WILLIAM R. “BILLY” MARTIN,
Oral History Project
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
Oral History Project United States Courts
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
District of Columbia Circuit
WILLIAM R. “BILLY” MARTIN,
Interviews conducted by:
Carl Stern, Esquire
January 14 and March 31, 2015
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. i
Oral History Agreements
William R. “Billy” Martin, Esquire ……………………………………………………………….. iii
Carl Stern, Esquire …………………………………………………………………………………………v
Oral History Transcripts of Interviews
January 15, 2015 ……………………………………………………………………………………………1
March 31, 2015 ……………………………………………………………………………………………26
Index …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. A-1
Table of Cases ……………………………………………………………………………………………………B-1
William R. “Billy” Martin, Esquire ……………………………………………………………C-1
Carl Stern, Esquire …………………………………………………………………………………..C-3
The following pages record interviews conducted on the dates indicated. The interviews
were recorded digitally or on cassette tape, and the interviewee and the interviewer have
been afforded an opportunity to review and edit the transcript.
The contents hereof and all literary rights pertaining hereto are governed by, and are
subject to, the Oral History Agreements included herewith.
© 2016 Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit.
All rights reserved.
The goal of the Oral History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia
Circuit is to preserve the recollections of the judges of the Courts of the District of Columbia
Circuit and lawyers, court staff, and others who played important roles in the history of the Circuit.
The Project began in 1991. Oral history interviews are conducted by volunteer attorneys who are
trained by the Society. Before donating the oral history to the Society, both the subject of the
history and the interviewer have had an opportunity to review and edit the transcripts.
Indexed transcripts of the oral histories and related documents are available in the Judges’
Library in the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, D.C., the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, and the library of the
Historical Society of the District of Columbia
With the permission of the person being interviewed, oral histories are also available on the
Internet through the Society’s Web site, www.dcchs.org. Audio recordings of most interviews, as
well as electronic versions of the transcripts, are in the custody of the Society.
Tapes recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes and CDs resulting from
thirteen interviews of William R. “Billy” Martin conducted on the following dates:
Interview No. and Date Number of Tapes or CDs Final
No. 1, January 14, 2015 }They are on one CD. 1-25
No. 2, March 31, 2015 } 26-54
The transcripts of the thirteen interviews are contained on one CD.
Tapes recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes and CDs resulting from
thirteen interviews of William R. “Billy” Martin conducted on the following dates:
Interview No. and Date Number of Tapes or CDs Final
No. 1, January 14, 2015 }They are on one CD. 1-25
No. 2, March 31, 2015 } 26-54
The transcripts of the thirteen interviews are contained on one CD.
ORAL HISTORY OF WILLIAM R. “BILLY” MARTIN
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Carl Stern, and the interviewee is
William R. “Billy” Martin. The interview took place at the office of Martin & Gitner, 2121 K
Street N.W., Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. This is the first interview.
MR. STERN: Let me ask first, you are regarded as a celebrity lawyer. Of course, you’re
also a highly rated lawyer. I think it was Washingtonian magazine rated you
in the top five lawyers in Washington, D.C. And this town, with that many
lawyers, that’s a very high ranking certainly. What is a celebrity lawyer?
MR. MARTIN: You know, I’ve always been amazed by that title myself, and Carl, I think
that I got the title “celebrity lawyer” because I was fortunate to have so many
clients who were in fact true celebrities, and people started to recognize me
as the lawyer to the stars. So because I did a good job for those celebrities, I
was given the title, “celebrity lawyer.”
MR. STERN: Well who are some of those celebrities?
MR. MARTIN: I’ll start with some that I’ve really enjoyed working with. I had the
opportunity to represent Michael Jackson’s mother following Michael’s
death, and we went out to Los Angeles and were retained to assist the
Jackson family in trying to recapture some of the assets that Michael’s family
believed were wrongly taken from him. So we had the family of Michael
Jackson. I represent Wesley Snipes, the movie star, actor. I had a chance,
although not representing him, to meet with him, discuss legal issues with
Denzel Washington. Oprah Winfrey is somebody that I know and is
someone I reach out to from time to time on PR matters. We’ll start with
some of those as the actors/Hollywood types. And the athletes, I’ve
MR. STERN: Those are civil matters?
MR. MARTIN: Yes. Those are civil matters.
MR. STERN: You also, needless to say, provide criminal representation.
MR. MARTIN: Yes. In time, I would say that I actually believe I started getting the
reputation and name of a highly competent celebrity lawyer even in my days
as a young prosecutor. In my early days in the Justice Department, I was
assigned to the Organized Crime Strike Force, the Mafia Strike Force, and I
was assigned to prosecute, investigate at the grand jury level and prosecute
members of what was left of Al Capone’s family in Chicago. So I had the
opportunity to do Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Chicago in organized
crime matters. So even back with the Justice Department, I was always
given the big cases.
MR. STERN: You also were involved in your private practice in the matter of Jason
MR. MARTIN: At the time, Jason Williams was probably one of the National Basketball
Association’s all-time rebounders. He was one of the highest paid basketball
players of his time. I believe his last contract was negotiated for between
$75 million and $100 million. He served out that contract. I think he broke
his ankle and continued to be paid for that contract, and while he was still
being paid, he was also a TV commentator for sports. Jason, unfortunately,
mishandled a shotgun and killed a driver of a limousine that he was renting.
We went to trial in New Jersey, and Jason was charged. I’m going from
memory, but I think he had a second-degree murder and a manslaughter
MR. STERN: This was a jury trial?
MR. MARTIN: This was a jury trial. We were able to win acquittal on all the most serious
charges, and the jury hung on the manslaughter charge. That one was
interesting because it was televised.
MR. STERN: He’s not the only basketball player you’ve represented. Allen Iverson?
MR. MARTIN: Allen Iverson was one of my first. Not the first, but one of the first
professional athletes. Right after – when I say right after – leaving the U.S.
Attorneys Office in 1990, my then-law firm, a Pittsburgh-based law firm,
represented the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Pittsburgh
Penguins. One of the hockey players got into an on-ice situation here in the
D.C. area, and they were threatening to arrest him, and I was given the task
of trying to either forestall the charges or clear him of any allegations, and
we were able to do both.
MR. STERN: What was the nature of that case?
MR. MARTIN: That was a case where the hockey player threw a bottle, allegedly threw a
bottle, from the players’ box at a fan. The fan that he was throwing at
ducked, and the water bottle hit a well-known lawyer in the D.C. area in the
face, and the lawyer was trying to go after the hockey player.
MR. STERN: The Monica Lewinsky case, tell us about that.
MR. MARTIN: The Monica Lewinsky case is probably the biggest case that I have ever been
involved in. I had been vacationing in the Caribbean and was not keeping up
with the news, and I did not know anything about her detention at the hotel in
Virginia, did not know anything about her mother or any of the issues.
MR. STERN: By the Independent Counsel, she was not under arrest by authorities?
MR. MARTIN: She was detained by the FBI at the hotel for questioning.
MR. STERN: The special prosecutor I guess. What was he called at that point?
MR. MARTIN: It was an investigation by FBI agents on behalf of the special prosecutor.
MR. STERN: And Ken Starr was the Special Prosecutor?
MR. MARTIN: Ken Starr was the Special Prosecutor.
MR. STERN: The Independent Counsel law had expired by then.
MR. MARTIN: He was called the Special Prosecutor. So I flew back to Washington, and I
got a call from a friend of mine, a lawyer named Nate Speight, a lawyer here
in Washington, who had been retained by Monica’s father to represent
Monica. He asked me, he said that the mother, Marsha Lewis, had received a
subpoena and she needed counsel and would I be interested in joining up
with him, and at the time, Bill Ginsburg, the lawyer from L.A., to represent
Monica’s mother, and I was brought on to do that.
MR. STERN: You were responsible for bringing Jake Stein and Plato Cacheris into the
case? Tell us about that.
MR. MARTIN: Jake is somebody who we call lions of the bar and legends of the bar. Jake
and Plato are personal friends, and I had cases with both of them, and on
ethical issues, Jake Stein is somebody that I have on my rolodex instant dial.
So over the years I’ve called, if I have a client issue, if I need an opinion on
the bar rules or ethical implications of certain conduct, Jake is my first call.
So over the years, I’ve called Jake on numerous occasions, and we refer
clients back and forth to each other. I’ve tried cases with Plato, and they’re
both very good lawyers. Following Bill Ginsburg’s three appearances,
remember he had a record at the time for doing all three morning Sunday TV
shows, all the networks.
MR. STERN: They call it the Full Ginsburg, right?
MR. MARTIN: They call it the Full Ginsburg [laughter]. So after doing that and the family
became concerned, they asked me, and actually I was able to convince the
Special Prosecutor and his staff to not take Marsha, the mother, into a grand
jury. I was able to convince them that if they wanted to do an interview,
we’d come to their office, they’d come to our office. We thought the gag
rule and just the horde of press at the grand jury at the U.S. Courthouse
would cause issues that we’d like to avoid, so they agreed to do an interview.
MR. STERN: The trauma to Mrs. Lewinsky?
MR. MARTIN: I think you remember when she came out of the grand jury from her first
appearance, she essentially fainted, and she was taken and put under doctor’s
care for the trauma that she was under for what was happening to her
daughter. So we agreed to have the interview outside of the grand jury room,
and I think that Monica’s mother saw that I was able to communicate
effectively with Ken Starr – I know Ken – and his staff. She asked me, “If
you can do that for me, why can’t they do that for my daughter?” And I
remember saying to her I think we have the wrong lawyers and maybe we
should get some additional lawyers on board. So she asked me to give her
some recommendations. We gave her a list of probably ten lawyers. We
then, with her, Monica, and her mother’s participation, interviewed probably
ten of the top criminal lawyers here in Washington. And from that, Jake and
Plato were selected.
MR. STERN: Now this is not exactly high courtroom drama as you see on television, but it
is very much part of a lawyer’s craft, right?
