November 7, 1996
Mr. Chief Judge — may it please the Court:
Judges, family, colleagues and friends of Harold
This is the 31st year of my professional relationship
with Harold Greene. He’s also my friend. And this is an
occasion to share with you some observations about him and his
public service.
Judge Greene is personable, self-mocking and easy to
like. He enjoys human contact and has a gifted mind and a quick
wit. He writes well and quickly. Harold is committed to public
service; and cares about the law and fairness. And he has the
courage to seek out and master challenges.
Is he perfect? Almost. He has only one limitation
that I know of: lack of complete modesty.
Recently, one of Harold’s law clerks was complaining
about judges thinking they are almost deities. Quick as a wink,
Harold shot back, “What do you mean, almost.”
Service in the Civil Rights Division
When I entered the Department of Justice in 1961 as
an Assistant to the Solicitor General, Harold had been there
for four years. He joined the Civil Right s Division upon its
creation by Congress in 1957, and became the first Chief of theAppellate Section. Harold held that post until the Voting Rights
Act was assured of passage in 1965.
With notable exceptions led by Frank M. Johnson and
Skelly wright, most of the district judges before whom the Civil
Rights Division was litigating uniformly ruled in favor of the
defendants. So Harold and his small band of five or six lawyers
took an unending stream of appeals to the Fifth Circuit where
Chief Judge Tuttle and Judges Rives, Wisdom and John R. Brown
drew on Harold’s briefs to reverse and begin the correction of
long-standing wrongs.
Of course, signal civil rights cases went to the
Supreme Court where Harold’s name and hand were on every brief.
The case names are a “hall of civil rights fame,” to mention
just a few: Baker v. Carr, presenting the question whether the
Fourteenth Amendment protects against gross malapportionment;
Gray v. Sanders, whether county unit plans that diluted the
votes of residents of populous counties are constitutional;
Louisiana v. United States, whether the State’s “constitutional
interpretation test” for qualification as a ·voter violated the
Fifteenth Amendment; Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, whether
state convictions of blacks for sitting in at lunch counters
constituted a denial of equal protection of the laws; and
Griffin v. School Board of Prince Edward Country, Virginia,
whether the closing of public scho ols facing desegregationworked a constitutionally impermissible discrimination against
And when case-by-case litigation proved the inadequacy
of existing federal laws, Harold put his experience, intelligence
and creativity into drafting of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Victory, it is said, has
100 fathers·, defeat is an orphan. Well, Harold is a true father
of these great laws of the Second Reconstruction.
Appointment to the Bench
In 1965, President Johnson nominated Harold for the
Court of General Sessions, the District of Columbia’s trial
bench. Even The Evening Star praised the selection and Senator
Philip A. Hart noted the qualities that would make Harold an
outstanding judge:
“All of us who had daily discussions in
developing [the Voting Rights Act] were
impressed with the quickness of mind of
Harold Greene, his magnificent temperament,
his ability to adjust to and understand
compet1ng points of view, and to contribute
materially toward the resolution of conflicts
* * *
Harold served on that bench for 13 years, 12 of them
as Chief Judge.
He was a ?triple threat tt player, strong as a judge, as
an administrator, and as a leader. He worked unstintingly to
elevate the caliber of the court and guided it through growth
from 16 to 44 judges and a total reorganization under the 1970D.C. Court Reform Act which expanded its jurisdiction in the
image of a full state court system and renamed it as the Superior
Court. And in his spare time, Harold worked to conceive and
secure $40 million for construction of the new courthouse.
I recall in 1967-68 seeing Chief Judge Greene in
action, affirming his commitment to fairness and respect for
individual rights. Harold, Mayor Walter Washington and I, as
the Attorney General’s representative, were making plans for
handling mass arrest situations. Harold was adamant that there
would be no mass arraignments or truncated procedures. He held
fast to this position during the disturbances following the
assassination 9£ Dr. Martin Luther King, keeping the court open
around the clock for five days, drawing on the bar for volunteer
lawyers for those accused, and arraigning in the regular way each
person charged with a violation of law.
Service as a Judge of the U.S. District Court
In March 1978, President Carter nominated Judge Greene
for this District Court. Again the Senate, the bar and the press
applauded the choice. Representative was the Washington Post
which called it “an excellent selection,” and added:
“[It is] sad only in that it will mean a loss
to the local court that he guided so ably to
an unprecedented level of respectability.
