Family, colleagues and friends reflect on Ksen’s life on and next to the bank

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For most of the people who have ever met George P. Kazen, it was likely in a courtroom. He would have been in the bank, in his robes, brilliant, stoic, compassionate, and authoritarian.

But to the people who knew Kazen personally, he was so much more. He was caring, humble, cute and funny, a mentor, a father and a friend.

“Everyone seems to think they are sacrosanct what they see on the bench,” said Kitten’s oldest son, George D. Kazen. “He was the warmest, funniest and gentlest person you could ever meet.”

He would come up with one-liners that would blow his friends and his beloved musicals away. Each of his 10 grandchildren simply loved him and he immediately adored them, said Kazen’s son. He died on April 27 at the age of 81 with his four children at his side.

Kazen was born and raised in Laredo and graduated from St. Joseph’s High School at age 15. He received both his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Texas, spent some time as a briefing attorney for the Texas Supreme Court, and served as Air Force Captain and Attorney General for three years.

He ran a private practice in Laredo from 1965 to 1979 until he was named U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas by President Jimmy Carter. From 1996 to 2003, Kazen was Chief Judge for the Southern District of Texas, and in 2003 he was appointed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He retired in March 2018 after serving at the bank for nearly 40 years.

Laredo US District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo said working with Kazen was like accessing a legal encyclopedia, but with all the experience and knowledge he brought with him. He also did everything he could to make people feel like they were having their day in court, Marmolejo said; they did not leave feeling that the law was inaccessible to them.

“But at the end of the day you have to make these difficult decisions, you have to apply the law. You have to strike the right balance between being tough and fair, being compassionate, and obeying and obeying the law, ”she said. “I think Judge Kazen presented the right balance between compassion and strength. Not everyone can do that. It takes time to grow into it. “

Kazen was always interested in learning about the lives of his colleagues; they would call him “Curious George,” said Marmolejo. He would keep up with any case and pay close attention to details.

Kazen read the Laredo Morning Times every morning. Whenever a case from Marmolejo’s court was in the newspaper, he cut the article, wrote a note on his stationery with a comment on the case – always something supportive or funny – clipped it to the article, and had it delivered to Marmolejo’s office.

The job of a federal judge is inherently very isolating. And those who didn’t know Kazen would say he was shy. But Marmolejo remembers his dry, brilliant sense of humor.

Judge Diana Song Quiroga’s sister is a successful handbag designer in Los Angeles and gives each of her bags a woman’s name. Judge Marmolejo talked to Kazen about it and also mentioned how cool it would be if a handbag were named after her.

So Kazen and Quiroga secretly worked with their sister, whose brand is Melie Bianco, to design and name a wallet after Marmolejo.

During one of her lunch breaks, Marmolejo was called into a conference room where Kazen was giving a presentation. All the clerks and other judges were there, and Marmolejo thought he might be giving a legal lecture. Kazen, in disguise and at the lectern, held a “Marina” purse, a shoulder bag with a chic bow, and had everyone gathered to reveal it to Marmolejo.

Kazen comes from a family of lawyers and judges; his son John Kazen is a US judge in Laredo. Judge John Kazen said he and his siblings thought their father was a fantastic father figure, a loving grandfather, and an incredible role model.

Eldest son George D. Kazen said he was well on his way to becoming a lawyer, but his father helped point him in a different direction. After college, Judge Kazen encouraged his son to take a break, and George D. Kazen decided to stay in banking and finance.

“He was never judgmental, never opinionated about where we were going with our lives as long as we were satisfied with what we were doing,” said George D. Kazen. “He had no aspirations, no particular mission for any of us other than to be happy.”

His father had three loves in life – his wife Barbara, who passed away in 2011; the law; and the church, said George D. Kazen. But his life was really the law. When Judge Kazen retired in March 2018, he had no other hobbies and it was a challenging adjustment, his son George said.

McAllen District Court Judge Ricardo Hinojosa took over the bank not long after Kazen in 1983. He called Kazen to discuss their cases and work. Since they were both at the border, they had very similar routing slips.

“We had a good personal relationship. I trusted his judgment and his point of view on legal issues very much, ”said Hinojosa. “… He was the kind of person you always feel comfortable with, who spends time with you.”

Attorney Donato Ramos Sr. worked for Ksen’s law firm Mann, Castillon, Freed & Kazen from 1971 and remained close friends with him until his death.

Ramos believes Kazen was so brilliant and so ethical that he could have sat in the US Supreme Court. Because in addition to his talent, he was also an extremely hard worker – a deadly combination, said Ramos.

“We lost a true legend from Laredo. You could turn him against anyone who influenced Laredo. I don’t know if anyone can excel at what they did or the kind of person they were, ”said Ramos.

Over the years, Ramos has tried cases in Ksen’s court. In McBee v Jim Hogg County, newly elected sheriff Gilbert Ybanez did not appoint a deputy to the previous sheriff’s who fought against Ybanez. Former Deputy Jimmie McBee filed a lawsuit alleging this violated her right to first amendment.

Kazen decided in McBee’s favor. But Ramos, who represented the district, appealed the case and the Fifth District of the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned. This is one of the few times Ramos “hit” Kazen, he said.

As friends, Ramos and Kazen would “shoot the bull” and generally talk about the law, its principles, their mutual friends, Laredo News and his wife Barbara, whom he missed very much after their death, Ramos said.

Kazen wrote a letter of recommendation to Mayor Pete Saenz when he first applied for law school, and many years later he took his oath of office when he became mayor.

“… I am really grateful for such gestures, together with the many visits that we have had in his life,” Saenz said in a statement. “My sincere prayers and condolences go to the entire Kazen family, their surviving children, and other family members and friends. He will definitely be missed, but not forgotten; he left us his immense legacy for us to emulate and cherish. Rest in peace.”

Julia Wallace can be reached at 956-728-2543 or [email protected]

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