The Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Judges and Court staff celebrate the life of the Honorable Walter N. Colbath, Jr., who passed away on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. He was 86 years old.
Judge Colbath was passionate about public service and politics, beginning his legal career as the Public Defender of the Fifteenth Circuit in 1966. He left the Public Defender’s office in 1972, and later successfully ran for Councilman, then Mayor of the Village of North Palm Beach.
In 1984, Governor Bob Graham appointed Judge Colbath to the Circuit Court bench, replacing Judge Lewis Kapner. During his term as Chief Judge from 1997 to 2001, Judge Colbath led the Circuit in many outstanding achievements, including, early on in his term, the establishment of the Foreclosure division, which he presided over. Under his leadership, the juvenile mediation and alternative sanctions programs were developed to address the escalation of cases involving juvenile offenders. Then, in 1999, Chief Judge Colbath entered an Administrative Order establishing Community Court as a separate County Court division, utilizing volunteer judges to hear pleas involving quality of life offenses. In 2000, the Domestic Violence Intake Unit and the Batterers Intervention Program were implemented to address the increase in domestic violence cases in the County. He also oversaw the implementation of programs aimed at reducing jail overcrowding and recidivism rates, while also addressing possible underlying issues such as addiction, mental illness, and joblessness. In 2001, in his role as Chief Judge, he established the Elder Justice Center to identify and remove barriers faced by older adults by offering services to assist them in connecting with appropriate legal, medical and social service agencies. He retired from the bench in 2001. After his retirement, he continued to serve the legal community as a successful Circuit Civil Mediator.
Judge Walter N. Colbath, Jr. was a gentle giant and highly respected in the legal community. He was also a dedicated family man and raised three children, Walter N. Colbath, III; Jeffrey Colbath; and Stephanie Colbath. Walter N. Colbath, III, who preceded him in death, served as a Mediator and Mediation Coordinator in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. Judge Jeffrey Colbath (retired), also followed his father’s footsteps, first serving on the County Court bench from 1992 to 2003, then the Circuit Court bench from 2003 to 2019, and as Chief Judge from 2013 – 2017. He currently practices as a Circuit Civil Mediator.
Judge Walter N. Colbath, Jr. will be remembered fondly as a great leader of the Circuit and will truly be missed by the judiciary, the legal community, and the Court staff of the Circuit.