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Oral History Project
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit

Oral History Project
The Historical Society of the
District of Columbia Circuit
United States Courts
District of Columbia Circuit
Interviews conducted by:
Devarieste Curry
July 21, July 28, August 23,
October 28, 2005; January 26, 2007;
December 16, December 22, 2009;
January 13,2010

Preface. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 1
Oral History Agreements
Judge Inez Smith Reid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . …. III
Devarieste Curry, Esquire v
Oral History Transcript of Interviews:
InterviewNo.l,July21,2005 1
Interview No.2, July 28, 2005 : 38
Interview No.3, August 23,2005 94
Interview No.4, October 28, 2005 ~ 132
Interview No.5, January 26, 2007 173
Interview No.6, December 16,2009 209
Interview No.7, December 22,2009 251
Interview No. 8, January 13,2010 286
Index A-I
Table of Cases B-1
Biographical Sketches
Judge Inez Smith Reid C-l
Devarieste Curry, Esquire C-ll

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.
© 2012 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.
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. Both the’ interviewers and the interviewees
have had an opportunity to review and edit the transcripts.
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.
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
Oral History Agreement of Judge Inez Smith Reid
1. In consideration of the recording and preservation of my oral history memoir by
the Historical Society of the district of Columbia Circuit, Washington, D.C., and its employees
and agents (hereinafter ”the Society”), I, Inez Smith Reid, do hereby grant and convey to the
Society and its successors and assigns all of my rights, title, and interest in the tape recordings,
digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes, and DVDs of the interviews of me as
described in Schedule A hereto, including literary rights and copyrights. All copies of the tape
recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes, and DVDs are subject to the same
restrictions herein provided.
2. The entire tape recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes, and
DVDs of the interviews ofme, as described in Schedule A hereto, shall be closed to all users
until April 15, 2022, except with my express written permission.
3. A complete copy of the transcript of the transcribed tapes shall be provided to me
upon receipt of this donation instrument.
4. I also reserve for myself and to the executor of my estate the right to use the tape
recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes, and DVDs and their content as a
resource for any book, pamphlet, article or other writing of which I or my executor may be the
author or co-author.
• 5. · Except as provided in paragraph 2 hereof, I authorize the Society to duplicate,
edit, publish, including publication on the internet, and permit the use of said tape recordings,
digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes, and DVDs in any manner that the Society
considers appropriate, and I waive any claims I may have or acquire to any royalties from such
.1–e c􀀂
Inez Smith Reid
SWOgN TO A SCRIBED before me this
jf}1″71ay of c􀃣i2J􀃤􀃥􀃦”J.–,, 2012.
My Commission expires; ——-1􀃧””􀃨,..,eommission Expires October 31, 2D13
ACCEPTED this 21 day of r 􀀂􀀃 , 2012, by Stephen J. Pollak, President of the
Historical Society of the District of Columbia cuit.
􀀄-􀀅.􀀆􀀇ah . Stephe
Schedule A
Tapes recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes, thumb drives
and DVDs resulting from interviews of Judge Inez Smith Reid conducted on the following
Interview No. and Date Number of Tapes or DVDs
Interview No. 1, July 21, 2005
Interview No. 2, July 28, 2005
Interview No. 3, August 23, 2005
Interview No. 4, October 28, 2005
Interview No. 5, January 26, 2007
Interview No. 6, December 16, 2009
Interview No. 7, December 22, 2009
Interview No. 8, January 13, 2010
The transcripts of the eight interviews are contained on a single CD.
Pages of
Final Transcript
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
Oral History Agreement of Devarieste Curry
1. Having agreed to conduct an oral history interview with the Honorable Inez Smith
Reid for the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, Washington, D.C., and its
employees and agents (hereinafter “the Society”), I, Devarieste Curry, do hereby grant and
convey to the Society and its successors and assigns all of my rights, title, and interest in the tape
recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes,.and DVDs of the interviews as
described in Schedule A hereto, including literary rights and copyrights.
2. I authorize the Society to duplicate, edit, publish, including publication on the
Internet, and permit the use of said tape recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer
diskettes, and DVDs in any manner that the Society considers appropriate, and I waive any
claims I may have or acquire to any royalties from such use .
. 3. I agree that I will make no use of the interviews or the information contained
therein until they are concluded and edited, or until I receive permission from the Society.
Devarieste Curry 􀁪
Oish,c..\- of’ Co\umbio.: 􀀓s
i6􀀆 day of Fc. , 2012.
otary Public
My Commission expires: J)o1✓emberLl.£1Mlf
My Commission Expires November 14, 2014.
ACCEPTED this 􀀂JA day of f e.,1n,,,<21-<.,$, 2012, by Stephen J. Pollak, President of the
Historical Society of the District of Columbia i cuit.
Schedule A
Tapes recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes, thumb drives
and DVDs resulting from interviews of Judge Inez Smith Reid conducted on the following
Interview No. and Date Number of Tapes or DVDs
Interview No. 1, July 21, 2005
Interview No. 2, July 28, 2005
Interview No. 3, August 23, 2005
Interview No. 4, October 28, 2005
Interview No. 5, January 26, 2007
Interview No. 6, December 16, 2009
Interview No. 7, December 22, 2009
Interview No. 8, January 13, 2010
The transcripts of the eight interviews are contained on a single CD.
Pages of
Final Transcript
Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
First Interview
July 21, 2005
This is the first interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid, Associate Judge
of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the Oral History Project of The
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry of
The Curry Law Firm PLLC. The interview took place .in Judge Reid’s Chambers at the Carl
Moultrie Courthouse, at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry: Good morning Judge Reid. The oral history project is designed primarily, Judge
Reid, to add to the archives of the history of the District of Columbia federal
courts. Although you sit on the highest court of the District of Columbia, you
have held significant federal appointments, and the Historical Society wants to
document and preserve your contributions to the federal system. Judge Reid, you
have agreed to having the interview recorded on tape, and to donate the transcripts
and tapes of the interview to the Historical Society ofthe D.C. Circuit. Is that
Judge Reid: That is correct.
Ms. Curry: I want to put on record now that at the conclusion of the project I will ask you to
sign a form indicating that you will be donating the transcripts as well as the tapes
to the Historical Society of the District of Columbia, And, as I’ve also mentioned
to you Judge Reid? you can let me know at some point during the interview, or
even at the conclusion of the interview, your views on whether, and how long, if
you do want your interview to be sealed, you can let me know that then.
– 2 –
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid: Thank you.
Ms. Curry: During this interview, I am going to ask you to talk about your service on the
bench here. I am also going to ask you to reflect on the District of Columbia
Court of Appeals and the Judges on this Court as they have intersected with your
career. To that end, you are encouraged, to share anecdotes, aphorisms about, and
reminiscences of, your colleagues and others because such anecdotes and
reminiscences are not likely to be preserved outside of an oral history. But first,
to give context to the full interview, I want to talk with you about how you
traveled from segregated Washington, D.C., and the schools in the District of
Columbia, to service on the highest court in the District of Columbia. So I want
to begin this interview with your earliest memories, and walk through each step of
your development, talking about your schooling, your education, career
opportunities, professional involvement, significant events, and the people who
have shaped your life and influenced you. I want to also talk about significant
court decisions in which you’ve been involved, and the legacy you hope to leave
with the Court. Now that I’ve gotten that brief introductory remark out, and I
wanted to make sure it was comprehensive, let’s begin the actual interview. And
I want to begin with, as I said, your background and schooling, and for the record,
would you please state your full name and date of birth.
I was born as Elsie Inez Virginia Smith, on April 7, 1937.
You grew up in Washington, D.C., but you were actually born in New Orleans,
Louisiana. Can you tell me about the move to Washington?
– 3 –
Judge Reid: I do not remember the move at all. I thought I came here; I was brought here
rather, when I was 4 years old. My older brother tells me that we all came here
when I was 2. Washington, D.C., was the maternal home, and after my parents
broke up their marriage, my mother traveled back to Washington, D.C., which
was her home, and where her mother and some other relatives lived.
Ms. Curry: Did you have any visits back to New Orleans? Do you have any memory of
spending any time there during your formative years?
Judge Reid: I have absolutely no memory of New Orleans, Louisiana, when I was there as a
child. Later in life I did go to New Orleans just to see the church where my father
pastored, and where I was christened along with my twin brother, but I have
absolutely no memory of those years.
Ms. Curry: Your father was a minister, you just mentioned that. What did your mother do?
Judge Reid: My mother was trained as a teacher, but when she came back here, she obtained a
position in the federal government working in the Bureau of Engraving and
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
..Ms. Curry:
Your mother was trained as a teacher; did she in fact teach any in Louisiana?
I have no idea. I just do not know. I know she taught in North Carolina, that was
probably before the marriage.
Where did your mother get her education?
From what eventually was known as D.C. Teachers College, which is now part of
UDC. At that time it was known as Miner Teachers College. And then I think
she did additional studies in North Carolina, for her Masters .
Your mother also had a master’s degree?
Judge Reid: I can’t remember whether or not she actually got the degree, but I know she
studied toward the master’s.
By the way, what were your parent’s names?
Mother’s name, Beatrice Virginia Bundy Smith. Father’s name, Sidney Randall
Dickerson Smith, Sr.
You said Washington, D.C., was the maternal home, so your mother was born in
the District of Columbia. Where was your father born?
Father was born in Lexington, Kentucky.
Do you by any chance remember their dates of birth?
No, I really don’t.
We just talked about the educational background of your mother. Could you
speak a bit about your father’s education background, if you know?
My father, I’m blocking right now as to where he attended college, but he also
was educated at Howard University Divinity School, where he earned his
Bachelors of Divinity, and then after that, he was educated at the Chicago
Theological Seminary, where he received a Masters of Sacred Theology.
By the way, what denomination is your father, or what was the church that he
Judge Reid: My father was raised in the Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist in Lexington,
Kentucky. When he met my mother, he switched to the Congregational Church,
and he pastored in the Congregational Church during his career.
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid,is there anything you can tell me about your ancestral history, maybe
the names of your grandparents, or great-grandparents, that you can recall?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 5 –
Judge Reid: The one I recall most was the maternal grandmother, whose name was Inez
Childes Bundy Murphy. She married first Mr. Bundy, who was my maternal
grandfather, who had already died when I was born, so I really did not know him,
although he was a baker here in the District of Columbia. My grandmother was
married twice. First, to Mr. Bundy, and then to Mr. Murphy. I didn’t meet Mr.
Murphy either. On the paternal side, I know the name for my paternal
grandmother, but I don’t remember too much, I never met her, and I can’t recall
whether or not she was dead by the time I was born, and I can’t recall anything
about my paternal grandfather.
Ms. Curry: You spoke of your maternal grandmother, and said that your grandfather was a
baker. Did your grandmother work?
Judge Reid: I honestly don’t know. I don’t remember any reference to her working. I know
while we were growing up she remained in the horne and actually cared for us.
How old were you when your grandmother passed away?
I was, as I recall, ih grade, somewhere along those lines.
Judge Reid, you mentioned, or described, what was certainly by the standards
back then, an extraordinary career path for blacks or African Americans. Your
father was very well educated, as was your mother. Your grandfather was a
baker. Do you know if your grandparents were the descendants of slaves, or were
they the descendants of free Negroes, as that term was used then.
Judge Reid: We have been trying to trace the history back. The only thing we know that I can
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
recall at this moment is that ancestors came to Washington, D.C., some time in
the 1880s or 1890s, maybe earlier, but they carne from Louisa County, Virginia.
And it’s not clear, at least to me, whether or not they were free ancestors or
whether or not they were enslaved.
Are you making any progress on that research?
Whenever we get the time, my twin brother and I are trying to on both sides of the
family, so it will take a little more research.
Were you influenced in any way by your grandmother? You said she stayed
home and kept you and your brothers, were you influenced in any way by her?
My grandmother was a great force in our lives, and helped to nurture my brothers
and me, so the answer is clearly yes. Not only my grandmother, but my greatuncle.
My great-uncle George. George William Childs.
In what ways was your grandmother a great influence in your life?
In overseeing our reading, making sure we got to read. And particularly in
discussing religious precepts with us and the moral standards by which we had to
Ms. Curry: I didn’t ask this question earlier when you mentioned that when your mother
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-6 –
relocated to the District of Columbia, she got a job in the federal government,
what was her job in the federal government?
Judge Reid: I’m not exactly sure. I have a feeling it was some type of clerk in the Bureau of
Engraving & Printing dealing with money. It was not a high-level job because at
that time Negroes were not being accepted at high-level positions, so I think it
was some type of clerk position.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 7 –
I know that you have a twin brother, George Bundy Smith, who is an Associate
Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, and you also have an older
brother, Sidney Randall Dickerson Smith, Jr. Are there other siblings?
When my father remarried, he and his wife adopted a son, James Roy Smith.
What was it like then, growing up as a twin, and the only girl? Did you get – let
, me finish that thought – what was it like growing up as a twin, and as an only girl,
because I presume that the brother that was adopted did not live with you.
No. He was younger, and he lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, where my father held
his pastorate for a long period of time.
Ms. Curry: So, back to this question, what was it like growing up as a twin, and as the only
girl, and did you get special treatment?
Judge Reid: Well, what was it like? It was an interesting experience in that with two brothers,
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
of course, I had to try to keep up with my brothers, and play the games that
primarily that they wanted to play, which meant stickball, football, basketball,
generally the sports that young male children play. Occasionally they would
agree to play jump rope with me, and they jumped rope with me, but a lot of my
time was spent mediating between my two brothers who often clashed. Also part
of my time, I’m told, and I really don’t remember this, was spent defending my
twin brother, making sure he was not hurt in any manner, sometimes even coming
to difficult blows with youngsters who wanted to injure him in some kind of play.
So you were the protector?
We were mutually protective. We all did a lot of protecting of each other. My
older brother played the role of the leader, trying to make sure that we were kept
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 8 –
in line, especially when we went to school, it was a long streetcar ride into church.
My older brother was generally in charge, but we all tried to be mutually
You mentioned, I know he’s your older brother, what was the difference in the
age span between the twins and Sidney.
It’s about 18 months.
Judge Reid, I want to return shortly to talking about your growing up with your
brothers, but let me ask you, did you spend summers or any time with your father
after your parents separated and as you got older?
No, we did not. In fact, we had very little contact with my father. I remember
really only one time growing up in which he came – actually two times – in which
he came to Washington, D.C., and we saw him then. One was early in my
childhood when we were still children. The second time was I guess when we
were getting close to the teenage years, but we had virtually no contact with my
father when we were growing up ..
Do you know how old you were, or do you remember, when your father died?
My father died after my mother. I believe I was in the second year oflaw school;
I want to say second year of law school.
Did you all attend the funeral?
Actually, he asked us to come down when he knew his health was failing, and we
went down and he in essence apologized for not paying more attention to us.
Then we went to the Kentucky funeral, but not the Corpus Christi funeral.
– 9 –
Ms. Curry: So there was a funeral in Kentucky because that’s where he grew up, and in
Corpus Christi because that’s where his last church was?
Judge Reid: That’s correct.
Ms. Curry: You said your father died after your mother?
Judge Reid: Yes.
Ms. Curry: When did your mother pass away?
Judge Reid: She died when I was in my first semester as a junior in college.
Ms. Curry: I want to talk about how that impacted you, but first let me ask you to talk a bit
about your mother’s influence on your life. We will talk later about the many,
many degrees – advanced degrees – you have, and now having heard you speak of ,
your mother’s training and education, I know she also was very ambitious. So
what was your mother’s influence on your life?
