May 23, 2006

"Life on an appellate court tends to be isolating, and for me, one of the bright spots was always when Ed called."

Said Samuel Alito at the funeral of Judge Edward R. Becker.
Alito recalled one incident while he and Becker were hearing cases in the Virgin Islands - part of the territory, along with Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, that makes up the Third Circuit. After one busy court day, Alito and Becker took a sightseeing boat trip.

"I looked around for Eddie, and Ed was sitting along the side of the boat with an enormous stack of papers on his lap," Alito said. He called Becker a "tireless worker - but for him, it was a labor of love. He absolutely loved his work."
Justices Scalia and Souter were also at the funeral.


Richard Dolan said...

What is amazing, at least to me, is how common it is for life-tenured federal judges to continue handling full caseloads and working long hours well past routine retirement age. Despite the hype, the work is only occasionally interesting (how many Title VII or 1983 or habeas cases does it take before one is thoroughly sick of them?); many cases are just hum-drum stuff, of interest only to the parties; and the volume of pure junk a judge must wade through ever day is astonishing. Yet devotion and dedication to the job is a near-universal norm; and it is quite common for judges well past 80 to continue slogging on day after day.

I'm sure Alito was right that Becker was a tireless worker, but it's the notion of "absolutely lov[ing] the work" that is more interesting. The explanation is not that the work is always, or even often, so wonderful or challenging. Even the fawning attention from lawyers is bound to grow old very quickly. Instead, I think it's more in the pleasure one derives from public service, being dedicated to something larger than one's self where the object is the greater good.

Ann Althouse said...

I've seen lawprofs who stay on long beyond the time when they could make more money retired or who stay in the building working on scholarly projects after they have retired. I think maybe there is a sense that one would atrophy in retirement and just be at loose ends, underfoot at home, just living out the days until death. And people like to be in a workplace to be around other people in a place with a sense of purpose. Hanging around with nothing that you have to do does not actually make people very happy.

Crank said...

Never underestimate the job satisfaction that comes from wielding power - especially in a situation such as an appeals court, where you can genuinely dedicate yourself to using that power guided only by your own intellect, wisdom and conscientious good judgment, and need not cater to any power or interest group. I mean, many of us blog in argumentative fashion for little or no monetary reward - imagine doing the same thing and having your arguments carry the force and effect of law.

37383938393839383938383 said...

Why wasn't Ginsburg there?