For more than 35 years as a federal judge in Atlanta, Marvin Shoob was the embodiment of independence.
He consistently protected the powerless, notably in cases regarding imprisonment he thought was unreasonable or conditions he deemed unacceptable. On Friday, his office announced that Shoob will retire from the bench on Feb. 23, his 93rd birthday.
“For more than 35 years, my life has been dedicated to the federal court system, and in particular, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia,” Shoob wrote to Chief Judge Thomas Thrash last November. “I think the time has come when I must take inactive status.”
Shoob has said an incident that occurred during his service in World War II had a profound influence on his work as a judge.
Near the French-German border, Shoob came upon five German soldiers who surrendered to him. A fellow lieutenant then walked up, ordered the prisoners to lie down and sprayed them with his automatic weapon, Shoob has said.
In a recent letter to Shoob, Ed Carnes, chief judge of the federal appeals court in Atlanta, thanked Shoob for his service. Carnes also said he had recently heard Shoob’s account on public radio about what happened on the battlefield decades ago.
“Your account of what happened to the young German prisoners at the hands of a reprehensible and lawless American lieutenant was a powerful one,” Carnes wrote. “What was most affecting about the story was that witnessing the horrible event did not make you cynical; instead, it inspired your commitment to always do the right thing. That is truly admirable.”
In September 1991, Shoob became a senior judge on the federal bench in Atlanta and, since then, has continued to perform substantial work.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as a United States district judge,” Shoob wrote. “For this opportunity, I am most grateful.”