Judge Reid: Well, she supervised our education in large measure. Supervise -in the sense of
instilling the ground rules. Each of us was told in no uncertain circumstances that
we all could not stop our education until we had gotten the ultimate degree, which
was then considered to be the Ph.D. She looked at our report cards, she was a
member, and eventually in elementary school, the president to the Parent-Teacher
Association, so she kept close tabs on what we were accomplishing in our
education. In addition, she kept reminding us of the educational legacy, of the
family, including my father’s brilliance and his devotion to books. And the
necessity about being equally devoted to books, and making sure we were widely
read. There was also emphasis upon our writing skills, making sure we had good
writing skills, and also emphasis upon our speaking skills, making sure we had
– 10 –
good speaking skills. And I was encouraged at an early age to recite poetry, to
learn and recite poetry, which I did and also to do the oratorical contests which I
did. So basically the priority role she gave herself was making sure we were
properly educated and had the ideals of education in mind.
Ms. Curry: So you’re saying that your mother, even back then, gave all of you all the
injunction that you could not stop until you had gotten the ultimate advanced
degree, a doctoral degree.
Judge Reid: That’s right, and she would get upset if we brought in report cards that did not
reflect our abilities.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Did she demand all A’s, or just that you perform to the best of your ability, which
she knew to be substantial abilities?
Performing to the best of our abilities meant that we should all bring all A’s.
How did your mother enforce her injunctions to you?
Just verbally, constant repetition. If you didn’t want to hear it, then you achieved.
So she was a strict disciplinarian, but there was no need for corporal punishment
or anything like that; you all willingly complied with her desires for you?
Yes. The only kind of corporal punishment I can recall was when my twin
brother and I wandered into the woods near the elementary school that we
attended and the time we got lost. So when we came out, eventually there was
corporal punishment for that, but that’s about the only time Ican remember.
And that was enough to keep you on the straight-and-narrow.
You just described your mother’s influence and education and I want to ask you
about a statement that you made recently in a tribute to your brother that is
– 11 –
published in Volume 68 of the Albany Law Review. You stated that growing up
in segregated Washington you “were imbued with an understanding of the pivotal
force of education and theological precepts to one’s continuing growth as a
contributing member of society.” I believe you just described for me how your
mother communicated the importance of education, and also your grandmother.
How did they communicate the theological precepts to you and your brother?
Judge Reid: One was by giving us the oral history. My ancestors helped to bring into
existence and to mold one of the earliest black congregational churches here in
Washington, D.C., Plymouth Congregational Church. My uncle was a deacon in
the Congregational Church, and my grandmother was in the Missionary society,
so we were all imbued with the notion that every Sunday morning we had to get
up and make Sunday school and then sit through the Sunday morning service.
We were imbued with the notion that it was not just the spiritual development
here in the District of Columbia, but that we had an obligation to understand the
need for supporting missionaries in places like Africa and India. And that was
part of our moral responsibility, part of the covenant that one made with God. So
just by continuing to insist that we get up and go to church every Sunday morning
,by instilling in us what it meant to go to church and what it meant to belong to a
Congregational Christian Church, that helped instill in us some theological
precepts. My mother always had in mind once she retired to go to divinity school.
She also was one time the superintendent of the Sunday school, so we were all
into the church, if you will.
– 12 –
Ms. Curry: Did your mother actually die before retirement, so she didn’t have an opportunity
to pursue that?
Judge Reid: That’s correct.
Ms. Curry: How did you actively participate in the church? I didn’t ask “did you,” because
what you just described, you must have actively participated.
Judge Reid: Attending the Sunday school services, belonging to the youth groups, sometimes
went to camp — at that time since society was segregated, part of the integrated
experience came through the church — and it was through participation in the
youth groups, so sometimes we were sent away to summer camp, religious camp,
with white children in attendance, and that’s where we got to interact with some
of the white students.
Ms. Curry: Was that by design that you would have that interaction?
Judge Reid: Yes, definitely by design.
Ms. Curry: How did those experiences of going away and having the opportunity to interact
with Caucasian children shape you?
Judge Reid: It drove home the fact that there was a wider world out there, and that the wider
world consisted of people who were different from us. Growing up in a
segregated society, we just had the impression that it was plain black and white
with no differentiation of the white community, except the comer store was run
by a person ofthe Jewish faith, and that was about the extent of the knowledge of
differences in society ..
– 13 –
Ms. Curry: . When you attended these summer camps, what kinds of activities did you
participate in, and was there more or less equality at those camps, or still a
hierarchy, or division, of white and black?
Judge Reid: It was a good, collaborative, integrated experience. The white children were all
very friendly, and we had sing-alongs. We had discussion of missions. We had
discussion of scriptures, Bible verses, things of that sort that youngsters generally
do at religious camps.
Was the housing segregated or integrated?
That’s an interesting question. I really don’t remember.
You and your brothers attended these camps?
You mentioned your parents’ role in the development of Plymouth
Congregational Church .. Is that correct?
Actually it was ancestors. In part, my grandmother, my great-uncle, and their
siblings and people who came before them. I can’t remember all the people who
came before them.
But suffice it to say that Plymouth is a very historical church in the District of
Judge Reid: Yes, that’s correct.
Ms. Curry: And I believe that one time I read somewhere that the famous Todd Duncan either
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
performed there or was a member there.
Judge Reid: Todd Duncan was both a member and every Palm Sunday he came to sing “Open
the Gates.” He was clearly a legend within the church, and he was very faithful.
If someone asked him to perform elsewhere on Palm Sunday, he would always
tell them “No, I have to go and I’ve got to sing at Plymouth Church.”
So, in addition to actually hearing him sing, did you actually know him?
No, I didn’t know him.
You knew his son Charlie Duncan, I take it? .
I didn’t know him at the time, no. There were other people in the church who
were important, for example, Aubrey Robinson, who rose to the federal court,
sang in the choir at Plymouth.
Are there others that people reading this transcript or record whose names people
might know?
It was a church where many of the professional people in Washington went, had
their membership. I can’t recall all the names off-hand, but if! did, they would be
recognized as names today.
Ms. Curry: I believe that church at one time also was pastored by Lawrence Jones who
became the Dean of the Howard Divinity School, is that correct?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 14 –
Judge Reid: He was Interim Minister there at one point in time, but that was after I had grown
up and actually left the city for education. But Arthur D. Gray was one of the
ministers who was there when I grew up. He later became president of Talladega
College in Alabama.
Ms. Curry: You’ve spoken about your mother’s leadership in the Parent-Teacher Association,
and her leadership in the Plymouth Congregational Church’s Sunday school.
Were your mother and your grandmother involved in any political, social, or
community activities other than PTA and the church?
– 15 –
Judge Reid: As I recall, life revolved basically around the church and the school. But you
have to understand that the church was not just the church, it extended outward.
For example, the church sponsored concerts, and many of the leading artists of the
day carne and performed at the church, and of course we had to go to those
concerts. In addition, people like Benjamin Mays carne to speak at the church.
And we had a number of guest speakers who were doing things in thewider
society, so it was important from that point of view of education and
understanding what was going on in other parts of the country.
Ms. Curry: So in effect, then, the church was where, at that time, within the African
American community, the political, the social, and community activities all
Judge Reid: That’s correct. We led fairly sheltered lives. Our associates were selected for us.
In other words, we just couldn’t go and make friends with Joe Blow on the comer
or Joe Blow in 6th grade. We were literally told with whom we could associate.
That’s how tight and sheltered it was ..
Ms. Curry: Someone reading this record might infer from that that your mother and
grandmother were rather elitist.
Judge Reid: I think that would be accurate. When I was growing up, I had a different word for
it. My word was “snobs.”
Ms. Curry: But nevertheless you acquiesced in their plan for your development, although you
probably didn’t have much of a choice.
Judge Reid: No, I had no choice.
– 16 –
Ms. Curry: You say you described itas “snob,” and some people might view it as elitist, but
you now understand why they had to have such a protective range and control of
your life and plan for your life.
Judge Reid: I suppose. I guess I should also put it in a different way. One of the things we
have to understand is that mother had a light complexion and could have walked
into the wider society on many occasions. My father was very dark. We as
children were somewhere in between.
Ms. Curry: When you say your mother – just so anybody else reading this record – you mean
her complexion was very fair.
Judge Reid: That’s correct. And having grown up in that particular circle, her vision was our
associates should be the same hue. Our vision was, that’s not necessarily so, but
we had to grow up in the household in which we grew up.
Ms. Curry: I’m not sure I quite understand when you say that her view was that your
associates should be the same hue. You don’t mean in terms of complexion, but
in terms of their character and behavior traits.
Judge Reid: No, I mean hue. I mean color. In other words, the lighter the child, the more
likely she would say this is someone with whom you should associate.
Ms. Curry: Now Judge Reid, I want to clarify that point when you said “hue,” I understand
what the term “hue” means, but I want you to be clear on the record. What you
have described, as your mother’s view, was that unique to your mother or was that
a view that was pretty prevalent throughout Washington, D.C., at the time?
Judge Reid: It was pretty prevalent in the Negro community. And within that community it
was kind of a class structure based upon the hue of the skin. And you saw it spill
Ms. Curry:
– 17 –
over into the school system. For example, when the so-called “better” classes in
the Negro schools in the public sector, you could go into a room and find groups
in that room of the so-called “better” students, a majority of the lighter hue, and
that was just a part of society. The lighter you were, the more acceptable you were
in society, and the brighter you were, and it was irrational in the sense that the hue
of the skin had nothing to do with intellectual ability, but that’s the way in which
the classes were structured. And I remember that as time passed on, some of the
children who were of the light hue, and who were raised to believe they were·
intellectual giants, when they went off to college, it became clear that they were
not intellectual giants, and of course, that injured them. So it’s not something I
think the Negro community should be proud of, but it was the reality of the day in
which I grew up. And to show you how it actually hit home to us, and we only
found this out many years after the fact, but when we were in junior high school,
the valedictorian of my class turned out to be of light-skin color who was the son
of a prominent member of the medical community. Years later, when somebody
actually inspected the record, we were informed that my twin brother actually was
the valedictorian, but he was not allowed to take that position, and instead he was
switched to the salutatorian position. And that was the structure of the society. It
is not imaginable that a person of a darker hue like my twin brother would be
deemed greater intellectually than the lighter hued son of the medical expert.
How, then, did your mother communicate to you, because as I sit here and look at
you, you obviously are not the complexion of your mother, but yet she seemed to,
to use your term, imbue you with the belief and the thought that you could and
– 18 –
Ms. Curry:
would be an intellectual giant. Was there a contradiction in her, in one sense,
kind of choosing for you as friends those of the lighter hue, or saying they should
be your friends, but on the other hand saying to you, who obviously are not of the
lighter hue, irrespective of that, here’s what I know you can do and here’s what I
expect of you.
Judge Reid: I’m not sure we were perceived, I mean it sounds strange, but I’m not sure we
were perceived as being part of the darker-hued community. So in that sense, it
was a clear contradiction .. But nonetheless I think the intent was a meaningful one
in the sense that her experiences in growing up in Washington was not meant to
be used to hurt us because we were of a darker hue. And I’m not sure she even
focused on it because there were too many other things to focus on. And some of
her reaction may simply have been intuitive, and may have been learned. For
example, as we were growing up, and as my grandmother would nurture me, one
of the things that she always did that was very annoying was to pinch at my nose,
and she would say you have to pinch up your little nose, my nose was too flat, and
that constant pinching would make it less flat.
You being her child, you and your brothers being her children, she wouldn’t have
perceived of you as being the darker hue. And you benefited, I suppose, from her
associations also as the children of a fair-skinned person, you would get whatever
benefit that would flow to her.
Judge Reid: I think that was her thinking.
– 19 –
Ms. Curry: Has that phenomenon in Washington, D.C. been written about? I know it’s been
talked about more as a hush-hush and within the African American community
it’s been acknowledged to a certain degree, but has that been written about?
Judge Reid: There was a book years ago, The Black Bourgeoisie. E. Franklin Frazier, I
believe is a sociologist,captured a lot of it in his book, and I’m blocking on the
name of his book, but it has been explored, yes.
Ms. Curry: Now, .let’s move to another area. I want to talk a bit about some of the major
events that were happening in society and how they might have impacted your
growing up or your family, and Iwant to ask right now that you describe any
impact the major wars of the 20th Century – World War I, World War II, Korean
War, Viet Nam War – had on your family, if any.
Judge Reid: World War II was a time in which I was a child, and I have some remembrances,
but mainly the black curtains that had to be placed on the windows when the air
raid sounds went off. And Ialso remember having to save lard, grease, and turn it
in. Iremember the rationing –
Ms. Curry: What do you mean “turn it in”?
Judge Reid:
Ms. CUrry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Turn it in – Iguess they used it to make soap and things of that sort.
Where did you turn it in?
I can’t remember. Somewhere in the city. We had to save the lard and turn it in
at the point of receipt.
For the benefit of the record, you’re saying lard -l-a-r-d – the grease from pork?
That’s correct. And as the war began to end, in school the schoolteachers would
have the radio on and have us sit there and listen to the radio. There’s only one
– 20-
relative on the maternal side that I can recall who served in World War II. You
have to understand that war was not something that my family appreciated.
Neither of my brothers went to war; they were not involved. I think they were too
young, they were not involved in Viet Nam. But they were excused for medical
reasons, not because of opposition to the war. We grew up not particularly
appreciative of war, although we understood the need for World War II, because
we bought into the fact that there was a higher calling, and certainly the one thing
that I remember from WWII vividly were those documentaries after the war
ended, and it was clear what the Nazis had done to Jewish people, and that’s
something I will never forget and I don’t need to go to a Holocaust museum to
remember it. They were horrid pictures.
Ms. Curry: You saw them on television.
Judge Reid: No, on the movie reels. Because before the main feature occurred, there would be
the newsreels, and they were on those newsreels. We didn’t have TV when I was
growing up until later in my teen years.
Ms. Curry: By the way, what kind of home did you grow up in Washington, D.C.? Was it a
single-family home, and where in Washington did you grow up?
Judge Reid: The first home I remember is far northeast, 5206 Dix St., N.E. It was a singlefamily
detached home that had no central heating, and it was a home that
accommodated my mother, my grandmother, my great-uncle, and my two
brothers, and myself.
Ms. Curry: You grew up there through high school?
– 21 –
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Judge Reid: We grew up there until shortly after my grandmother died. As I recall, when my
twin brother and I were in the ih grade, we moved to 1023 Otis Place, N.W., so
we moved to the northwest sector of the District. I guess you could call it a
And that’s where you lived until you finished high school?
No. We stayed there for I guess a couple of years. At some point when I was at
Dunbar High School, we moved to 4th St., N.W. I’m blocking on the exact
address -1835 4th St., N.W. – but it was in the LeDroit Park area of Washington,
near Howard University, and was actually family property that previously
belonged to a cousin of mine.
Ms. Curry: I want to get back to the effects some of the major events had on your family, but
I neglected to ask, did your mother ever remarry?
Judge Reid: No.
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, did your parents or grandparents ever discuss the effects ofthe
Depression on them and how it shaped your life?
Judge Reid: Actually not. I don’t recall any discussion about the Depression. Although there
was some discussion of how their home, which was owned on Euclid St., N. W.,
was lost. I think it was the home in which my mother may have grown up or
lived at some point in her life. That may have been connected with the
Depression, but I simply don’t know.
Ms. Curry: You talked earlier about your church being the central focus of social, spiritual,
educational, and community activities. Washington, D.C., of course, is the home
– 22-
of Howard University. Were there occasions to go onto the campus for any
forums or social or cultural events as you were growing up?
