Here’s a situation that occurs more often than you think. You will probably glow with envy hearing about it. You may think it is not true. But it is so pay close attention. Imagine that you are into your middle to late sixties. You feel yourself getting worn down and wanted to ease up a bit. You decide to do something about it.
You go into your boss, Smiley Goodfellow. You tell him the work is getting a little too much and you’d like to spend more time away from the office. Smiley listens and sympathetically suggests perhaps this is a time for you to retire. He says: “You know having worked here 15 years you are entitled to get 100% of the pay you are making. You can go off into the wide blue yonder and do what you damn please.”
You say to Smiley: “Yeah, boss, I know that. But I don’t know what I would do in retirement. What I’d like is this. I want to keep my title. I’m sort of fond of it now and I like the way people squirm in front of me. I want my full pay, I want to keep my office,secretary, clerks and all the other perquisites I now have. I want nothing to change but I want to only work no more than a ten-hour week.”
Smiley Goodfellow is a nice guy. Some call him “Uncle Smiley” thinking him an easy touch. Others call him “Uncle Sam.” He’s set it up that with time off for vacation and educational trips and personal matters and holidays that you actually work only as many days as the kids go to school, 180 days. Now you are telling him that you want to keep all that stuff you have including full pay but only want to work 45 days a year.
He gets up from behind his desk. He walks over to you and puts his arm on your shoulder. He says, “if that’s what you want, it is fine with me.” He walks you to the door and pats you on the back.
I suppose you’d wish that you found Smiley Goodfellow early in your career. You would have if you became a federal judge. There is a program for judges who want to do this. It is called the Senior Judges program and it works out exactly like I pointed out. You cut your work load down to a quarter of what it was, get all the perks of the office, the same pay but apparently more deductions for taxes, and continue to decide the future of people even though, as one 68 -year-old senior judge put it, “It’s not easy to give that up. And if you don’t have to give it up completely and can still leave time to yourself to travel, spend time with your family, that’s a wonderful solution to an internal conflict.” That judge by the way “explained the benefits in a recent interview between publicity stops for his first novel, . . . “
Recently I’ve written about two other judges who are senior judges. One is Mark Wolf who took the time to spin out a 114 page document explaining why a reasonable member of the public will think he is impartial even though one of the main witnesses in a case which he will hear he invited to a lobster lunch at his Martha Vineyard home. That his senior status gave him all that time to write so much on so little a matter is quite telling.
The other is the notorious Richard Berman who made up a new principle of law that you cannot punish a person for an evil act unless the person knew he could be punished for that act. He then with time hanging heavy on his hands went to a Labor Day bash with people who would be pleased with his decision.
The problem with these part timers is their judgment seems to suffer. I’ve also shown how Justice David Souter, another part-timer, made-up something not in the record to justify his decision. The idea that a person on the public payroll who has reached up into his or her late 60s or early 70s who goes part-time can perform as well as a full-time person doing the job on a daily basis seems self-contradictory. Fortunately we do not have senior generals.
The people are entitled to full-time judges. We are ill-served by those who want to squeeze in the work between their vacations or novel writing.