Detroit federal Judge John Feikens dies at age 93

DETROIT (AP) -- John Feikens, a federal judge for more than 40 years and probably best known for overseeing decades of litigation involving the Detroit water department, has died at age 93, his family said Monday.

Feikens had been ailing for a long time and gave up the water case last year. He died Sunday at his home in Grosse Pointe Park.

"Basically, he died of old age," son Jon Feikens said. "He had grown increasingly weaker as the months went by and he just stopped functioning. He just stopped breathing."

U.S. Chief District Judge Gerald Rosen said Feikens was a mentor who was stern and demanding but also compassionate.

"He never stopped thinking about what was good for the court," Rosen said. "He was a giant, not just in our legal community but for the federal judiciary. He's got friends all over the country."

Feikens began overseeing the Detroit water department in the 1970s as part of a settlement over pollution discharged into the Detroit River. It expanded into decades-old litigation over how the system should be run and what influence should be given to suburbs where most customers live.

Feikens' path to the federal bench was unusual. He was given an interim appointment in 1960 by President Dwight Eisenhower but didn't have the support of Sen. Patrick McNamara, D-Mich., for a permanent post and left the court after a year.

Nine years later, in 1970, Feikens was nominated by President Richard Nixon and confirmed by the Senate.

"He said, 'Thing have a way of working out,'" Rosen recalled. "It gave him an opportunity to return to private practice and make some money to tide him over."

Feikens was politically active before becoming a judge and chaired the Michigan Republican Party in the 1950s.

Published: Tue, May 17, 2011

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