WATERLOO — A fixture of the local judicial system for more than three decades died over the weekend.
Judge Leonard “L.D.” Lybbert, who continued to dabble in law after retiring from the bench, passed away Sunday at Rosewood Estates. He was 90.
“Some of my first trials as a prosecutor were in front of him. You learn so much,” said Thomas Bower, a former prosecutor and district court judge who now sits on Iowa’s Court of Appeals.
Lybbert earned his bachelor of science and law degrees from the University of Iowa and was in private practice in Cresco until 1952, when he became a judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force.
After that, he practiced law in Waterloo beginning in 1957 and served as city attorney for Waterloo in the 1970s. He was appointed to the bench as a district court judge in 1975.
Over the years, Lybbert presided over a number of cases, including Lori Malloy, who was convicted of murdering her 4-year-old daughter in 1985, and Jerry Mark’s 1995 request for a new trial after Mark was convicted in the 1975 murders of his brother and his brother’s family.
“He always was well prepared for the issues that would be presented at trial. He always wanted input from attorneys on both sides on their positions,” said Thomas Ferguson, longtime Black Hawk County Attorney who now works for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
“I would call him a judge’s judge. When you were going to law school, he was what you’d picture a judge to be,” Ferguson said.
Lybbert became a senior judge, working part time, at age 65, and even when he reached mandatory retirement at age 78, he argued to the judicial branch, offering an interpretation of Iowa Code that kept him on the bench for six more months.
In retirement, he kept up a small practice to maintain his law license and worked as a mediator.
“He wanted to stay active. He was sharp as a tack when he left,” Bower said.
Lybbert also wrote scholarly papers that proposed steps for greater efficiency in the court system.
“He was always working on issues he thought were important to him,” Ferguson said.
Memorial services will be 11 a.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church with visitation from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Hagarty-Waychoff-Grarup Funeral Service on West Ridgeway Avenue.