Brown is the oldest working federal judge in the nation, one of four appointees by President Kennedy still on the bench. Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments, and no one has taken that term more seriously than Brown.
"As a federal judge, I was appointed for life or good behavior, whichever I lose first," Brown quipped in an interview. How does he plan to leave the post? "Feet first," he says.
In a profession where advanced age isn't unusual - and, indeed, is valued as a source of judicial wisdom - Brown has left legal colleagues awestruck by his stamina and devotion to work. His service also epitomizes how the federal court system keeps working even as litigation steadily increases, new judgeships remain rare, and judicial openings go unfilled for months or years.
"Senior judges keep the federal court system afloat given the rising case loads," said David Sellers, spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Of the 1,294 sitting federal judges, Brown is one of 516 on "senior status," a form of semi-retirement that allows a judge to collect his salary but work at a reduced case level if he chooses. They handle almost a quarter of federal district trials.
And no one alive has logged more service than Brown, who took senior status in 1979 but still worked fulltime until recently. In March, he stopped taking new criminal cases and lightened his case load a bit. He still takes his full share of the new civil cases.
"I do it to be a public service," Brown said. "You got to have a reason to live.
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