At the time of the superflu outbreak, Farris (his first name is never revealed) is a retired circuit-court judge living in Peoria, Illinois. He joins Larry Underwood's party in Joliet on their way to Hemingford Home, Nebraska, and later the Boulder Free Zone.
Judge Farris is seventy, sharply intelligent, and insightful to a nearly uncanny degree. He is one of the first plague survivors to see Larry's true potential as a human being; for that, as well as the leadership qualities he displayed getting his group across the country, Farris recommends Larry to Stu Redman as a nominee for the Boulder Free Zone Committee.
By observation, Farris quickly pieces together that Larry feels torn between his (apparently) unrequited feelings for Nadine Cross and his new relationship with Lucy Swann. He acts as confidant for Lucy, then later Larry, after Underwood expresses guilt that his rejection might drive Nadine to consider suicide, or some equally rash and self-destructive. Farris counsels him that if his decision to stick with Lucy is made, he must live with it, and not assume too much responsibility for life-choices only Nadine can make.
When the Committee decides to send scouts westward to spy on Randall Flagg's activities, Larry recommends the Judge, and takes it upon himself to recruit him. Farris indicates that he has already deduced both the need for an intelligence-gathering mission, and the reason for Larry's visit, to the point where Larry panics and suspects a leak in the Committee (but as it turns out, the Judge is simply that perceptive.) Farris accepts the mission with a sense of borderline exhilaration. His age is an undeniable risk-factor and his health issues will make travel uncomfortable, and he doubts he will ever return to Boulder; but the mental stimulation of a new adventure is too great for him to resist.
He takes an indirect route towards Las Vegas, heading for Idaho with intentions of entering Flagg's territory via northern California.
In Copperfield, Oregon near the Snake River, he is spotted at one of Flagg's checkpoints manned by Bobby Terry and Dave Roberts, who follow and confront him. They have strict orders to kill the Judge without damaging his head; as Flagg intends to send the head back to the Boulder Free Zone as a warning, the features must be recognizable.
Farris and Roberts both stop and exit their vehicles. Roberts manages to feign friendliness long enough to shake hands — enabling him to shoot the judge in the abdomen at nearly point-blank range. Bobby Terry, over-eager and unintelligent, also fires but accidentally kills Roberts. After exchanging several shots with Farris, Bobby eventually manages two direct hits to the judge's face, completely mangling it and partially destroying the head.
Flagg materializes out of nowhere and savagely murders Bobby Terry for his disobedience.
Later, when Tom Cullen relates his eyewitness account of the destruction of Las Vegas, he states that God "fixed" Flagg for what he did to the Judge.