MR. MARTIN: Sure. Yes it is. And part of the thinking was that we needed somebody who
was well-known and respected in Washington, somebody who was respected
by Ken Starr, somebody who could call Ken Starr and Ken Starr would
answer the phone, and somebody who would have credibility as we tried to
figure out exactly what they were trying to obtain from Monica and her
mother and see if we could resolve, negotiate, in our client’s favor a way of
doing that. And Plato and Jake and I were able to put together a team that
did just that.
MR. STERN: You’re a strategist first? Is that the primary skill you have?
MR. MARTIN: I like to think that it is strategy. I think I have the ability to, I have a very,
very deep understanding of our federal criminal rules, of our local criminal
laws, of Supreme Court cases of criminal law, and I’ve practiced in America.
When I’m given a situation, I have the ability to analyze it. I sometimes call
it my triage. It is as though you’re going into a hospital. When we debrief
and learn the facts, we analyze it and come up with a strategy.
MR. STERN: Yes, but these clients are involved in high-profile, high public-interest cases.
Are you a PR man, a fireman, a crisis manager? What are you?
MR. MARTIN: I think all of the above [laughter].
MR. STERN: Well which dominates?
MR. MARTIN: I think it depends on what is needed for the client and the situation. There
are some cases where I have been asked by the client to actually be the face
and the spokesperson for the client, and I’ve done that in front of TV cameras
on Broadway in New York on behalf of a major department store in
MR. STERN: You’ll have to explain that.
MR. MARTIN: There was a civil case filed against a major retailer in New York. They were
alleging that the store was improperly detaining people of color for
shoplifting, and they put a front-page article in the New York Times showing
parts of the store with what was a holding cell where they held shoplifters
until the police came. A big civil rights suit was filed. The store challenged
the allegations and wanted to show that they were very active in the
community, the reasons behind their policies and what they were attempting
to do. I worked the case in conjunction with a large law firm, Jones Day.
Jones Day had a prominent and lead role, and I was brought on to co-counsel
the matter with Jones Day.
MR. STERN: Also to be the face.
MR. MARTIN: They also asked me to deliver TV messages when we had press conferences.
I would interview the Board members and the management at the store. We
would craft a message and the store would ask me to be the face of the store
to deliver that message to the community.
MR. STERN: And you prevailed.
MR. MARTIN: And we prevailed. We resolved that. We settled that case, and I think the
client was very happy with the resolution of it.
MR. STERN: Many a lawyer would dread having to go in front of the camera, and in fact
there are all sorts of shall we say strictures against publicity outside of court.
That’s not you.
MR. MARTIN: What actually gave me a very high interest in this is during the O.J. Simpson
trial, I was brought on board by our local NBC affiliate Channel 4 to be an
on-air daily commentator. We would alternate with another lawyer so every
other day during the entire course of the O.J. trial I was actively involved
either with CNN or Channel 4 to give local commentary. I did not
understand the first time an IFB fell out of my ear what to do with it. The
first time I was stumped with a question, I don’t think I handled it well.
Jim Vance, of local Channel 4, took me under his wing and spent a lot of
time with me teaching me how to handle all situations that might come up in
a newsroom. So he gave me a lot of confidence.
MR. STERN: You didn’t want to switch careers?
MR. MARTIN: Um, if they were paid better than lawyers, I would love to have switched
MR. STERN: Are you sure of that [laughter]? Before we leave your list of celebrity
clients, a couple more I should mention. You got involved with Larry Craig,
a Senator. What was that about? What were you able to accomplish?
This is touchy. I know you are pausing.
MR. MARTIN The only reason I’m pausing is that Senator Craig was then a senior senator
from Idaho. He is now known for the now-infamous incident in the
Minneapolis airport. I was counsel for the Senator on matters unrelated to
the airport, not a criminal matter, but counsel for the Senator. My prior law
firm, Blank Rome, which as you know had a very well-respected lobbying
division, and the lobbying division did a lot of work with a lot of Republican
members of both the House and the Senate, so on some of those issues, they
would come to Blank Rome. As a partner, I was introduced to the Senator.
MR. STERN: But here we’re talking about an incident in the men’s room at the airport.
MR. MARTIN: The reason I raise this is that I was representing the Senator before the
incident, and when he was stopped, he did not pick up the phone to call me,
and part of his defense – and we tried to have his guilty plea ultimately – on
his own, he went down and signed the paper saying, “I engaged in conduct
that could be viewed as disorderly,” and he entered a guilty plea. When I
learned of this and we spoke to the Senator, I did not think that he had
engaged in criminal conduct, and I told him that, and I told him that we
should go back to Minneapolis, we should withdraw that guilty plea, and we
should put this before the judge or a jury and try it. So we went back to
Minneapolis and we tried to withdraw the guilty plea, and the court would
not allow us to withdraw the guilty plea.
MR. STERN: The courts don’t always do what you ask them to do.
MR. MARTIN: Not always [laughter].
MR. STERN: You also were involved in the Chandra Levy case, the tragic murder of a
congressional intern. Tell us about that.
MR. MARTIN: When Chandra Levy, an intern on the Hill, went missing, her parents, who
were from the Modesto, California area, wanted to find somebody to help
them keep the investigation alive and to keep the police looking for their
daughter. They did not know if she had succumbed to foul play, was
missing, was injured, was in a hospital, and they thought the police were not
doing an active enough investigation. So they did a search of lawyers who
had been involved in high-profile matters, and somebody told them that I was
involved in the Monica Lewinsky case and that I might have some
experience in doing these types of investigations in cases. They called me,
and what was interesting is, just like the Monica Lewinsky matter, I did not
at the time appreciate the severity or the gravity of the big case that that
would grow into, or a big matter since there never was a case, how big that
matter would become. At the time I was serving as lead counsel for the City
of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Police Department. In 2002, 2003, they had
riots in Cincinnati, which is in a lot of commentaries now saying that the
Cleveland situation with their police department should follow the model of
the Cincinnati police department in 2003 through 2005. I was lead counsel in
Cincinnati at the time and was swamped. I was spending most of my time in
Cincinnati with a whole team of lawyers doing that investigation. If you
recall, the Justice Department had sent a team down there from the Civil
Rights Division to do a pattern and practice investigation for excessive use of
force against the entire police department. So we had a lot of work that we
were doing, and I get a call from the family asking me if I would meet with
them to discuss Chandra’s case.
MR. STERN: Do you know how they came to call you?
MR. MARTIN: They called their local lawyer in California who knew of me. He said, “I
don’t know Billy personally, but I’d like to call him.” The local lawyer did
call me, and the local lawyer in California referred the family to me.
MR. STERN: You don’t have to advertise, do you?
MR. MARTIN: Not really.
MR. STERN: What was the outcome of the Chandra Levy matter? You represented the
family. This is January of 2015. Is that matter now fully concluded?
MR. MARTIN: Carl, that matter is not yet concluded. They had hearings within the past
60 days in D.C. Superior Court where ultimately charges were filed against a
man here in D.C., and he was convicted of Chandra’s death. A lot of that
testimony against him was from a jail mate, a cellmate while in jail. The
defense lawyers for that man have filed motions now saying that they were
all lies, that the cellmate was telling lies, and the U.S. Attorney and the
prosecutors knew or should have known that these were lies. So they’re
challenging his conviction. So while there is a conviction, and it is final as to
all appeals, I think they are now going back to say that there’s either newlydiscovered
evidence that was not made available but they are trying to now
MR. STERN: Are you still involved in the matter?
MR. MARTIN: I stay in touch with the family, but I am no longer involved with the matter.
Emotionally, one of the things I find I have to do is I have to move on. I
have to move on from clients in some of these cases because they continue to
have the pain and the suffering from their loss, and while I professionally
empathize and can relate with them, that’s not healthy for a lawyer to carry
all of those burdens on a continuous basis.
MR. STERN: You say “move on,” it’s hard to believe you’ve moved along as well and as
thoroughly as you have. We’ve just recited a few cases here. Let’s go back
to the beginning. How did this begin, this becoming a celebrity lawyer?
MR. MARTIN: You know what’s interesting, and I tell people that I always wanted to be a
professional athlete, and I thought that I had God’s gift of speed and dexterity
to be a very good athlete. Not enough to go to the next level.
MR. STERN: Which sport?
MR. MARTIN: I ran, but I was very good at football, basketball, baseball. I was a pretty
well-rounded athlete, and I did not get any scholarship to play any football or
basketball. I did run track, so I thought that I did not know what my calling
MR. STERN: I bet you were on the debate team.
MR. MARTIN: I’ve always been one to be able to engage. And as a quick diversion, there’s
a story, that is an accurate story that has been published, on one of the things
that prompted me to go to law school. I was home from college – I went to
Howard here in D.C. as an undergrad – and I was home for the Christmas
break or the summer break, and I had a small Volkswagen, and I’m in a
pretty tony part of town, we call it the Georgetown of Pittsburgh, it’s called
Shady Side community in Pittsburgh, and I’m sitting in traffic, and a Porsche
runs into the back of me, hits me pretty hard, damages the rear of my
Volkswagen. I get out, the guy starts talking, and I cut him off, and I started
verbally confronting him – what are you doing, what’s wrong with you, you
can see I was stopped, give me your license, don’t you have respect – and I
really almost berated this man, and he starts smiling. I get a little irritated
wondering why he was smiling, and he gave me a card, and he says, “I’m one
of the top civil lawyers in Pittsburgh, and I haven’t been able to get a word
in. What do you do?” [Laughter] I told him I was a student, and he said,
“Clearly, you’re pretty good at arguing, have you ever thought of going to
MR. STERN: Okay, so you were fast a’foot and fast a’tongue [laughter].
MR. MARTIN: Sometimes both of those get me in a little difficulty, but yes.
