When trivia is not trivial

Woodrough640x800The Federal Judges Association, which is the union I belong to, sent out a message today keeping we unionists informed on all manner of things that may impact the brotherhood and sisterhood. On a “light” note, the message ended with “TRIVIA.” In part, it read:

Who has been the longest serving federal judge in U.S. History? Joseph William Woodrough served as a district court judge in the District of Nebraska from 1916 until 1933, and as a circuit court judge in the Eighth Circuit from 1933 until his death in 1977–spanning a period of more than 61 years!

The judge was born in Ohio in 1873, was educated at Heidelberg University in Germany, read law, served as a prosecutor and judge (at age 22) in Texas, and practiced law in Omaha, Nebraska from 1898 to 1916 until he was nominated by President Woodrow Wilson and confirmed by the Senate in 1916 to serve as a district judge. More than six decades of federal judicial service followed. The judge’s service may now be trivia to some, but it certainly was not, and will never be, trivial.*


*For more on the judge, see our archives.  The judge was a highly regarded trial lawyer at the time of his appointment to the federal bench.  As a contemporary wrote, “He tried single-handed many civil and criminal cases that won for him a statewide reputation.  . . . He is one of the most agreeable lawyers that I have ever opposed in the trial of a lawsuit; being pleasant and agreeable, both to the court and the opposing counsel.” Ed F. Morearty, Omaha Memories (Schwart Printing 1917).














9 responses

  1. On another trivia note, the only judge to serve at an age older than Judge Woodrough was Judge Wesley Brown in the District of Kansas. He was still sharp on the bench at 104.

  2. Would have thought O’Malley v Woodrough should be added to trivia or like Holmes do you like taxes Judge. In early 70s NY Times described a USDCJ in Maine then in his 90s as oldest living federal judge, Woodrough wrote to Times quoting Mark Twain on exaggeration of death. Correction followed.

  3. Dear Repenting Lawyer,

    Thanks for the reminder that Judge Woodrough fought the good fight but lost. Here is the Supreme Court’s tawdry opinion.

    All the best.


  4. If Yale Holland would have been added to that dream team, the good judge would have won in the Supreme Court.

  5. Nick,

    Thanks Nick. Judge Brown was certainly legendary. I like the idea of two great and long serving judges coming from Kansas and Nebraska. Emulating the wind that never stops in these parts is a good way to understand long serving judges like these two.

    All the best.


  6. Remember Yale Holland’s wonderful confrontations with Terry Carpenter over taxing Aksarben. During Terry’s tirades Yale would remove his glasses with attached hearing aids until Terry was done speaking.

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