* * * During his tenure, Judge Greene has
earned a reputation both as a legal scholar
and a skillful director of the transformation
of the old disorganized Court of General
Sessions into a large powerful Superior Courtof state-court rank — today one of the best
urban court systems in the nation.”
You have heard the observations of Harold by Judge Wald
of the Court which sits in judgment on the correctness of his
rulings, and by Judge Oberdorfer who has been his colleague on
this Court for virtually Judge Greene’s entire tenure. As I
prepared for this afternoon, I puzzled as to what I might add.
First, as a practicing lawyer and former president
of the D.C. Bar, I can attest that the members of the bar hold
Harold in the highest regard as an outstanding judge among the
members of this excellent Bench. He is a “repeater” in the
American Lawyer’s “Best of the D.C. Circuit” evaluations.
Second, I can comment on Harold’s service 1978 to
1 86 on the Judicial Nomination Commission of the District of
Columbia. The seven-person Commission is responsible for naming
the Chief Judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals and Superior
Court and for selecting and presenting to the President three
candidates for each judicial vacancy. Harold was steadfast in
seeking quality along with diversity. His evaluations carried
special weight and were instrumental in maintaining a strong and
representative bench.
Finally, I can say a few words about Judge Greene’s
biggest case, United States v. AT&T, which brought him national
fame and, for a significant period af ter the settlement, intense
personal pain. While resolution of the case led Time Magazine
to name him a runner-up “Man of the Year,” citizens from farand near sent letters “To Judge Greene who destroyed our phone
Judge Greene got the massive case when he joined this
Bench in 1978. The Complaint, charging AT&T, the nation’s
largest corporation, with monopolization of the telecommunications
market had been filed in 1974, but lay dormant over the
ensuing 3-1/2 years.
Harold determined to prove that the federal courts
could handle big antitrust cases and, with what he viewed as
excellent lawyering on both sides, brought the suit to trial
just after New Year’s in 1981.
After 11 months of trial, 350 witnesses, thousands of
exhibits, thousands of stipulations of fact, and the Court’s
denial of an AT&T motion to dismiss filed at tbe end of the
Government1s case, the parties in January 1982 presented a
proposed consent decree embodying the terms of an agreed
settlement. The terms required AT&T to divest itself of the
22 operating companies providing local phone service,
representing approximately 75% of the Bell System’s assets valued
at $150 billion, while allowing AT&T to retain its long-distance
operations, research labs and equipment manufacturing facilities.
The operating companies were required to provide AT&T’s longdistance
competitors with equal access to their local lines and
were restricted from entering certain business where they mightuse their control of local service to gain improper advantage
over competitors.
After seven months of Tunney Act proceedings to assess
whether the terms of the proposed decree would serve the public
interest, the Judge approved the settlement and divestiture went
into effect on January 2, 1984. Harold confessed he arose that
morning with trepidation and experienced intense relief when he
lifted his telephone and heard the familiar dial tone.
But the public was unrelenting. Citizens everywhere
reacted as if a national calamity had occurred. A stream of
adverse comment and hate mail erupted. The common complaint was,
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Emblematic was a cartoon in
the Washington Post depicting a harried Harold Greene tangled in
an octopus of telephone cords and dangling receivers.
Harold couldn’t go anywhere without being challenged for wrecking
the world’s best phone system. I saw this myself one night when
Harold and Evelyn came to my house for dinner and faced a barrage
of hostile questions from other guests.
In December of 1984, a Washington Post commentator
fantasized as follows: “The President decides to name Judge
Greene to the Supreme Court. The call, however, cannot be
completed because of circuit overload. ”
As we know now, the dire predictions proved false.
Five years later, Fortune Magazine reported:
“Today the great majority of the country’s
telephone customers, large and small, declarethemselves satisfied with the service they
receive. * * * The industry has evolved into
an entrepreneurial, freewheeling marketplace
where customers and many shareholders are
reaping rewards.”
Computerworld’reaffirmed that assessment in 1992, noting that
AT&T stock had almost doubled, long-distance rates were down 35%,
the pace of innovation had accelerated, and, while the cost of
local service was modestly up, the cost of equipment to consumers
was down.
Harold has summed it up: “Competition is the life
blood of the American system. It brings down prices and speeds
up innovation. That’s been the effect here.”
Harold Greene would have made a great Justice. In
my view, one I know is widely shared, Harold Greene has been
for 18 years and is now a great force for justice on this
United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Thank you.
Stephen J. Pollak