Becker, Edward Roy

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BECKER, EDWARD ROY (1933– ), U.S. jurist. Becker was born in Philadelphia, Penn. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1954 and his LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1957. He practiced law in Philadelphia with Becker, Fryman and Ervais from 1957 until 1970. In 1970, President Richard M. *Nixon nominated Becker, then only 37 years old, to the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In 1981, President Ronald *Reagan nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He was Chief Judge from 1998 to 2003 and achieved a remarkable collegiality in the Court.

Federal appellate courts often decide cases with a single word: "Affirmed." Becker felt that this was a mistake, "that we owed the bar more." Providing a rationale for a judicial decision, Becker said, "was the right thing to do." When he began his term as Chief Judge, the Third Circuit resolved 53% of its cases without comment. By the end of 2002, the number was 3%. His passion for writing comprehensive opinions, leaving no hard issue behind and clarifying the law no matter how complex, led colleagues to chide him for his predilection for extensive footnotes In fact, his article "In Praise of Footnotes" has become a judicial classic.

He was deeply involved in efforts to improve the administration of justice, serving on the executive committee of the Judicial Conference and the board of the Federal Judicial Center. He helped simplify the management of complex litigation, improve the Federal Rules, and coordinate state and federal judicial efforts. He wrote and lectured extensively on cutting-edge legal issues and produced more than 1,000 opinions, a significant number of which were precedent-setting. His expertise – particularly in anti-trust, securities, class actions, scientific evidence, and tort law – is widely recognized, and his opinions are often cited by other judges, including justices of the Supreme Court.

In 2002, the American Judicature Society conferred its prestigious Devitt Distinguished Service Award upon him. This award honors a federal judge whose "career has been exemplary and who has made significant contributions to the administration of justice, the advancement of the rule of law, and the improvement of society as a whole." His nomination was co-signed by every judge on the Third Circuit.

Judge Becker served in leadership roles in his synagogue, but judicial rules precluded active participation in many Jewish organizations committed to fundraising, or to social issues that may come before the Court. Jewish leaders – cultural, philanthropic, civic, and entrepreneurial – have consulted with him often to benefit from his wisdom and insight.


S.B. Burbank, "Making Progress the Old-Fashioned Way," in: University of Pennsylvania Law Review (2001), 1231; M.A. Hamilton, "A Truly Remarkable Judge," ibid., 1237; D.H. Souter, "Tribute to the Honorable Edward R. Becker," ibid., 1229.

[Jerome J. Shestack (2nd ed.)]