NYT: 103-year-old judge hopes to leave courtroom “feet first”. I never had occasion to appear before this Mid-Western judge but I did spend a month trying a case before another ancient federal judge, in his late nineties, up in Waterbury, Connecticut. Just before trial I called a friend, a former U.S. Attorney, and asked about the judge. “Oh, he died years ago,” my friend assured me. “He may be dead” said I, “but he’s hearing my case”.
And so he did. The old doddering fool slept through the entire trial, only occasionally interrupting the proceedings by firing blistering clouds of noisy flatulence, and after (sort of) hearing our side of the case, listened to perhaps five minutes of the defendant’s presentation before interrupting the attorney and asking, “who the hell are you?” After a month of trial, after both sides had filed post-trial briefs, the judge recused himself because he couldn’t understand the case.
So, in my opinion, life-time appointments for federal judges aren’t necessarily a great idea.