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‘Retirement’ Missing From Vocabulary of NY Judges

“You don’t care really what people think of you,’’ he said. “You’re not going anyplace. You’re doing it for the joy. And as a public service.’’

When the Senate confirmed Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum in 1986, there were only two other female district judges in the Manhattan courthouse.

Back then, Cedarbaum was afraid to take a vacation. Now at 82, she’s among a dozen women on the bench — and, like Weinstein, has nothing to prove.

“Experience really does matter,’’ she said.

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 a 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.

Milton Pollack, another judge appointed by President Johnson in 1967, remained hard at work before he died in August 2004 at age 97. Just a year earlier, he tossed out numerous lawsuits that tried to blame Merrill Lynch & Co. for a late `90s stock bubble, saying the plaintiffs were “high-risk speculators.’’

Judge Barbara S. Jones, a relative youngster at 64, recalled Pollack telling her after she became a judge in 1995 never to quit so she’d keep her mind active.

“It would have been unthinkable to him to stop working,’’ she said.

Of the 40 trial-level judges — the most anywhere — in the Manhattan courthouse, about half are working as senior judges. And nearly half of them are over age 80, handling some of the biggest mob, white-collar and terrorism cases.

Still, some judges step down. Michael Mukasey went into private practice and later became attorney general under President George W. Bush. And Richard Holwell, appointed to the bench in 2003, resigned just weeks ago to start a law firm, where he’ll likely make millions rather than the $174,000 annual salary for judges.

“When Judge Holwell stepped down, you could have picked everybody around here off the floor,’’ said Chief Judge Loretta Preska, who is 63. “It’s quite unusual.’’

The judges who stay on credit stimulating jobs for their longevity. Exercise helps too.

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