Judge Wesley E. Brown used to say that he "was appointed for life or good behavior," a reference to the constitutional provision that allows federal judges to remain in office indefinitely. This inspiring senior obviously took that statement to heart since he served for nearly five decades.
President Kennedy nominated this WWII naval veteran, county attorney, and bankruptcy judge to the District Court in 1962 and he served in that capacity until his death on January 23, 2012. He was six months shy of his 105th birthday. Judge Brown set the record as the oldest person to ever serve as an active federal judge.
In the Courtroom
In his younger days, Judge Brown was intolerant of those who arrived late or casually dressed to his courtroom. One prominent defense lawyer even resorted to taking a Valium, which he called "the Judge Brown pill" before facing this strict jurist. After nearly 50 years on the bench, this senior had mellowed to the point that a long-serving prosecutor began crying at the thought of missing him. “It’s just I can’t imagine practicing without him,” she explained.
Surprisingly, one of his admirers was Randy Hicks, a man the judge sentenced to prison for wire fraud. Originally, Mr. Hicks worried about Judge Brown's ability to comprehend the complexities of the case and whether he would even survive long enough to finish the trial. “And then, I realized that people were probably thinking the same thing 20 years ago,” he said. After completing his 30-month sentence, courtesy of Judge Brown, Mr. Hicks commented: “He might be up there another 20 years, and I hope he is." A remarkable testimonial to an equally remarkable and inspiring man.
Secret to Success
At over 100 years of age, this dedicated District Court judge was still regularly climbing the four flights of stairs to his courtroom. He finally decided to cut back on his caseload just three months short of his 104th birthday. Even after his health declined, he was still working from bed and looking forward to getting back to his courtroom.
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