Given that Justice Brennan would have turned 105 this week on April 25, it was fair to assume all of his contemporaries have long since left the federal bench.
That is, until I read this recent Associated Press profile of Wesley Brown, a 103-year-old U.S. District Court judge in Wichita, who was born in 1907 — just a year after Brennan.
First appointed by President Kennedy 49 years ago, Brown took senior status in 1979 but continues to hear cases thanks to a motorized wheelchair and an oxygen thank. The AP’s Roxana Hegeman notes Brown still leaves “legal colleagues awestruck by his stamina and devotion to work.”
Whether the presence of geriatric judges on the federal bench is desirable is debatable but there’s no denying it’s becoming more frequent. In a story earlier this year detailing the problems aging judges can cause, Slate noted that 12 percent of the nation’s 1,200 sitting federal trial and circuit court judges are 80 or older and eleven are over the age of 90, compared to four 20 years ago.