The Court Mourns the Passing
of its first Chief Judge,
the Honorable Frank Q. Nebeker
The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims mourns the loss of retired Judge Frank Q. Nebeker, who died on January 4, 2024. Judge Nebeker was the first Chief Judge of the Veterans Court, and the veterans law community and the Court hold him in esteem as one of the most significant figures in the history of veterans judicial review.
Judge Nebeker dedicated his entire career to public service - a career that spanned eight decades. In the early 1950s, while in law school in Washington, DC, he served in President Eisenhower's White House file room and then moved to Mamie Eisenhower's social staff as a correspondence secretary. In 1956, he began work as a Department of Justice trial attorney and from 1958 to 1969 he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
In 1969, he was appointed as a judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals where he served until his retirement in 1987. Although Judge Nebeker had intended to then serve in senior status on that court, in 1987 President Ronald Reagan nominated him as Director of the Office of Government Ethics, where he served for two years. Judge Nebeker always spoke fondly of his time at OGE, working with talented and dedicated professionals to shape and guide Executive Branch ethical behavior.
In 1989, when many would have been ready for retirement, Frank Nebeker answered the call to serve as the first Chief Judge of the newly created United States Court of Veterans Appeals. He served in that capacity until he took senior status in 2000.
Chief Judge Nebeker hired a staff of talented and dedicated individuals who worked with him to stand up the Court - now the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. It was a herculean effort and he was the perfect leader - an unpretentious, speak-his-mind kind of person, with a sharp legal mind and a network of colleagues whose expertise he tapped into as he and the Court's first employees "created the court from whole cloth." Those are his words, and under Chief Judge Nebeker's guidance the Court came into being, began to decide veterans appeals, and grew into an established Court.
After taking senior status, Judge Nebeker intermittently served on recall until December 2022. He also occasionally served as a senior judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and fully retired from that Court in December 2021.
The Honorable Frank Q. Nebeker was an outstanding judge, boss, mentor, friend, and person. It is truly the end of an era for the Veterans Court, and he will be greatly missed.