Oral History of
Two of the following three interviews were conducted by Hon. Vanessa Ruiz for the D.C. Circuit
Task Force on Gender, Race and Ethnic Bias. The third interview was conducted by Stephen J.
Pollak for the Task Force. The interviews were conducted during the 1992-94 period. Copies of
these summaries were provided to Judge Green by the Task Force; the summary of each interview
taken by the Task Force was confidential, subject to the discretion ofthe judge who was interviewed.
Following Judge Green’s death, her husband, John C. Green, donated the summaries to the Historical
Society so that they could be appended to Judge Green’s oral history.
Judge: 92
Interviewer: V. Ruiz
Steve Polkzk was present for a portion of the end of this section of the interview on race and
ethnicity issues.
Q.l The first thing we’d like to do is to use you as an observer, especially because you have
been in the courtroom for such a long time, and are such a pioneer. In terms of the
different people in the courtroom, attorneys, jurors, law clerks, marshals, and so on, have
you ever observed people being treated differently in the courtroom because of their race
or ethnicity?
I’m happy to say that I don’t see any of it as far as race is concerned. I have found that
people €or whom English is not their first language have generally good interpreters. We
have interpreters available, and it has helped very much.
The problem I’ve observed is not race-related, but those defendants who do not have the
ability to read or write and do not want to admit it. I will hear from some when they are
asked to read something, that they “haven’t brought their glasses” — and they do not have
glasses. When an attorney offers a person who cannot read a document, the wihess is in
a difficult position. I always insist that the document be read into the record so the witness
wiIl not be embarrassed.
I found that so many people, defendants in criminal cases, were just being warehoused €or
years without improving themselves — especially now with the sentencing guidelines. My
husband and I took a course to learn to teach adults to read without insulting them. We
then went to the jail for several hours each week and taught one-on-one, which I think is
the best way. They gave us problems at the jail and tried to discourage us, saying it wasn’t
possible to come there, that there wasn’t room to teach, that teaching would interfere with
their other courses. I told them we did not need a classroom, that we’d just take one
interview room each –just as I had when I was in practice. They didn’t know how to buck
us! We did that for eight years. We haven’t been over for the last several years. My
husband became ill and decided he wasn’t up to it.
At one point I figured out we had successfully taught 48 people. Many were Hispanic.
Though both of us spoke some Spanish, we would say that we didn’t because we didn’t speak
enough to teach using that language. We had some people who were illiterate in Spanish,
others who were proficient at reading and writing Spanish but not English.
When my husband dropped out I couldn’t go to the jail alone at night. I didn’t want him
to know I was still going to the jail, and he would have missed me had I not showed up for
dinner! I tried to go over during the day when I had some time, but that got very difficult.
Was thls at Lorton?
This was at the DC Jail. I had the Lorton cases by then and I felt there might be a conflict.
So that is how you resolved the possible conflict.
Yes. I studiously avoided seeing anything out of line while I was there. They decided they
could heckle me. I had arranged with the employees to have a parking space, but when I
finished and was ready to leave, there was often a truck parked right behind my car so I
could not get out, And no one would know who was the driver, who had parked it there,
where to find someone to move the truck. I put up with this night after night, waiting
another hour or so after I finished teaching. They always said they were innocent and didn’t
know how it had happened. I had always avoided throwing my weight around. I didn’t want
to “raise hell” with them, but just wanted to go there and teach. They would also sometimes
say the count hadn’t cleared, delaying us an hour, regularly. Then the students would say
there had been no problem with the count. I decided I did not need this.
At about this same time, the Probation Office here put in their training course for
probationers, so I decided to work for them. It is a very different thing to have someone
on probatioqwith all kinds of outside interests. They have divided attention. That is very
different from someone who is incarcerated.
For a while, then, I taught in chambers while the course was going on in the basement. The
Probation Office may have given up on the course — there were a lot of absenteeism
One of my students was from Guatemala and very eager to learn. My husband had a
student from Puerto Rko who spoke English perfectly and was simply perfecting his ability
to read and write. He was in jail for two years awaiting trial on a murder charge bfore the
Superior Court. We talked him into helping his colleagues who were learning English. He
did a wonderful job of preparing a textbook — with phonetic pronunciation of words. He
said he was willing to set up classes and teach the course so long as he could speak with my
husband and me when we came to the jail. He had two classes, each with 13 students, both
very successful.
One of the frustrations was that some of the people we would be working with would be
transferred out of the jail, to Lorton, for example, before we would be able to finish with
them. I couldn’t follow them there because I have all the Lorton and Occoquan cases. I did
keep in touch with some students.
My husband’s student was acquitted after two years in jail, and had meanwhile done a
wonderful job excluding with one student I had had no luck with. The student who was
teaching him told me that he thought the person was mentally impaired, as he could not
even remember the alphabet.
The Guatemalan had been sentenced, something like 24 years, and was seeking to have the
judge reduce his sentence. One does not interfere with another judge’s sentences] but I did
tell my student to tell the judge how he was doing in learning to read and write. He did,
and the judge asked me and I told him. Then the student was transferred from Lorton to
Texas. He has immigration issues still pending and is on parole, trying to get his GED. He
came here regularly until 4 or 5 months ago. He is working and has a green card. We went
over GED materials with him, including science and math, which he does well. He made
me the sign [with judge’s name carved in wood] on my desk. I had never had one, I always
figured that by the time people got into my office, the would know who I am. But I put this
one on my desk. He made another sign for my 25th anniversary on the bench. This one
showed me that we still had a little work left to do. [Gestures to sign in bookshelf, which
reads “annyversary”] He is not yet letter perfect.
