No tax dollars used for federal judges’ portraits

The federal government often is painted as being wasteful with taxpayer dollars.

That’s not the case with oil-based painted portraits of two late senior U.S. Middle District Court judges.

The paintings of judges Malcolm Muir, who died at age 96 in 2011, and James F. McClure Jr., who died at age 79, in 2010, were completed when each started in their jobs by artist Jeffrey Martin, of Selinsgrove area.

“They were paid for under a non-appropriated fund which attorneys pay into,” said Mary D’Andrea, clerk of court for the district.

Martin, reached by telephone, said he received the checks.

“I did Judge Muir 20 years ago and I think the cost was $2,000,” Martin said. “McClure was about the same.”

Martin said he paints the judges when they start their jobs and has not been asked to do any more, but may be contacted to paint Judge Matthew W. Brann, who recently took the oath of office.

“It’s a lifetime job and they only hang them in the courthroom after they die,” Martin said. “They keep them in the judge’s chambers until they pass away and I think a ceremony is held when the paintings are transferred from the chambers to the courtroom.”

Two separate ceremonies were held at the courthouse on West Third Street to allow families and court associates of the judges to gather to see the paintings, reminisce and share memories of the jurists.

The portraits of Muir and McClure are expected to be displayed in a fourth-floor courtroom when the courtroom one renovations are completed, D’Andrea said.

“They are not gifts to the families,” she said, when asked who will get the paintings and how much they cost taxpayers. “The court regularly has portraits painted of each district judge and they belong to the court and are part of its history. It cost the government nothing because of the non-appropriated fund established,” she said.

Such a fund, she said, is paid for by attorneys when they are admitted to the bar and is used for public benefit and historic relevance.

Families of the judges are given a “piece of paper,” with the same relevant words that accompany a plaque – summing up their character, demeanor and relevance in judicial circles – that goes with each portrait, she said.