Delco re:View Spring 2019 - 20

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MANKIND THE VESSEL ...
A MEMORIAL RESOLUTION
Honorable James F. Nilon, Jr.

J

udge James F. Nilon, Jr., 68 years old at his death, was
a graduate of St. John Chrysostom Elementary School,
Archmere Academy, Widener University and its Delaware
Law School. In the latter, he served as a member of the Law
Review and Moot Court Honor Society. He was admitted to
the bar in 1978, and served as a Magisterial District Judge in
Middletown Township for more than 16 years before his election
to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas in 2005. He
won retention in 2015. Judge Nilon was more than just a man
with a wide breadth of interests and a kind disposition; he
was in point of fact an extraordinary man. He was extremely
accomplished, not just professionally, but also in his personal
life.
Jim was an avid reader and a lifelong learner with many
interests; for example, he was an accomplished sailor; an expert
glider pilot; a secure and reliable aviator; a talented radio and
Morse code operator; a tireless cyclist; a dedicated preservation
volunteer on one of our nation's great battleships, the USS
New Jersey, moored in Camden; and active on the Board of the
Colonial Plantation in Ridley Creek State Park.
Judge Nilon had been a natural-born aviator since age 16,
flying everything from seaplanes to gliders. He was also a Ham
radio operator and was fluent in Morse code. Jim bought and
restored his first aircraft at age 16, an old pontoon plane that he
flew under every bridge on the Delaware River.
Jim was also a sometime golfer who just loved to compete.
A round of golf was nothing unless there was a little something
at stake. A small bet was important, but of greater importance
was winning the match. And, he with his carefully selected
teammates, would often win; and, those of us caught on the
losing side were not insulated from a bit of crowing from the
winner. All in good fun. Jim very much liked to have fun. A
glass of red wine and a convivial audience were all he needed
for a satisfying post round get together. Never discourteous and,
as remembered by Dick Mitchell, Jim always participated in
"Election Day Golf." He would, most times, bring along at least
one friend. Dick said that he was always impressed that the first
thing Jim would do when he got out of his car was to come over
to him to introduce his guests and then thank him personally for
having put together the day of golf and comradery. This courtesy
was typical of Jim Nilon.

20 | Spring 2019

Although a kind man at heart, Judge Nilon was demanding of
the attorneys who appeared before him. Jim Nilon's reputation
was that of a very insightful judge - one of the best; he was also
known to be fair but strict. He kept cases moving. There was
no dilly-dallying in his courtroom. He worked hard. ADAs who
worked in his courtroom knew that he ran a tight courtroom.
He cared about justice and always doing what was right. Judge
Nilon was conscientious about the progress of his list, and made
his decisions wisely and timely. He was humble, frank and never
pretentious, free from vanity and pettiness. Those of us close to
him, knew he was and would be, our lifelong friend.
Jim Nilon also had a tough streak. He would not bully, but
would not be pushed around. Picture him, with his jaw set in
that determined manner. That was a sure signal to any competent
lawyer that it was time to respectfully back off and move on.
Judge Nilon contributed a great deal to his profession, not
only serving with distinction on the bench, but actively engaging
the community as well. He was instrumental in putting together
a 2016 opioid epidemic and mental health summit at Widener
University that drew hundreds of attendees. He was a frequent
speaker at the Delaware County Bar Association Bench Bar
Conference, an event that he attended religiously.
Judge Nilon helped young lawyers grow as professionals. He
encouraged them and supported them both professionally and
personally. Judge Nilon and his staff were always welcoming
and there was a good chance that if you visited his chambers, he
could be plucking out the latest tune he had learned to play on
the guitar. To his friends, he often spoke of his wife, Leslie, for
whom he had a deep love. They were married for 42 years.
"I truly cannot express how honored I am to have been Judge
Nilon's trial team leader and I am deeply saddened to lose him,"
said ADA Meaghan Wagner as she was quoted in the Delaware
County Daily Times. "My countless days spent in court with
Judge Nilon will always hold a very special place in my heart, as
will he."
Jim had a special touch in settling cases learned from his
years as a district judge. He tried always to make everyone walk
out of the courtroom knowing their case was given his expert and
undivided attention, whether they won or lost.


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