The students who were on probation are more difficult. I had one black woman who was
on welfare, and had two children. She was not happy. The Probation Office was trying to
put her in a program on parenting. I had very much hoped, because this woman is very
smart and couId do well when she applied herself, that it would work out. She learned to
spell. Then she was shacking up with boy friends, and would miss our meetings without
calling and letting me know. I asked her to call me in advance, just so I would not be
waiting for her. She said, “I lost your number.” So I showed her where I was in the phone
book. Then she said she had no money to get to the Court. I gave her money for the next
visit. Finally, the last time, after she had missed many appointments, I caller her phone
number (actually, it was her mother’s apartment). I learned she was pregnant for the third
time and happy that she could get a nicer apartment because of her pregnancy. Her sister
said that she hadn’t shown up because she had a date. I gave her the message that the
woman shouldn’t bother to come back to the Court. Two weeks later, she showed up and
asked whether I had really given that message. I explained to her that I am willing to help
anyone who wants to help themselves.
[S. Pollak joins the group]
What would have happened to the man from Guatemala had you not taught him?
Nothing. He failed the GED exam by one point. But he passed by high marks all but one
section on comprehension or innuendo. He is now studying for the next exam. He is on
parole and plans to go to community college after getting his GED if he hasn’t been
Have Hispanic attorneys been helpful in working with Hispanic inmates?
I have had lots of promises, but no action.
What has happened?
They did not show up. At least there are finally some prison employees who speak Spanish.
The situation at Lorton is so bad. The mistreatment of women prisoners is the subject of
a class action that was recently filed before me. The allegations are just awful. According
to the papers, the treatment of pregnant women is temile: arrangement are made to take
pregnant women to the hospital to deliver, but guards will sometimes refuse to take them
and force them to have their baby in jail. Some women, while being taken to the hospital,
are raped along the way.
Speaking of the problems of literacy, compounded with non-English speaking- how
competent is the representation of these defendants? Are most represented by Spanishspeaking attorneys?
All are represented. Some attorneys in the Federal Public Defender’s Office speak Spanish.
It became embarrassing to me that we could not help the Spanish-speaking inmates. When
a Spanish-speaking attorney appeared before me, I would ask them to approach the bench
to see if they or someone they knew would go to Lorton.
As soon as the Guatemalan is able to, he will work with other inmates. It is difficult, as
under his parole guidelines he is not to be dealing with felons.
[because of time constraints, the interview on race and ethnicity issues was suspended, to
be completed at a later date to be scheduled]
Judge: 92
Interviewer: V. Ruiz [cont’d]
This b the second part of the interview on race and erhnicity issues, completed on a second day.
4.2 The last time we spoke about difficulties encountered by people with limited English
ability, and you related your experience with at least one of the reading students you had
who had some difficulty with the language. What about the court system here — what could
the Court do to make the process accessible to people with limited English ability?
We have very good translators, I think that nearly all of them are from the State
Department. The witnesses understand them, and they appear to be good at interpreting
remarks of the witnesses and defendants. On occasion there are people whose attorneys are
not sufficiently adept in their language, so two interpreters are needed — one at counsel
table and one for the witness.
Are these court-appointed interpreters?
Yes, most are appointed by the Court. I know that the Federal Public Defender will also
provide interpreters.
Looking now ‘at attorneys, do you think more people with language ability are needed on
the CJA Panel?
The question is whether there are that many people with language ability at the Bar. There
are a fair number of Spanish-speaking attorneys, and they are occupied with cases. We
don’t really have attorneys with other language ability.
Are there any particular languages that are needed?
There are some people who come here from African countries and don’t speak English,
French, or Spanish. Every now and then we find an attorney who speaks the language. We
have plenty of capable lawyers, but they are not from every place the defendants are from.
Do you think the system is finding the lawyers with language ability then?
Q.l(d) Now, not looking at language ability, but looking at race or ethnicity — have you
observed anyone making statements in your courtroom that appear to be derogatory or
appear to stereotype a person because of race or ethnicity?
I don’t think so. I mentioned before they may talk down to women, and in my courtroom
they get clobbered for that. That kind of person is just ignorant. And you have all kinds
of people coming in u attorneys — some are not bright or not very observant.
Q.l(a)/(c) What about others, apart from attorneys. Do you think that the race or
ethnicity makes a difTerence as far as a jury is concerned?
I think so. We try very hard to get a jury that is unbiased, but they are from all over the
city. Some may be from areas that are hotbeds of drug activity and while they are not
involved themselves, they see it all around them. They may have some understandable
concern with this kind of activity. Some are aware of it and will say so during voir dire and
will, of course, be excused. Others may not be as aware of it, but may, I think, bring some
concern from their own experience to a case where there is, for example, a Jamaican
defendant. Some jurors will tell us at the bench that they are afraid of the defendant and
don’t want to sit. I don’t think this is bias, but just a response based on their life
Is it a fear of retaliation?
Yes. And, I think, a fear of gangs, In any neighborhood there are groups of people who
may be involved in criminal activity. Some Latin Americans will express fear as well, for
example in Adam Morgan where there have been shootings.
Do you think jurors are protective of people who are of the same nationality as themselves?