Judge Reid: I spent a lot of time on Howard University’s campus. And also when I was in
high school, I volunteered at the old Freedmen’s Hospital which was near Howard
University’s campus, but the short answer is yes, we spent a lot oftime there.
And we were kind of raised with Mordecai Johnson who was one of the early
presidents of Howard University, and we used to go up, particularly around
graduation time, and listen to the speeches at graduation. So Howard was a very
important influence. And the last place that we lived, when we moved to 4th St.,
was very close to Howard so we could just walk up and be on the campus.
Ms. Curry: So the principles and precepts that you heard there reinforced what your mother
and grandmother had imbued in you.
Judge Reid: Absolutely. And then we – a lot of the professors at Howard had been held up to
us as people who had achieved, educationally speaking.
Ms. Curry: What would you describe as the most enduring memory or legacy of your parents
or your grandmother?
Judge Reid: The most enduring legacy of them? I suppose the hard work and the devotion to
religion and the need to look past this country and keep in mind the need for
mission abroad. They were very determined people. That’s about all I can say.
Determined that we grew up right, determined that we were well-educated. And
determined that we had a religious base.
– 23 –
In addition to your mother and grandmother encouraging you to read by actually
saying take a book and read it, did you often see your grandmother and mother
themselves reading?
Judge Reid: Just sitting here thinking about it, I can’t recall. I know my mother didn’t have
time to do much reading, except for the things that she had to prepare Sunday
school lessons for because she worked all day. My grandmother spent time in the
house. My most vivid memory of what my grandmother did outside of the
Ms. Curry:
cooking and the house chores was to sit with her brother, my Uncle George,
listening to the soap operas on the radio. And then she would allow us to read
stories to her.
Ms. Curry: You have described what it was like growing up as a twin and the only girl. I
want to talk a bit more about your childhood and teenage years, especially what it
was like growing up in a segregated city that was also the nation’s capital.
Judge Reid: When you took the – what I remember most is – when you took the streetcarthey
had streetcars back then – and if you went to sit by a white person – on thisone
occasion in particular, I can recall a white lady gave me such a disdainful
look that I really didn’t want to sit there, but I went and sat anyhow. That was the
atmosphere. You couldn’t go downtown to the movie theaters. You couldn’t go
into Garfinkel’s store. You couldn’t go into the National Theatre for a great part
of my childhood. When we went into the department stores, you couldn’tgo and
sit at the lunch counter. If you went into the People’s Drug Store, you couldn’t sit
at the lunch counter. So you were basically excluded from a lot of the places
where the white people went in the society.
So the streetcars were integrated in the sense that blacks or African Americans did
not have to go to the back of the bus as they were in the Deep South.
That’s correct.
But otherwise, the city was pretty much segregated as you have just described.
Clearly segregated. Yes. Division I and Division II schools. Division I for the
whites; Division II for the blacks. With respect to clothing being tried on, I don’t
remember ever trying any clothes on in the store. I may have, but I just don’t
What do you mean when you say Division I school for whites, and Division II for
blacks? What does that actually mean?
That means that we had separate lines of authority. All of the black children had
to go to schools in Division II. We had our black teachers. We had a black
superintendent. And all the white children had to go to Division I schools, so that
historically, if! read an obituary, I don’t have to think about whether or not the
person is white or black. I can tell by the school. In other words, if the obit says
“x” went to Dunbar High School, I know that that is a black person.
How did the African American community, the black community, help young
people to maintain their dignity, sense of worth, and faith in the face of that kind
of segregation and discrimination?
Judge Reid: You have to understand that the teachers that we had were all people of high
intellectual development, and most of them were highly educated beyond just the
basic college degree. But their career paths were very limited. Generally, when I
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 24-
was growing up, you could become a teacher, you could become a doctor, but you
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 25 –
couldn’t look much beyond that. So a number of the black intellectual
community ended up teaching high school in Division II, or junior high school, or
elementary school in Division II. So the teachers that we had were strong
molders of our personalities. When I was going to Dunbar, for example, we were
taught the importance of understanding and learning Latin, French, we were
grouped into a club, for example, one of the clubs was the Coleman Jennings and
Mary Jennings Club, and that was a club in which young women were grouped,
and we were instructed in things like the importance of wearing pearls and things
of that sort. So the school was also a very important nurturing ground in terms of
how one had to act within society, and what one needed to become successful in
I don’t think I can get through this interview without some of my own
commentary. So I have to just comment that you learned the lessons well,
including wearing the pearls. When we had our meeting for the Historical Society
of this Court, you came in your pearls.
I always wear my pearls.
And you have them on today.
That’s correct. Even when I go to the grocery store.
What are some of your memories of your first school, your elementary school?
What was the name of the school? Does the name of the school still exist even
though the school is not still standing?
– 26-
Judge Reid: Oh no, the school still stands and the name is still there. It’s Colonel Charles
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Young Elementary School. All of our schools were named for famous black
Where is that school?
It’s in Northeast Washington, off of Benning Road. Now you have to understand
also about where we lived, which was far Northeast. We shouldn’t have gone to
Charles Young Elementary School, but it was a school that was hand-picked for
us because it was a school that was known as a school that would mold black
children into good intellectually oriented children.
So, when you say hand-picked, again, you mean by your mother?
That’s correct. And the Principal was Martha Winston who was a very hard
taskmaster, extremely hard. Some would say mean. But she drove home her
points. Charles Young was a unique school in that we did what we called change
classes. We couldn’t stay in the same classroom all the time; we rotated around,
and we ended up with teachers whose specialty might have been reading or whose
specialty might have been literature, or whose specialty might have been math.
So it was that kind of school.
ili . And you attended that school through 6 grade. How did you get to school every
day, on the streetcar?
Judge Reid: We went on the streetcar, yes. First we had a long walk to the streetcar, and then
Ms. Curry:
we got on the streetcar and rode up to the school.
What kind of student were you at Charles Young?
I was an okay student. This was a time in which I was an asthmatic so I missed a
lot of school. And I think I started out with Satisfactory progress, and then
eventually, by the time I graduated, I was Outstanding progress.
Do you have a favorite teacher from that school?
There were a couple whose names stick with me. One was Ms. Alfred, and the
other was Ms. Burke. Ms. Burke was a person who didn’t just devote her time to
educating you in secular education. We began each day with a prayer and Bible
reading: Along the way she would also – she was my homeroom teacher – and
along the way she would also give us tidbits. For example, if you were too fat,
she wouldn’t hesitate to say. “You’re too fat, you have to lose weight.” So things
of this sort.
Lessons on how to live successfully ..
Lessons according to Ms. Burke. And then, I don’t know why Ms. Alfred sticks
in my mind, probably because she was a kind teacher, and a very pleasant lady.
But those are the two whose names immediately come to mind, in addition to Ms.
Winston. Ms. Winston played ‘a large role in our lives. I think because my
mother was the president of the parent-teacher association. And she was always·
on our case if we did something that she didn’t think we should be doing.
Did you get any special consideration because your mother was president of the
parent-teacher association, or quite the contrary – there was a higher expectation?
Judge Reid: Oh, I think there was clearly a much higher expectation. Much higher.
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 27 –
– 28-
Now, Ms. Burke, I believe it is, the one who started each day with Bible reading
and prayer. Do you believe that reinforced what you had heard at home and in the
Judge Reid: Yes, it was a natural progression. Yes.
Ms. Curry: I will ask you later about your sort of philosophy in judging, but there, of course,
Ms. Curry:
is all this controversy now about the role of prayer in schools, even if it’s studentled
prayer and not just in the school, but in any activities connected with the
school. In your judging, if this issue has come before you, or as you have read
about this issue, and being handled by other judges, what is your view on whether
there is a place in the schools for prayer, even student-led prayer?
Judge Reid: When I’m judging, I set aside my personal beliefs, and my goal is to find out what
is the law on the issue. What is the precedent that I have to follow. And that I do.
So I try to separate my personal view from what I have to do legally.
Ms. Curry: But sometimes there, I mean judges look to, as we know from court opinions,
they look to extraordinary – you look through them all, but there are exceptions,
there are all kinds of principles on which one can craft and base a decision so that
at some point that decision becomes the precedent. Roe v. Wade is sort of a good
example of that, and if it were decided today, perhaps they would find that the law
isn’t what they thought. So judges always have a way of looking beyond the
Constitution, or just the case law, and craft an opinion that that becomes the
precedent that somebody’s relying on. And ifso, if you wanted to bring your
beliefs, and say, well I know this is something that would be beneficial to the
– 29 – .
children, it would help shape their lives, and I just don’t think it’s wrong, but I
have to find the right book for that.
Judge Reid: I think, perhaps unconsciously, every judge has a background that is brought to
the table when it comes timeto writing. But that doesn’t mean that your personal
beliefs of necessity infiltrate into your thinking through the law. For ‘example, if I
‘have a First Amendment case that involves prayer in the schools, I don’t
consciously think back to my own upbringing and think well that was a positive
thing. My question is going to be what does the establishment clause say
regarding this issue? What does the free exercise clause say? And how have
those clauses been interpreted through the ages, and what is the precedent that I
must apply? So I think subconsciously there may be something that infiltrates,
but consciously, that’s not the way I approach law.
Ms. Curry: Do you remember what kinds of books you read when you were growing up,
when you were young? We talked a bit about the importance of reading in your
family. Any favorite books stand out, before your high school years?
Judge Reid: I spent an awful lot of time growing up in the public library that used to sit where
the Historical Museum is now, on ih and New York Ave., I believe it is. And I
would go in and I would get virtually any kind of books that would amuse me,
and I particularly liked the adventure-type books .. Whether it was about medical
stuff, medical fiction, or just someone coming through struggles, something that
would hold my interest, and I also loved poetry, so I read a lot of poetry books,
Wordsworth, English poets. More English poets than American poets. And the
classics. We obviously had to read the classics when we were growing up.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 30-
Were you introduced to African American writers, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, any of
the other African American —
Oh absolutely. Langston Hughes included, but particularly Paul Lawrence
Dunbar, simply because the high school I went to was called Paul Lawrence
Dunbar High School, I had to know his writings. So we read all of those. We
were schooled rather in the black intellectuals of the day, all of the Renaissance-
Judge Reid, did you travel much as a child, other than vicariously through your
reading and through people that you came in contact with?
I traveled very little as a child. I think the only travel we did, in the summers we
spent part of it in Gaithersburg, MD, with one of my mother’s friends. And then
when we had to go off to church camp. We’d travel sometimes to New Jersey.
Is that where the camps were every year?
Some of them were. They tended to be in New Jersey.
And how did you travel to New Jersey? By train or by car, someone drove you?
I want to say a bus. I have a feeling that a bus was provided for our travel, but I
really don’t remember.
You mentioned traveling to Gaithersburg to visit a friend. I guess at that time
going to Gaithersburg from Washington, D.C., would be considered quite an
Yes, it was considered going to the country, spending time in the country.
What kinds of things did you do in the country?
We helped out on the farm. The woman whom we visited was my twin brother’s
godmother who’d been in high school with my mother, and she was a teacher, and
– 31 –
she was into the church. So it was like more of the same. A structured
Ms. Curry: Did she have children?
Judge Reid: She had one child.
Ms. Curry: Well, at least you had a playmate while you were there. Now, before we talk
about high school, although we interspersed it a bit with our conversation already,
but before we talk formally about high school, is there one memory or event from
your early childhood that was so meaningful and inspiring or pleasant that you
periodically travel back there vicariously now?
Judge Reid: I can’t say that there was prior to high school. If anything, probably in a negative
way. When my twin brother was running track one day, he fell to the ground, and
that was the beginning of a long, long medical episode because they discovered
that he had an extra bone in his hip and he had serious surgery. He was
hospitalized for a long time, ended up on crutches for a long time. And then
ended up with one leg shorter than the other. So in the sense of seeing him come
through that was inspirational and also helps to explain part of my protective
mode. If you’re on crutches, it’s hard for you to defend yourself. So I think that’s
the thing that stood out most in my memory, plus the time in which they
discovered he had appendicitis, in which he was really ill and moaning and
groaning, and they finally took him to the hospital. And just as soon as the doctor
saw him, they rushed into the operating room, and they got the ~ppendix out. As
soon as they got it out, it burst. So that was a close call. So things like that I
– 32-
remember. And on the positive side, I guess what I often revisit is hearing Todd
Duncan sing “Open the Gates” on Palm Sunday, and I go back there quite often.
Were you and your twin brother ever competitive? You’ve spoken of the bond
between the two of you, and I know now that you two are very close, but were
you ever competitive?
Judge Reid: I can’t say that – I suppose in a sense we were competitive, but I don’t recall. I
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
mean, as we were growing up, we just found it necessary to stick close together,
including my older brother. So there wasn’t a great deal of competition, although
there was more between my two brothers than myself and my brothers.
By the way, whatis your brother Sidney’s profession?
He was trained as a chemist, biologist, bio-chemist, and his professional career
was spent working for Shering Plough Pharmaceutical Company, and he
eventually was director of immunology for that company. So he’s basically a
scientist. But he’s now retired and attending divinity school.
It runs through the family. Your father was a minister, your mother had an
ambition to do that, and your older brother is now pursuing that. I know you have
an extraordinary family, and I want to talk about them later in this interview. But
right now I’d like to turn our attention to your high school years. You attended –
No, junior high school.
Oh, I’m sorry. I certainly did. I went directly from 6th grade to -let’s talk about
junior high school. Where did you go? Is that school still standing?
Yes, I went to Banneker Junior High School, Benjamin Banneker. It is now a
high school, but back in those days it was a junior high school.
– 33 –
Is that the same location?
Still the same location. That was a very important location for us because we
were not only educated at Banneker Junior High, but we also played tennis on the
courts. They had this great recreational facility, and we spent a lot of time there
playing tennis, in particular, with one of the ministers from Plymouth
Congregational Church, Reverend Jefferson P. Rogers, who played a great role in
our lives, in molding us.
Ms. Curry: Did you have formal tennis lessons?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Judge Reid: No. We just liked to play tennis.
Ms. Curry: What else is significant about your junior high years, and who were your favorite
teachers from that time?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Junior high school. I honestly don’t remember too many teachers from junior
high school. I just remember that we worked fairly hard. One of the teachers
who was there was Ms. Whitehead. Ms. Whitehead-
Thelma Reid Whitehead?
Thelma Reid Whitehead. And that’s in part why I remember Banneker – because
of Mrs. Whitehead. Mrs. Whitehead was married to Dr. Whitehead, and you see
what he’s achieved in educational circles, so it radiated out from there.
Dr. Whitehead was at one time president of Miner Teacher’s College.
That’s correct.
Did Mrs. Whitehead teach you mathematics?
I can’t recall what she taught. I just remember that she was an important
– 34-
Ms. Curry: I actually think that was her subject. For the record, we both know that I knew
her very well. Other than Mrs. Whitehead, are there any others that stand out in
your mind from Banneker?
Judge Reid: Not really. But now to segue into high school, that was an important influence on
me. First of all, I went there without my twin brother because he was sent off.
Ms. Curry: My next question is, I wanted to talk about, you’re ready to go there now, right?
Well, my next question to you is, from recent comments published in the Albany
Law Review in tribute to your brother, you noted that your twin brother, Judge
Smith, attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, while you, of
course, attended Dunbar. Did you feel that your brother was being given a better
opportunity by being sent to an integrated private high school, while you
remained in an all-black high school here in the city?
Judge Reid: No, actually. That thought never entered my mind. I didn’t particularly
appreciate the separation, but I had no sense that he was going to a better school,
because we knew that Dunbar was a great school, and as I went through my
training at Dunbar, we’d talk about the training he was going through at Andover,
I didn’t have the sense that my education was that much inferior to what he was
getting at Andover.
