In tribute: Colleagues say judge was an asset to community

Robert Orlik, who had been the 9th Judicial District’s fourth district judge since the judgeship was created in 2005, died May 28 of heart failure at Lubbock Heart Hospital.

Those who worked with Robert Orlik said they could count on the longtime lawyer to be on the side of the law.

“He was always very direct, no-nonsense, always in control of his courtroom,” said Fred Van Soelen, who has been in front of Orlik on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants. “He knew exactly what needed to be done. He was very well-versed in the law.”

But the ones who knew him in both his courtroom and his home life knew that he was always on the side of people, too.

“He was very loving of children, and he loved being a judge so he could help children,” his wife, Rita Orlik said. “If he could help one child stay out of trouble, that was a goal.”

Orlik, who had been the 9th Judicial District’s fourth district judge since the judgeship was created in 2005, died May 28 of heart failure at Lubbock Heart Hospital.

Born April 25, 1947, in Camden, N.J., Orlik was the only child of Henry and Estelle Orlik. He spent most of his early life in New Jersey, and received his law degree from Rutgers in 1972.

He had spent 27 years in private practice before his appointment to the judgeship, in addition to two years in the district’s public defender’s office in 1977 and 1978 and time as a judge advocate general for the U.S. Air Force.

Clovis attorney Tye Harmon first met Orlik in 1998, when he opened his private practice office just down the street from Orlik. They worked together on many hearings, and sometimes they worked for opposing parties in divorces.

Harmon said Orlik was always above the board and did everything he could to resolve matters before they’d ever reach the court.

“I think in private practice, a big thing Bob did was he was always willing to help out people who had little financial resources,” Harmon said. “He did a lot of pro bono work. He helped a lot of single mothers, and people who wouldn’t be able to otherwise get legal help.”

When he came home, his focus became the garden. Or cooking a fine pasta dish. Or planning a trip to see friends.

“We loved to come home together,” Rita Orlik said. “We enjoyed each other’s company. We had a very comfortable home life.”

Oh, there was one more thing — Philadelphia Eagles football.

“He was always against the Cowboys,” she said with a laugh. “It didn’t matter who they were playing.”

When Orlik did become a judge, he was seen as an asset for the district, Judge Teddy Hartley said.

“He was diligent, one of those kind of men who believed you worked for your pay,” said Hartley. “He was always available when the court needed him. He would always help with the load, and sometimes that was pretty heavy.”

Orlik also provided, Hartley said, a markedly different perspective on many things legal and not — something Hartley chalked up to his New Jersey upbringing contrasting Hartley’s New Mexico upbringing.

In the years before Orlik’s appointment, Harmon remembered long talks with Orlik — sometimes about tendencies of other attorneys around the area, but mostly about things having little to do with a court.

“He liked to sit back, talk about things,” Harmon said. “He’d talk about cooking, talk about his dogs and Rita, talk about his kids.”