In many of the neighborhoods, you see gangs of people and can recognize drug deals that
are occurring. If you are living in a neighborhood, you are going to see that.
Do you think there is a link to race and ethnicity?
Yes. Sometimes it is from Latin Americans themselves who feel they have seen even their
own race in drug deals and fear retaliation. I don’t think it is mean, or even anything that
anyone can do anything about.
Q.l(b) What about the US Attorney’s Ofice — do you find that how they handle cases, or
who they may send to take a particular case, is influenced by the race or ethnicity of the
de fend ant ?
I’ve really never been able to say t hat. I don’t think that went on under the former US
Attorney for the District of Columbia, and I am confident the present U.S Attorney is of the
highest caliber.
4.3 Do you think your own race or ethnicity has affected how you are treated as a judge?
Not really. I don’t think so. If so, I didn’t recognize it. I red years ago when I first came
on the bench one defense attorney had been interviewed for an article in the Legal Times
about the judges in this Court. And he thought I was terrible. He wasn’t quoted, but it was
pretty clear from what he said who it was. He had said that I was “quite a ladylike
individual, but that was not what he was looking for in a judge. That isn’t enough.” I would
agree that wouldn’t be enough. Having been in trial work for 25 years — as long as I have
now been on the bench — I thought that his remarks were not warranted. My reaction was
certainly not very ladylike. At a Bar dinner after this article had come out, he came up to
me while I was speaking with colleagues and friends and, rather rudely, grabbed my arm to
say he wanted to take me over to meet his girlfriend. He hadn’t had the courtesy to bring
her over to meet me. At first I started to go with him, then I stopped and said, “You S.0.b.
I’m not going to walk over there and meet her!” I figured that I would see him on Monday
morning and that he would ask me what that was all about. But it didn’t happen.
The next case he had with me I told him I would be willing to recuse myself. He asked me
why, and I said “If any judge had called me an SOB, I would think that was a good reason.”
I recused myself then, and continued to do so for years. He was the only person for whom
I would recuse myself. Not long ago I agreed to try a case for another judge, in which there
were five deqendants, and it turned out that this attorney was representing one of them. I
called him in and asked him how he felt about appearing before me, as from my view it was
water long over the dam. He said it had never been a problem for him. Since then, he has
appeared before me a number of times.
Now, what other judges get that kind of stuff but women — it’s pure sex bias.
What about the fact that you are a white lady judge? Some other white judges have had
verbal abuse from minority defendants, suggesting that they could not be fair because of
their race. Have you ever experienced anything like that?
I had a young black man who had been found guilty before me, before he was sentenced,
jump up and say, “You white m.f.” (He said the whole thing.) (I had heard people saying
those kind of things before, in Greenwich Village in New York.) I sent him to St.
Elizabeth’s for evaluation because he had to be not quite all right to call the Judge that
when the Judge was about to impose sentence on him.
Apart from cases where there is extreme behavior such as that you have described, do you
think that in the perception of a minority defendant the race or ethnicity of a judge makes
a difference?
I suppose so. A lot of people think they are not at fault when they are brought up on
criminal charges, even though they admit that they did what they are charged with. They
generally vent their spleen at the prosecutor, and think they have been treated unfairly.
Sometimes they have, and we try to even that out in the rulings and motions addressed.
How does a jury react?
I think jurors come in with open minds.
I was the only one for a long time and apart from Judge Matthews they didn’t see women
judges. Jurors have always been very sweet with me. They have come back at the end of
their period of service (as I do not talk with jurors who may be finished before me but who
haven’t completed their service), to say how much they enjoyed being in my Court, that they
found me to be fair.
Years ago, I used to wear a different scarf every day with my black robe. One of the jurors
sitting in a two-month trial before me had a boutique. After the verdict, the jurors said they
hoped I wouldn’t take it wrong, but that they had chipped in and bought me a scarf from
this other juror’s boutique. I thought that was very nice. I checked to make sure that it
would be alright for me to accept the gift, and it was. I have had good experiences with
There is one thing I wanted to tell you: I am pained when I see a woman lawyer who is
inept or untrained. I feel I am at fault, somehow, and it pains me.
Do you hold women attorneys to a higher standard?
I suppose — certainly I want to see that they are among the very best of’the lawyers before
me. It is a very personal pain when I see one who is not good, particularly if they exhibit
unsportsmanlike conduct, That 1 won’t put up with, either from a man or a woman.
But I do see very, very able women, mostly: criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, Justice
Department lawyers, private attorneys. So I don’t have to wince as much.
What about minority attorneys?
Again, it is very much better than it used to be. There is one young black fellow who had
been running afoul of some of the judges because they believe he is acting in a racist
fashion. I saw some of it myself when he was before me.
Like what?
He would try to put down the AUSA (either black or white).
He wanted some advice from me and came in to see me one day. He said he wanted to
know how I had become a judge, because he was interested in becoming a judge himself.
He said he had had some difficulty getting along with the judges. I decided I wold really
talk with him, and told him that there were some who said he was racist. I also told him
that just because he was a specialist in defending criminal cases, he shouldn’t take things out
on his opponents.
I told him I didn’t know how I became a judge, I was just around a long time and people
knew me. If they saw him and felt he was fair and exhibited a “judicial temperament,” then
he would be doing the right thing. I told him he should get involved in Bar activities, and
should get to know other attorneys.
