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Howard Markey; First Chief Judge of Federal Circuit Appellate Court

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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 5, 2006

Howard Thomas Markey, 85, the first chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the first judge to sit with every one of the 13 circuit courts of appeal across the country, died May 3 at ManorCare nursing home in Hinsdale, Ill., where he lived. He had Parkinson's disease.

Judge Markey, who was on the bench from 1972 to 1991, sat in on more than 1,400 cases and wrote more than 250 opinions for the regional circuit courts in every field of law. He also heard more than 5,000 cases and wrote 800 opinions for the District-based federal appeals court and the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.

The national courts building on Lafayette Square was renamed for him in 1998.

Dramatic, energetic and quick-witted, Judge Markey would often demolish the arguments of loquacious lawyers with a one-word question: "So?" Outside of court, he was known as much for his unending store of jokes as for his prodigious work ethic.

Paul R. Michel, the current chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, said Judge Markey simply worked harder than anyone else.

"He only slept four hours a night. He mainly was hugely energetic and very decisive," Michel said. "He never wasted time on anything. He had this clock, and his meetings [of the court's judges and staff] never lasted more than an hour, which we really appreciated."

President Richard M. Nixon appointed Judge Markey to the position of chief judge of the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals in 1972. Over the next 10 years, Judge Markey transformed that court, catching up on tardy decision-making and streamlining procedures, reducing the interval between the filings and final decisions of cases from three years to seven months.

When Congress established the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1982 by combining the Customs and Patent Appeals Court and an appellate division of the U.S. Court of Claims, Judge Markey got the job of chief judge because of his performance during the transition, Michel said.

Unique among the 13 circuit courts of appeal, the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction in international trade, patent, trademark, government contract and copyright infringement cases.

Judge Markey was the court's chief justice until 1990 and retired in 1991. He then became dean of John Marshall Law School in Chicago until 1994.

Born in Chicago, he joined the Army Air Forces during World War II. He was a test pilot, flying P-38s and P-59 jets in extreme cold-weather situations.

After the war, he enrolled in a special accelerated program at Chicago's Loyola University that enabled him to complete both an undergraduate degree and a law degree in 1949. The following year, he received a master's degree in patent law from Marshall Law School.

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