2017 in Review: Longtime district judge dies

By Messenger Staff | Published Wednesday, December 27, 2017
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Messenger photo by Joe Duty

District Judge John H. Fostel, 69, died unexpectedly June 2.

Fostel had served as judge of the 271st Judicial District since 1995, and his sudden illness and death stunned friends and family.

Fostel first came to Wise County in the early 1970s to work for W.B. Woodruff as he built what would become the storied Woodruff, Fostel, Wren and Simpson firm in Decatur. Friends remembered Fostel as a gifted trial lawyer with a keen sense of humor. He had a knack for lifting people’s spirits, and he was known to offer a witty quip or pull a funny stunt, even in the courtroom, if the time was right.

Longtime friend and law partner Mike Simpson said Fostel was called to be a judge.

“He had what they call ‘judicial temperament,'” he said. “In other words, he could sit and listen to things and not get mad and not take sides until the whole story was told. And then he would be very compassionate and nice. I never saw him with a grudge or anything like that.”

His approach to the bench was fair, but firm.

Hundreds of people attended Fostel’s memorial service at the Decatur Conference Center, and in November, Wise County commissioners approved naming the 271st District Courtroom in Fostel’s honor.

Attorney Brock Smith of Decatur was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to fill the remainder of Fostel’s term and has filed to run for the post in the 2018 election.

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