The judge who will handle Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault trial is a workaholic who enjoys watching his daughters play soccer and going on hunting trips with his buddies. He lends his beat-up sport utility vehicle to a local ski team and he likes the music of John Mellencamp. But for the next several months, Judge Terry Ruckriegle will be at the centre of public attention as prosecutors try to convict the Los Angeles Lakers star guard. Ruckriegle, chief judge in a four-county district, has a no-nonsense approach and expects lawyers in his courtroom to be as prepared.

With Ruckriegle on the bench, local, Breckenridge legal observers said Friday, the much-publicized case is likely to stay on a tight track, in contrast to other recent cases involving sports celebrities around the country.

Ruckriegle will begin hearing arguments when attorneys for the Los Angeles Lakers guard and the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office meet Nov. 10.

Bryant is charged with felony sexual assault against a 19-year-old woman June 30 at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Eagle County.

Preliminary procedures held in the Eagle County Court in front of Judge Fred Gannett included what many media reports called “bombshell” statements and questions from defense attorney Pamela Mackey that led Gannett to suspend proceedings, clear the courtroom and meet with the attorneys.

According to Breckenridge attorney Dave Drawbert, who has defended numerous clients before Ruckriegle and counts the judge as a close, personal friend, Ruckriegle will likely see such outbursts coming beforehand.

“There are some judges who will let people go on and on and get off track, just because they think it’s their job to let everyone be heard,” said Drawbert, who attended Ruckriegle’s swearing in as judge in 1984. “Terry is not one of those.”

Lawyers and fellow judges know Ruckriegle as a scholar of the law and a workaholic, who still finds time to hunt and ski with friends, as well as support three athletically outstanding daughters.

Most recently, he was a volunteer judge for Summit High School’s zany Airband competition.

Ruckriegle is known for taking his time in choosing his words and delivering judgments – while many people in court are uncomfortable with long silences, Ruckriegle feels no compunction to speak until he has carefully reviewed his notes, case history and considered all sides of an argument.

In addition, many attorneys have suffered the reprimands of a judge who expects them to come to court prepared.

“You better be on time, you better be prepared – that’s his thing,” Drawbert said.

Drawbert said he believes there was no malicious intent in taking the case from District Judge Thomas Moorhead. According to the state’s judicial office, Moorhead will work on the case, responding to media inquiries about administration, logistics and procedures in the court.

Drawbert said Ruckriegle has experience with high-profile cases and likely wants to make sure the Bryant case “doesn’t get weird.”

“He’s going to be judged,” Drawbert said. “Every judge, every attorney in America is going to follow this case and scrutinize it.”

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