History of the Federal Judiciary


History of the Federal Judiciary


  Milestones of Judicial Service
Oldest Judges

The oldest serving federal judge since 1789 was Wesley Ernest Brown, who was serving as a senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas when he died at the age of 104 on January 23, 2012. He became the oldest judge on July 27, 2011, at the age of 104 and 36 days.

The oldest serving judge on a U.S. court of appeals was Joseph W. Woodrough, who was serving as a senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit when he died at the age of 104 on October 2, 1977.

The oldest serving active judge was Giles S. Rich, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit until his death at the age of 95 in June 1999.

The oldest serving Supreme Court Justice was Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was 90 years, 10 months when he retired on January 12, 1932.

Youngest Judges


The youngest federal judge was Thomas Jefferson Boynton, who was 25 when Abraham Lincoln issued him a recess appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on October 19, 1863.

The youngest judge appointed to a U.S. court of appeals was William Howard Taft, who was 34 when he was commissioned a judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on March 17, 1892.

The youngest Justice on the Supreme Court was Joseph Story, who was 32 when he received his commission on November 18, 1811.

Longest Serving Judges


Joseph W. Woodrough served a record 61 years as a federal judge. He served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska from 1916 to 1933 and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from 1933 until 1977. He took senior status in 1961.

Henry Potter was the longest serving judge on a single court and the longest serving active judge. He served on the U.S. District Courts for North Carolina from 1802 to 1857. He previously served on the U.S. Circuit Court for the Fifth Circuit from May 1801 until April 1802.

The longest serving judge on a U.S. court of appeals was James Robert Browning, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from September 18, 1961, to May 6, 2012. He took senior status in 2000.

William O. Douglas was the longest serving Supreme Court Justice. He sat on the Court from 1939 to 1975.

First African American Judges


William Henry Hastie became the first African American to serve as a judge appointed during good behavior when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1950. Hastie had served a fixed term as judge of the U.S. District Court for the Virgin Islands from 1937 to 1939.

The first African American to serve on a U.S. district court as a judge appointed during good behavior was James B. Parsons, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 1961.

Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed in 1967. Marshall previously served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

First Women Judges


Florence Allen was the first woman to serve on a U.S. court of appeals. She was appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1934.

Burnita Shelton Matthews became the first woman to serve on a U.S. district court when Harry Truman issued her a recess appointment to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in October 1949. The Senate confirmed her nomination in April 1950.

Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was appointed in 1981.

First Hispanic Judge
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Reynaldo G. Garza became the first Hispanic federal judge when he was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 1961. Garza also became the first Hispanic judge on a U.S. court of appeals when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1979.


Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States when she was appointed in 2009. Sotomayor previously served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

First Asian American Judges


Herbert Choy became the first Asian American to serve as a judge on a U.S. court of appeals when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1971.

Dick Wong became the first Asian American to serve on a U.S. district court when he was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in 1975.

First Native American Judge


Frank Howell Seay became the first Native American federal judge when he was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in 1979.

First federal judge to be elected President


William Howard Taft in 1908 became the first and only former federal judge to be elected President. Taft served as judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit from 1892 to 1900. Taft also became the only former President to serve on a federal court when he became Chief Justice of the United States in 1921.

First federal judge elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States


Robert Trimble served as judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kentucky from 1817 to 1826 when he became the first federal judge to be nominated and confirmed as a justice of the Supreme Court. He served only two years before he died at the age of 51. With the appointment of Harry Blackmun in 1971, the Supreme Court for the first time had a majority of justices with experience on the lower federal courts.

 

 

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