Since this conversation, I haven’t had any trouble with him.
What he was doing that was troubling judges was if he were at the bench, or if a ruling had
been made against him, he would make faces to the jury — rolling his eyes and such.
Communicating, ‘This judge is biased and nasty.” I think it is important to behave in a
professional way.
After we spoke, I saw no more of that behavior. He had a sentencing before me in which
he wanted to raise a constitutional question concerning the propriety of charging his client
for having transported a gun into D.C., when there was no sign at the entrance point giving
notice that handguns were unlawful in the District. The facts of his particular case were not
really the best for raising what seemed a novel issue. When I suggested that he might want
to wait until he had some better facts, he laughed with me.
We haven’t seen many cases of interstate transport of firearms here.
Well I had one. A man who had been living in a trailer in the desert, making toys that blew
in the wind, had sent some papers to the Supreme Court for filing. He got no response
from the Court so he drove to D.C. and parked in front of the Court in a spot that clearly
says it is illegal to park and warns that guns are illegal. This fellow had a shotgun on the
wall of his trailer — in his home, he said. The police told him to move along when he
parked there, and he said it was his home. That was a non sequitur. He was eventually
charged with interstate transport. His Public Defender did a very, very good job, and there
was an intelligent AUSA on the other side. They let him plead guilty to a D.C. offense so
he wouldn’t fall under the Guidelines. The range of sentence in the statute was from zero
to some number of months. I sentenced him to zero mon!hs because I wanted him to be
able to go back to the desert where he preferred to live, which he could not have done had
he been on probation here.
Q. 5 Are you aware of any EEO concerns in the Courthouse concerning race and ethnicity?
There was one white woman in the Clerk’s Office who brought a case because she thought
she hadn’t moved up properly. I think she was claiming reverse discrimination. That’s the
only one I have heard of. I think the Clerk’s Office has a very good record of hiring blacks,
and pushing the blacks on staff for promotions.
What about the other otrces within the Courthouse?
I think the same is true for them all, but I don’t always know. We have a lot of Department
heads, who I had a chance to meet at the Judicial Conference last year. They are all kinds
and they are all doing a good job.
I have noticed looking at the law clerks this year that there seem to be some Asiatics in the
group. And this is the first time there have been any number of !hem. Most of the judges
have had women law clerks and many have been more satisfied with them than with others.
I mentioned the last time we spoke that when I am hiring law clerks, I am not purposely
looking for particular schools, or for black or white law clerks. I have hired black clerks.
All of my clerks, as I said the last time, are my family. One black woman clerk I had says
she is my fourth daughter, and I feel that she is.
Do you think,that on the whole the other judges here have the same outlook as you?
Who knows? (laughing) One judge, when the Bar ceiebrated his 50 years at the Bar, 25 of
which were at !he bench, gave a speech, mentioning people who had been very helpful to
him, including his clerks. He has been delighted with his women clerks. He is a gentleman
of the old school who you would not think would act in that reasonable way.
Some state court systems have gone to a system where they have centralized recruiting of
law clerks.
They have all moved to that and I am opposed to it. If I have to — he. I will. But I’m
not going to initiate that. You see, I don’t like having to turn down applicants. And I don’t
feel that I should be hiring clerks for 1995 or 1996 — as they are doing now — I may be dead
and buried by then! (laughing) For the last four to five years, when it has been harder for
new attorneys to get jobs, I didn’t want to change clerks every year. I don’t want to be
committed to having someone come in at a certain time, and want to give my clerks an
opportunity to find a job. 1 also hire clerks for two years — I think it is a better use of their
time and of my time. I mentioned last time that I prefer now to hire people who have
already had some experience at the Bar. I try to find people who are perhaps dissatisfied
with their current job and who are willing to take a cut in pay to come and clerk, and who
want the work. The world is full of very, very capable young people. So many of the
applicants are well-qualified, educated to the last ditch, up there with their colleagues, all
eager-beavers. Some candidates don’t write as well as others, and that would be something
that matters to me. If I’ve read something that they have written, which has gone through
lots of other people, or if I see something that is misspelled (principa! instead of principk,
for example) that troubles me. I know I could work with them, but I am not in that position
any more.
Q.7 The question is one of access, of opportunity to become a judicial clerk, to be
appointed to Court committees or invited to the Judicial Conference. Many minority
attorneys simply aren’t aware of these opportunities. One thing we are seeing among
minority bar members is lack of knowledge about how things work in the Courthouse — how
can we “open the doors?”
If these people would join their bar associations, and get to know their colleagues at the
Bar. Get to know others so when someone is looking to appoint a person to a Committee,
they will think of you.
Does the Court go out and ask?
The Court of Appeals and the people on the Judicial Council have made it very strange in
terms of the people who are being invited to the Judicial Conference.
How so?
I think the Judicial Conference was always intended to include those who are active in the
Court who wanted a chance to get to know the judges of the court on an informal basis.
I was a member of the Judicial Conference when I was an attorney, but I don’t know how
that came about. I was also recommended to be on the Grievance Committee of the
Municipal Court, and I ended up as the Chairman. And it was the Chaimg.
When I was appointed to this Court’s Admission and Grievance Committee it was at a time
when this Court was the Court of general admission to the Bar. I think that came about
because a sorority sister of mine had been a Bar Examiner, and asked if she could
recommend me for the spot in her letter of resignation. The judges knew me because I had
litigated before all of them. I just think you have to work hard at what you’re doing and
then someone will think of you.