MR. STERN: Well now tell us, there’s a story about you and John Thompson. Explain
MR. MARTIN: Firstly, John Thompson was the legendary coach of the Georgetown
basketball team. Coach Thompson, who, although I did not go to
Georgetown, I had been a Georgetown basketball fan since the early 1980s
when Coach Thompson started building the powerhouse basketball teams. I
just respected his teams, so being in college in Washington, I kind of would
go over to Georgetown and watch the Georgetown games, and I was a big
Georgetown supporter. In the U.S. Attorneys Office, I was given the job at
times of being the press liaison. In my capacity as an Assistant U.S.
Attorney, I was the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, which meant that I
was the number three person in the U.S. Attorneys’ Office here in D.C. Part
of my duties were to be the spokesperson and the press liaison on highprofile
matters, so I actually got that start in the U.S. Attorneys Office. I’ve
always been able to talk.
MR. STERN: Does that lead to free tickets to Georgetown games?
MR. MARTIN: That did not.
MR. STERN: What’s the connection?
MR. MARTIN: The connection there is that I was asked to appear on a Nightline segment
with Ted Koppel. They had a community – what did they call it –
community forum over in Southeast Washington at the time that we were
having all these, right when crack cocaine was taking over here in D.C., and
we at that year, had somewhere in the area of 400 homicides.
MR. STERN: What year are we talking about?
MR. MARTIN: I think we’re talking about 1998, 1999. So Nightline put together “D.C.
Murder Capitol of the World,” and Ted Koppel was having a community
forum on this, and they had it over in Southeast. I was asked to represent the
U.S. Attorneys Office. When I was there, the seating was very secure. We
had a lot of elected officials, and I was given a seat beside Coach Thompson.
I had never met him before, and we started talking, and as we started talking,
we talked about D.C., we talked about drugs, we talked about his players, we
talked about whether any of his players, he’s very active in the community
with his players, whether any of his D.C. players may be part of this drug
culture. I knew the answer, but could not give him an answer because the
information is all secure and it’s intelligence that was protected. So I knew
an answer, and he knew that I knew the answer. He looked at me, and he
said, “I enjoyed talking with you. I know you can’t answer a lot of these
questions, but it was very nice to meet you.” When I fast forward, and I had
no further contact with him. We met, we had mutual respect for each other,
and we both moved on. I left the U.S. Attorneys Office and was now in
private practice, and I sent Coach Thompson a letter, or a note, to say that I
had left the U.S. Attorneys’ Office and was now in private practice, and if I
could ever be of assistance, please call me. He called me, and he said I’d like
you to come over and talk with me. So I went over and I talked with him,
and he said, “I have a situation with one of my players, and I’d like you to
talk to the family. I can’t hire you. NCAA will not allow me, but the family
is interested.” That player was not charged, so I can’t say the name of the
player, but I met him when he introduced me to the player.
MR. STERN: That then led you, however, to a sports representative, right?
MR. MARTIN: Correct. One of the things that I will forever be thankful to Coach Thompson
for is after our meeting and after my dealing with this player, he went to his
agent, and he is represented by mega super-agent David Falk, and at the time
David Falk had just negotiated Michael Jordan’s contract with the Bulls and
Michael Jordan’s contract with Nike, so David was really in a stratosphere of
agents. He took me, set up a lunch for me and David and himself, and he
said to David, “This is a very good young lawyer” – I was young then –
“David, if you have issues that need a criminal lawyer, you should consider
Billy.” David interviewed me, and I took over as counsel for all of David’s
matters that were civil and criminal.
MR. STERN: You were working for the firm?
MR. MARTIN: I was outside counsel. David is still a friend, and David is still sending me
MR. STERN: So that was your entrée into the celebrity world.
MR. MARTIN: That was my entrée, and from that, Allen Iverson was the first client.
MR. STERN: And the rest, as they say, is history. [Laughter] I think it was Abraham
Lincoln who said, and I’ll have to paraphrase, the worst things to avoid I
think are death and going to trial. You’ve been involved in well over 100 or
150 jury trials. Is that the toughest part of your job?
MR. MARTIN: Actually, that’s the most fun part of my job, and I really enjoy the courtroom,
and I enjoy the challenge of a good trial. If I have something to work with,
I’m very comfortable in the courtroom. And I can tell you that my reputation
does in fact precede me, and it’s fun to be, as a lawyer, in a negotiating
setting with other lawyers, and you can look across the table and say to them
“and we can remove from the table whether there is any fear of going to trial,
MR. STERN: When I was in law school, a friend who was a lawyer, told me if you’re
going to be a lawyer, you’re going to have to develop a tolerance for
disappointment. Have you ever been disappointed?
MR. MARTIN: Absolutely. We used to have the saying that you win a lot of cases that you
should not, and you lose some that you should not. Absolutely. There are
rulings from judges that I disagree with. There are rulings that I think the
court got it wrong, and there are times you want to say to the judge, “You got
it wrong, judge.” But you can’t.
MR. STERN: If we’re going to quote people, I think it was Mark Twain who defined a trial
as being a session where twelve people get together to decide who had the
better lawyer. Is that right? Is that what usually happens?
MR. MARTIN: It sounds good, but I don’t think that’s accurate. I’ve had jurors who have
ruled against me on a case and would say afterwards, “May I have your
card?” Or they’ve called me later to say, “You know, you were a very good
lawyer.” They didn’t go with me, but “If I ever need a lawyer, I’d like to call
MR. STERN: When you are disappointed, can you put it behind you, or does it just hang
with you year after year?
MR. MARTIN: I put it behind me, and I do have the ability. You know, we were talking
earlier offline about the Ohio State game, and as you remember, the coach
said of the third string quarterback that he has the ability, following a miscue,
a fumble, or an interception, to put it behind him and move on with the game.
I have that same ability. I understand that I’m going forward, and if I stop to
be disappointed, life and this trial is going to pass me by, so I have to deal
with it and move on.
MR. STERN: I think I would do you an injustice asking only about litigation. You also
have been active in the American Arbitration Association?
MR. MARTIN: I’m a member of the Board for the American Arbitration Association. I am
active as a mediator. I’m trying to become more active as an arbitrator, and I
have been a neutral, and I have been a party arbitrator. So I do more than the
jury trials. I try not to do appeals, but I do a lot of dispute resolution, either
litigation or alternate mediation arbitration resolution.
MR. STERN: Those who are listening to this conversation or reading the transcript of it
really can’t see you. You have an ebullient, joyful personality. Do you try to
suppress that, or is it a useful tool, or what?
MR. MARTIN: It is suppressible [laughter].
MR. STERN: I didn’t say repressible. [laughter]
MR. MARTIN: It is suppressible, and my wife will often say to me that I have a reputation
within the media of having this expression that I am ready to go to battle, and
she chuckles because she knows my real personality, and the only time that –
it’s a natural fit, litigation lawyering and my personality – because my
personality is one where I’m usually a nice guy and very friendly until you
put me in that courtroom, then it’s like putting me in a ring. I’m ready to go.
MR. STERN: You’re wearing a business suit. Just out of curiosity, do you wear a white tie
in your pocket?
MR. MARTIN: I do not.
MR. STERN: That’s what I suspected. Because you want to have a certain common touch,
right? You don’t want to suggest to the judge or jury that you are a fashion
plate, a million-dollar lawyer, right?
MR. MARTIN: I do not want that image. I do not, and it’s interesting because I clearly over
the years have, and I have a body that sometimes does not fit suits that come
right off the rack, so I have had clothes custom made for me because they fit
better sometimes. I am not comfortable wearing those suits before a jury. I
oftentimes wear a button-down collar or my dress is I’m just like one of the
jury. I do not want to be elitist.
MR. STERN: When we were kids, we had two handkerchiefs, one for blow and one for
show [laughter]. You don’t take along the show handkerchief.
MR. MARTIN: I don’t take the show handkerchief.
MR. STERN: Are there any clients, celebrity clients, that you would not accept?
MR. MARTIN: Oh absolutely.
MR. STERN: How do you distinguish between those you really want to help and those you
want to send to somebody else?
MR. MARTIN: You talk to them, and sometimes the client will tell you how to lawyer. A lot
of the personalities of celebrities will do just that, and I will say to them,
“You can ask me my legal advice, but you cannot tell me what to say as your
lawyer.” And if we have that conflict early on, it’s not going to be a good
MR. STERN: You suggested earlier, or you mentioned, consulting Jake Stein, for example,
for his ethics advice. You have a small firm here, right?
MR. MARTIN: Yes.
MR. STERN: How many lawyers?
MR. MARTIN: We have six lawyers.
MR. STERN: You do consult others when it seems necessary or appropriate, right?
MR. MARTIN: Oh absolutely. Almost every case. Because most of my cases are multidefendant
criminal cases or they’re such high-risk cases.
MR. STERN: This is sort of like asking a doctor who do you go to when you’re ill, who –
and I don’t want to put you on the spot – but who do you go to?
MR. MARTIN: For years, my only go-to person on big cases and criminal law was Johnnie
Cochran. I had a personal relationship with Johnnie. Johnnie was my
MR. STERN: Explain that. How did that come about?
MR. MARTIN: Probably 1990, 1991, I was hired by a local lawyer named Ralph Lotkin, and
Ralph Lotkin had an office on Capitol Hill and did a lot of work on the Hill.
He was a partner at the time of the law firm Cochran and Lotkin, so he was
Johnnie’s law partner. He handled the D.C. office, and Johnnie handled the
Los Angeles office, and they had a pretty good practice. They had a piece of
business in Los Angeles that was an internal investigation of the construction
of the red line, the subway line, in Los Angeles. Johnnie was lead counsel. I
went to L.A. and did the investigation with Johnnie, and I think Johnnie saw
then that my many years as a senior federal prosecutor really did teach me
how to do internal investigations, so I handled that internal investigation for
Johnnie. Afterwards he said to me, “You’re a good lawyer.” And I think it
was right around the time that he was doing, I forget which of his big cases it
was, and I had a chance to watch how he handled the media, how he did his
work. I would go to Johnnie’s L.A. office, I’d sit in his office and listen as
he did trial strategy. I would speak with him on strategy. So Johnnie
Cochran, during my early years as a defense counsel, was a big mentor.
