surprise of his career, though, came when he wasn't on the bench. Sawyer received numerous letters from people whom he sent to prison, Sandra Sawyer said.

"They wrote him to say they felt they had been treated fairly and they expressed their appreciation," she said. "They respected him because he treated them with the dignity a human being deserves."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.