What is so strange about the Judicial Conference now is that they don’t want people who
have been at the Judicial Conference for a long time, they instead invite young people and
professors. I think professors are great but they are not exactly what the Judicial
Conference was to be. It was nice this past year to meet the department heads from within
the Court, but it was not exactly a Judicial Conference.
At the next Conference in Baltimore, they have already said they want people who haven’t
been to the Conference before.
Q.7 (cont’d) How do you know who is to be asked?
This is from the rules the Judicial Conference sends around. They are very clear on the
manner in which they want the information — name, address, job, and all that. They tell us
to please consider that they are trying to get people who haven’t been before.
Do you think it should be a mix of new and old faces at the Conference?
Yes. I think the Court of Appeals has a different idea from those who see what happens
every day in trials.
Q.7 (cont’d) What about other Court committees or appointments that are discretionary
within the Court?
I don’t know anything except that they are appointed. When I was appointed to criminal
cases I never got paid and I would always have my own money tied up in cases.
Presumable, you were to be paid by being made the guardian ad litem. I was made
guardian for1.a woman in St. Elizabeth’s after the previous attorney had stolen money from
her. I first had to sue the surety to recover the funds, and then I represented this woman
for 7-8 years. As payment, I was entitled to a portion of what was spent, but because she
was entitle to public assistance little money was spent. I got, I believe ninety-eight cents,
and filled out hundreds of dollars of forms. Another male colleague was appointed as
receiver of a defunct club and made so much from that he never had t9 work on anything
Is that still going on today?
How do I know, I’m not litigating anymore. (laughter)
What about with Special Master appointments in this Court?
Well, that is different. Generally you are looking for professionals with lifelong experience
and expertise in a particular area. I have used two, and one of them was not satisfactory
because I thought he charged the parties too much. I thought he was a “grasper.” I
wouldn’t use him again, even though the parties didn’t complain. Another man I appointed,
also a professor, did a beautiful job. He got paid for his work and didn’t gouge.
Judge: 92
Interviewer: S. Pollak
Vanessa Ruu was also present during the interview
Q.l In your courtroom you see many different interactions involving lawyers, jurors, and
parties. Have you observed differences in the ways male or female parties are responded
to by lawyers or jurors?
You don’t think I’d put up with it, do you? (laughing)
In the time you have been on the bench, there may have been changes in the way women
are treated in the courtroom.
There have been a great many. I was the fourth woman judge in any federal district court.
I succeeded Burnita Matthews, who was the first. I was a trial lawyer, working from
Maryland to Virginia. I had offices in Annapolis and Washington for over 20 years. I tried
cases in D.C. and in all the little Maryland towns around here. There was a time when the
world was not beating a path to get a woman lawyer. I made up my mind if people were
treating me differently, I would never see that as occurring solely because I am a woman.
I did not consider my gender as a factor.
Did you ever have to step in to handle situations occurring in your courtroom?
I did not have many women lawyers when I started and I have had little of this over the
years. There is one recent exception. One male attorney, stupidly, I thought, questioned
a black female witness by her first name. He was white, and this was before a mostly black,
mostly female jury. I didn’t want to put up with this situation because I wanted a fair trial,
and he failed to accord her the respect to which she was entitled. I wanted to call him up
to the bench but before I could do so his opponent stood up and said, “I object to the way
counsel is behaving” and pointed out the conduct in front of the jury. Then on cross
examination he asked a series of questions about whether the witness was called by her first
name by other strangers. The first lawyer was inept to say the lesat — doing this before the
jury. Opposing counsel did far more than I could have, he deliberately embarrassed him for
this behavior, and I can’t imagine its being repeated. (P.S. He lost the case.)
When was this one instance?
About 5-10 months ago.
Q.2 Do you believe your own gender has affected how you are treated as a judge?
When I was in practice, I would find in some towns they’d yell from outside the courthouse,
“There’s a woman lawyer! Come and see!” As though I were a two-headed calf. I decided
they would remember me, so I tried not to make mistakes and tried not to do any jackass
things, because I thought they would remember those, too. I decided not to consider that
this was treatment because I was a woman.
New My secretary reminded me of one obvious insult because of my gender. An official
at the U.S. Departmentof Agriculture was reported in the Washington Post as stating at a
meeting with growers that I had decided, in favor of the Transportation Department, a case
brought by the U.S. Department of Transportation against Agriculture – that this showed
that women not only should not be district court judges, but they shouldn’t be allowed to
attend law school. See copy of article and letter of apology attached.
I went to law school after I was married, and my husband has always been very supportive.
After I graduated I went to work for an insurance company because no law firm would hire
me. I had gone to Washington College of Law, which had a woman dean. She called me
with the suggestion about this job. Apparently the insurance company had called her for
suggestions for someone for the position of insurance adjustor. She said she knew of an
eligible woman for the job and asked whether the company would hire a woman. They said
they hadn’t thought about it, but why not. I became the first woman insurance adjustor in
the country. When I started, I met the other adjustors, all men. They all went out for lunch
together every day. After my first day I told my husband this and he said, “Join them. If
you make a distinction, they’ll make the distinction, so don’t do it.” I have tried to live by
that since.
Some people are obnoxious and I don’t much care for them, and some people don’t like me.
But I expected always to be around. I didn’t see myself as a flash in the pan. I knew there
would be another case, and another, and another, and I would see these people again.