Ms. Curry: Would you talk about Dunbar a bit. Again, for the record, the readers may not
know the history of Dunbar, and why you say we knew that Dunbar was a great
school. Why would you make that statement?
Judge Reid: Dunbar was carved out as the school for young black children who would go on
to college. It was like a college preparatory school. Historically, giants have
– 35 –
Ms. Curry:
gone through the school, including Charles Hamilton Houston, and it was known
as a great place, had great teachers, historic teachers. And they worked us hard.
They worked us very hard. And we were given a classical education. As I said
before, we were grounded in Latin, grounded in French. Our science classes were
good classes. We were particularly grounded in literature, including English
literature. Stress was put on writing, writing skills, and all that, so that by the
time I had to go to college, I spent a year at Howard, and I had to take the
entrance exam to see where I would be placed in terms with my English, and I
was put in the advanced classes. When I transferred later to Tufts University,
they asked me to submit to testing again, to see whether or not I should go back
and pick up first year English classes, and then as a result of my test scores, they
placed me in advan~ed literature. I didn’t have to go back and take all that
English, so we had very good preparation in high school for writing and also in
the literary area.
Ms. Curry: I have read somewhere, or heard, that many of the teachers and instructors at
Dunbar in fact had terminal degrees. Is that true?
Judge Reid: Yes, they were highly educated. Obviously all of them had the basic college
degree, but some also had the Master’s and some also had the Doctorate degree. I
said earlier it was the only place that they could look to for a career, other than
being a dentist or a medical doctor.
We’re going to talk a bit more about Dunbar, but let me askyou about this
separation from your brother. Did you suffer separation anxiety during the first
year of separation?
– 36 –
Judge Reid: I think that’s probably true, but my older brother was there at least for that first
year, because he hadn’t yet finished high school and gone away to college. He
helped a great deal to get me more acclimated to life without George.
Ms. Curry: Dunbar High School is of course famous because so many of its graduates have
made such significant contributions to society. You just mentioned Charles
Hamilton Houston, whose name, I think, any boy, you hope, would recognize.
And I know that Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton was your classmate at
Dunbar, as was Judge Annice Wagner, who is the Chief Judge of this Court. Can
you name any other classmates and their contributions to society, or any other
schoolmates, not necessarily classmates.
Judge Reid: One person stands out in mind, and she was actually one of the valedictorians of
her class, and she stands out because she was one of the first people I saw when I
entered kindergarten at Charles Young Elementary School, and that’s Yvonne
Williams. Her father was Bishop Williams of the Bible Way Church. She and I
were very friendly as we went through school. She’s one who stands out, and she
ended up being in the foreign service for a while, and going on to law school.
And since her father has passed away, she plays a major role in the Bible Way
Church, particularly in terms of the buildings outside of the church, their
apartment house and the grocery store, the supermarket that they have. We had a
couple of fellows – Raymond Johnson and Richard Tyler – who went on to
become doctors. We have a host of people who went on to become teachers. But
the thing that stands out in my mind is that most of the people in my high school
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 37-
class went on to college, and that was the design. I think they’ve all had
successful careers.
We’re almost to the end of the tape, and given the time, we have been going at
this for well over an hour-and-a-half. We will end today’s session, and we will
begin the next session with your continuing to talk about some of your high
school experience, getting into college, and law school, and some of your other
training after that if that’s fine with you.
Yes, that’s fine. Thank you.
Thank you.
– 38 –
Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
Second Interview
July 28, 2005
This is the second interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid, Associate
Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the Oral History Project of The
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry of
The Curry Law Firm PLLC. The interview took place in Judge Reid’s Chambers at the Carl
Moultrie Courthouse, at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry: Good morning, Judge Reid.
Judge Reid, when we stopped the last time, we were discussing your attendance at
Dunbar High School. In fact, we were just beginning to discuss your high school
years, and I want to pick up with that today. You talked during the last interview
about Dunbar’s rigorous academic program. Will you tell me what kinds of
extracurricular activities Dunbar offered its students?
Judge Reid: There was a whole range of them. I participated in oratory, entering oratorical
contests. I also participated on the basketball team. I worked on the school
newspaper as I recall. So those are some of the things that I can recall that I did.
In addition, I think I mentioned the last time, the Mary and Coleman Jennings
Club that we had at Dunbar, which was kind of a club for young ladies who
excelled and who were thought to have some potential for being the future. We
were, in a sense, groomed for the future.
Ms. Curry: Would you explain a little bit about how you were groomed. That was not where
you were taught – that was junior high – when you were taught about the pearls
and all that, right?
Judge Reid: I think that was high school. I have to go back and check. It was with
Ms. Hundley, the French teacher, and I can easily check when I go home this
– 39 –
evening whether she was a French teacher in junior .high or high school, I think it
was high school.
Ms. Curry: Would you talk a little bit about why you chose the oratorical activity, and I’m a
bit surprised about basketball.
Judge Reid: I talked about my two brothers with respect to the basketball, and we spent a great
deal of time playing basketball, and it was just a natural part of me. I have always
enjoyed basketball, I’ve particularly enjoyed playing basketball. I used to spend
long hours on the court shooting baskets and developing a long-range shot, so for
me that was simply a natural. Now, the oratory came as early on I was
encouraged to do such things as learn poems and recite those poems in public. So
when I got to high school, the oratorical contests were considered a natural for
me. I enjoyed first of all preparing the speech for the oratorical contest and then
memorizing that speech, and then delivering it. It was just a challenge for me.
Ms. Curry: Did you write your own speeches?
Judge Reid: I wrote my own speeches, yes. And generally they were about some provision
within the Constitution.
Ms. Curry: So you’ve always had an interest in the Constitution?
Judge Reid: Yes.
Ms. Curry: Did you win any of those contests?
Judge Reid: I usually prevailed at Dunbar, and then went on to the district-wide competition
here in the District of Columbia. The first year I came out in second place when
many of the people thought that I had actually prevailed there and there were of
course persons in our community who talked about the racism of the event. I also
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 40-
werit to district-wide my senior year in college, and I think I came out in third
So, at the district-wide contest, you competed against white students.
Yes, absolutely. All of the high schools in the District sent a representative. And
of course I got the medals from all of that.
Judge Reid, let me ask you again about basketball. Did Dunbar have a girls’
basketball team at that time?
Yes we did, and in fact, I recall that one of my English teachers, Mr. Tignor, took
me aside at one point and strongly suggested that I should not be playing
basketball because the basketball team was not for young women of my caliber,
and Ifound it quite amusing.
And by that, he meant of your academic caliber.
That’s correct.
Did you work during high school, either after school or during the summers?
I did volunteer work at the Freedmans Hospital, which is now Howard University
Hospital. I know I did some maid work, and I think that was also in high school,
or it was in junior high school, and I think it continued through high school also.
Was this for whites or for African Americans?
No, actually the one person I remember doing it for was the person who was the.
former principal at my elementary school. I should also say that as I graduated
from Dunbar and went on to college, I spent – and I can’t remember if! started
before I actually finished Dunbar – but eventually I worked as the church
– 41 –
secretary for the minister of my church, who at that time was Reverend
Jefferson P. Rogers.
Ms. Curry: Your work as a maid for your former principal, that was more or less as a favor to
her? Or did you need the money?
Judge Reid: The family always needed the money. I can’t remember whether or not she asked
for me or whether I was put forward as one who could do the job.
Ms. Curry: I believe you were in high school when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Bd.
of Education, is that correct?
Judge Reid: Let me just go back to one position I forgot. My twin brother and I did go off to
camp, I think it was two summers, where we worked at that particular camp. And
I did waitressing and maid’s work .as well at that camp.
Ms. Curry: Where was this camp?
Judge Reid: It was up in New Hampshire, on Lake Winnepesauke.
Ms. Curry: How did you get that position?
Judge Reid:” Honestly, I can’t remember exactly, but I think it had something to do with the
church. It may have been through a reference from the church.
To your other question about being in high school when Brown v. Bd of
Education was decided, yes, that is correct. The decision came down in 1954, at
which time I would have been in my second year of high school. I remember the
date vividly because the gong sounded, and that meant that the principal was
about to come on the loudspeaker system. He did, and he announced that the
Supreme Court had decided Brown v. Bd of Education and ruled that the schools
should be desegregated. At the time I was in a classroom of Ms. Bertha O’Neil
– 42-
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
who was one of my English teachers, and she just stopped, and tears came to her
eyes, and she made the statement to us ,”Now I can retire in peace.” So it was a
momentous day for us all.
Ms. Curry: You just described one of your teacher’s reaction. What was your reaction to the
decision, and what effect, if any, did it have on your life at that time?
Judge Reid: It did not have any real impact on my life at that time because I knew I would be
staying at Dunbar High School because at that point in time it was closest to the
place that we were then living. In the next year, one white student attended
Dunbar. After they published the statistics in the newspaper indicating the racial
breakdown after the 1954 decision, that one white student disappeared. So I’m
sure his parents must have seen that he was the only white child in the school, and
he was removed from that school.
Ms. Curry: Did you have a sense that your life or educational opportunities would somehow
be changed by the ruling?
Judge Reid: I had a sense that there would be a broader horizon that I might be able to look at.
One of the other impacts that I should mention is a cultural impact. For our
athletic events we had a song that we sang called “Give me that good old Dunbar
spirit” sung to the tune of one of the Negro spirituals. And we were told that after
Brown was decided that that song would no longer be appropriate. So we had to
cut it out of our repertoire.
Who told you that the song would no longer be appropriate?
That came from the principal’s office.
Why would it not be appropriate?
– 43 –
I have no idea why it was not appropriate.
The African American spiritual that it was sung to the tune of would be “give me
that old time religion.”
Judge Reid: That’s right.
Ms. Curry: Do you recall what the school song was changed to?
Judge Reid: No, I don’t.
Ms. Curry: Even though your brother George was at a different high school, did the two of
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
you discuss and analyze the Brown opinion?
Judge Reid: I can’t exactly recall, but we must have had some discussion ofthe opinion and
the impact of the opinion and the importance of the opinion. Of course we read
the opinion in some detail, we followed the newspapers. And I guess the burning
question we had was what would be President Eisenhower’s reaction in terms of
the political arm of the American government, would he take a leadership position
in making sure that the country followed the lead of the Supreme Court. And of
course we followed the beginning resistance to the implementation of the opinion.
Ms. Curry: You described the reaction of one of your teachers, but what was the general tenor
among the students and other teachers when the opinion was handed down?
Judge Reid: I think everybody in the school knew that something historic had just happened.
What that would mean for Dunbar was another question. I think there was some
apprehension that things might change and that some of the brighter students who
went to Dunbar would suddenly be farmed out to other high schools across the
town, particularly closer to the homes to which they lived.
– 44-
Were there any forums or discussion groups at the school or within the black
community to analyze the opinion?
Judge Reid: I don’t recall any such discussions, but there probably were. Right now I don’t
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
have any recollection.
Was there any kind of celebration at Dunbar?
Idon’t recall any celebration. Just a sense that something momentous had
occurred and we needed to prepare ourselves for whatever direction it would take
You described, a bit, your activities at Dunbar. Did you graduate from high
school with honors?
Judge Reid: I was on the honor roll and a member of the National Honor Society. I was not
valedictorian or salutatorian of my high school class. I guess I should say on the
record that I had what one might call a rebellious streak where I was tired of being
told that an A- was not acceptable and I should always bring home an A. So in
my own way I think I slowed down my momentum in high school.
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry: Was there a favorite high school teacher, or someone who greatly influenced your
Judge Reid: There were a number. Ms. Bertha McNeil was one, the English teacher about
whom I spoke a little while back. Also Ms. Brown who was in charge of the
oratorical contestants who was kind of a down-home woman but who always had
the welfare of the students at heart and who wanted students to really excel. My
homeroom teacher, Ms. Herbert, because of her patience especially during a
period in which I was evidencing some desire to rebel against having to perform
– 45-
at such a high level. I remember one time she brought this little bird to me who
had died and asked me to take the bird home and to stuff the bird so that it could
be a stuffed bird and be on display, which I complied with and actually had a
challenging time stuffing the bird.
Ms. Curry: You’ve talked about your minor rebellious period. One would hardly think that
receiving an A- would be rebellious, but were you required in high school still to
take your report card home and share it with your mother?
Judge Reid: Absolutely. All the report cards went to the home. I can’t remember whether or
not they were sent to us, or whether or not they were given out at the parentteacher
meetings ..
Of course your mother was still very involved in the school.
Yes. Definitely.
. How big was your graduating class?
I can’t remember how many students there were, Lean check that for you. But it
was a fairly sizeable class.
Do you recall what caption was reflected in your high school yearbook
underneath your senior picture?
Judge Reid: No I don’t. It probably listed the activities in which I was involved.
Ms. Curry: I had in mind something like “most likely to succeed,” “first African American
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
woman on the Supreme Court” or something like that. You know how sometimes
those kinds of things are reflected.
– 46-
Judge Reid: I don’t recall, but I’ll ask my sister-in-law to dig out the yearbook. I no longer
have mine; I don’t know where it is. But I’ll ask her to dig it out and to read what
it says.
I’d like you to do that because I would like to know if it pretty accurately
describes you.
Were you and the Chief friends in high school?
Judge Reid: In the sense that I was friendly with anyone, I guess the answer is yes. We were
of course in the same school and in the same classes, so she was definitely a part
of my high school life. I think there were a couple of other people with whom I
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
may have had closer relationships, closer in the context that I use that word, not
extremely close.
In high school did you have several sections or just one section?
There was more than one section.
How many were there?
I don’t remember off-hand how many there were.
But it was a large high school?
Yes, it definitely was a large high school. The physical building no longer exists,
but the new Dunbar High School was just about on that site. If you see pictures of
the old Dunbar High School, you see that it is a huge building. Not unlike what is
now Cordoza High School.
We are about to move to that college period. Is there anything else that you
would like to tell me about your experience at Dunbar?
– 47-
Judge Reid: No, only to emphasize the richness of the academic curriculum. I don’t think: I
was disadvantaged at all by attending Dunbar. Not only the richness ofthe
academic curriculum, but also the dedication of the teachers.
Ms. Curry: Are there any of your high school teachers still alive? Is Dr. Paul Cook, is he
Judge Reid: I don’t know. I know Ms. McNeil died several years ago and I have heard
nothing about the other teachers. I’ll probably find out at reunion. We have a
reunion coming up in September.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Let’s move to college years. When the time came for college, did your mother
have any concern about how she would finance your brother’s and your
education, or did you earn scholarships?
There was always a concern about finances because we knew we couldn’t go
without some kind of financial support. This is one of the reasons why I elected
to go to Howard in my freshman year rather than going directly to Tufts
University where I had been accepted. I worked as the church secretary in order
to save money to be able to go to Tufts the second year. Yes, that was a
consideration because by that time my older brother was at the University of
Connecticut and my twin brother would be going off to college and we knew that
he would get his scholarship aid. But at any rate, there was no money that could
be coming from the home to support any of us in college.
Did you have any financial aid from the college?
I had my scholarship to Howard, which took me through the freshman year and
enabled me to save what I earned as a church secretary for Tufts. When I went
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
off to Tufts that second fall, I actually had just enough money to get through the
first semester to pay tuition, and then I did well the first semester and the
University, it was a college at the time, put me on scholarship the second
So you had every intention when you entered Howard of transferring to Tufts?
You never entered Howard with the expectation or the intention to graduate from
That was my general intent, to leave Howard at the end of the freshman year.
