Peter T. Fay, one of three federal judges from Florida who each served more than 50 years after being confirmed the same day in 1970, died Sunday in Miami at the age of 92.
“Few judges have served our country for so long and in such an honorable and distinguished manner,” said Chief Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. “Even in the final year of his life, Judge Fay continued to perform substantial work for the court of appeals and the citizens of the Eleventh Circuit.”
A successful plaintiff’s lawyer in Miami, Fay was appointed in 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Appearing with him before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 13, 1970, were Gerald B. Tjoflat, who still serves in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and James Lawrence King, who serves in the Southern District of Florida.
Fay’s, Tjoflat’s, and King’s careers are recalled in this October 2020 article about their 50-year anniversary on the bench. According to the Federal Judicial Center, only 32 federal judges have served 50 years or longer.
In 1976, Fay was elevated to the court of appeals by President Gerald R. Ford. “Pete loved being a trial judge,” Pryor said. “At heart, he was a trial lawyer, and that brought a very valuable perspective to the court of appeals.”
Pryor said Fay also excelled as an appellate judge. Early in Pryor’s career on the Eleventh Circuit bench, Pryor wrote the majority opinion in a railroad taxation case over Fay’s dissent. The U.S. Supreme Court had the final word, unanimously overturning Pryor’s opinion.
“Peter Fay never said a single word,” Pryor recalled with a laugh. “He was a perfect gentleman and a great guy. Everyone around here loved him.”
According to an obituary written by his family, Fay was an avid athlete, and the last surviving original partner of the Miami Dolphins professional football team.