Joseph Jerome Farris

Joseph Farris
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
September 27, 1979  March 4, 1995
Appointed by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Margaret McKeown
Personal details
Born (1930-03-04) March 4, 1930
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Alma mater Morehouse College
Clark Atlanta University
University of Washington, Seattle

Joseph Jerome Farris (born March 4, 1930) is a United States federal judge.[1]

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Farris received a B.S. from Morehouse College in 1951 and was in the United States Army Signal Corps from 1952 to 1953. He received a M.S.W. from Atlanta University in 1955 and a J.D. from the University of Washington in 1958. He was in private practice in Seattle, Washington from 1958 to 1969. He was a judge on the Washington Court of Appeals in Seattle from 1969 to 1979.

On July 12, 1979, Farris was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to a new seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit created by 92 Stat. 1629. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 26, 1979, and received his commission on September 27, 1979. In Hirabayashi v. United States (1987), Farris sat on the circuit panel that by coram nobis unanimously vacated an exclusion order conviction that had been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States during the wartime internment of Japanese Americans.[2][3] He assumed senior status on March 4, 1995.

In 1997, Ferris published an article arguing that, while the Ninth Circuit is the circuit most often reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, this was not due to error or the circuit being "too liberal" but rather that "courts cannot determine right and wrong in an absolute sense because the law is not absolute."[4] Although a Democratic appointee, Farris was described by his colleague Stephen Reinhardt as "extremely conservative on criminal justice issues."[5]

In August 2002, Judge Farris had 120 cherry and maple trees in Colman Park, a city park, cut down to improve the view of Lake Washington from his house.[6] Norm Maleng, the King County Prosecuting Attorney, declined to file felony malicious mischief charges.[6] The Seattle City Attorney fined Judge Farris $500,000.[7]

After Farris did not pay the fine on time the city placed a lien on his 8,000 square-foot Mount Baker house.[8] Farris maintained the trees were cut down due to a miscommunication with his Vietnamese gardener, which the gardener denied.[8] A jury heard testimony from the gardner when Farris sued his homeowner's insurer for coverage of the fine.[9] Believing the gardner, the jury found against Farris.[9] Farris finally payed the full fine amount, with interest now $618,000, in May 2006.[7]


  1. Narasaki, Karen (2012). "The Reopening of United States v. Hirabayashi: Reflections from the Legal Team". Seattle Journal for Social Justice. 11: 53. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  2. Hirabayashi v. United States, 828 F.2d 591 (9th Cir. 1987).
  3. Farris, Jerome (1997). "The Ninth Circuit-Most Maligned Circuit in the Country-Fact or Fiction?" (PDF). Ohio State Law Journal. 58: 1465. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  4. Reinhardt, Stephen (1999). "The Anatomy of an Execution: Fairness vs. "Process"" (PDF). New York University Law Review. 74: 313.
  5. 1 2 Taus, Margaret (30 January 2003). "Judge to pay $500,000 for cutting park trees". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  6. 1 2 Langston, Jennifer (26 May 2006). "Judge pays off debt for cutting park trees". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  7. 1 2 Seattle Times Staff (26 October 2005). "Judge got view, lost perspective". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  8. 1 2 Westneat, Danny (16 December 2005). "Sometimes the little folks win". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
Legal offices
New seat Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Margaret McKeown
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