MR. STERN: What was it about Johnnie Cochran that made him so attractive to you as a
lawyer and as a person?
MR. MARTIN: First off, he is a very nice person. He’s very warm. As you described my
personality, Johnnie and I could sit and have a conversation where we both
would smile and talk and be a very pleasant conversation, and we could turn
that switch off in a minute on a criminal case or a civil case and go after
someone. So Johnnie and I really are very similar in many ways, and we got
MR. STERN: What skill did he have? You can’t do it on personality alone.
MR. MARTIN: I won’t say it’s like, you know it, when you see it, but he really had the
ability to understand people and to understand, and I think a lot of what we
do as trial lawyers is you have to understand your audience, so he had the
ability to connect with the audience.
MR. STERN: USA Today did a profile piece about you a few years ago, and the newspaper
said your associates, former clients, and even rivals say you possess unique
skills for assisting people facing big trouble. What skills are we talking
MR. MARTIN: The skills I think they’re talking about, one, I’m not overwhelmed or
underwhelmed with facts or law. I’m able to see through issues and help a
client understand what’s going on. I tell people a client could come in in the
next fifteen minutes to say that he or she had created the greatest invention or
patent since sliced bread and somebody stole it, and here I can prove to you
that this is my invention. I am not a patent lawyer, I do not practice
intellectual property law, but I would be able to understand the issues,
connect the client with a patent lawyer, and learn enough to try the case with
a patent lawyer.
MR. STERN: Earlier you mentioned settling a matter. Are you a compromiser, or are you
scorched earth? Where do you fit within that spectrum?
MR. MARTIN: Interesting question because I’m pretty good friends with Brendan Sullivan,
and the team of lawyers I do a lot of work with at Williams & Connolly.
MR. STERN: Well they’re pretty aggressive.
MR. MARTIN: And they’re scorched earth. So whenever you hear the term “scorched earth
lawyers,” people in Washington think of Williams & Connolly. And I am
scorched earth in trial, but I am not scorched earth pre-trial, and what I mean
by that is I sometimes think it necessary to compromise to get my client in
and out early and have that client move on with their life. If I can get a deal
that works, that’s in my client’s interest, and it does not disrupt their life too
much, I might sometimes will say I can get you probation, or as you’re facing
twenty years, I can probably get this to three years. It’s not worth the risk for
twenty years. Your children are five years old, you want to be here with your
children, let me find out what’s best for you.
MR. STERN: If I could size you up on the basis of what you are saying, you are not just a
law person, you are a people person, and that is what contributes to your
success. Is that right?
MR. MARTIN: Absolutely. And I have relationships. People don’t do me favors, but if I
had a matter in the Northern District of California, the Southern District of
California, I would have enough relationships in both of those places to go
out there and have a face-to-face meeting. Sometimes the prosecutor will
look at me and essentially tell me, “Go to Hell. You’re not getting anything,
and it’s nice to meet you, and I know your big-time reputation, but no.
Screw you and your client. We’re not doing this.” I don’t talk that way, and
I have prosecutors sometimes will say that to me, and I say, “Okay, well, see
you in court.” But if I can convince that prosecutor to see from my
perspective, I sometimes can start breaking down the barriers to try to resolve
it. I once told a prosecutor who thought that they had an air-tight case that
my client would be interested in resolving this matter, and they essentially
told me, “No, we’re going to trial.” We quit at that point. The prosecutor
later said to me, “You are a man of your word.”
MR. STERN: It’s not uncommon for people who have worked at a particular profession or
occupation after a certain number of years to become exhausted and to just
want to walk on the beach. Do you want to walk on the beach?
MR. MARTIN: I love walking on the beach.
MR. STERN: Well you have enough money, you can walk away from it now.
MR. MARTIN: I love walking on the beach. I’m an avid golfer. I love golf.
MR. STERN: Your handicap is?
MR. MARTIN: My handicap right now is probably still listed as a ten. I’d love to get lower
than a ten, but I don’t have time to do that.
MR. STERN: You’re not under oath [laughter]. So you’re not exhausted?
MR. MARTIN: I’m not exhausted. I don’t have the emotional – I don’t have as much
emotion as I once had.
MR. STERN: Fire in the belly?
MR. MARTIN: I might be able to do this for A, B, and C. There was a time I could do it for
A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Now I pick my cases more selectively.
MR. STERN: In our next episode we’ll talk about your career biographically, but how
many years have you been at this?
MR. MARTIN: I have been practicing now almost 40 years, 38 years right now. I love what
MR. STERN: Because?
MR. MARTIN: I think I make a difference. I go to bed at night thinking of my cases. I don’t
dream about them so I have no nightmares about my cases. I wake up in the
morning thinking what am I going to do with these cases today. It challenges
me, and I still enjoy what I do.
MR. STERN: People talk about loving the law, law doesn’t seem very lovable. Why do
you love the law?
MR. MARTIN: I love the practice of law, and what’s interesting is I remember I was in court
last week and the judge spoke from the bench to me and said, “Mr. Martin,
did you know that Mrs. Loving has died?” In the Loving v. Virginia Supreme
Court case. I thought “no.” I’ve been practicing long enough that I go back
to Mapp v. Ohio. I go back long enough that I remember voting rights
issues, the Civil Rights Act, when the law was really being shaped to really
show that justice was blind and that there was equal justice under the law.
I’m not sure when you have the situation that we have now with Ferguson,
with Cleveland, with the shootings of these young African Americans and
justify to young people that the law is always fair. So I can’t say that I love
“the law,” but I love being skilled enough to challenge the law or as a
prosecutor then move to enforce the law.
MR. STERN: And it aspires to great things.
MR. MARTIN: It aspires to great things.
MR. STERN: Doesn’t always achieve it, but is that right?
MR. MARTIN: It absolutely does, so my love of law is really an aspiration of law as opposed
to daily implementation.
MR. STERN: Okay, we’re going to call a halt in session number one.
ORAL HISTORY OF WILLIAM R. “BILLY” MARTIN
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Carl Stern, and the interviewee is
William R. “Billy” Martin. The interview took place at the office of Martin & Gitner, 2121 K
Street N.W., Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. This is the second interview.
MR. STERN: Since our first session, the Washington Post Magazine did a cover story
about you which included the statement, “Billy Martin is the modern-day
Johnnie Cochran, minus the bling and the brashness, but with swag intact.”
What do you think of that?
MR. MARTIN: Being married to a journalist, I’m always impressed with the stories in which
they are able to tell a very simple set of facts. I think there are parts of that
that I agree with, and there are parts of that that I think have been used to
describe somebody that I really don’t know.
MR. STERN: You need a little bit of swag in front of a jury, right?
MR. MARTIN: I think I have swag in the sense that I am extremely confident in there, so I
do have the confidence. But I assume that as a professional basketball player
who shoots 90% from the foul line, they have some confidence, so I walk
into the courtroom with confidence.
MR. STERN: With confidence intact. In our earlier conversation, you named Johnnie
Cochran as the major influence on your career, but there must have been
others. Who would you put in your personal lawyers’ and judges’ hall of
MR. MARTIN: It’s interesting because in every city that I’ve practiced, there have been great
lawyers, and I’ve been able to emulate, to study, to oppose all of those great
lawyers. Of all the great lawyers that we know currently practicing, I’ve
either opposed or co-counseled or consulted with, so if you would take
David Boies, or if you would take a Roy Black, or if you’d take a Ted Wells,
all extremely talented. I’ve learned to find the best lawyers in the city, study
them, watch them, and to take away that which is good, and to leave that
which doesn’t fit my style. So my biggest mentor, I think, is Judge Nathaniel
Jones of the Sixth Circuit. Judge Jones has been a role model for me in terms
of the dignity of the bench and the bar. I’ve had some great – Judge
Higginbotham before he passed – I’ve really had some great colleagues,
friends, and mentors.
MR. STERN: You named some great lawyers you litigated with or against. Within this
Circuit, can you name some?
MR. MARTIN: When I arrived in Washington, Ken Mundy, who was a local lawyer who
tried most of his cases in D.C. Superior Court, a great trial lawyer. Great on
his feet, connected with the jury, communicated well with prosecutors, and
had a great reputation. Ken Mundy, when I moved here to Washington, was
somebody that I said as a former prosecutor, I want to try a case against
MR. STERN: Did he do the defense in Marion Barry’s case?
MR. MARTIN: In the original Marion Barry case.
MR. STERN: And you were?
MR. MARTIN I was not in the courtroom with him. But I’ve had other cases with Ken over
MR. STERN: Any other names?
MR. MARTIN: Sure. If you look at the white collar bar, Hank Schuelke. Hank is somebody
that I tried a case with in 1989 and 1990. We became friends and remain
friends to this day. There are judges who have retired that I will call and ask
questions. I don’t do anything in a major case without consultation with
somebody who I think knows more than I do, and those are people who I
respect as lawyers. I would call Brendan Sullivan. Brendan is somebody
who is a dear friend, and if I have an issue that I’m really struggling with on
how to resolve it, it’s nice to pick up the telephone and call someone like
Brendan Sullivan and say, “Brendan, what do you think?”
MR. STERN: How did you come to have a friendship with Brendan Sullivan of Williams &
MR. MARTIN: We’ve been friends for so long that I have to really think back to the
introduction, and that introduction has been more than 20, 25 years. I believe
when I was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and I can’t recall the case, Brendan
was on the opposite side of the case. We met, and we exchanged pleasantries
and talked, and I think both kind of respected the other as a result of our
MR. STERN: Which is more important, personality or legal skill?
MR. MARTIN: In terms of your forming this bond, for me it’s legal skill.
MR. STERN: Brendan Sullivan is a tough lawyer.
