"No-nonsense" and "tough" are among the words that have been used to describe Brandon Judge Krystyna Tarwid.
But, as her retirement draws near, those who know and admire her have helped to show her other sides.
"She was tough, but fair," says retired judge Linda Giesbrecht, Tarwid’s longtime friend and former colleague.
When Tarwid, 61, retires at the end of December she will bring an end to an 18-year career as a provincial court judge.
Judges — including Chief Judge of Manitoba Provincial Court, Kenneth Champagne — former judges, lawyers and court staff assembled at the Brandon courthouse on Thursday for an early goodbye ceremony.
The word "tough" was used to describe Tarwid, probably in part because she’s willing to challenge offenders when she feels they’re handing her a line.
She’s the judge who confiscates cellphones for the day if they ring during court — the rule applies to lawyers and the public alike.
Accused have been known to curse under their breath when Tarwid walks into the courtroom, or whisper "Judge Judy."
And, it may be an illusion, but a flood of accused seem to enter guilty pleas and apply for bail when Judge Tarwid isn’t presiding.
Tarwid knows she has a reputation for being tough.
"Some people have said that," Tarwid acknowledged during an interview this week.
And it’s true, Tarwid admitted, but she said she’s also been told that she would be the pick for judge if an offender has made genuine effort to change.
Former Brandon defence lawyer, and current provincial court judge, Bob Heinrichs agrees.
"She was always fierce and determined and knew her stuff," said Heinrichs who appeared as a defence lawyer before Judge Tarwid for 15 years.
But Tarwid was also open to opposing views, Heinrichs said.
"If you could convince her otherwise, she was prepared to listen and accommodate."
Tarwid said her firm demeanour developed because she started her career at a time when the legal field was dominated by men who sometimes didn’t take women seriously.
Her style may also have been due to the fact she was a Crown attorney tasked with holding people accountable for their crimes.
Raised in Winnipeg, Tarwid was first a social worker in northern Manitoba before she studied law at the University of Manitoba.
She came to Brandon in 1978 to work as an articling student in prosecutions and became a Crown attorney here about a year later.
"I started here and never left," Tarwid said.
In August 1994, she was appointed a provincial court judge. She became the first female judge in western Manitoba and one of four female provincial judges at the time.
She took her tough-love approach to the bench and she said it’s a style that can work.
One of her proud moments came when a former offender thanked her for denying him bail.
Tarwid had denied bail on various charges that included impaired driving.
Years later, the man happened to meet Tarwid and thanked her for "saving" him — her decision prompted him to seek help for his alcohol problem.
Tarwid is also known for creativity that has sometimes drawn media attention.
She once ordered a sheriff to confiscate a jacket from a young thief as a lesson in what it felt like to have something taken away. He didn’t get it back until he wrote an essay about how it felt. And, she drew national media attention when she temporarily took away a 14-year-old’s video game console as incentive to successfully complete his probation.
Youth court is one of her favourites to preside over, Tarwid said, and agreed that’s an area where her demeanour softens, when appropriate.
One of her goals, she said, was to get young offenders to recognize their talents and abilities, which they could use to build a better future.
If they expressed interest in art, for example, she’d secure some of their work to take home or for display at the courthouse.
"I think that every kid I’ve ever had, there’s a talent there for something," Tarwid said.
Tarwid said she likes to save her stern image for the courthouse — she hopes that people who meet her in the community find her friendly.
"I hope I’m very nice, I like to think I’m a nice person," Tarwid said with a laugh.
For example, those who only know her from court might not pause to think of her as a wife, mother and grandmother.
And they might not realize the work she’s done for the legal community and charities over the years.
She’s served on the local boards for the John Howard Society and Elizabeth Fry Society, and sat on the Westman Child Abuse Committee and Early Childhood Education Committee.
She’s a past-president of the Provincial Judges Association of Manitoba and served on the board of the International Association of Women Judges.
She worked to improve health-care insurance and for fellow judges and for better work conditions and compensation, Giesbrecht noted.
Tarwid has also worked on the board of the United Way and taught English as a second language as a volunteer.
Those who don’t know her also may not realize that Tarwid has a love of travel and adventure that has taken her to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Tarwid isn’t shy to approach anyone she encounters on her journeys, said Giesbrecht who has been a travelling companion.
During the retirement ceremony, Giesbrecht told how Tarwid managed to charm a chef into handing over her special blueberry muffin recipe.
Not, perhaps, something you’d expect from "no-nonsense" Judge Tarwid.
Travel is one of the things Tarwid intends to pursue once she’s retired. She’s planning a trip to Burma and Bangladesh with her husband.
Besides travel, she plans to pursue volunteering and fix up her Brandon-area home.