You know how judges can be with all their crazy demands. No badgering witnesses. Dress appropriately. No unnecessary histrionics. Stand up when you object. Refer to me as "Your Honor." But 103 year-old Judge Wesley E. Brown has a unique demand: no more lengthy trials.
The United States District Court Judge can barely be seen at the bench. The years have caused his body to slowly shrink in size. But his mind remains quite lucid and he has no plans of retiring. Nevertheless, he warns attorneys appearing before him that there is always a chance that he won't see their case to completion if it goes on too long, saying "At this age, I'm not even buying green bananas."
Should Judge Brown continue his remarkable tenure one year longer, he will become the oldest federal judge in US history. Judge Brown seems to be universally admired. Even by defendants convicted in his court. Randy Hicks, 40, who recently completed a 30 month sentence from Brown calls himself a fan of Judge Brown. "He might be up there another 20 years ... And I hope he is," said Hicks, The New York Times reports.
Federal judges are entitled to hold onto their jobs virtually as long as they like, under the United States Constitution. Some people find this alarming. But those who work with Brown on a regular basis say that he remains as sharp as a tack. He was once known for his temper, such as being set off by when attorneys used the word, "indicate," which he found vague. The New York Times reports that one attorney used to take Valium before appearing in his court, calling it the "the Judge Brown pill."
"Physically he's changed a lot, but mentally I haven't noticed any diminution of his ability," said Judge Monti L. Belot.
Judges have the option to retire and receive their full salary for life once they reach the age of 65. However, most choose not to. People have a natural tendency to seek purpose in their life, so why quit if you don't have to? As long as his mind remains sharp, Brown wants to continue his career. But how will he know when it's time to turn in his robe?
103 year-old Judge Brown has enlisted the help of a few trusted colleagues, such as his law clerk, to tell him when that day arrives. "I hope when that day comes I go out feet first," Brown deadpanned.
At this point, the only judge who served at an older age than Judge Brown was Joseph W. Woodrough, who was still serving on the Eight Circuit when he died at 104. But Brown doesn't seem caught up on breaking records.
"I'm not interested in how old I am," he said. "I'm interested in how good a job I can do.
- The Federal Judicial History Office at the Federal Judicial (www.historians.org)
- U.S. Constitution Article II (FindLaw)
- Judicial Appointments (FindLaw)