Do you find that you are treated differently as a judge because of your gender? By parties
or witnesses?
Not that, so much as by other judges.
Let me ask you about that, then. What are the interactions like inter sese?
When I started, Judge Curran was the Chief Judge. It is not my way to make waves, and
when I came they had no place for me, no courtroom and no chambers. I would walk to
my courtroom for the day with my robe over one arm and my handbag over the other,
because there was no safe place to leave it. I did it the hard way.
Do you think it would have been diflerent had you been a male judge?
I certainly do. I how because one judge appointed several years before me had made sure
he got a courtroom and chambers. We have talked about it since. Also, your name was
over your parking space then and they had given me a parking space for a compact car that
I couldn’t use because we didn’t have a compact car. I didn’t know what should be done,
but I wrote a memo to the Chief Judge’s Administrative Assistant asking for a different
space. I got a really nasty note from the Chief Judge telling me I had no right to contact
his assistant, that everyone had his own parking space and that it was incumbent on me to
figure out what was available, find out who had it and then make appropriate arrangements.
I finally found one of my colleague’s secretaries had a space that would work, and a car that
would fit in my space. The Chief Judge made me make the deal with her myself, which I
thought was absurd. I was very polite about it and the secretary was quite gracious.
Eventually I got an office. If you think this is an easy way to start as a judge, it was not.
I only knew where I was on any day by looking at a sign that would be posted downstairs.
I put up with a lot.
What about in the modern era — say the last five years?
Everything is lovely. What happened once I got a chambers of my own was that I was told
I had to furnish it with surplus furniture from the warehouse. Then two more judges were
appointed, one of whom was a friend of the head of GSA. Before he started he had a
suitable parking space, and an office filled with all new things. That did it. I finally
exploded. This was too much for me. I said I wanted these things and that I was going to
get them.
When did you get a courtroom?
I got it after Judge Pine finally died. I had used his cournoom most often, as he wasn’t
sitting or settling anything and in fact, was old and ill.
When Judge Pine died, that opened up a courtroom and chambers. Judge Waddy took
Pine’s chambers, and I took his, and these are the chambers I still occupy. When I had the
office done I sent in a decorator. I didn’t want a conference table, and preferred something
more “folksy” for pretrial and settlement conferences.
With all the experiences you have had in suits involving discrimination I am sure you have
seen a lot of different kinds of interactions. Without asking you to malign any of your
fellow judges, have you been treated differently than other judges?
No, except now they may think I am different because I am a senior judge. I’ll tell you, I
work too hard as a senior judge, much harder than I planned. I no longer have the
commute from Annapolis. I couldn’t count on getting here on time when I did that, and I
am a stickler for being punctual, having waited for many a judge in my day.
Does it make a difference to have other women judges around?
I couldn’t be happier to have [names two female colleagues], and I felt badly they didn’t
appoint a woman after I took senior status. It was a real slap.
Did it make a difference in your interactions with other judges once the other women came
No. I was the only woman at luch for the first 11 years and my colleagues became used to
me. [Names one female judicial colleague] – who doesn’t come to lunch.
Tell me about that — is the lunchroom a men’s club?
Not really.
Did you feel, the way you were treated when you started was harassment?
Not really, because I didn’t bring it to their attention.
One of my colleagues, after I took senior status, would sometimes ride up in the courthouse
elevator with me and say, “Oh, are you working today?” When the Bar: Association did its
interviews with senior judges, I was very free. I told the interviewer that I probably
regretted saying some of the things I said. I had told him it was irritating to have a
colleague daily asking if I was working, and to tell him every day that I was.
Do you find the lunchroom to be a men’s club?
[One female judicial colleague] doesn’t eat there. I don’t know why. George Hart, who 1
am sure did not want a woman on the bench, graciously came to me on my first day here
and said, “I want to take you up to lunch, it is very valuable. It is the only way to find out
what it going on in the Courthouse.” Judge Tamm came and was wonderful. He’d make
a lot of suggestions to me, usually prefacing it by saying that he heard a judge “out West”
had done something, but it was really me. I’m sure this was no secret that it was really me,
because my face would be red, but he was very kind in his efforts to “break me in.”
For instance, I once had a case sent back from the Court of Appeals with instructions to
adduce more evidence on a certain point. When I looked at it, it was plainly all in the
record, and I couldn’t hold a new hearing for that. I sent a memo to the three judges on
the panel and suggested that they look in the record. At lunch, Judge Tamm said, “I heard
some judge out West sent a memo to judges on an appellate panel. This just isn’t done.”
Years later a panel with [a colleague from the District Court] sent back a sentencing on an
issue that had never been raised, either in my court or in the Court of Appeals, and would
be illegal, as they were telling me to apply D.C. sentencing law to a federal conviction. I
spoke with Judge Robb to ask about the mechanism a judge had for telling a panel that
what they were asking a district judge to do was illegal. Judge Robb said to send a memo.
I told him I had learned my lesson on that one, though, so I wrote an opinion and published
it in the law reporter and indicated why I wasn’t doing what they had said. I believe some
mechanism for this problem should be instituted officially.
Q.4 Are you aware of the courthouse EEO procedures and processes?
Not really. I haven’t had any cases involving court people.
I do not want to ask you about any specific case, but do you have any awareness of court
staff who may have sought relief through the EEO process?
