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Under the federal system, judges whose years of service and age add up to 80 can take “senior status.” That means they can choose a reduced caseload and keep chambers and staff of four, including up to three law clerks - often until death.

Wesley Brown, a Wichita, Kan., federal judge, worked regularly until he died last month at age 104. Appointed to the bench in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, Brown was six years older than the next oldest sitting federal judge.

A week ago, 77-year-old Roger J. Miner, a federal appellate judge in Manhattan, died of heart failure. His wife, Jacqueline, said an unfinished opinion remained on his desk in their Hudson, N.Y., home.