How did you happen to become a judge?
The late Senator Quentin N. Burdick and I were best of friends, and my wife, Fritzie, and I worked for him when he ran for political office—for Congress (elected in 1958) and then for the United States Senate when he was first elected in the special election in 1960. Five years later when we were driving to Washington for a visit and a vacation with our children, Fritzie mentioned to me, "Myron, when we get to Washington why don't you ask Quentin about a judgeship?"
I responded and was driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, "What do I want to be a judge for? I'm having too good a time as a trial lawyer."
Fritzie looked up at me and said, "Listen, I want a live husband and not a dead trial lawyer."
So when we got to Washington and visited Senator Burdick at his office, we mentioned that I might be interested in a judgeship. He looked at me and said, "You're the first one to ask me except my brother, and I can't see to the appointment of my brother [the late Eugene Burdick who served as a state judge in North Dakota for many years]." Senator Burdick nominated me to President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Senator Milton Young nominated Eugene Burdick. The President chose me.
As I understand it, the then attorney general, Ramsey Clark, was pressing for a South Dakota person to be the federal circuit judge. When Senator McGovern of South Dakota introduced the late Robert Kennedy, who was then running for the democratic nomination for president, as a person who would make a great president, Lyndon Johnson was not very happy because he was not an admirer of Robert Kennedy. The result was that Lyndon Johnson vetoed the selection recommended by Ramsey Clark and chose the selection of Senator Burdick. The attorney for the President told me the selection had been made in the White House. I was sworn in as a federal appellate judge on August 16, 1968.
What do you most like about being a judge?
I like the independence as a judge and the sense of responsibility that one acquires. A judge serves his country and his society to the best of his or her ability. That gives one great satisfaction.
What are some things most people don't know about you?
I do not like split infinitives and passive voice in written work.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Fishing, golfing, and social bridge are pastimes of mine, but I have too little spare time to enjoy them as I would like to.
February 12, 2001