Although I left open the door to the possibility that I would stay there for four
. years, but then I decided it would be better for me to really try to make Tufts
during the second year. You may ask why you think it would be better.
That was exactly my question.
As I went through Howard, and I enjoyed the year, but as I went through Howard
and took the exams, in some of the courses I was receiving 96, 98, and I didn’t
think that the exams I wrote were worthy of a 96 or a 98, and so therefore I
concluded that I needed a much more challenging atmosphere. And the one
exception was English. I had an English instructor by the name of Miss Pitts and
she worked us to the bone and had the reputation for working students extremely
hard .. She was demanding. So I think her curriculum, the curriculum she gave us,
plus her standard for evaluating that curriculum, was exactly what I needed.
Howard was at one time considered the capstone of the African American
colleges and indeed much has been written about it having the dream team at one
– 49-
time with some of the best minds in the country there. Is it your sense that things
had changed, or were beginning to change, by the time you arrived there?
Judge Reid: That’s my sense that Howard may have had financial problems, and those
financial problems couldn’t attract the brightest lights of the day. I remember in
one class we were all stunned when the professor came in and simply announced
to the class, “I can no longer donate my services to this University,” and she
walked out, and that was the end. We never saw her again. So I have a feeling
that there may have been some administrative things going on there which
interfered with the academic offerings. But certainly I didn’t have the experience
of being taught by Alain Locke, which was my image of Howard University. On
the other hand, I think that particularly in the English area and the debate world I
had an excellent foundation. I joined the Debate Team, and I can’t even
remember who was the debate coach, but that person was exceptional in terms of
molding a good debate team and we had some very good students on that debate
Ms. Curry: I was actually thinking Alain Locke and others who were there with him when I
mentioned the dream team.
Was Tufts everything you hoped it would be, and ifso, how so, and in what ways
was it not?
Judge Reid: Tufts was actually more than I had expected. I thoroughly enjoyed the three years
that I was there. It was a very challenging atmosphere. At the same time it was
not an atmosphere in which the students were competitive to the extent that they
would tear pages out of the book so that you couldn’t get access to them. It was
– 50-
an interesting atmosphere. Let me just describe for you my first impression when
I got there. I was actually greeted at the door of my dorm by the Dean of Jackson
College. Jackson College was the women’s part of Tufts University, although the
classes were integrated male/female. The Dean greeted me and escorted me to
my room which was a single room on the second floor of a small dorm hall,
Richardson House. I discovered that there was one other black female in that
dormitory. Within weeks she had moved out because she considered that there
was not room enough there for two black people within the dorm. On the third
floor of the dormitory were housed all Jewish students, which also was another
interesting phenomenon only because at that time the University not only had
very few black students but also Jewish students. But as I got into the academic
atmosphere of the school, it was really great for me. My mindset was to get as
wide an education and as broad an education as I could. Although I majored in
sociology with a minor in psychology, I had a heavy emphasis upon English and
speech and took courses in philosophy, even biology, so I wanted to get as much
as I could out of it. During my time there, I worked in the library. The ladies in
the library were all very kind to me and it was like a second horne for me working
in that library. Extracurricular activities, of course I joined the Debate Team. I
was on the tennis team and played intramural sports at Tufts. But I liked Tufts
because it emphasized not only the need to be educated while we were there but
also the need for continuing education. It also suggested to us that there was a
broader horizon and that was the international horizon that we could not lose sight
of. In addition, it had at that time the Crane Theological School there which was
also satisfying to me because it afforded a grounding that I was familiar with. So
Tufts was much more than I ever expected, and I also was able to work on the
school newspaper as an additional activity.
Who was the black female? What was her name?
The only name I remember was Terry, the first name. Terry Williams, I think it
was. And she came out of New York. I’m not sure what her problem was, but we
of course never did have a close relationship. My closest black student lived in
another dorm, and that was Eleanor Turpin whose home actually was in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I stayed with her sometimes when I was not able
to go home on breaks like Thanksgiving break.
Where did the black student move when she moved out of the dorm?
She moved to another dormitory, I cannot remember which dorm it was, but it
was another one.
Ms. Curry: You mentioned you had a single room. Did all students have single rooms?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 51 –
Judge Reid: No, but all black students did.
Ms. Curry: Why was that?
Judge Reid: I think it was part of the setting, the historic setting. It was not usual for Tufts to
have black students then, so we were kind of treated as though it were unusual.
For example, just to give you a feel for it, when I went to meals sometimes,
especially dinner, and we were waiting in the line to get into the dining room,
white students would come up to me, feel my skin, and touch my hair. Many of
them had never been around black people, and as I traveled on the Debate Team
to places like Maine arid Vermont and New Hampshire, people in the town would
– 52-
Ms. Curry:
just stop and stare at me and it was explained to me that some of those folk up
there had never seen a black person.
Ms. Curry: So although you were considered an oddity in some respect, you feel that you
were treated fairly.
Judge Reid: Generally, yes, I was treated fairly at Tufts. The one thing that bothered me a
little bit was that I had to almost lean over backwards in making it clear that I was
African American, a Negro, born in the United States. Often people would say
“where are you from,” and I would say Washington, D.C., and they would say,
“No, where are you really from, are you from India?” So it was like they were in
denial that I as a black American could come to a place like Tufts and excel.
Well actually, Judge Reid, there’s a bit of that still going on in the country. The
blacks who excel are generally believed to be from the West Indies, and they
certainly started that with Colin Powell and some of the others, so I think it still
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
goes on even today.
You mentioned that there were only a few black students at Tufts. Do you know
how many black students were there when you were there?
Judge Reid: In my class there were three women – myself, Eleanor Turpin, and Terry
Williams. Males, there was Basil Ince, who was from Trinidad. He excelled
academically and in track. And there were a couple of other fellows, I think some
did not finish, but there was no more than a handful, not even ten.
Have you and Eleanor kept in touch?
I actually lost sight of her 20,25 years ago. But I know she taught History, I can’t
remember if it was at Howard, someplace close by, but then I lost track.
– 53 –
Ms. Curry: What, or who, were some of the major influences on you at Tufts?
Judge Reid: Professors, I would say in the Sociology department, there was one, I’m blocking
on his name, but he was a major influence on me academically speaking, and then
there was a second sociology professor, but the one that I have in mind, I sat in
his Social Problems class when I was there, and he was on a unit dealing with
segregation, and he made the comment that segregation was functional, and I was
astounded by the comment and I immediately challenged him which is something
I don’t often do, and I said, “Well to me, it’s dysfunctional.” He looked at the
blackboard and he thought for a while, it was clear it was the first time he’d ever
thought that maybe that theory was not an accurate theory. And from that
moment on, he became like an academic mentor for me, and I remember taking
Social Theory from him one year and it was just a delightful course. We went
into a number of theoretical writings and sat around discussing those writings. So
he was one. The Dean, Katherine Jeffers, the Dean of Jackson, was also very
important to my life. She was the person who saw that after the first semester I
was placed on scholarship. The tragedy of it all was that in my senior year, as I
was going off to defend my senior thesis, I learned that she had committed
suicide. So that was a blow. I’m not sure how I got through my senior thesis
defense. She was very important. The ladies in the library with whom 1worked
were also very important for me. And then I had a couple of friends, actually
three students there, with whom I still remain friendly to this day. Susan Nichols,
who was the daughter of a Geology professor; Judy Dallas, who was from
Greenfield, Massachusetts, and Liz Bantel, who was from New Jersey. And the
– 54-
interesting thing about Liz is that she had German ancestors, and I remember one
year she invited me home, and her father never came into the house while I was
there. I found that very interesting and telling. But whenever I went to Judy’s
house, both of her parents were very welcoming people.
A couple of questions, for the benefit ofthe record, can you spell Eleanor’s name? .
I wanted to ask you about the professor whom you challenged. Were you
surprised that he responded positively rather than negatively in response to your
challenging him?
Actually I wasn’t because I pictured him as a very thoughtful, highly educated
person, and I was not surprised by his reaction. I was happy about it, but not
Ms. Curry: You mentioned three women with whom you formed life-long friendships.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Where are these women now, and what are they doing?
Judge Reid: Sue is in Florida. She had to retire because she has some kind of an ailment, so
she’s no longer working. Judy, I think, is close to retired. She taught math at
community colleges up in New Hampshire. Liz retired early. She manages a
family portfolio. She also, I think, was a math major and she worked for A&T, I
think, for a number of years.
Ms. Curry: I would like you to talk a bit more about your experience at Tufts because what
you described is a faculty and an administration that were open and welcoming,
but a student body that in some respects saw you as an oddity. Were most of the
students at Tufts from the New England area or from all over the U.S.?
– 55 –
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Judge Reid: I would say that the vast majority were from New England, although there was a
heavy contingent from the New York area and just a few from the mid-Atlantic
states. I can’t recall anyone from the Deep South, it was basically New England,
and there were also some day students from Massachusetts.
Describe the student body at Tufts in terms of the major interests of the students.
That might be hard to describe. There was a group there that was interested in
law, and an even larger group that was interested in medicine. In fact a number of
the young men went to Tufts because they wanted to go to Tufts Medical School.
The women generally had sights on a teaching career, ifthey had any such sights.
A few were also interested in law and medicine, and some just wanted to mold
themselves to be good homemakers. So it was a fairly diverse student body in
terms of interests.
Ms. Curry:· I asked you earlier about the atmosphere for blacks at Tufts when you were there.
Could you talk now about how the faculty and student body responded to the
national events of the day, such as the civil rights movement.
Judge Reid: As I recall, at Tufts there was not that much of a discussion of what was going on
nationally. We were more into what was happening internationally. You have to
get the picture of Tufts being within a larger community, and by that I mean Tufts
was surrounded by other academic institutions. Harvard had a great influence on
Tufts and we got in as instructors some people who also taught at Harvard, and
sometimes there was an exchange, especially in international relations, and I
remember that there was a great emphasis upon what was going on internationally
– 56 –
Ms. Curry:
-.:R:. ussia, China, etc. – and less of an emphasis on what was going on nationally
with respect to the civil rights movement.
Ms. Curry: You mentioned earlier your college thesis and I didn’t ask at that time and want to
ask you now, what was your college thesis about?
Judge Reid: I honestly cannot remember the name of the thesis as we sit here, but that’s
something I will check and have for you the next time. My vague recollection is
that it had something to do both with unions and with the role of blacks within the
unions, but don’t hold me to it. I will check and have it for you the next time and
we can talk about it.
In the recent tribute to your twin brother that was published in the Albany Law
Review, you stated that while home from college during the summer of 1958, you
and your brother George had an opportunity to attend an argument in the Supreme
Court on the case of Cooper v. Aaron, a Brown progeny that examined whether
acts of violence spawned in the wake of the mandate of Brown were sufficient to
constitute a legal basis to suspend the court’s order to integrate public schools in
Little Rock, Arkansas. Would you describe how you came to attend that ‘
Judge Reid: You have to understand that at this point in history, the resistance to Brown v. Bd
of Education was building and you would see pictures of the reactions in the Deep
South where some of the individuals, the mothers, fathers, what have you, and the
exaggerated fears that were captivating white people in the South, and there was
violence. So as the violence began to escalate, I guess George and I developed an
even greater interest in what was going on. Then when we heard that the Little
– 57-
Rock, Arkansas case, Cooper v. Aaron; would be heard by the Supreme Court, we
naturally, with George’s leadership, wanted to see if we could get in to hear that
argument mainly because Thurgood Marshall would be one of the attorneys who
would argue the case. So that was a meaningful experience for us if we could get
in. So we arrived at the court very, very early and ultimately we were fortunate
enough to get into the actual Supreme Court hearing, and I think we sat there kind
of mesmerized when Thurgood Marshall got up to speak because, as I recall, no
justice on the Supreme Court interrupted him during his argument, and it was
simply an eloquent argument. I can’t tell you word-for-word what he said, but the
impression he left was a long-standing impression that it was just an excellent job.
Ms. Curry: Did you share that experience with anyone at college when you returned?
Judge Reid: I really can’t remember. I’m sure I discussed it with someone, but I simply can’t
You graduated from Tufts in 1959, magna cum laude, so is it fair to say that the
education and preparation you received at Dunbar prepared you well for the
academic program at Tufts?
Judge Reid: Yes, I think that’s definitely fair to say, and as I emphasized before, when I
arrived at Tufts, Tufts found out that I had not taken the basic English 1 course at
Howard, which is the Composition and Writing, so they asked me to sit for an
examination so they could determine whether or not I could skip and go right into
the advanced courses and begin English Literature, and I was able to satisfy them
that I had the capacity to go directly into the English Literature courses and I did.
I think Dunbar prepared me exceptionally well for Tufts.
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 58 –
Let me ask one other question about your attending the Supreme Court argument
in Cooper v. Aaron – did you have a chance to meet Mr. Marshall that day or any
of the lawyers?
Was that your first time attending an argument in the Supreme Court?
Yes. It was the first time, I think, that I had ever been in the Supreme Court,
although I used to study at the Library of Congress which is right next to the
Supreme Court. Not physically attached, but next to it.
I’m going to ask you later to focus on your reaction to the events of the 1950s and
1960s, but now I want to ask, other than the Brown opinion and attending the
argument of Aaron v. Cooper, are there are other major events during your late
teens and early 20s that helped shape the person you have become?
I guess I would have to say that the impact of the death of my mother when I was
first semester, junior year in college had a lasting impact because it signaled the
fact that we were now all independent, meaningfully independent.
Your mother’s passing away signaled that you were independent, but how else did
it impact you, and did it impact your studies at all?
Yes, in a sense that it became more compelling to do exceedingly well and to
carry out the mandate that we had been given to continue our education until we
had reached which was then deemed to be the pinnacle, and that is to get the
Ph.D ..and it was clear that the road would not be an easy road but that it had to be
Had your mother been ill before she died?
She had a sudden massive heart attack. We always knew that she had a heart
problem, but this was totally unexpected.
Who contacted you?
Fortunately, my older brother had, after he finished the University of Connecticut,
returned home and enrolled in the graduate program at Howard University, so he
was there in the house. And, unfortunately, George was over in Paris studying.
He was still in college? Where did George attend college?
He went to Yale.
So he was there on a semester program?
He was there for a year.
I know that your mother’s passing was hard on you, but I suppose it helped a lot
that you had a strong bond with your brothers.
Absolutely. We wouldn’t have gotten through it without each other.
I know you served on the Board of Trustees of Tufts University from 1988 to
1998, and I know also that Tufts honored you for that by bestowing the Tufts
University chair upon you, or I suppose that is what it did. What is a Tufts
University chair, or what does that honor mean?
Judge Reid: It signals the end of one’s tenure as an active trustee, and the chair is given to you
as a token of thanks in recognition of the long years of service that you gave to
Tufts University.
Ms. Curry: Has your college recognized in any other way your accomplishments, that is by
inviting you to speak or bestowing an honorary degree upon you?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
.Ms. Curry:
– 59-
– 60-
Judge Reid: I have the Tufts University Distinguished Service medal for my career work. I’ve
been asked to speak at Tufts on a number of occasions, and in fact have spoken
there. And in addition, I have mentored some of the students from Tufts
University. For example, two or three summers ago we had James Christian
Blockwood, an African American student who was actually the Student Body
president to come and to be an intern in my office for a summer. That was a very
good experience.
Ms. Curry: What’s the ratio of African American students at Tufts now?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
It’s a much higher ratio than when I was there, but it is still small. And in fact
while I was a trustee, this is something that we tried to work on repeatedly to
increase the size of the class of African Americans, and that has now been
accomplished. There are many more in the classes going through now than there
were even when I was on the Board of Trustees. I can’t give you hard numbers.
