The courts of this city have lost a giant. Carl Moultrie, chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court, who died Wednesday at the age of 71, had led that court since 1978. He was known there not only for his ability and remarkable energy -- he regularly arrived at the courthouse before 7 a.m. -- but especially for his loyalty and kindness to his colleagues. The work of a trial judge can be lonely and isolating, but Judge Moultrie labored to build camaraderie and a sense of community among the judges. He provided special encouragement to those newly appointed to the bench and saw to it that judges, whose responsibilities are so personal and whose actions are so public, received counsel and support from their colleagues and their chief. He will be greatly missed in court where he spent so many years.

Others in this area knew Carl Moultrie in a variety of roles. He was a lawyer, of course, but not until he was 41. Before that he was a journalist, social worker, manager of a housing project and executive secretary of Omega Psi Phi, a well-known black fraternity. He was president of the D.C. chapter of the NAACP during some of the most difficult years this city has experienced. He was a civil rights leader, a lawyer for the poor and mistreated, and an advocate for justice. Each of these roles prepared him for his work on the bench.

His years on the court are distinguished by a series of innovations and reforms that he encouraged and put into practice. Arbitration and mediation facilities have been added, and potential litigants are encouraged to use these simpler, less expensive forums to resolve conflict. One-trial, one-day jury service has been tested and will be adopted as soon as Congress completes action. Sentencing guidelines for judges are being developed. And, of special importance to struggling, single parents, the court has assumed primary responsibility for monitoring and enforcing child support orders, a task that formerly required lengthy and costly litigation by custodial parents.

Judge Moultrie's contributions as a civic leader, advocate and jurist are many. He leaves a city in his debt.