The normal seriousness of the Kenai court was replaced by laughter and joviality Friday afternoon as Charles T. Huguelet took a bit of teasing from colleagues and friends during his official installation as judge of the Superior Court.
After being sworn in by Alexander O. Bryner, chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, and being ceremonially robed by his wife, Donna Huguelet, and daughter, Beth, Judge Huguelet's co-workers took turns telling a packed courtroom humorous stories about the judge who replaced Jonathan H. Link, who died in March.
"Whenever the torch is passed, you're curious about the person who is going to be sitting on the bench next to you," said Superior Court Judge Harold Brown.
"These days, with the Internet, it's pretty easy.
"I looked him up and found he graduated from the University of North Carolina ... and that's OK," Brown said with a laugh.
Getting a bit more serious, Brown said Huguelet (pronounced HYOO-guh-lay) pitched in immediately, adding that "everybody admires his work, his attention to detail and his courtesy."
"It's good to know someone's going to be a hard worker and cover up some of my errors," Brown said, again to a courtroom of chuckles.
Natalie Finn, a retired District Court judge, spoke as a family friend of Huguelet's.
Saying she asked several family members for stories about the man, Finn said one of Huguelet's friends told her she needed to mention wardrobe and vehicles.
"It would interest people to know he's more comfortable in a leather jacket and cowboy boots," she said.
"And while many know he owns a Volkswagen, you should know he also owns a big, red Harley," Finn said.
"Oh, and he scares boyfriends," she said, directing the remark to Huguelet's daughter, who attended the ceremony with her boyfriend.
Finn also informed the group that Huguelet has a master's degree in strategic planning from the Air War College.
"He's the guy to go to if Canada's ever invaded," she said.
On a kinder note, Finn described Huguelet as being a good listener.
"That characteristic distinguishes him as a judge," she said.
Speaking for the Kenai Bar Association, Jim Butler said Kenai is fortunate to have the court it has.
"The people in the court are very helpful," he said.
He warned the new judge that he would find he has more friends than he ever imagined when the ice melts and the Kenai River opens to fishing.
Huguelet thanked the people who spoke and those in attendance at the installation.
"I'd like to thank the judges, especially (District Court) Judge (David) Landry, for giving me some very interesting cases," Huguelet said.
"I'd also like to thank Millie Link (Judge Link's widow) for feeding me and for helping me decorate my office."
As Chief Justice Bryner was making final remarks, he commented on Huguelet arriving at the courthouse in Carhartts and a T-shirt with paint cans in hand and said, "If you're going to replace Judge Link, you'd better be ready with building maintenance abilities.
"Alaska is tremendously fortunate to have such a strong judiciary, and Judge Huguelet is no exception," Bryner said.
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