Edward Roy Becker

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Edward Roy Becker
Chief Judge of United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
In office
Preceded by Dolores Sloviter
Succeeded by Anthony Joseph Scirica
Judge of United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
In office
December 3, 1981 – May 4, 2003
Nominated by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Max Rosenn
Succeeded by Franklin Stuart Van Antwerpen
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
In office
October 14, 1970 – January 22, 1982
Appointed by Richard Nixon
Preceded by new seat
Succeeded by Thomas Newman O'Neill, Jr.
Personal details
Born May 4, 1933
Philadelphia, PA
Died May 19, 2006(2006-05-19) (aged 73)
Philadelphia, PA

Edward Roy Becker (May 4, 1933 – May 19, 2006) was a United States federal judge on the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Becker received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1954, and his LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1957. He had a private law practice in Philadelphia from 1957 to 1970.

Judicial appointments[edit]

Becker's career as a federal judge began with his nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon on September 24, 1970 to a new seat created by 84 Stat. 294, was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 8, 1970 and received his commission on October 14, 1970. His service terminated on January 22, 1982 due to his elevation to the Third Circuit.

Ronald Reagan nominated Becker on November 16, 1981 to the Third Circuit seat vacated by Max Rosenn. Becker was confirmed by the Senate on December 3, 1981 and received his commission on the same day. He served as Chief Judge from 1998 to 2003.[1] He assumed senior status on May 4, 2003.

Judicial style and cases[edit]

Becker was known for the case Mackensworth v. American Trading Transportation Co. a decision that he wrote in verse.[2] He was also known for occasionally inserting humor into judicial rulings.[3]

In 1977 Becker was assigned the massive Japanese Electronic Products Antitrust Litigation in which Zenith Radio Corp. and National Union Electric (“N.U.E.”) sought billions of dollars in damages against most of the Japanese television manufacturers and two American companies, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Motorola. The case had been pending since 1970 when it was first filed by N.U.E. and had been in the hands of a number of federal court judges. The case had languished and Becker began to work to get this case to trial.[4] In 1981, Becker entered summary judgment for all defendants on the antitrust and antidumping claims and dismissed the lawsuits.[5] Plaintiffs appealed and the appellate court reversed Becker’s rulings in favor of the Japanese manufacturers on the antitrust claims, but affirmed the summary judgment for Sears, Roebuck and Co., Motorola, Inc. and Sony.[6] In March, 1986 the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed Becker’s ruling in favor of the defendants on Zenith’s antitrust claims.[7]

In 2003, Becker authored the decision on Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia v. Chester County, ruling that the display of Ten Commandments outside of a courthouse of Chester County did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.[8]

Becker was known for his humility and humanity; clerks were told to come up with strong arguments against his positions and not merely defer to him. He commuted by train for nearly his entire career, often reading cases along the way. His law clerks accompanied him during afternoon walks to visit his elderly mother in center city, discussing cases along the way and back. He was active in civic affairs, including some involvement in the relocation of the Liberty Bell.

Family and personal life[edit]

Becker spent virtually all of his life in and around the city of Philadelphia. His family has a strong legal tradition; his father was a lawyer, his wife Flora was also a judge, and two of their three children are also lawyers; son John became a teacher, while son Charles "Chip" Becker is a lawyer in private practice and daughter Susan has worked for the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. His parents, wife, and friends generally called him Eddie. He was a fan of the Sixers basketball team.

He was an expert piano player; a former law clerk of his recruited him to become the pianist for Chief Justice Rehnquist's annual all-court sing-along.[9]


The lobby at the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse in Philadelphia is named in Becker's honor.[10] The block of Chestnut Street that runs from Fifth Street to Sixth Street, between the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, is marked as Judge Edward R. Becker Way, in recognition of his leadership in the campaign to keep the National Park Service from closing that block to public access in the wake of 9/11.[11]


Becker died of prostate cancer[12] on May 19, 2006.[13] He was both popular and well-connected; the receiving line at his funeral stretched through the synagogue and overflowed into the parking lot, and could not be completed in the two hours time allotted. Eulogies were delivered by Senator Arlen Specter, Third Circuit Court colleagues Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, Judge (and future Supreme Court Justice) Samuel Alito, and Judge Midge Rendell, and by Stephen Harmelin, managing director of Dilworth Paxson. U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and David Souter, as well as Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell attended the ceremony.[9]

Citizenship Award[edit]

After his death, the Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society of the Community College of Philadelphia created the Judge Edward R. Becker Citizenship Award.[14] Recipients have included:

  • 2007: Senator Arlen Specter, a friend of Judge Becker's from law school days
  • 2008: William T. Coleman, Jr., civil rights attorney and former U.S. Transportation Secretary
  • 2009: Sister Mary Scullion,[15] advocate for the homeless
  • 2010: Marjorie O. Rendell, First Lady of Pennsylvania, federal judge and former colleague of Becker's.[16]
  • 2011: Edward G. Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania.[17] The award ceremony was delayed due to inclement weather.
  • 2012: Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. was supposed to receive the award, but the ceremony was postponed because it was feared that it would be a focus for political demonstrations relating to an ongoing labor dispute at the college.[18] Inclement weather in 2013 postponed the ceremony again, and in 2014, Senator Casey did receive the Award.[19]
  • 2015: Honorable Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States[20]

The award is generally presented by Judge Becker's son, Chip, in the early part of the year, February through April.

Law Clerks[edit]

Among his law clerks were:


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Laughed out of court - humour from the Bench, Times Online.
  3. ^ "State Bar of Texas - Say What?!". 
  4. ^ ”Arnstein & Lehr, The First 120 Years”, (Louis A. Lehr, Jr.)(Amazon), p. 82
  5. ^ New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast), March 28, 1981
  6. ^ Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1983
  7. ^ New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast), March 27, 1986
  8. ^ "Nothing found for News Aspx?id=11651 - First Amendment Center – news, commentary, analysis on free speech, press, religion, assembly, petition". 
  9. ^ a b "FindLaw's Writ - Hamilton: A Tribute to Judge Edward R. Becker (1933 - 2006)". 
  10. ^ Third Circuit Bar Ass'n. "Third Circuit remembers Judge Becker" (PDF). Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1. Retrieved 4 March 2014. , p.3
  11. ^ Tushnet, Rebecca (25 May 2006). "The Judge Edward R. Becker Way". 43(B)log. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  12. ^ Weiner, Tim (20 May 2006). "Edward R. Becker, 73, Judge on Federal Court of Appeals, Dies". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  13. ^ [2].
  14. ^ "Community College of Philadelphia". 
  15. ^ "Community College of Philadelphia - Transcripts 06/01/09". 
  16. ^ "Transcripts - College Snapshots". 
  17. ^ "Former Gov. Edward G. Rendell to Receive Fifth Annual Judge Edward R. Becker Citizenship Award at Community College of Philadelphia". 
  18. ^ http://studentvanguard.com/2012/03/04/award-to-senator-casey-event-cancelled/
  19. ^ http://atlantadailyworld.com/2014/05/11/college-grad-meets-u-s-senator-big-deal/ Atlanta Daily World.com: College Grad Meets US Senator, Big Deal?
  20. ^ http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150116_Justice_Alito_accepts_an_award_that_honors_a_colleague.html#PwTCgLSlCDTE2auB.99 Philly.com: Justice Alito accepts an award that honors a colleague
  21. ^ http://law.fordham.edu/faculty/zephyrteachout.htm

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Thomas Newman O'Neill, Jr.