My recollection is that it was probably less than 5-10%.
I didn’t ask – I made an assumption – but I’d like to know for the record. Of
course you had no African American professors when you were at Tufts?
When I was at Tufts, there were no African American professors until my senior
year when we got in a psychology professor, Bernard Halstead. But by that time
it was too late for me to take him for any class. He subsequently left and became
president of City College of New York. And before that, he rose into the higher
administrative positions at Tufts University. So he did very well.
Do you know what his background was when he came to Tufts?
No I don’t.
– 61 –
Ms. Curry: How many African American professors are there now?
Judge Reid: There are not that many. There’s Gerald Gill, who seems to be the mainstay.
And there may be a couple of others. There was one, Pearl, I’m blocking on her
last name; I’m not sure that she’s still there. But I had met her in professional
Ms. Curry: How is it that you came to be appointed to the Board of Trustees?
Judge Reid: That’s a good question. I’m not sure I recall how I came to be appointed to the
Board of Trustees at Tufts. No, now I remember. I went on first as an alumni
trustee. In fact, Steve Vermeil, who now teaches at American University’s
College of Law, and he used to be a reporter on The Wall Street Journal, came to
me and asked me if I would stand for election as an alumni trustee.
Ms. Curry: Is he black or white?
Judge Reid: He’s white. I stood for election and actually was elected to the Board of Trustees.
And then, when my term as an alumni trustee ended, the Board asked me to stay
on as what was known as a Charter Trustee, and I did stay on as a Charter
Ms. Curry: Do you have any particular area or responsibility as a Trustee?
Judge Reid: I was on the Academic Committee and on the Finance Committee, and also I
served on the Search Committee to appoint one of the presidents after Jean Mayer
Ms. Curry: Am I correct that one of Mrs. Thelma Whitehead’s – your junior high school
teacher – one of her children attended Tufts?
Judge Reid: Matthew Whitehead attended Tufts.
– 62-
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry: That was after your time?
Judge Reid: No, we overlapped, I think by one or two years, because I remember he always
reminded me that I had tutored him in Philosophy and got him through the
Philosophy course. So we were there at least for one, maybe two years, together.
Matthew was just a total delight, just full of confidence, very bright guy. So I was
happy to have him on the campus.
Judge Reid, can you tell me – is there anything else you’d like to tell me, ratherabout
your experience at Tufts before we start talking about-your law school
Judge Reid: I would mention some contests which I entered; they were both poetry reading
and oratorical contests, and those were very important because they were held in
the chapel of the University and the citizens around the University were invited to
those contests. One of the things that never ceased to amaze me was the reaction
of some of the community people. Obviously some of them had not heard a black
person speak so we’d get these comments like, “Oh, this is eloquent,” and that
surprised me because, when you think of New England, you think of the people in
New England as being well-bred and sophisticated people, but that was a good
experience for me entering those poetry reading and oratorical contests, and then
winning some of the prizes.
Ms. Curry: What would be the general reaction of the students that you were competing
against when you prevailed and they did not?
Judge Reid: They didn’t seem to have a problem with it because I just had the reputation of
being a good debater and a good speaker while I was at Tufts University. In fact,
– 63 –
I think sometimes the students bent over backwards in trying to shield me from
whatever they thought they were shielding me from. I remember when it came
time for determination of who would become a member of Phi Beta Kappa, one
of the students who also studied Social Theory with me was very upset that I was
not announced as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I don’t know what kind of inside
information he had, but he said to me that you should have been a part of Phi Beta
Kappa and he actually made his feelings known to the administration. The
thought never entered my head to be bothered by not having been elected to Phi
Beta Kappa; I was just happy to be coming out of Tufts at all, let alone with
honors on the Honors Program.
Ms. Curry: You graduated magna cum laude and obviously did very well; what were the
requirements to be admitted to Phi Beta Kappa?
Judge Reid: I have really no idea, and I really didn’t have the interest to get into it. I simply
thought that if I had a shot at it, which I wasn’t even sure of, that it may have been
complicated by the fact that I didn’t spend my freshman year at Tufts, so I never
looked at it as something that was trumped up that I didn’t get to become a
member of Phi Beta Kappa, it just was not on my radar screen.
Ms. Curry: I never asked this question: How is it that you came to decide that it was Tufts
that you wanted to attend after high school, because you said that even though
you went to Howard for one year, you always intended to go to Tufts.
Judge Reid: The short answer is that while I was working up at Lake Winnepesauke at Geneva
Point Camp in New Hampshire, I met students there who spoke to me very highly
about Tufts, and my interest in Tufts was piqued because of that. So I applied
– 64-
there, but before I could clear the way for it, I had to satisfy my mother that I
really didn’t want to go to a place like Wellesley College, which in my own mind
I had pegged as a fairly snobbish school for wealthy young women, and I
defmitely was not interested in going there. When I went to the interview for
Wellesley, it confirmed my worst fears. The lady who interviewed me was a
white lady, obviously from the genteel southern society, and it was clear that she
didn’t think I should go to Wellesley, and I certainly didn’t want to go, so I think
the interview that I had with her, if nothing else, made it clear to Wellesley that I
just didn’t want to go to their school. So I actually was rejected from there. So
that paved the way for me to go to the place where I really wanted to go to.
What did this interviewer do to make it clear to you that she didn’t think you
should be at Wellesley?
Judge Reid: Emphasized, I guess, some of the social settings and the type of people who were
involved with Wellesley. And you have to understand that this contrasted very
strongly with interviews that I had with Tufts. It was actually Dean Jeffers who
came to my high school to actually interview me for Tufts. I considered it very
unusual to have the Dean come down and personally conduct the interview. That
Ms. Curry:
Ms ..Curry:
Judge Reid:
cemented, in my mind, that Tufts really was interested in me as an individual, and
that that was the place for me.
And you were not disappointed?
No, not at all. And then when I was working in the library, I actually got into
some of the archival material for Tufts and it was interesting to see the
correspondence with the then-president of Tufts and Booker T. Washington and
– 65 –
the encouragement that that then-president gave to Booker T. Washington and his
efforts. So even though Tufts did not seem to be aware in terms of the time that I
was there or become involved in the history of the day, it was clear that
historically the University, the College, had actually been interested in some of
the historic efforts of noted African Americans. ‘And Jester Hairston, I later
learned, graduated from Tufts College.
Ms. Curry: What was your job in the library?
Judge Reid: My job was checking in new acquisitions and going through and checking in the
periodicals, so I got to see new books as they came through, periodicals and
magazines as they came through. It was just a marvelous job to have.
Ms. Curry: Did most of the students work?
Judge Reid: No, most of the students did not work at Tufts.
Ms. Curry: How is it that you came to see the correspondence between Booker T.
Washington and the then-president of Tufts?
Judge Reid: I was assigned to do some arch,ival work. I can’t remember exactly what it was.
But to look at some old documents and to put them into shape, categorizing them,
putting them in some kind of chronology.
Ms. Curry: Before we actually talk about your law school experience, tell me why you
decided to attend law school?
Judge Reid: The simple reason is that when I was a senior, my twin brother George came to
Tufts and asked me to go to law school with him. At that time, I was thinking in
terms either of going to graduate school in Sociology, English, or going to
Divinity School, so it was his influence that led me to go to law school.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 66-
There were no lawyers in the family at that time, were there?
No, we didn’t have a single lawyer in the family.
But Divinity School, as you yourself were thinking of heading off to, placed very
prominently in your family?
Growing up, did you personally know any lawyers although there were none in
your family?
Just by sight. I think I mentioned that Aubrey Robinson, who later was elevated
to the federal bench, was in the choir at my church. And there was another
lawyer, Mr. Ferrell, who also sang in the choir. And as Iread historical
documents, of course Iread about the great lawyers at Howard University and
otherwise around the District of Columbia.
Ishould also mention, because Idon’t ever want to lose sight of this, but
Ms. Clotille Houston, who was a part of the Houston family, was a member of my
church, and she always took a great interest in me. She was one of those kind of
petite, very well-dressed, sophisticated African American women who delighted
in talking with young people about the future.
And the Houston family that you’re referring to is Charles Hamilton Houston?
And would you spell her name for the record.
Clotille Houston.
When you entered law school in 1959, it was after Brown, but during the time
efforts were being made to give full meaning, or fuller meaning, to the term All
– 67-
men are created equal. Did the events of the day influence your decision to
attend law school in any way, or was it strictly George’s influence?
Judge Reid: It was George’s influence on me. Of course, I guess subconsciously the events of
the day did had an impact, plus I read Clarence Darrow’s book, Attorney for the
Damned, and had read about the Scottsboro Boys case, so I had a general interest
in what was going on legally with respect to the African American community.
Ms. Curry: You attended Yale Law School, but you applied to and seriously considered
attending New York University Law School because it offered you a modest
scholarship. Why did you choose Yale? Was that George again?
Judge Reid: Yes, George told me that I should not give up the opportunity to go to Yale Law
School, and even though I might not have the financial wherewithal, he would
assist in whatever way he could. He had a wealth of scholarship money, so there
was no doubt that he would get through with his scholarship aid.
Ms. Curry: How is it that George came to have so much scholarship money? You also had
done exceedingly well in college.
Judge Reid: Keep in mind that once George went to Phillips Academy at Andover; he was
earmarked as somebody who was going to go far, so his name was fanned out to
the money sources, if you will. Once he went to Yale College, of course, even
more of those foundations and scholarship agents found his name, and it was not
surprising to us that he had his choice of scholarship money. Now keep in mind
also that this was a time in which women were not readily accepted in law school.
So it was a more difficult path in terms of finding people who were willing to
provide you with scholarship money to go to law school if you were a woman.
– 68 –
Ms. Curry: How did you finance your law school education?
Judge Reid: I had enough money with loans to get through the first semester, and then the
second semester again, I was given scholarship aid to get through after they saw
my first-year grades.
So you did very well first year?
The first year I did well and didn’t care after that. The first year I ended up in the
top quarter of my class.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Were you and George competing?
No, we generally didn’t compete. It was more like being mutually helpful. I’m
sure competition slipped in subconsciously, but generally, no.
Ms. Curry: What was it like to be a black student, who also was female, at Yale at that time?
Judge Reid: First thing is you couldn’t live where the men lived, that is in the dormitories at
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
the law school. There was a dormitory for women graduate students at Yale
which is about three or four blocks away, and all the women students had to stay
in that dormitory, so I stayed there the first year, and then the second and third
years I lived in my own apartment in the city of New Haven. You have to also
understand that we had separate facilities, like a lounge area and bathroom area,
they were all separate. We had a key that opened a door that led downstairs to our
lounge and our bathroom areas for women. I guess there were about 5,6 other
women in my law school class, and George and I were the only African
Americans in that law school class. So that gives you a picture, and also we had
at least one professor at Yale who would only hold his class where women could
not go. I can’t remember the name of the club restaurant where he held the class,
Ms. Curry:
– 69 –
but it was well known that if you were a female, there was no use in signing up
for that class because you couldn’t attend the classes. I remember also one
professor, a property professor, who delighted in coming in every morning and
saying “Gentlemen,” and looking directly at the women. It was still rare in those
days for women to be a part of the law school class, and even rarer for African
Americans to be a part of a law school class.
I guess these tactics by those male professors were designed in some way to
intimidate the women.
Judge Reid: Right, and to totally, thoroughly discourage us. But we also had a few other
African Americans in class ahead of me and the classes behind me, and a few
other women students.
Who were the African Americans in the classes ahead and after you if you can
Judge Reid: Jean Cahn was in class ahead of me. Jean Cahn, as in Jean and Edgar Cahn. And
Edgar, who is a white man, was studying at the time, and I remember we all sort
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
of found him daunting because he was not only working on a law degree, but also
on a higher degree at the same time. So it was Jean Cahn, and then behind me
came Eleanor Holmes Norton, Eleanor Holmes at the time. And then Marian
Wright at that time, now Marian Wright Edelman.
So you beat Eleanor there by a year.
Yes, because Eleanor went to Antioch on a 5-year program. And there was Harry
Dodds out of New York City. Clayton Jones. His brother was a famous Baptist
minister. Clayton Jones was ahead of me. And Harry Dodds was ahead of me.
– 70-
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
So there was a small community of black students. And behind me also was Jim
Thomas, who for years served as an Associate Dean of Yale’s law school. He
went there and stayed, and Timothy Jenkins, an international businessman/lawyer
who later became interim president of UDC.
Ms. Curry: You and Eleanor had graduated from high school together. Did you form a bond
at Yale?
Judge Reid: We shared an apartment at Yale. When she came to Yale we were roommates
and shared the apartment for two years, until I graduated.
Ms. Curry: Did you become her mentor, since you were a year ahead of her?
Judge Reid: Eleanor doesn’t have mentors.
Ms. Curry: So it’s fair to say then that the African Americans who were there during the time
you were there, those before, the ones after, have all done very well, and their
names are names that anyone well-read would recognize.
Judge Reid: I should mention Pauli Murray. Pauli Murray was a major force. She was in a
graduate program, the masters program, when we were in law school, at least part
of the time. Pauli used to gather us around, especially the females, and we’d chat
about the events of the day and she would give us her philosophy and some
insights. It was good to have her around because she was also grounded in the
religious tradition, and then went on ultimately in her life to the Episcopal
Theological Seminary.
And has written some great books too.
Yes. Song in a Weary Throat. Proud Shoes, is another one.
Did you have any female professors at Yale Law School?
– 71 –
Judge Reid: Contracts Professor, Ellen Peters, in my first year at the law school, a very
demanding person, who is now on the Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Did you do well in her class?
Surprisingly well, yes, because Contracts is exceedingly difficult, but I did
manage to do well in her course. I should also tell you – you asked about finance
– I should tell you that I worked while I went through law school, even though the
Dean didn’t want me to. I actually worked at the library – the New Haven Public
So you actually worked during the school year?
I definitely worked during the school year, at the New Haven Public Library, and
then I also found another way of making money which was typing papers and
briefs for students, which was interesting. And I also operated the switchboard.
How many hours did you work, would you say, per week?
I can’t even remember anymore, but it was not less than 20 or 30 hours a week.
That many?
Yes. And then the other way I’d save money is by getting out of the full meal
contract. Yale served people just too much food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner –
and you didn’t need all of those meals so I got out of dinner. I never ate dinner at
the law school.
So what would you do for dinner?
I had a sizeable meal at noon, and I kept – it sounds funny now that I think back
on it – but in my dorm I kept ajar of peanut butter and crackers, and that’s what I
had for dinner, peanut butter crackers with a soda.
After all, you did have a junior high school teacher, I believe, who indoctrinated
you that one shouldn’t be fat.
Yes, that was elementary school.
So, of course, that was in your mind.
Indeed. In peanut butter there was no sugar.
We learned that much from George Washington Carver.
I asked you about female professors. Now I don’t believe Yale had any African
American professors in law at that time, but I could be wrong. Did they?
No, we had not a single African American law professor.
You described a bit some of the antics of your male professors. What was the
general reaction of the male students to female students?
Judge Reid: Some of the young men accepted the women and others thought it probably was a
waste of time for them to even think about coming to law school, but you just
ignored those who didn’t think you belonged. Your acquaintances were those
who thought you did belong.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 72-
Ms. Curry: Do you think the reaction of the male students, that that was a reaction to you as a
female, and not to you as an African American?
