Wesley Brown at the age of 103 is the oldest working federal judge in America. Originally appointed in 1962, the Kansas native is a formidable presence when he appears in court ready to work, sitting in his power wheelchair and adjusting the plastic tubes from the oxygen tank under his nose.
One of four judges appointed by President Kennedy, Brown still presides on the bench, taking that lifetime commitment as seriously as anyone could ever expect. As he exclaims, “call your case,” lawyers and litigants wait in respectful silence. Whenever he is asked how he expects to vacate his post, his answer is always the same: “feet first.”
Even in such a profession where age is honored and valued as a source of wisdom and experience, Wesley Brown remains a force to reckon with and one which leaves his colleagues amazed by his strength and devotion to his work.
Brown is one of 516 judges that are on “senior status,” which is a euphemism for semi-retirement. This permits a judge to work on fewer cases while still collecting a salary. Currently, judges in this category handle almost one quarter of federal district trials.
Judge Brown has broken a record for no one alive has logged more service than he. He has been considered senior status since 1979 and until last month still worked full time.
The job gives the old judge a reason to get up in the morning. He lives alone in an assisted living center and is driven to work every day. He is compassionate and fair and hopes his decisions have a positive impact on peoples’ lives. He has requested that his colleagues tell him if they feel he is not doing his job well.
The human spirit prevails and if it doesn’t…go tell it to the judge!