I don’t have by knowledge. Apart from [names a judicial colleague] working on the Task
Force. I think that the Clerks Office people are quite happy, although they are not happy
with the pay.
Do you have any indication that there is any inequality in treatment?
No. Judge Matthews was the only one who took all women law clerks. I took both men
and women, and I have had minority and non-minority, and clerks from a variety of schools.
My law clerks are family, and I have said that I have had the best of all possible worlds, as
they are all decent, bright people.
Is the now of clerks, in terms of gender, decent?
There is a balance now.
Have you made any special effort to balance it?
I have one male and female now, I have had two women. I have presently [since the
inteniew] never had two men.
What about minorities?
I hate to turn someone down so I interview as few people as possible. They are all
qualified. It’s a question of how they feel about me as much as how I feel about them. So
much of the decision is chemistry.
I had my 25th anniversary on the bench last June and the clerks gave me a nice party.
Former clerks came from all over the country — California, New England, all over. One
clerk who wasn’t able to get here is in town now and we are going to go out to dinner with
him tomorrow night. I try to keep up with my clerks.
Is it any different for you relating to female clerks than male clerks?
I don’t think so.
The last clerks, both women, were experienced. I had hired a young man who on the day
I more him in told me about an opportunity he had to run for a position in Baltimore,
asking if I would release him. Of course I did, I just asked him why he hadn’t asked before
I Swore him in. I then had to get two clerks, and my former clerks helped me. We found
two women who didn’t know each other, but who were unhappy at big firms and were willing
to take a cut in pay. Their experience made a difference and spoiled me. I’m no longer
hiring someone straight out of school, but I want someone who has had some experience.
1,generally keep my clerks for two years and tell them they can just let me know when they
have a job. ?’he two experienced clerks were dissatisfied at the big firms because no one
had said “good job” to them or they felt at their firms there was gender discrimination.
They’d take less pay to be treated like human beings. One of these women called a male
classmate who she thought I would like and he came down and we spoke. I talked about
the kinds of cases we had coming up, to see if he was interested in them. .I hired him. It
is not a question of picking people from among the whole gamut of applicants. It is not
considered right, but as a matter of fact, that is what I am doing, looking for someone with
experience and interviewing very few people.
V. Ruiz: Are you interested in people with different life experiences?
Most of the clerks I see do have different life experiences. Those are the ones that interest
me. People who have paid their own way — these people are wonderful.
Q.6 Do you or others have a dress code in Court?
No. One time when a young woman with no visible underclothes on sat at counsel table
with her skirt hiked up to here (gestures) I did ask the US Marshal to speak to her quietly
to have her pull her skirt down. I remember a male attorney who was a symphony in pink.
Pink shoes, pink suit, pink shirt, pink tie and he was a strawberry blond. I never did hear
what he was arguing because I was so fascinated with his outfit. I never said anything to him
because he was covered up. That’s my standard.
Q.7(B) What about gender and selection for Committees, special master, the Judicial
Conference — does it play a role?
I don’t do that any more because I am a senior judge. I believe it did. Now they’ve loaded
the Judicial Conference with professors. That is not what most of us contemplated for the
Judicial Conference. We District Court judges feel that the people who are practicing
before us all the time are the ones we should have there. The three people I invite are
generally my former law clerks, some are men, some women.
Q.8 Do you perceive in gender discrimination cases that a defendant is better served by
a female attorney?
I really don’t. I think it is the ability of the attorney that is important. I think the ones who
make a great mistake are the attorneys who badger witnesses who are co-employees, because
the client may be going back to that workplace.
Do you think a plaintiff is as well represented by a male or female attorney?
I think so.
Q.ll Do you have any sense of whether prosecutors make a distinction in charging and
plea agreements between men and women?
Both before and after U.S. Attorney Stephens, do you think that gender was taken into
account in charging and plea decisions?
I think so, years ago. Women got lighter sentences. They did on occasion get some time.
In later years, it turned out that there were efforts to treat them as though they were in the
same situation as men, but they were not, because so many were heads of households. We
can’t do much of anything with the Guidelines in place now.
In pretrial, there is some room for discretion, and in pretrial detention does gender play
a role?
It could, but the law is pretty much on the side of the prosecutors.
Are there any aspects of the courthouse that are different for women or men?
Bear in mind I don’t see colleagues’ courtrooms. Initially, one didn’t go into others’
courtrooms; now it is more relaxed. I did think it was out of order once when Court of
Appeals judges visited my courtroom. They might be sitting on the case later. Maybe they
came because I was a woman, I really don’t know.
Are the courthouse facilities adequate?
I think so. The jury room is so small uncomfortable for jurors. I thought it was stupid to
have separate bathrooms when occasionallly the jury would have many of one gender and
only one or two of the other. So I had the separate signs taken down and replaced with
signs reading “Toilet.” I thought it was dumb to worry about having both genders using one
bathroom, one after another, when you don’t worry about it in your own house.
Is there anything else on gender that you think we should record? I take it things have
gone from a situation that was not so good when you started to one that is better?
The “grim reaper” took care of a lot of it.
And that brought on a younger group?
I think so. The colleagues with whom we lunch regularly, are used to me and we get along
Do you think that away from the Court or in Court proceedings that gender is still making
a difference — that males seek to be overbearing to female lawyers?