Judge Reid: Yes, now I should just mention one incident. I can remember being in a Torts
class with Professor Guido Calabrasi who is now on the federal bench, Second
Circuit. One student in my class had graduated from the Citadel in South
Carolina. He made this comment in class that the KKK was nothing more than a
social club. I must say that I was astounded, but to his credit, Professor Calabresi
– 73 –
beat me to the answer, and he engaged the student for quite a while, as I recall, on
that subject, so once Professor Calabrasi finished, there was nothing that I had to
say about the incident. Some of the southerners brought of course the southern
culture and traditions to law school with them.
How were the other male students, particularly, again, given the time you were
there, just as the nation is becoming conscious of the need to grant greater rights
to African Americans.
Judge Reid: Some were very friendly. This fellow, Jim Turner, I think he may have been from
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Texas, somewhere toward the southern or southwestern part of the country, was
extremely friendly to us. I guess the one person I would single out as being
exceptionally helpful to my twin brother and myself was Jim Freedman who rose
to become president of Dartmouth College. He was extremely helpful, he would
point us to sources that we could read, he would even study with us. And after
law school, he and George became roommates in New York as young
Judge Reid, one point about your law school classmates. You mentioned Jean
Camper Cahn, and you mentioned her in connection with her husband Edgar
Cahn, Ijust wanted to confirm that Jean and Edgar are the two that founded
Antioch Law School, is that correct?
Yes, that is correct. And they were co-Deans of the law school for years.
Were they married? You mentioned her as Jean Cahn, was she married to Edgar
when she came to Yale?
When I arrived at Yale they were married, yes.
– 74-
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry: Did you participate in a study group while you were in law school, or were you
working too much?
Judge Reid: I did not participate in a formal study group at law school. As I mentioned earlier,
Jim Freedman was very helpful to my twin brother and myself, and he used to
point out things that we could read, so I kind of followed his lead, but I never
belonged to any study group. One of the things that prevented it was having to
Ms. Curry: When you say he pointed out things you could read, you mean law books?
Judge Reid: Or even Law Review articles. For example, I recall we had a course in future
interests, which was a very complicated course, and as we were preparing for the
final exam, he brought to us this very helpful article in one of the law journals and
we were able to read that and get a greater understanding of the course itself.
You mentioned the African American women who were at Yale while you were
there, and their names are names that one would recognize, or could easily
ascertain information about them. Do you recall any of the white women who
were there when you were there?
Judge Reid: One in particular, that’s Carolyn Dineen, who later became, in fact she just
finished her tenure, as Chief Judge at one of the federal courts in the Texas area.
She and Jim Randall, who were married, I don’t think she’s with him anymore.
Carolyn Dineen certainly was one of the bright lights. The others I can’t
remember by name.
Ms. Curry: Who were your most compelling or outstanding professors, and why?
– 75 –
Judge Reid: I think Guido Calabresi would have to be at the top of the list, not only because he
was a great professor in teaching Torts and in conveying an understanding of
Torts, but simply because he’s just a wonderful human being. Lou Pollak also
was a memorable professor. Lou Pollak had a great sense ofhurnor, and he
would spend time giving us a flavor of that humor in little tidbits along the way.
One thing in particular I remember is he gave us a story about World War II when
he was selected for some elite training and only the brightest people in the country
were selected, and he was often asked why he couldn’t do better, and I can’t
remember his exact response, but it was like well, you’ve got all these highly
intellectual people together, somebody still has to corne out at the bottom. He
was just a wonderful delight.
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, I want to continue discussing your law school experience. How did
having your twin brother at Yale affect your law school experience? Did his
presence make it easier for you to navigate your way through what would have
been, perhaps for a woman at that time, a lonely and difficult dream?
Judge Reid: I think it certainly did. Also helpful was the fact that he had already spent four
years in New Haven at Yale College, so he knew the ropes fairly well, and it was
extremely helpful to have him there; it gave me a greater sense of security and the
belief that if he got through Yale College then we could both get through Yale
Law School. .
Ms. Curry: Where was Sidney at the time?
Judge Reid: He was here, in Washington, continuing to pursue his Ph.D.
Ms. Curry: How often did you three get together?
Every time we could make it back for vacation, or during the Christmas holidays.
Had Sidney married at the time?
I can’t remember when he got married. I think it was before we finished law
Before deciding to attend law school, you surely must have had some thought as
to what the experience would be like. In what way was your experience in law
school alike or different from your expectation?
Judge Reid: Actually, I really had not focused on law school, so I had no real expectations,
except I knew it would be difficult. There were two people in my college class,
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 76 –
Tommy Baer, and I’m blocking on the other one who lives in Virginia now-
Jim Calhoun, who also went to Yale Law School. Actually there were three of us
who ended up there, because Neil Peck was also one of those from Tufts who
ended up at the law school. We knew it would be difficult, but we didn’t know
how difficult it would be or exactly what it all would entail. We knew that Yale
was going to be different from Harvard, if stereotypes had any weight whatsoever,
or if the oral traditions had any weight. That is, that it would not be competitive
in the sense that our classmates would tear the pages out of the books. Rather, our
classmates would be more helpful to us. But in terms of the actual classroom
experience, I had no thoughts whatsoever about that.
What kind of relationship did you have with your fellow classmates from Tufts?
The, “Hi, how are you?” type ofrelationship. Nothing deep, but it was good to
see a familiar face at Yale.
– 77 –
Ms. Curry: Have you kept in touch with those three persons since graduating from Yale Law
Judge Reid: I’ve lost track of them. The one I used to keep the closest touch with was
Neil Peck, and I haven’t seen or heard from him in years.
Ms. Curry: You and your twin brother traveled to Africa with Operatiori Crossroads Africa
after your first year at Yale. Could you describe how you came t~ participate in
that program and your experience that summer.
Judge Reid: I’m not quite sure how we first learned about Crossroads Africa. I know George
was looking for a way for us to get over there, and he may have actually been the
one who discovered Crossroads Africa. It may even have been because of
Reverend William Sloan Coffin who was a Chaplain at Yale College and who led
George’s group over to Guinea. That was a marvelous experience. The idea of
Crossroads Africa was to take a group of young people, kind of a pre-Peace Corps
type initiative, and spend a summer working in Africa building schools, recreation
centers, or what have you. So I traveled to Senegal while George went to Guinea
and we actually built a school in Senegal, and it was a great experience. It was an
interracial group; there was one other black person in my group, Burnis Lewis,
and as I recall the rest of them were, I think there were two other black men, I
think I was the only black female, and the rest were white people. But it was a
great experience getting into the culture of Senegal and actually doing the
physical labor, laying the bricks and what have you.
Ms. Curry: Where did you stay while there? What kind of housing accommodations did you
– 78-
Judge Reid: I want to say that we stayed either on the campus or near the University of Dakar,
at their campus. I don’t exactly remember. And we were assigned someone from
the government of Senegal, a young man who worked with us, and then there
were others from Senegal who also worked with us . …
Ms. Curry: Senegal is a French-speaking country. How did you manage to navigate your way
there during your stay?
Judge Reid: At that time I understood some French, but I was not fluent in French. That’s one
of the experiences that prompted me to try to brush up on French, conversational
French, which I was able to do. We had translators, and some of the people spoke
English, like those who actually were in charge in Senegal spoke English with us.
Ms. Curry: Since you and your brother had different assignments, you didn’t see your brother
then during the summer?
Judge Reid: No, once we left New York, I didn’t see him until the end of the summer.
Ms. Curry: Did you all try to contact each other?
Judge Reid: No, there were no efforts whatsoever. That would have been very difficult,
because I didn’t know where in Guinea he was, and he didn’t know where in
Senegal I was.
Ms. Curry: Did -you go to other African countries? I believe the Gambia is close to Senegal.
Judge Reid: We never got to see the Gambia, although we passed through. We traveled from
Dakar to the Casamance region of Senegal. To get to the Casamance region, you
have to cross over the Gambia. But we did not actually visit the Gambia. That
was a great experience. It was troubling for some people because actually
everybody in the group got extremely ill except for Burnis Lewis and myself.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 79-
We’re the only ones who didn’t fall ill that summer. People were trying to figure
out why it was that we didn’t get ill and everybody else got so ill.
Did you ever discover why they got ill? Was it the food, or what?
I’m not sure what it was.
Did you visit Goree Island while in Senegal?
Goree was very important. Yes, we did go to Goree Island, and we actually went
into the places where the slaves were placed in waiting for transport to the other
world. It was daunting, and it was a memorable occasion to actually go into the
places where the slaves waited for transport.
Do you recall if you had any special emotions when you first went to Africa,
being on the actual soil of Africa?
Yes, in the sense that there was an ancestral connection somewhere along the line.
What that is, I have no idea. But obviously some of my ancestors had to come
from Africa. I was exceptionally well received by the Africans, and of course,
they wanted to know about the civil rights struggle in the United States. And ,in
fact, they called upon me to actually give a lecture before the end of the summer
on the civil rights movement here in the United States. Most of the young
Africans with whom we associated were students also, so they had a keen
intellectual interest of what was going on in this country. And to translate, as we
had some very good conversations with them.
You were called upon to give a lecture on the civil rights movement; is that
because you were the only African American in that group?
– 80 –
Judge Reid: Actually Burnis Lewis was African American, but I’m not quite sure why I was
called upon. I think it may have been that our group leader designated me as the
one to give the lecture. I was with Professor Marcum, out of Colgate University.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
I didn’t mean that in any disrespectful way, because obviously anybody who’s
ever been around you would appreciate your keen intellect and that you are very
well read and conversant on issues.
Oh no, I didn’t …. It was Professor Marcum.
Did you know him before you went on the trip?
No, it was the first time I ever met him. He’s a very nice man.
Did you keep in touch after that?
For a little while. In fact, George and I went up to Colgate to speak to one of his
Did your experience in Africa at that time prompt you to return within a few
years, as you did and which we will talk about?
Clearly, yes. I knew when I left that I would go back.
Let’s continue with your other experiences at Yale. Did any of your professors
reach out and try to mentor you?
Not really. There were some very kind professors. I can’t say that they reached
out to mentor me. I think there were some who had an interest in me and where I
was going, but not in terms of being a mentor.
How did you divine that they had interest in you?
When we went to the Inc. Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund –
“We,” meaning you and your brother George?
– 81 –
Judge Reid: Right. There was a professor at Yale who specifically wanted us to work on a
project that he was working on with the Fund, and it had to do with property
interests and property rights, trying to breathe more life into substantive due
process, due process clause. So the first summer we were there, we spent some
time working on research with respect to his project. Charlie Reich, who
subsequently published an article in the Yale Law Journal, I think it was called
the New Property Rights or something like that.
Ms. Curry: Did he assist you and your brother in any way in getting a position with Inc. Fund,
or LDF?
Judge Reid: I’m not sure he did. I’m pretty sure that we got the position because of George
and his scholarship connections.
Ms. Curry: You said no one reached out to you to try to mentor you; did you seek a mentor
and experience rejection; or you just never thought of that?
Judge Reid: My mentor at law school was George, so I didn’t see a need to reach out to any of
the professors.
It’s wonderful having a brother as a mentor. You received the C. LaRue Munson
Prize, and the Public Defenders Cup while in law school. Explain why you
received these honors.
Judge Reid: As I recall, both were the result of my pubic defender work. I actually did work
for the public defender while I was in law school, assisting the public defender
with research and actually with trial work, although I didn’t get up in the court
and do arguments. I helped prepare the public defender for trials. One in
Ms. Curry:
– 82 –
particular I remember, was a rape trial, and we ended up getting a not guilty
verdict. But it was for my public defender work, both prizes.
Ms. Curry: Was this an unpaid or paid internship?
Judge Reid: This was unpaid, it was volunteer work.
Ms. Curry: You have done a tremendous amount of writing since law school on a broad range
of topics which we will explore later in the interview. Did you have any
particular research interest in law school?
Judge Reid: Everyone at that time who went to Yale Law School had to write a major paper
before leaving law school. It’s called a Division Paper, and I did write it. I did
research on Patuxent Institute in Jessup, Maryland, and the treatment of persons
with problems.
Ms. Curry: How did you come to decide on Patuxent Institute?
Judge Reid: I cannot recall how I decided to do research in that area, and I can’t even recall
what I finally ended up having as my thesis of that paper. At any rate, I did the
work, and I remember visiting the Institute and interviewing people there while
working on the paper.
Ms. Curry: Were there any particular courses or other law school interests or activities that
made a lasting impression on you?
Judge Reid: I suppose it would be the time that Malcolm X was at the law school. He actually
visited and lectured at the law school, in the auditorium, and that was a
memorable occasion having him as a guest lecturer at Yale Law School. It
generated a lot of interest in the law school; it was very well attended. He was a
very eloquent man.
– 83 –
Was this before or after he had had a metamorphosis and rejected some of his
earlier ideas?
Judge Reid: I want to say it was after. I can’t exactly remember. I actually met him in New
York, and I can’t remember ifit was before or after he lectured at Yale. So that
Ms. Curry:
stands out in my mind as an outstanding occasion.
Ms. Curry: Surely not just because of his delivery, but because ofthe substance of his
Judge Reid: The substance of his speech, plus the historical context, with people comparing
him to Martin Luther King and many preferring Dr. Martin Luther King because
they perceived Malcolm X as being more militant, if you will.
The other thing about my Yale days that had a lasting impact on me occurred not
at Yale proper but in the community. I elected not to attend the Battel Chapel,
except occasionally. Instead I attended church in the community, at the Dixwell
Avenue Congregational Church, and became part of that community. I also
served as kind of an advisor to a youth group there, which was very interesting for
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Is that an African American church?
Yes. Reverend Edmonds was the minister. Actually, that’s where I met
Lawrence Jones. He was at the Divinity School when I was at Yale.
I want to talk to you about that, but first I want to go back to, you said you
actually met Malcolm X in New York?
I can’t remember the circumstances other than I met him.
But it was at some public event, and you had an opportunity to meet him?
– 84-
Judge Reid: I can’t remember ifit was at a public event, or I sought him out.
Ms. Curry: That raises the question, when you say you can’t remember if you sought him out,
did you have an opportunity then to have some extended discussion with him?
Judge Reid: At this time in New York, I know I had an exchange with him, but I can’t
remember the substance of it.
Ms. Curry: Other than Malcolm X, who were some of the prominent persons who spoke or
lectured at Yale during your time there, and did you meet and interact with any of
Judge Reid: To this day, I know there were others, but Malcolm X is the only one I can
remember. I do remember that for the moot court competition, we had all of these
bright lights of the Bar corne in. And one of the people who judged one of my
moot court events was Thurman Arnold of Arnold & Porter fame. He made an
impression on me, not only because he was kind of a nice, witty man, but because
he always had this drink in his hand, and he wasn’t paying much attention to it, so
you had to make sure that he didn’t slosh that drink on you while you were
standing there talking to him.
Ms. Curry: What about Malcolm X’s speech appealed to you? What made it so compelling
that you remember it perhaps even to this day?
Judge Reid: Probably it was the context of the Nation ofIslam and the fact that this was a
community that was trying to become independent in all respects from a value
code for black people down to an economic agenda, so I think that’s what actually
attracted me to him and made it so memorable because he would spin out his
theory of economic development and also the value code, the moral code, for
– 85 –
African Americans, and give you a sense that it was possible to be independent,
Ms. Curry: Did you feel there was any inherent tension within yourself in embracing his
theories and philosophy on the one hand but yet embracing those of Martin Luther
King Jr. on the other hand?
Judge Reid: Inever really found that tension because Igenerally took what Ithought Ineeded
from each, so that tension was absent for me. To me, they were different men.
Ms. Curry: Iasked the, question because you know, of course, there was that existing tension
with~.JIThelarger society; how much of it was created by the media and how much
was real.
