This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.
Working Judge Turns 99
| || |
| ||Judge Wesley E. Brown |
| || |
Not every federal judge receives birthday wishes from the President and the
Chief Justice of the United States, but Judge Wesley E. Brown is, well,
extraordinary. On June 22, he took time from his work in the U.S. District Court
for the District of Kansas, to comment about turning 99.
“I’ve had more publicity than I deserve,” he told a local newspaper reporter.
“I just know I’m still here, and I’m working the best I can. It’s been a
challenge. Still is. That’s what makes it enjoyable.”
In an earlier interview, Brown told a Wichita television station, “I really
don’t want to be known for being a judge at 99. I want to be known as a judge
who does his job, and does the best he’s able under the circumstances of his
Still, Brown’s birthday was noted in a card from President and Mrs. George W.
Bush, and a letter in which Chief Justice John Roberts praised him for “the 60th
anniversary of your 39th birthday.”
Appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, Brown took senior status
rather than retire in 1979, at age 72. As a senior judge, he carries a reduced
caseload but still reports to his chambers every week day. (Senior judges
account for about 15 percent of the federal courts’ workload. Many of them,
comparative youngsters, carry full caseloads.)
Chief Judge John W. Lungstrum (D. Kan.) praised Brown, saying, “It is a great
honor to serve as his colleague.”
“He has tremendous energy and enthusiasm to go along with his wealth of
experience and store of good judgment,” Lungstrum said. “He is also a very kind
and generous individual with quite a sense of humor, who is well loved by all
his colleagues and coworkers. We are very fortunate to have him as the patriarch
of our court family.”
Flashes of Brown’s humor were displayed in his birthday interviews.
He said he was appointed to serve “for life, or for good behavior, whichever
I lose first.”
And “I’m well aware I’m a little like the guy falling out of the 20th story.
As he passed the 10th floor he said ‘I’m alright so far.’”
Brown also recounted a conversation he had shortly after joining the bench,
in which he sought advice from an older colleague. “I said, ‘How do you get used
to wearing the robe.’ He said, “You find out it’s just like your underwear.
After awhile, you can’t get along without it.’”
The jocular judge takes his job, and his patriotism, very seriously. “I’ve
never thought of my position as one of power. It’s one of obligation,” he said.
“I’m here as a beneficiary of so many who have done so much. I owe them a great
obligation, to be worthy of their trust.”.
At a recent naturalization ceremony in his courtroom, Brown told the gathered
new U.S. citizens that their status “gives you the challenge to seek the truth
in your country, the truth that will keep you free.”
Asked about America’s future, Brown responded, “Don’t sell it short.”