A 103-year-old American judge who was appointed to the bench of the US Federal Court by John F. Kennedy has said the only way he'll give up his post is by going "feet first".The Associated Press
A 103-year-old American judge who was appointed to the bench of the US Federal Court by John F. Kennedy has said the only way he'll give up his post is by going "feet first".
The Associated Press reports that District Judge Wesley Brown, who gets around in an electric wheelchair and is permanently attached to an oxygen tank via nasal tubes, is the oldest working federal judge in the nation.
Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments, and it seems that Brown is taking this literally.
"As a federal judge, I was appointed for life or good behaviour, whichever I lose first," Brown said.
David Sellers, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the US Courts, said that of the 1,294 sitting federal judges, Brown is one of 516 judges with "senior status", which is a form of semi-retirement which allows a judge to continue being paid when working reduced case level.
All in all, the "senior status" judges handle almost one quarter of all federal district trials.
Brown, who took "senior status" in 1979 but continued to work fulltime until recently, still takes his full quota of new civil cases.
"I do it to be a public service," he said. "You got to have a reason to live. As long as you perform a public service, you have a reason to live."
Every morning at 8:30 am, Brown gets a lift from the retirement home where he lives. He works until about 3 pm, presiding over hearings, reading court filings and discussing cases with his clerks who handle legal research.
Brown also has a computer on his desk which he uses to keep up to speed with current events and trends.
Despite Brown's lingering acuity, some parties have voiced concerns about a centenarian hearing their cases.
"I don't care how good a guy he is," said a recent litigant in a matter over which Brown presided.
"Your mental and physical attributes diminish with age and I think there should be a cut-off date for federal judges. This is ridiculous to have him in there at that age."
Brown was born on 22 June 1907 and is six years older than the next oldest sitting federal judge. At least eight other federal judges are in their 90s, according to a statistics in the federal court database.
Brown began his career in private practice in 1933 and was appointed a US district judge in 1962.
He has outlived two wives, moved into a retirement home four years ago, and was able to play golf with his staff until 2006.
Brown has, however, asked his colleagues to let him know if they feel that he is no longer able to do his job.
"I will quit this job when I think it is time," Brown said. "And I hope I do so and leave the country in better shape because I have been a part of it."