MR. MARTIN: He’s a tough lawyer, and our personalities are very different. Brendan does
not believe in granting interviews to the press during cases. He’s very
private. He does not believe in – or I wouldn’t say believe in — he’s not
somebody who does a lot of plea bargaining. But Brendan is somebody that
I really – if you want to be a tough guy, want to be tough in the courtroom,
no deals, it’s the Brendan model.
MR. STERN: It’s easier to do that as a prosecutor I would think than as a defense lawyer.
Now you started as a municipal prosecutor in Cincinnati, then became a
federal prosecutor. Today, of course, you’re on the other side. Which do
you prefer? Which table do you want to sit at?
MR. MARTIN: I tell people all the time that it’s like being – I don’t compare myself to
athletes all the time, but it is free agency, and when you’re playing for the
Washington Wizards, you’re going to give 100% of your effort to the
Wizards. If they trade you to the Cleveland Cavaliers, you’re going to give
100% of your game and effort to the Cavaliers. That’s my approach to the
practice of law.
MR. STERN: That implies the skills required are equal on each side? Is that so?
MR. MARTIN: I believe that as a prosecutor, that I was a very good prosecutor, and I was
able to take those very same skills, very same personality, to the defense side
and use those. I think it is good lawyering.
MR. STERN: I mentioned your start in Cincinnati, and this might be a good point to note a
few biographical details. You were born and raised in Sewickley,
MR. MARTIN: Yes. That’s about dozen miles from Pittsburgh.
MR. STERN: In what year?
MR. MARTIN: 1949.
MR. STERN: So you’re in the mid-60s. I noticed in various bios they didn’t have your
birth date. Do you intentionally leave it off?
MR. MARTIN: I’m very comfortable with my age. As a matter of fact, when I have jury
trials, I will say to a jury, “I’ve been trying cases for almost 40 years, and at
65, and I’m very proud to be a practitioner for 40 years, and I’m still very
active.” I’m very comfortable with my age.
MR. STERN: The neighborhood, the area, where you grew up is very upscale. The high
school, for example, that you attended is rated by US News & World Report
as among the top 2% nationwide.
MR. MARTIN: It’s a great high school.
MR. STERN: What’s the name of the high school?
MR. MARTIN: Quaker Valley High School.
MR. STERN: And you did athletics?
MR. MARTIN: I played at some point in time through high school probably basketball,
baseball, track, and my best sport was track.
MR. STERN: You must have studied a little bit because I think you did well in school.
MR. MARTIN: I studied, yes.
MR. STERN: What did your parents do?
MR. MARTIN: My parents are both deceased. My dad was a steelworker. He worked his
entire life, he was a very proud Pittsburgh Steeler fan, and my dad had a lot
of pride in working at a steel mill outside of Pittsburgh. They had eight
children. My mom was a homemaker and would sometimes do catering for
some of the families in the area.
MR. STERN: So you had seven brothers and sisters.
MR. MARTIN: I had six sisters and one brother.
MR. STERN: They are all still alive?
MR. MARTIN: They are all still alive. My older sister, who was a teller at a bank in Detroit,
is retired. My brother, who is retired, is an artist. He’s a painter. My next
sibling was a deputy warden at Rikers Island in New York. My sister was a
career post office employee. I have a sister who is a flight attendant, still
serving as a flight attendant. And others are homemakers. We are a very
MR. STERN: You went to work, or at least had your first job, at age 12. Is that so?
MR. MARTIN: That’s true.
MR. STERN: Doing what?
MR. MARTIN: Struggling on the golf course carrying golf bags as a caddy. At 12, those
bags are very heavy. In Pennsylvania, they require work permits, and you’re
able to get a work permit at 12, and I became a caddy.
MR. STERN: Do you still play golf?
MR. MARTIN: I love golf.
MR. STERN: What’s your handicap?
MR. MARTIN: I’m on record [laughter].
MR. STERN: You’re under oath.
MR. MARTIN: I have a 10.5. So I can sometimes hit it.
MR. STERN: You came here to Washington to go to college?
MR. MARTIN: Correct.
MR. STERN: At Howard. Why there?
MR. MARTIN: Growing up in Sewickley was a unique experience for me. A unique
experience in the sense that it is the original home of the Carnegies and
Mellons. The Heinz family has their estate there. It is a very, very wealthy
community. Many of the corporate executives from Pittsburgh had their
residences in Sewickley, and there is just a lot of old money in the area.
Growing up there, as someone of the working class parents, I had friends
who lived in those homes, I had friends who were athletes with me that I
would see their lifestyle and their parents’ lifestyle, and I thought the only
way for me to climb that ladder is to buckle down in school. I wanted to go
to college, I didn’t know where, and I came down to Washington to visit a
friend, and he took me around the campus of Howard. And Sewickley, as we
described, there are not a lot of African-Americans in Sewickley. There are
enough that I have African-American friends, but it’s a real minority. I did
not know any African-American lawyers in Sewickley or Pittsburgh. So I
came to Howard and had a chance to walk through the law school and the
medical school, and I saw all the students, and I thought this is a real eyeopening,
different experience for me, and I thought I would try it.
MR. STERN: Why didn’t you end up in medical school?
MR. MARTIN: Science is probably not my best subject [laughter]. Interestingly, my two
older daughters, one is a doctor with an MD and Ph.D., and the other is a
chemist. So science does not come from me, but somewhere in the family.
MR. STERN: Tell us about your children. I know that you have twins. Fraternal?
MR. MARTIN: A boy and a girl. I have 11-year-old twins, William, Jr., and Amina.
MR. STERN: Are they going to be lawyers?
MR. MARTIN: William wants to be a lawyer, but he doesn’t like what I do. He doesn’t want
to be a courtroom lawyer. He wants to be a patent attorney. And Amina
right now is a budding gymnast and wants to possibly go to law school or –
you’d appreciate this – she wants to be a journalist.
MR. STERN: You have older children from a prior marriage?
MR. MARTIN: I have two older children from a previous marriage. I have a daughter. She
does not like me to tell her age. She has two beautiful children, my
grandchildren, they’re 10 and 8 years old, and I have a daughter who is a
doctor who is 38 years old. I’m very, very proud of both of them, and they
are both very smart children.
MR. STERN: Then you went to law school much closer to home?
MR. MARTIN: It takes about 4 ½ hours to get to Cincinnati from Pittsburgh.
MR. STERN: Why Cincinnati?
MR. MARTIN: I received a full academic scholarship to the University of Cincinnati Law
School, so I was able to attend law school with a full tuition remission and a
stipend for room and board. First off, it’s a good law school.
MR. STERN: Did Joe DiGenova go there?
MR. MARTIN: Joe DiGenova went there, and at the time, they were trying to increase
students from a diverse student population. I did very well at Howard, and I
did very well on my LSATs and received a scholarship. I applied to
probably 10 or 15 law schools and was admitted to I think almost every one
of them. But Cincinnati was a smaller city. I had friends from Howard who
had gone there, so I thought I would have somebody who would help me
understand the process. I’m very glad that I went to the University of
MR. STERN: Joe DiGenova, as a former U.S. Attorney, is sort of hard-driven, high
volume, not quite like yourself. Do you have a special bond with him
because he went to the same school?
MR. MARTIN: Joe and I are friends. Judge Stanley Harris was the U.S. Attorney who hired
me, but Judge Harris left when he was appointed to the federal bench, and
Joe took over as U.S. Attorney. My first month in the office, Joe was the
U.S. Attorney. You may not know this, but in the early days, probably up
until the mid-1980s, there was a requirement in the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in
Washington that everybody had to go through essentially a three-year
rotation before you moved into prosecuting federal cases. So it was the
Superior Court training ground and then a select few would move into the
U.S. District Court. Well, when I interviewed, they saw that I had been a
municipal prosecutor, which is equivalent to doing a lot of the work that the
Superior Court prosecutors would do through grand jury, and I then had
become a federal prosecutor in six years, and we debated what do we gain by
having you go back through a misdemeanor rotation and an appellate
rotation, and this rotation, so Joe DiGenova told me that if you’re as good as
we think you are, and as good as you think you are, we’ll give you a chance
to bypass this rotation. So they gave me a chance to try a few cases. I did
very well on those cases, and I was one of the first Assistant U.S. Attorneys
in Washington hired to bypass that rotation. So Joe and I remain friends. It
took years before we realized that we were both graduates of UC. Joe is a
graduate of the undergrad. I think Joe went to UC on a music scholarship. I
think it was music. Joe is a singer, and I think he went to the Conservatory
of Music as an undergrad.
MR. STERN: I think he comes from a musical family.
MR. MARTIN: And because we’re both very well-known in the area, UC invites Joe and me
both to events that they host here in the city.
MR. STERN: Just for the record, let me get this down. You were a municipal prosecutor in
Cincinnati for about three years. Right? Then you went to Dayton?
MR. MARTIN: I joined the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in the Southern District of Ohio, which is
Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, and I was assigned to the Dayton office.
MR. STERN: And you were there for not too long, two years? Then you went to
MR. MARTIN: Correct.
MR. STERN: To?
MR. MARTIN: To the Organized Crime Strike Force. That was my dream job.
MR. STERN: Dream because of its jurisdiction or because you wanted to be in
MR. MARTIN: Both. I’d always wanted to go to California. I always wanted to live in
California. I had never been to San Francisco before, but the Justice
Department recruited me to come to San Francisco with the Strike Force.
MR. STERN: You left your heart in San Francisco?
MR. MARTIN: She came back with me [laughter].
MR. STERN: You were there for what, four years?
MR. MARTIN: Just over four years.
MR. STERN: And then you transferred to D.C.?
