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Memories of the Honorable Malcolm Muir

by PBA President Matthew J. Creme Jr.

This past Friday we learned of the death of the Honorable Malcolm Muir, judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He was 96 years old and still working as a senior judge. Judge Muir is a past treasurer of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and was serving as PBA President-elect in 1970 when he was appointed to the bench by President Richard M. Nixon. He resigned his position as an officer of the PBA at that time.

In 1979, I worked as a summer law clerk in the Lewisburg office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The highlight of the summer was a tax fraud prosecution of an electrician said to have failed to report all of his income from work done in the rebuilding that followed the Hurricane Agnes flooding of 1972. The bank records method of prosecution was to be used and there were thousands of pieces of paper - mostly personal checks of the property owners for whom the work was done - to be authenticated through testimony during the trial. I was in charge of preparing and moving the witnesses in and out of the courtroom.

It was well known that Judge Muir would make his displeasure heard if things in his courtroom didn't run like clockwork. Because it was the prosecution that would be calling the hundreds of witnesses, it was likely we who would be causing the problem, and it was impressed on me that I was the person on whom the burden fell of keeping things on track.

The prosecution called 15 to 20 witnesses a day. I never saw the inside of the courtroom throughout the trial. Each witness was prepped - "What is your name? Where do you live? What is this document? Is that your signature? To whom did you write this check? What was it for?" - and sent in to testify - day after day after day. I don't remember how many witnesses were called in total.

At the end of the summer, I was called by Judge Muir's secretary and was told that he wished to see me in chambers in Williamsport. When I arrived, he invited me in and said he knew I had kept the witnesses moving during the trial and that he appreciated that things ran smoothly. Then he told me that if he could ever "toss a pebble in my pond," he would be happy to do so. I remember those words as if they were spoken to me yesterday.

I didn't see Judge Muir again until 2002 at the ceremony in which the Honorable Christopher C. "Kit" Connor was installed as a judge in the Middle District. Kit had been serving as vice president of the PBA when appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush. He, too, resigned as an officer of the PBA upon his appointment.

Posted July 26, 2011