Senior U.S. District Judge William J. Nealon broke records for longevity as a federal judge and his wake will certainly at least match a standard, too.
People wishing to pay their final respects to Nealon will do it Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the federal courthouse named after him, the William J. Nealon Federal Building and United States Courthouse, at North Washington Avenue and Linden Street in Scranton.
Neither the U.S. Marshals Service nor the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts could come up with another example of a judge’s wake taking place in the courthouse named in his or her honor.
Martin J. Pane, the U.S. marshal for the 33-county middle district of Pennsylvania, said visitors wishing to pay respects to the Nealon family should enter on the Linden Street side, but the judge’s casket will lie in the lobby on the North Washington Avenue side. The casket’s planned location represents a nod to Nealon’s 2½ years as a Lackawanna County judge in the early 1960s. The county courthouse sits directly across North Washington, clearly visible from that side of the federal building.
Mourners will not have to pass through the building’s metal detectors.
“The line will be long. I’m very, very certain of that,” Pane said.
Pane was unsure of how the idea of having the wake in the courthouse came about, but said middle district Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner approved the idea. Efforts to reach Conner and members of the Nealon family were unsuccessful.
The original part of the courthouse, which stands right at the North Washington-Linden intersection, opened in 1931. The newer part, adjacent on North Washington side, opened May 4, 1999.
Nealon threw himself into helping plan the annex during the 1990s. The annex’s construction and renovation of the original courthouse cost $34 million. Combined, they have 272,000 square feet of space.
“He was intimately involved,” the marshal said. “It’s certainly an honor to have Judge Nealon at the federal courthouse and appropriate treatment for a judge who gave so much to the community and the rule of law.”
President John F. Kennedy appointed Nealon a federal judge on Dec. 15, 1962. On Aug. 28, two days before he died, Nealon broke the record for longest service as a district judge and longest service on a single court. He served 20,349 days.
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