MR. MARTIN: While I was there, I had a very interesting assignment, and the assignment
was the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in Anchorage, Alaska, recused the entire
office of a major investigation. So I was assigned to go to Anchorage for
three years. I would do two weeks on in Alaska and two weeks home. I did
that for close to three years. So I spent a lot of time in Alaska, and the
reward at the time was after spending all that time in Alaska, there was a
triangle. You could go from San Francisco to Anchorage to Honolulu. We
had an office in Honolulu, and I was given assignments in Honolulu to work
with a U.S. Attorney there for a week or two doing grand jury presentations.
MR. STERN: How did you miss the Virgin Islands? [laughter]
MR. MARTIN: That was controlled by D.C. Did you know that?
MR. STERN: I thought it was the First Circuit that had the Virgin Islands.
MR. MARTIN: No, but the D.C. U.S. Attorneys’ Office sends a lot of their assistants down
MR. STERN: I can’t imagine why. How did you then get to Washington? I believe your
father was ill and you asked for the transfer?
MR. MARTIN: I love San Francisco. The weather is beautiful, and it’s a beautiful city. I
thought I was going to establish my new home in San Francisco, and I
received word from my mom that my dad had been diagnosed with terminal
cancer, and he had been given six months to live. So I asked the Justice
Department if they would transfer me from San Francisco to the east coast so
I could spend some time here on the east coast. Judge Harris and
Joe DiGenova hired me and brought me to Washington as an Assistant.
MR. STERN: And you worked your way up to the Number 3 position in the U.S.
Attorneys’ Office in the District.
MR. MARTIN: I did.
MR. STERN: In 1991, you left, is that right, to enter private practice? And in fact you
didn’t open your own office until about three years ago, 2012?
MR. MARTIN: I opened this office in 2012, and I have been with several big firms.
MR. STERN: What firm did you start with?
MR. MARTIN: I started with Eckert Seamans, a Pittsburgh-based firm. The U.S. Attorney in
Pittsburgh at the time, his name was Jerry Johnson, Jerry and I are friends to
this day, Jerry was ready to leave the U.S. Attorneys’ Office and was
interviewing with various firms in Pittsburgh. There were two or three firms
that were hiring, and he called me to say, “I don’t know if you ever think of
leaving, but there’s a firm who’s looking for a lawyer with your
background.” That was Eckert Seamans.
MR. STERN: Why did you leave the federal prosecutor’s office?
MR. MARTIN: I loved the job, so when you asked me earlier which one did I enjoy the most,
the most satisfying in the sense of professional opportunities was the U.S.
Attorneys’ Office. The most satisfying in terms of financial compensation
has been big firms and private practice. So there was a tradeoff. At the time,
I had one daughter in college and another daughter who would be going
shortly thereafter, and for financial reasons, I took advantage of it and I
almost tripled my compensation from the U.S. Attorneys’ Office.
MR. STERN: And then you went to Dorsey & Whitney, which is a Minneapolis firm?
MR. MARTIN: No, I went to Dyer Ellis. Dyer Ellis, which was at the Watergate, and Dyer
Ellis merged with Blank Rome, so I then went with Blank Rome for a couple
of years. After Blank Rome, I had the opportunity by then to conduct the
Chandra Levy investigation. I had a lot of headline-grabbing cases in the
sports area. In my term at Eckert Seamans in Pittsburgh, they represented all
these sports teams – the Pirates, the Penguins, and the Steelers – so I learned
to do those cases, and I got a lot of publicity from those at Blank Rome. So
by then, I had a lot of headhunters ask me, “Would you like to relocate?” and
I went to Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan for two or three years and had a very
successful practice there. Howrey Simon – later Howrey – was looking for
trial lawyers to do some of their big projects with some of the corporate
clients and offered me a package that I could not turn down.
MR. STERN: Howrey had about 1,000 lawyers.
MR. MARTIN: Almost 1,000 lawyers.
MR. STERN: And here you are with a six-member firm. Quite a difference.
MR. MARTIN: Quite a difference.
MR. STERN: What’s wrong with 1,000 lawyers?
MR. MARTIN: You don’t know — I probably knew 100 of the 1,000, and I probably worked
with 10 of that 100. But I like big firms. I enjoy big-firm practice because
right now if we were going through a client interview and you were to say to
me, ‘Billy, I have a problem with these antitrust issues.’ While I understand
antitrust law at a basic level, I would pick up the phone and call one of my
antitrust partners and have them come down and listen, and there might be
something that that partner could help with. Or a patent lawyer. So it’s
easier to fix problems by just making a call to one of your partners.
MR. STERN: You mentioned Howrey. Why did Howrey implode in your judgment?
MR. MARTIN: I wish I knew. I know that the reasons that are stated is that they were
overextended in anticipation of a couple of huge contingency cases, and the
firm accepted a couple of huge antitrust contingency cases that did not
conclude in time to satisfy creditors on lines of credit.
MR. STERN: You’ve not been to my knowledge a plaintiffs’ lawyer, so are you
unaccustomed to contingency cases?
MR. MARTIN: They had just been so financially rewarding to the firm. They were very
handsome settlements, and had that settlement come on time, it would have
been very handsome to me as an equity partner with the firm.
MR. STERN: Would you take a contingency case?
MR. MARTIN: I do. We’re very selective in taking them. My partner Gitner does some
contingencies, but we’re pretty selective in taking them.
MR. STERN: That recent Washington Post Magazine article that I mentioned described
you as a “$650 an hour lawyer.” It quoted a judge who said you were very
expensive but worth it. Is this a prestige thing, the lawyer’s hourly rate?
MR. MARTIN: Actually, they didn’t get that right because I charge $750 [laughter].
MR. STERN: And if we sit here long enough it will be $850. [laughter]
MR. MARTIN: I charge $750. I was $900 an hour at Howrey. So I know the marketplace
for the quality of my services in corporate America, With lower overhead I
reduced that, but I know that if I’m representing a Fortune 50 corporation on
an internal investigation, they want the best lawyer that they can have, and I
think they realize that I’m probably not a $600 an hour lawyer in the
marketplace. But I represent a lot of individuals now, and it’s difficult for
individuals on a trial. The minimum amount for trial is going to be probably
a couple hundred thousand dollars for any major trial in federal court. We
just went through a trial, and I can tell you it was over $200,000 in expenses.
And those are for individuals without a Directors and Officers insurance
policy. If you cash in a mortgage or take a home loan, it’s difficult for
individuals, so we charge a lower rate.
MR. STERN: We hear so much about our litigious society and the profusion of lawyers and
lawyering, in fact, many people who deserve a lawyer and need a lawyer
can’t afford one because of the high cost of preparing for trial and the trial
itself. Do you lament that the profession isn’t able to provide adequate care
and coverage for those who don’t have that kind of money?
MR. MARTIN: I do. And we make a commitment to do a lot of pro bono work to give back
to the practice. If you were to ask me what would I like to have as one of my
lasting challenges or legacies, that would be the improvement of quality of
representation to the indigent. I sometimes go down to the courthouse, and
I’ll watch the public defenders who are in the courthouse, all very good
lawyers, all very eager to successfully represent their clients, but when I walk
in there retained with one client having had days, weeks, or at least overnight
to prepare myself for my appearance, that public defender may walk in with
ten or fifteen clients that day. The system is overburdened, and while we’re
giving them good lawyers, they’re competing against prosecutors sometimes
who have one case or two cases. So if you get a public defender who is
there, they’re competing against somebody who’s had an investigation going
for three years and have had the FBI, the IRS, and other agencies working
with them. So in terms of the balance, I really do lament at times that we’re
not able to provide greater representation for the poor.
MR. STERN: Could it be argued that we don’t have enough lawyers?
MR. MARTIN: I suppose as one lawyer to another I absolutely would argue that, but I think
that the economy and society feel differently. Enrollment in law schools has
dropped. The debt ratio to income has been so out of line that when a lot of
these young lawyers come out, they’re hundreds of thousands of dollars in
debt and then can’t find jobs. So I think it’s a great education, and it’s a
great profession. I’m very honored to be a member of the Bar, but I think we
could do better at creating opportunities for more lawyers other than the
mega-lawyer. When I was at a big firm, we would hire associates at between
$150,000 and $175,000 right out of law school. They don’t know the first
thing about actually lawyering, and corporations started resisting paying the
first- and second-year associates because they were being taught training on
the job by those corporations. So I think there’s a way to bring those lawyers
in, train them, more on the firm expense as opposed to client expense, and
teach them how to lawyer as opposed to teach them how to bill.
MR. STERN: Some years ago, among well-regarded law schools, it was not uncommon
that they would forgive the indebtedness of students who would go into
public interest law. You don’t hear much about that these days. Has that
disappeared? Should more of it be undertaken?
MR. MARTIN: I think more of it should be undertaken. We have these volunteer programs
that are hosted and sponsored by the President and Congress, the President
on his volunteerism. We should offer the same type of incentives to lawyers.
Peace Corps. We have doctors. We have lawyers. Maybe we should offer
the same type of assistance for debt relief to those who are willing to commit
to going into public service. Public service could be representing the
indigent, representing the homeless, pro bono work. Absolutely.
MR. STERN: The Legal Services Corporation from time to time comes under attack in
Congress and elsewhere with efforts being made to reduce its funding. A
number of lawyer organizations, such as the American Bar Association, have
successfully countered that over the years. But it’s a recurrent threat to the
system. Are you encouraged by what you see in that direction, or do you still
have to keep working at it?
MR. MARTIN: I think we have to keep working at it. I’m not encouraged by it. I’m very
active with the American Bar Foundation, and those are issues that are near
and dear to me, and I think we have a lot of work to do. If anybody one day
listens to this or one day would read a part of this would ever spend a day
behind bars or an hour behind bars, in the process that you go through, even
as a lawyer, when I walk into a prison or when I walk into a jail, when you
hear that door slam behind you, and you look at people and you know that
you’re the link to the outside world with them, I think if somebody would
just study that, we would want to be very cautious about locking people up
for the sake of locking them up.
MR. STERN: Do we lock them up for too long a period?
