January Member of the Month: The Honorable Theodore A. McKee
U.S. Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
1. Tell us briefly what a typical work day is like for you.
My typical work day consists of reviewing drafts of precedential and nonprecedential opinions that clerks and interns have prepared for my review, and inserting comments and suggestions into those drafts and also reworking them to speak in the tone and achieve the disposition that I am happy with.
I also have to vote on motions that are forwarded to motions panels that I am on each Thursday. I vote on them throughout the week
Depending on how close I am to a sitting, my days (and nights) also are spent reading briefs of cases that are listed for an upcoming sitting.
Finally, on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my afternoons (or mornings) are spent assisting Judges Rice, Restrepo and Strawbridge with the individualized problem solving courts (Reentry and Relapse Prevention) that they preside over. My main objective in doing so is to get to know the individual probationers in those courts and assist in directing them to the people who can help resolve the myriad problems that they may have, as well as be available as an extra set of ears or shoulders to help them adjust to reentering their communities and reclaiming their lives.
2. What do you enjoy most about your job?
This is a difficult question. Like all jobs, I have good days and not so good days and the job is more enjoyable at sometimes than at others. In general, the thing that I enjoy most is the opportunity to interact with returning citizens that Judges Restrepo, Rice and Strawbridge afford me by allowing me to assist with their Reentry Courts and Relapse Prevention Court.
The other thing that I find rewarding (a slight restatement of the question) is the opportunity to make a difference every now and then when my voice can affect the outcome of a case in a way that I think achieves a just resolution of the dispute.
3. What do you enjoy most about being a member of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia?
By far, the most enjoyable thing about being a member of the Barristers is the opportunity to meet newly admitted members of the bar who are embarking on a new adventure that is their career. The other thing is observing the incredible growth that is occurring since the first meeting I attended where the entire membership of the Barristers sat at one table for a meeting. It was not a particularly large table either, and I am sure there were a few empty chairs.
4. What do you believe has been your most important personal attribute in your legal career?
I think my most important attribute has been a very high level of discipline and the ability to focus as well as not taking myself too seriously.
5. What has been the best moment of your career thus far?
On a purely individual note, it would have to be the recent ceremony where my portrait was presented to the court in commemoration of my 25 years on the Third Circuit. More generally, it would be seeing the amazing success of both of my incredible daughters.
6. If you hit the lottery tonight, where could we find you tomorrow?
I would like to say that no one could find me, but the truth is that I could probably be found either in chambers, or in my home study, reading briefs and editing drafts and trying to figure out which of the many needy nonprofit organizations around I should give money to, and how much I should give.
7. What artists are you listening to now?
Sadly, I do not listen to artists as much as I should or as much as I used to. When I do listen, I listen to an eclectic group consisting of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkel and Mercedes Sosa.
8. What is your favorite restaurant in the Philadelphia area?
We eat out so rarely that I really don’t have one.
9. If you had a chance to give out your own award, who would you recognize?
I could not limit it to one person. I would give it to Judges Restrepo, Rice, Strawbridge and Hey for the work they do in helping folks who need help to return to their communities and families and find themselves. I would also give it to the very talented and dedicated professionals in the U.S. Probation Office who help the returning citizens find themselves and regain their lives
10. What advice would you give to members of the Barristers?
Always strive for excellence. We face more barriers to success than those who come to the profession from a position of privilege and we face unique. often hidden, barriers to success. But don’t give anyone an excuse to hold you back. The other bit of advice comes from Richard Nixon: “never let them see you sweat.” And we all do sweat at times.