It was announced earlier this week that Senior US District Judge Robert J. Kelleher, who was the oldest serving federal judge in the United States, passed away at the age of 99 on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. The announcement was made by Chief Judge Audrey B. Collins, from the Central District of California. Judge Collins called Judge Kelleher “a great judge and a dear friend. Judge Kelleher contributed to the life and history of the court and continued to handle cases well into his 90s,” she said.
One of the most prominent cases Judge Kelleher presided over during his time on the bench was the espionage trial for Christopher Bryce and Andrew Daulton Lee in the 1970s. The book and the movie ‘The Falcon and the Snowman,’ were based on the case. The defendants in the case were childhood friends who came from excellent homes. They were convicted of conspiring to sell classified information to the Soviet Union.
Born in New York City, Judge Kelleher graduated from Williams College and Harvard Law School. He was appointed by President Nixon in 1970 to the federal bench. In 1963, Judge Kelleher captained the victorious US Davis Cup team in tennis. Judge Kelleher and his late wife, Gracyn Wheeler, captured the mixed doubles championship in 1947. Judge Kelleher’s wife passed away in 1980.
Judge Kelleher was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000 and received the Hall of Fame ring on July 3, 2011. Judge Kelleher leaves behind a son, R. Jeffrey Kelleher; a daughter, Karen Kathleen Kelleher; and three grandchildren.