MR. MARTIN: Yes. Some. Which is what happened with our Federal Sentencing
Guidelines. Judges took those guidelines as a mandate that was mandatory,
as opposed to discretionary. So it has taken years to whittle that down and to
translate that into no, they’re only advisory. And the mandatory
interpretation had a lot of people locked up for a long period of time,
especially for drug offenses.
MR. STERN: People judge you on your performance in the courtroom, and yet that’s sort
of the tip of the iceberg. For every hour that you spend on your feet in the
courtroom, how much time do you put into preparation?
MR. MARTIN: That’s an interesting question. When we go through and estimate what it
would cost to try a case, we anticipate that it’s probably two hours for every
courtroom hour. And that’s just in terms of trial preparation. So if we have a
trial that’s going to take two weeks, we’re probably two to four weeks in
preparation for that trial, full time, and that’s even before you get into
understanding the case. We put a lot of time into the case. That has been my
motto over the years: preparation, preparation, preparation.
MR. STERN: When the system does fail and someone is convicted who is innocent,
frequently the lack of time for the lawyer to do that kind of preparation is
cited. But it may also be true in some instances that the prosecution has
withheld evidence which would have been, maybe, even dispositive of the
case. You have been on both sides. Is the problem real or is it exaggerated,
of prosecutors withholding important evidence?
MR. MARTIN: I think it’s real, and it’s the fox guarding the henhouse. You ask prosecutors,
and you hope that in good faith they give you honest answers, but you’re
asking prosecutors to look through their documents and tell the defense
which ones may be exculpatory. There’s a lot of mischief that occurs from
time to time by prosecutors in turning over those documents. I can tell you
that as a former prosecutor, that’s not the way that I prosecuted, nor do I
think that’s the way that most prosecutors prosecute. But it does happen, and
it happens far too frequently.
MR. STERN: That Washington Post article said, “Everything Martin does is measured and
calculated,” yet you come across as very affable, relaxed, uncomplicated, a
straight-shooter. Are you in some sort of disguise?
MR. MARTIN: I think what it is, and I think I’m probably observed on two different settings.
In court, I probably am very, very measured, but if you ask me to have an off
the record or on the record conversation not in court, I generally will tell you
what’s on my mind.
MR. STERN: Do you bluff? Do you ever bluff in private? Do you say you have something
that you don’t? Or say you intend to do something that you don’t intend to
MR. MARTIN: I once had a lawyer tell me that once you start the process in a defense
capacity, it’s a ritualistic dance, and all the parties to that dance understand
all the projected possible moves. Are there times when one party or the other
may bluff? Probably. And it’s not a game of poker, but there are
similarities, when you want to, you can’t blink too soon. And what I mean
by that is if I want a prosecutor to dismiss a case, I have to argue vehemently
why it should be dismissed. If I want a prosecutor to give me a deal on a
guilty plea, I have to act as though I’m moving forward and not retreating,
because when you’re retreating, they sometimes help propel you backward.
MR. STERN: Do you ever imply that you have a straight flush when in fact you’re holding
a pair of twos? You’re smiling [laughter].
MR. MARTIN: I can’t tell all my secrets here.
MR. STERN: Okay, we’ll give you a pass on that one. Some lawyers keep scorecards of
their wins and losses. Do you do that?
MR. MARTIN: I do not. People will tell you who spend a lot of time in the courtroom that
you win some cases that you shouldn’t have won, and you lose some that you
shouldn’t have lost, and for that reason, I don’t. If you ask me meaningful
cases, I could tell you the cases, but I’ve won some of those and lost some of
MR. STERN: What sticks in your mind? Considering all these celebrity cases that you’ve
had, what sticks in your mind as the most memorable?
MR. MARTIN: The most notable case to me was the representation of Monica Lewinsky and
her mother because, as a student of the law, to have been involved as counsel
to a witness in an impeachment proceeding, was something that I never
would have dreamed in my wildest nightmare. This is an opportunity for a
young lawyer, and that was twenty years ago, for a young lawyer who was
previously unknown to have shown that on these major investigations
involving even impeachment, there’s room for new lawyers.
MR. STERN: It was the media attention that made the case so memorable?
MR. MARTIN: Oh, no. For me it was quite the opposite. For me it was dealing with a
special counsel. It was dealing with an impeachment proceeding. It was
knowing that I had a witness who had key evidence and testimony. For me it
was the process.
MR. STERN: Any matter that you’ve been involved in where the outcome really surprised
MR. MARTIN: That’s a tough question because I don’t think I have been. There are some
times when, and excuse the informality of this term, a crapshoot, with what
the decision might be. But I don’t think there have been any where I’ve been
knocked off my feet with the decision made. On every major case that I’ve
been involved in, we have probably modeled every possible scenario. So no.
While I say the practice of law is not a science, there are many parts of it
where it is a science.
MR. STERN: And the result, was it a just one in each of these cases, or in some were you
MR. MARTIN: I was upset. I was disappointed, that possibility wasn’t anticipated.
MR. STERN: Can you give me an example where you were disappointed by the outcome?
MR. MARTIN: That was always a possibility, and you’re hoping to beat the odds.
MR. STERN: You thought you would do better than you did.
MR. MARTIN: I thought we could do better than we did. Does it happen frequently? No.
But when you’ve been around the practice of law for as long as I, you know
that once there are twelve angry men – I’m really not referring to gender, it’s
the concept of that movie – where that battle in a jury between goes on
between potential jurors. Once a jury gets a case, there’s no telling what
MR. STERN: Do you ever have any sense of failure?
MR. MARTIN: No. And the reason I don’t have any sense of failure is that I really will say
to a client that I think these are all the possible outcomes. This is what I
think will happen if this witness says that or that evidence comes in, this is
what I believe. I won’t give odds, but I’ll tell people what I believe may be
the outcome. What do you think will happen? Well if this happens, that. So
I haven’t been disappointed.
MR. STERN: How long do you chew over what occurred?
MR. MARTIN: I chew on it for a while. A month after a verdict I still play parts of a case
through my head. There have been years when I’ve thought back about how
did that happen and was there a way to prevent it, or if I am the victor how
did I do that?
MR. STERN: Have you ever had a situation where you know you did your best but the
client blames you for some lack of skill?
MR. MARTIN: Absolutely. And one of the things that it took some adjusting to as a defense
lawyer is I do some civil litigation, but I’m not the civil lawyer in litigation.
I’m a litigator in the courtroom with a civil litigator there with me. So for
pure trial skills I’ll try civil cases with somebody who has an expertise in
patent or commercial law. It’s just the lawyering that I’m doing, and in a
civil case, the clients know you’re fighting over money, and they may be
disappointed, but they’re realistic in terms of chances. And civil clients,
clients involved in civil matters, who sometimes are disappointed, unless
you’ve committed negligence or malpractice, understand the risk.
MR. STERN: Have you ever been sued for malpractice?
MR. MARTIN: Never. Criminal clients, though, you’re the first person on their mind if
they’re convicted, so I frequently am blamed. And what’s interesting, I’ve
had clients who I believe, based on the evidence, were as guilty as charged.
If we come close to getting a hung jury or not guilty, you raise their
MR. STERN: The reverse of what we’re talking about here is if you were so skillful that
you manage to win the acquittal of someone you think is guilty, has that
MR. MARTIN: Yes.
MR. STERN: And? Any remorse or do you feel you let society down?
MR. MARTIN: No, and the reason for that is that even though I believe that there’s a chance
the person committed the crime, the system, the rule of law, is that it has to
be proved, and if it’s not proved, the system works.
MR. STERN: If you believe your efforts put someone who’s dangerous back on the street,
what are you going to do about it?
MR. MARTIN: My job has been completed. I’m asked that question occasionally, and I
think I’ve thought it through and I’ve come to the conclusion that while my
profession may be different, I am no different than a surgeon who saves the
life of a very bad person. It’s not my job to make the decision whether that
person stays in jail or out of jail. It’s my job in my profession to see that
their Constitutional rights or their rights in the courtroom are protected. And
I do that to the best of my ability, and if I win some that I shouldn’t, I won it
because the rule of law applied. I don’t have any remorse.
MR. STERN: So you go home and you do your gardening – that’s your principal hobby,
MR. MARTIN: It used to be. My hobby now is just golf.
MR. STERN: Not travel, not skydiving, scuba diving?
MR. MARTIN: And walking. Eighteen holes, which will take 4 ½ hours, with no business
talk, is very relaxing.
MR. STERN: I’m curious, what kind of a car does a celebrity lawyer drive?
MR. MARTIN: I love cars. My favorite car is a Porsche. I drove that until somebody hit me,
not long ago, and then I wanted a bigger car so I moved to a General Motors
MR. STERN: Did you sue the fellow who hit you? [Laughter]
MR. MARTIN: We worked it out.
MR. STERN: Do you have a special license plate?
MR. MARTIN: I do not. No vanity tags.
MR. STERN: O.K. That’s an important measure of a man.
MR. MARTIN: For me, I enjoy it. I don’t get a lot of anonymity, so I would not want to ride
down the street having people see me in a convertible. If people say he’s
driving a Porsche, they would talk about it. I would like to not bring a lot of
attention to myself.
MR. STERN: We don’t have cameras in the courtroom. You would be very much at home
in front of the camera. Are you disappointed that we don’t have cameras?
MR. MARTIN: Actually I have tried cases on live TV. The Jason Williams trial in
New Jersey, the former NBA player, was televised. And it was very
interesting. Blackberries were really just starting to take off so it was very
interesting to have a witness, and this is a true story. Direct examination of a
witness has occurred and I’m preparing to cross-examine the witness, and
one of my associates, a lawyer in the audience, hands me a Blackberry, and it
has a message from the person on there who says, “I am ‘so-and-so’, the exgirlfriend
of that witness. I know for a fact that ‘blank.’” So I look at that
and think, wow. I have a good faith basis now to ask questions. I’ll say, “Do
you know Ms. So-and-So?” The answer is yes. “Do you have a
relationship?” Yes. So now I go forward with my questions. It’s interesting
to have live, real-time questions fed to you.