Some of them seek to be overbearing to everyone. Yesterday I had a settlement conference
and one party had a man here for his client, who said he didn’t have authority to make the
decision we needed to settle. He was not easy to deal with. When I asked who had the
authority to make the decision, I was told that person was in a meeting. 1 said it was as
important for us to talk as for that meeting to continue without interruption. They called
the person, who was a woman. She was very tough and strong to deal with. We spoke
about the relative merits of the case, and the case was settled when I told her she might get
nothing if the case didn’t settle. I did think it was nice that we ended up on friendly terms
when the case settled. She had certainly been more reasonable than her underlings.
[end of interview on gender issues]
How did you get the names of people for Special Masters?
From other judges — my colleagues. Now I understand we will have a list pulled together
by a committee, with qualified people on it. The better of the two attorneys I used is now
dead, so he is no longer available.
I use Special Masters sparingly, because I do not think it is an expense the parties should
Does the Committee that is preparing the list of Special Masters have in mind opening up
the pool?
I would hope so. They are, I am sure, intelligent people.
Q.10 During our public hearing we heard from a woman who had a case in this court and
was trying to proceed pro se. She had difficulty finding an attorney to represent her. The
Court has assistance for people who file pro se, either helping them with their filings or
finding them an attorney. Do you have any evaluation of the assistance the Court is giving?
I don’t know how the pro bono group works, I would assume that it was available to this
person. But I believe that if someone can afford an attorney they should retain one. I do
not believe that people who can afford it should try to get anything free. I know I’ve talked
to a lot of pqple to get them to assist pro se plaintiffs. One attorney [names a white male
attorney] has a reputation for representing people in the EEO field. He seems to be fairminded and doesn’t charge them too much.
Have you had any pro se plaintiffs in your court’?
Have there been any that you were surprised could not find an attorney?
Sometimes attorneys see these cases as “lost causes.”
Have you seen any cases where a party had no attorney and you thought it was a good case,
where the party should have had an attorney?
I don’t think I have had any. In the first place, the world is full of people taking cases on
contingency. The Court recognizes the need for this, and attorneys may get a higher rate
for taking an “iffy” case on contingency. The court is trying hard to encourage people to
take these cases. I see little excuse for people who don’t find a lawyer.
Finally, are there any areas that you would suggest we look into –you have seen the range
of issues we have been exploring. Are there any areas, either positive or negative, in
connection with race and ethnicity that you think we should look into?
I think you are asking all the questions.
I told you about the parolee I teach. He called to wish me happy birthday. He believes he
is put upon because he is Guatemalan, and that this causes him problems in getting jobs.
What did he have to say about his experience in Court?
First of all, he was in Superior Court, not here. He felt he was very badly treated, as he lost
his daughter while he was in jail, and has been fighting since he got out to get her back.
She is living with her mother’s family in California. They are trying to get him to terminate
his parental rights. He is upset about this. He did kill his Wife, so her family’s reaction is
[end of interview on racelethnicity issues]
3RD STORY of Level 1 printed in FULL format. ,
Copyright 1985 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
March 12, 1985, Tuesday, Final Edition
ECTION: First Section; The Federal Report: Inside; A15
ENGTH: 759 words
jeputy’s Remark Sowed Resentment
~YLINE: Ward Sinclair
:he cure for outbreaks of foot-in-mouth disease that occasionally zap the
igriculture Department.
Tor international affairs and commodity programs, who apparently thought he was
secure in a good-old-boy farm atmosphere of the U.S. Feed Grains Council.
Goldberg, addressing the council on export matters, lamented a recent
ruling by U.S. District Court Judge June L. Green. The judge held that the
JSDA acted improperly last year by exempting a $536 million wheat sales
igreement from cargo-preference requirements that would have sent at least half
:he grain on more expensive U.S. merchant vessels. The ruling sent exporters
No matter how dogged the agricultural researchers might be, they can’t find
The malady last week seized Richard W. a deputy undersecretary
into a tizzy. ‘i
But Goldberg stunned the gathering by saying a male judge would have
inderstood the issue better and would have ruled against the cargo-preference
povision, opening the way for less expensive exports. “This is an illustration
Df why women shouldn’t be allowed to go to law school, let alone be appointed to
the bench,I1 Goldberg said, according to a Commodity News Sefvice reporter who
attended the gathering. The remarks did not make the news wire services, but
dord spread quickly and Washington women involved in agriculture issues were
181 was quite distressedI1l said Susan McCullough, the council’s public affa
director, who was the only woman at the meeting. “But I was gratified that my
male colleagues afterward privately expressed to me their displeasure with Mr
Goldberg’s comments.tt
Goldberg conceded yesterday that he had made a remark ,’something like
that,” but said “it was a poor joke that reflected my frustration over the
decision and its impact on our export efforts.” The former North Dakota farmer
and state senatvr added, “It was clearly a dumb thing to say . . .a bad joke and
it isnIt even funny. I am sorry — it was just my frustration with things.”
March 12, 1985
The Honorable June L. Green
District Judge United States District Court
Washington, D.C.
for the District of Columbia
Dear Judge Green:
Please accept my sincere apology to you for my tasteless remarks made
during a recent speech as reported in today’s edition of the Post.
In no way did I intend to offend you or any other woman jurist.
decision itself is well written and properly reflects the existing law.
I bve always had the very highest
profession and will continue to do
regard fcr all members of the legal
RiLhard 2. Goldberg
Deputy Under Secretary
International Affairs and
Commodity Programs