Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Thomas J. Terputac Jan. 11, 1927 - June 26, 2014 Judge Ruled on High- Profile W&j Case

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Thomas J. Terputac Jan. 11, 1927 - June 26, 2014 Judge Ruled on High- Profile W&j Case

Article excerpt

Thomas J. Terputac rarely ruled from the bench, taking great care in crafting thoughtful opinions and decisions, many that he pecked himself on an old typewriter.

A longtime Common Pleas judge of Washington County, Judge Terputac died Thursday in the emergency room of Washington Hospital. He was 87.

Born in Fayette County, Judge Terputac grew up in the village of Muse in Cecil and served in the Army infantry in World War II after high school. He was stationed in France and Germany during the war, and for his service, received the Army of Occupation Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. He and wife Carol Ptak wed in 1949.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree in education from Duquesne University in 1950, and, three years later, earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

He practiced law for 21 years as a trial lawyer, was appointed to the bench in 1978 and elected the next year.

Among the judge's most high-profile cases was a city of Washington lawsuit against Washington and Jefferson College, challenging the school's tax exemption on its real estate.

Judge Terputac reversed an earlier decision by the county Board of Assessment and ruled that the college was not purely a public charity and had grown into an "enterprise of big business."

"I thought that he did a very good job in that case, and he was very courageous in making that decision," recalled Common Pleas President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca. Judge Terputac's ruling eventually was overturned.

Colleagues recalled that Judge Terputac, while a true gentleman, also was a stickler for grammar and details, sometimes marking up lawyers' messy petitions in red pen and sending them back until the documents were right.

"I think some people were a little taken aback, but I think it made a lot of us a lot better lawyers," Judge O'Dell Seneca said.

Retired Common Pleas Judge John Bell, who shared an office space with the judge when the pair practiced law together, watched as his mentor developed an expertise in municipal law, zoning and contracts while both also served as Common Pleas judges. …

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