MR. STERN: But you’re taking a certain risk, you haven’t checked – or perhaps you have –
MR. MARTIN: We had some background. We knew who the person was. It wasn’t a blind
call. It was somebody who we knew and we could not get to until the person
heard the witness tell an untruth on the witness stand.
MR. STERN: The argument against cameras would be that it affects the manner in which
the parties, witnesses, the judge, et cetera, perform.
MR. MARTIN: I’m not in favor of cameras in the courtroom, and I’m not in favor of cameras
in the courtroom because if a witness has yet to testify but they’ve seen the
testimony of the previous witness, they could shape their testimony now to fit
that which has already occurred, and I think that’s dangerous.
MR. STERN: We talked about the qualities that are desirable in lawyers. Has a judge ever
bawled you out?
MR. MARTIN: Absolutely.
MR. STERN: Why?
MR. MARTIN: Not for long, but I have been verbally instructed to have a seat and
“Mr. Martin, you are finished with that argument,” and I was not finished
with the argument and I wanted to continue making a record, and I said,
“Well I would like to make a record.” And he said, “You will not make a
record, you will sit down.” I said, “Of course I will sit down.” And I would
submit in writing what I wanted to say on the record. But I am somebody
who recognizes the authority of the bench and bar, and I’m not going to be
chastised. I’m a litigator, and in the heat of battle sometimes your adrenaline
is really revved up, and in a contested trial, and you have to catch yourself.
I’m always very respectful of a judge.
MR. STERN: The quality of judging, is it improving?
MR. MARTIN: In Washington? There are some very good judges. They’re very smart.
There are some very good judges. I have been elsewhere in the country and
the quality is not as high where politics enters into some of these issues. But
overall I think that most judges take their job and their duties seriously.
MR. STERN: I find the quality of judging substantially better in recent years.
MR. MARTIN: It probably has.
MR. STERN: Let me ask you finally in reference to Monica Lewinsky’s mother, who you
represented, in that Washington Post article she said, “Billy didn’t just care
about the law, he also cared about how their clients were affected by the
law.” You’ve been recognized by your clients as somebody who really
works — maybe we should underline that word “works” — in the best interest
of his clients. You candidly assess situations. You negotiate. You work to
create the best possible defense. Would you like that to be your epitaph?
MR. MARTIN: I think that’s a great way to wrap this up. I think that all those factors are the
way I like to practice law. People come to me with problems, and I like to
think that I attempt to understand the problem and to assume that they are in
a better position when they leave my office than they were when they came
MR. STERN: Thank you.
MR. MARTIN: Thank you.
William “Billy” Martin Oral History
American Bar Association, 42
Barry, Marion, 27
Black, Roy, 27
Blank Rome, 9, 38
Boies, David, 27
Cacheris, Plato, 4
celebrity lawyer, 1
Civil Rights Act, 25
Civil Rights Division, 11
Cochran and Lotkin, 20
Cochran, Johnnie, 20, 21, 26
crack cocaine epidemic, 14
Craig, Larry, 9
DiGenova, Joe, 33
Dorsey & Whitney, 38
Dyer Ellis, 38
Eckert Seamans, 37
Falk, David, 16
Federal Sentencing Guidelines, 43
five lawyers in Washington, 1
Full Ginsburg, 5
Ginsburg, Bill, 4, 5
Gitner, Geoffrey, 1, 26, 39
Harris, Stanley, 34
Higginbotham, Aloyisus, 27
Howrey Simon, 38
IFB (interruptible feedback), 8
Independent Counsel, 4
Iverson, Allen, 3, 16
Jackson, Katherine, 1
Jackson. Michael, 1
Johnson, Jerry, 37
Jones Day, 7
Jones, Nathaniel, 27
Jordan, Michael, 16
Koppel, Ted, 14
Levy, Chandra, 10, 11, 38
Lewinsky, Monica, 3, 4, 10, 46, 52
Lewis, Marsha, 4
Lotkin, Ralph, 20
Loving v. Virginia, 25
Mapp v. Ohio, 25
Martin, Amina (daughter), 33
Martin, William “Billy” – Personal
athletics, 12, 30
golf, 24, 31, 49
Howard University, 13, 32, 33, 34
Pittsburgh Shady Side, 13
Quaker Valley High School, 30
Sewickley, Pennsylvania, 32
University of Cincinnati Law School, 33
Martin, William “Billy” – Professional
United States Department of Justice, 2
United States Attorneys Office, 3, 14, 15, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38
Assistant U.S. Attorney, 14, 28
Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, 14
Al Capone’s family, 2
American Arbitration Association, 18
Anchorage, Alaska, 36
Blank Rome, 9
celebrity lawyer, 1
Cincinnati Police Department, 10
City of Cincinnati, 10
federal prosecutor, 29
Mafia Strike Force, 2
lions of the bar and legends of the bar, 4
municipal prosecutor in Cincinnati,, 29
Organized Crime Strike Force, 2
Pittsburgh Penguins, 3, 38
Pittsburgh Pirates, 3, 38
Pittsburgh Steelers, 3, 38
pro bono work, 41, 42
San Francisco Organized Crime Strike Force, 35
Martin, William, Jr. (son), 33
Mundy, Ken, 27
New York Times, 7
O.J. Simpson trial, 8
Schuelke, Hank, 28
Snipes, Wesley, 1
Southern District of Ohio, 35
Speight, Nate, 4
Starr, Ken, 4, 5, 6
Stein, Jake, 4, 20
Sullivan, Brendan, 22, 28
Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, 38
Thompson, John, 13, 15, 16
United States Department of Justice, 11, 35
US News & World Report, 30
USA Today, 22
Vance, Jim, 8
Washington Post, 45, 52
Washington Post Magazine, 26, 40
Washington, Denzel, 1
Wells, Ted, 27
Williams & Connolly, 22, 28
Williams, Jason, 2, 50
Winfrey, Oprah, 1
William “Billy” Martin Oral History
Table of Cases
Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), 25.
Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), 25.
William R. “Billy” Martin
Washington, D.C. Office
1500 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-1209
Direct Number: 202.465.8422
Main Number: 202.737.9600
Fax Number: 410.385.3700
Consistently named one of the top trial lawyers in Washington, D.C. and throughout the United States, Billy Martin
represents large corporations has tried more than 150 cases, many involving large corporations and leading figures in
politics, sports and entertainment that have been covered by the national media. Among his honors, Martin was previously
named one of the nation’s “50 Most Influential Minority Attorneys” by The National Law Journal.
Billy represents large corporations in complex civil and white collar criminal matters before state and federal courts, in
administrative hearings and in arbitrations. While Billy has made a name nationally through his representation in
numerous high profile cases, he has a diverse practice that also focuses on complex civil and white collar litigation before
state and federal courts and in administrative hearings. Billy also has substantial experience with internal investigations
and has served extensively as an Integrity and Ethics Monitor on behalf of government agencies and courts in a variety of
industries. In addition, he is a member of the American Arbitration Association and has experience both representing
parties in arbitration and serving as an arbitrator in private disputes. Billy also served as outside counsel to the United
States House of Representatives Committee on Ethics in connection with its investigation of a Member of Congress.
Before entering private practice, Billy served as a state and federal prosecutor from 1976 until 1980. In 1980 he was
appointed to serve as a Special Attorney in the Organized Crime Strike Force in San Francisco, a position he held for four
years. He then moved from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., where he served as an Assistant United States Attorney
for four years before being promoted to the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, a position he
held until he left the office to begin private practice.
Affiliations & Recognition:
President, Washington Bar Association
National Bar Association
American Arbitration Association
American Bar Association
Washingtonian Magazine’s “Top Lawyers”
National Law Journal’s “50 Most Influential Minority Attorneys”
Recognized by Ebony Magazine as a Top Lawyer
Featured in Black Enterprise as a Top Lawyer
Washington Business Journal
Distinguished Alumni – Howard University
Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers®: Selected for inclusion in the area of Criminal Defense: White Collar (2007-
District of Columbia
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
University of Cincinnati College of Law, J.D. 1976
Howard University, B.A. 1973
Disputes Over Business Dispositions
Employment Discrimination Litigation
Government Audits, Investigations & Compliance
Intellectual Property Disputes & Litigation
Investigations & Internal Compliance Audits
Investigations & Prosecutions
Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution
Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Suspension & Debarment
White Collar Defense & Government Investigations
“Practice 360º | A Day for Lawyers & Law Firms,” D.C. Bar Conference Center (May 06, 2016).
Carl Stern is the J.B. & Maurice C. Shapiro Professor Emeritus of Media and Public Affairs at
The George Washington University and the former Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the
U.S. Department of Justice under Attorney General Janet Reno. Prior to that, he served for 26
years as the law correspondent for NBC News, covering the Supreme Court and the Justice
Department and many of the nation’s most newsworthy trials. Professor Stern has been a
member of the Ohio and D.C. bars for almost 50 years. He was a founding member of the
Forum Committee on Communications Law of the American Bar Association, and served on
several ABA committees. In 1975 the ABA honored him as the first fulltime broadcast network
reporter covering legal affairs. He is the recipient of the Justice Department’s highest honor, the
Edmund J. Randolph Award, and broadcasting’s Peabody Award for “exceptional journalistic
enterprise” in connection with his coverage of Watergate and his use of FOIA to uncover the
FBI’s secret Cointelpro actions to harass, neutralize and destroy organizations and individuals it
regarded as politically pernicious. In 2014 the American University Washington College of
Law’s Collaboration on Government Secrecy presented him with its “FOIA Legends Award” for
his “unique role over four decades” as a pioneering journalist, litigant and scholar in influencing
the development of FOIA. Professor Stern has B.A. and M.S. (Journalism) degrees from
Columbia University and a J.D. magna cum laude from Cleveland State University.