Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

James Turk | Federal judge, 91

James Turk
James Turk SET GITNER / Roanoke Times

James Turk, 91, a federal judge who struck down a Virginia policy that allowed prisoners to look at Playboy but not read classical works of literature with explicit sexual passages, died Sunday at his home in Radford, Va.

Mr. Turk was a Virginia state senator from 1959 to 1972. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Richard Nixon in 1972 and never retired.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy said in a statement that the judge's tradition of shaking hands with defendants after their cases was a perfect manifestation of his ability to recognize the good in all people, regardless of circumstance.

In the prison literature case, an inmate sued after he was denied access to Ulysses by James Joyce and Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Prison officials had argued that those sexually explicit materials were "considered valuable currency and used in bartering" by inmates, and that the possession of such items could lead to theft and fights.

The judge disagreed. "Particularly with respect to Ulysses it is impossible to even imagine prison inmates fighting for the chance to delve into the incredibly difficult to decipher novel, one metaphor-laden scene of which portrays exhibitionist behavior and masturbation," he wrote in 2010. - AP

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