Judge Reid: That’s true.
Ms. Curry: What were the great issues of the day that law students at Yale wrestled with in
forums, discussions, debates, articles in school papers or journals that you can
Judge Reid: Clearly it was the civil rights movement and trying to get those schools
desegregated in the South, that was very, very important as a topic of discussion.
The other part had to do with the shaping of the Supreme Court by Earl Warren,
and not only the civil rights cases, but also the criminal procedural cases. So
those two areas were generally very strong areas for the law school. Also, within
the. courses, there was a tendency to try interdisciplinary courses. For example, I
took Family Law. Not only a professor in the law school taught us, but also a
sociologist. And Law & Psychiatry. It was not only a professor in the law
school, but a psychiatrist, that taught the course.
– 86-
Ms. Curry: Do you recall your law school standing?
Judge Reid: At the end, no. I know it was not as high as the first year, but I don’t remember.
In fact, I never found out because I wasn’t interested.
You felt like you got a solid education at Yale?
There’s no doubt about it. And I was just happy that I had gotten the degree, and
not only that I got the degree, but I got it the same time George got his.
[Laughter] Always important.
What did it mean not having your mother there to witness your law school
Well there clearly was a gap. But one of the godmothers was at each of the
Who was your godmother?
My godmother was Emily P. Alexander, who lived here in Washington. George’s
godmother was Ethel Jones, who lived in Gaithersburg, Maryland. She came to
my college graduation. She was the representative ofthe godmothers at my
college graduation. My law school graduation was attended by Sidney’s
godmother, Roberta Smith, who was married to a doctor in New Jersey. She
attended our law school graduation.
So these godmothers actually took seriously their role as godmother to the
children, so much so that the sibling’s godmother would show up at your
Judge Reid: Yes. They had an assignment which was to see us through. Right after my
mother died, my godmother stepped in. In fact, I stayed with her – she’s the one
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 87 –
who found us an apartment to live in, and I actually stayed with her over the
Christmas holidays until we found an apartment. They were specially handpicked.
Had your uncle with whom you grew up, your grandmother’s brother, I guess he
had died also at the time?
Judge Reid: He died after she did. He was in a nursing home when he died. I’m not quite sure
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
. Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
what illness he had. I think he was, he made it to about 82, but he had an illness.
He always had an illness because his hands would shake. It’s like Parkinson’s
Disease, but at that time they didn’t call it Parkinson’s.
Did I ask whether your mother had siblings or not?
She’s the only child.
You’ve described your work during law school, the various jobs that you had as a
means of earning money to help see you through law school, but you worked for
the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for three summers after law school, is that
That’s correct.
You did not work forLDF while in law school.
I don’t think so. I may be wrong about that. Maybe I did intern in ’61; I don’t
think I did.
Did you make any friends in law school that have had an influence on you and
with whom you’ve kept in touch?
Probably the classmate I kept in touch with the most is Alan Dershowitz. Alan
actually went to Brooklyn College and I first met him on the debate circuit. He
– 88 –
was one of those individuals with whom I kind of associated while in law school.
And then afterwards, I kept some contact with him. I remember one time he
invited me to come up to Harvard to do some work up there that at the time I
didn’t have the interest.
Ms. Curry: Are you still in touch with him?
Judge Reid: I see him occasionally, but it’s been a while. Sometimes when we go up to the
reunions, I’ll see him.
You described your work with the public defender’s program, your internship.
Did you have any other internships, or did you participate in any moot court
activities while in law school?
Judge Reid: Yes I did participate in moot court. In fact, after the first year I was selected as a
Ms. Curry:
moot court advisor and advised first-year students with respect to moot court. I
also competed – in fact I think I came down here to Washington once for a moot
court competition. We didn’t prevail. I think it was over in the U.S. District
Ms. Curry: There was the three-member team?
Judge Reid: There were two of us.
Ms. Curry: And, what’s your reflection of that experience? I suppose it was a natural
extension of your oratorical experience in high school and your debate experience
at Tufts.
Judge Reid: It was a good experience. I don’t think I did as well as I could have with the
argument, but it was a good experience. I certainly enjoyed it.
Ms. Curry: How did one compete for the moot court team?
– 89-
Judge Reid: It had to do with class standing to enable you to become a moot court advisor, and
then once you’re a moot court advisor, you could participate in these things.
Ms. Curry: So one did not have to write a brief and go through a series of moot court
competition arguments.
Judge Reid: I think it was based upon how you did in the moot court brief and the moot court
argument that you would be selected as an advisor. I should also mention that in
my – I think it was my senior year – I competed in the Barristers Union, and
actually I was a finalist in the Barristers Union final trial of that year. And it was
memorable to me because the judge was Edward Bennett Williams, and that was a
wonderful occasion.
Ms. Curry: What was the Barristers Union?
Judge Reid: That was a trial advocacy union. We had to do a trial. I can’t remember if! was
plaintiff’s counselor defense counsel. I had a partner. It was a great experience
and it enabled me to see how taxing litigation can be.
Ms. Curry: Was there an evolution in your general social and ‘political philosophy during law
school? And if so, could you describe that evolution and your general philosophy
by the end of law school.
Judge Reid: I can’t say I had a general philosophy. I just knew there were. a wide range of
things in which I was interested in, and the challenge would be trying to fit
everything in. I knew that I had a commitment here domestically, but I also knew
that there were challenges out there internationally speaking, and I wanted to
carve out a way to get all of the interests together and attended to. But I can’t sit
here and say that I’ve ever had a philosophy qua philosophy. If anything, I did a
– 90 –
lot of reading of Howard Thurman’s works. And I should mention that while I
was in college one of the highlights for me was to go over to Boston University
and listen to Howard Thurman whenever I was able to get there to hear him
preach. So I became a person who read his works avidly and also the works of
Rheinhold Niebuhr. So only in that sense did I have any philosophical base, and I
can’t even call it a philosophy. It was kind of an orientation.
Ms. Curry: Other than reading spiritual and theological books, and your law-related books,
what else did you read while in law school?
Judge Reid: Outside ofthe classroom, not much would be my guess, but I can tell you that my
greatest interest was in politics, national and international politics. So to the
ext~nt that I had time, the reading would be in that area.
Ms. Curry: How would you compare your experience at Yale and the experience at Tufts;
how would you compare the two experiences?
Judge Reid: The experiences in my sense were similar in that education was stressed, and the
need for continuing education was stressed. Yale clearly was a notch above Tufts
from the intellectual perspective because you were challenged more thoroughly.
Yale had a map, and that is, once you entered, the map was to make you feel that
there was nothing there in your background that could have prepared you for this
experience and that you were a lesser human being, if you will. And by the time
you got ready to graduate from Yale, you had a sense that you had been groomed
for something. What it was you didn’t know, but you knew that you had been
groomed and that the foundation was a very solid foundation.
Are there other thoughts or comments about your experience at Yale that you
would like to share before we conclude this segment of the interview?
I don’t think so, except to understand that Yale for me was not just Yale, but it
was also New Haven, and having an opportunity to be a part of the New Haven
community was also very important as I went through Yale.
And why was that?
It gave me a sense of being grounded; that I was not just at somebody’s
intellectual ivory tower, divorced from the people of my community, but I was
there in the community of my people.
Did you have any interaction with Lawrence Jones? You mentioned him earlier,
having met him. Did you have any interactions with him during your time at
Judge Reid: We had some. And in addition to Lawrence Jones, Benjamin Peyton was also
studying at the divinity school. Ben is now the president of Tuskegee, and we had
some interactions with him and his wife Thelma. So there was a little community
of scholars. We also had contact with Hildred Roach who was in the music
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 91 –
school at the time. In fact, she’s a member of my church now. So we had contact
with people in different schools in New Haven, so there was the broader Yale
community. There was the law school community and there was the broader
African American Yale community, and then there was the New Haven
– 92-
Do you feel that your experience at the church and the broader New Haven
community was a necessary buffer to any ostracism or anything else you would
have experienced at Yale?
Judge Reid: No, I wouldn’t say it was a buffer to the ostracism, but it helped keep me
grounded, and not to come away from Yale with the sense that I was a part of an
Ms. Curry:
elite community; it was a community unto itself. And so for that reason, I’m
grateful for the wider Yale community and the New Haven community.
Ms. Curry: Was there that danger, being in so few number of African Americans, was there a
danger of walking out thinking I’ve mastered Tufts, I now have an Ivy League
law school, I’m clearly better than others in my community?
Judge Reid: Yes, you need to be a part of the black community and to no longer be a part of
that community, that was a very real danger. And I sensed it the moment I
walked into the Tufts community. And you had to be aware of it, otherwise you
can get sucked right into the thought that you are unique.
Ms. Curry: Did other blacks make an effort to maintain ties with the African American
community, or you don’t know?
Judge Reid: I think to some extent Eleanor did. Some of the others kept within the community
and didn’t venture outside.
Ms. Curry: We’re going to conclude for today, and it’s very possible that I will have other
questions about the law school experience, but I’m going to say that this
concludes the law school experience. What we will pick up with the next time is
your graduate school because, of course, being so indoctrinated by your mother,
you would have just stayed in school, so you went directly from Yale to graduate
– 93 –
school. And I also want to talk with you the next time about your reaction to the
events of the 1960s, the social and political unrest during that time.
Judge Reid: Right. And you should remind yourself to ask me why I ended up going directly
to graduate school.
Ms. Curry: That certainly will be the first question. Thank you very much.
– 94-
Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
Third Interview
August 23, 2005
This is the third interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid, Associate Judge
of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the Oral History Project of The
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry of
The Curry Law Firm PLLC. The interview took place in Judge Reid’s Chambers at the Carl
Moultrie Courthouse, at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry: Good morning, Judge Reid.
Judge Reid, let me ask you, before I actually get into the interview, is there
anything that you want to add to your answers from prior interviews?
Judge Reid: I want to update information about my paternal grandmother. I think I told you
my first name was her first name, Elsie. Her full name is Elsie Dickerson Smith
Chenault. She was married twice – once to Thornton Smith and another to a
Mr. Chenault, whom I don’t know. Thornton Smith, who would have been my
paternal grandfather, was actually a minister also in the Shiloh Baptist Church in
Lexington, Kentucky. And Elsie Dickerson Smith and Thornton Smith had
children, including my father, Sidney Randall Dickerson Smith, and the others
were James A. Smith, who was also a pastor, and Stanley A. Smith, who was an
organist also at Shiloh Baptist Church in Lexington, and one girl, Weynemo
Smith, who married a Mr. McCann, and she was the Shiloh choir president. I
wanted to identify the religious connection of that entire side of the family. I also
discovered that my godfather on my maternal side was Walter Brooks.
Ms. Curry: When you say you discovered it, you’ve been doing some research since the last
interviews, or you’ve looked over some family papers?
– 95 –
Judge Reid: Yes. In particular, at the family reunion that Ijust attended, one of the family
members had a book called the Diamond Jubilee of the General Association of
Colored Baptists in Kentucky from 1943, and in there was mention of this family.
Do you have any sense of why there was such an emphasis on religion, or so
many of your ancestors went into the ministry? Was that at the time viewed as a
– certainly there was a spiritual dynamic to that, but was serving as a minister also
viewed as one of the primary leadership roles within the African American
community and perhaps also a way to obtain some economic independence?
Judge Reid: That’s true. Ministers, doctors, and teachers, those were the general popular .
Ms. Curry:
professions for the black professional class.
Ms. Curry: Before we move to the next phase of your interview, I’d like to ask you a few
follow-up questions about the areas we covered during the last few sessions. One,
you mentioned that you and Matthew Whitehead overlapped one year at Tufts.
Do you know what Matthew did after his graduation from Tufts? Did you follow
his career?
Judge Reid: Matthew went on to law school, and then later in life when I was in practice, our
paths crossed again. After he finished law school, he then worked, as I recall, for
IBM, and he was a major litigator at IBM, and then he went on to form, or playa
major role, in a joint venture between Motorola and IBM. He was stationed in
Illinois. I also served as an attorney on a couple of family matters that he had,
including one litigation matter here in the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia. We had a very good association in my days of practice.
– 96-
You also mentioned during one of the prior interviews that at Tufts, the Jewish
students were housed in a separate floor in the dormitory. My understanding is
that there was not a huge number of African Americans or Jewish students. Is
that correct?
Judge Reid: That is very very true. One of the smallest dorms on the campus was Richardson
Ms. Curry:
House, and it really was a large house, and as Ithink Iindicated before, the Jews
were’ located on the third floor of the house; my room was on the second floor of
the house. I did have many conversations with the Jewish students, as I recall,
primarily on the third floor, when I would go up and we would have these
discussions. I can’t recall exactly what we discussed, but my relationship with the
Jewish students was very amicable.
Other than your relationship with the Jewish students, was there generally a good
relationship between African American and Jewish students, or was there any
special effort made to form any type of alliance between those two groups?
Judge Reid: Not that I can recall. I had a personal sense that both of us, that is to say African
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
American community and Jewish community people were a rare quantity within
the Tufts community at the time. I don’t have proof of it, but I think that there
were quotas both on blacks and Jews at that time.
Let’s move now to talking about the activities or the events in this country in the
1950s and 1960s. Depending on who’s writing history, the civil rights movement
was sparked by one of two momentous events in 1955 – the death of Emmett Till
or the arrest of Rosa Parks and the subsequent Montgomery bus boycott, and in
the 1960s, that was a period of great social and political unrest and change in the
– 97-
country. So before we talk about your legal career, I want to spend some time
talking about how this period might have shaped you. Do you in fact recall or
remember the murder of Emmett Till?
Judge Reid: Yes. In fact that was the talk of the black community at the time. It had a deep
psychological impact I think on the entire community and reminded people of all
the historic lynching that had unfolded in the South previously and the work of
Ida Wells Barnett in trying to prevent lynching of black people in the South.
Ms. Curry: You would have been either in your senior year of high school or a freshman in
college when that happened. Is that correct?
Judge Reid: Yes, I can’t recall which it was. I know I graduated from high school in 1955, I
can’t remember the month that he was killed.
In the Deep South, where the murder of Emmett Till occurred, because it was so
brutal, in fact, the effect on African Americans living within the Deep South was.
to close ranks and they had an even heightened sense offear, atleast from what I
have read about that, and they felt that they had to go to even greater lengths to
protect young African Americans. You, of course, were living in Washington,
D.C., at the time. Was there a sense within the African American community
here of a heightened fear or that the younger children or younger adults had to be
protected to a greater extent?
Judge Reid: I would say around the time that Emmett Till was killed that there was a
continuing sense that African Americans had to be careful. I don’t recall that
Ms. Curry:
there was a real fear, and that may be because I guess I was not accustomed to
being afraid even though there were challenging times in which we lived, but
– 98 –
there was a sense that one had to be cautious, especially a sense that African
American men and young boys had to be cautious because things could happen.
What other effect did either the Montgomery bus boycott, which also started in
1955, and/or the Emmett Till killing have on Washington, and specifically what I
mean is this: we know that across the Deep South the bus boycott or Till’s
murder galvanized African Americans to start agitating for their rights. Although
Washington is not the Deep South, it was still a very segregated city at that time.
Did either of these events embolden African Americans in Washington to become
activists or had Brown served as a catalyst for activism in Washington?
Judge Reid: I think even before Brown there were activities. The big thing in Washington, as
I recall, historically, was trying to desegregate Thompson’s restaurant. I can’t
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
remember the exact year in which that occurred, but there was a big push.
Would that have been with Mary Church Terrell?
I think it was. I think she was one of the players in that. But there was a big push
to try to open up the downtown area for blacks to make sure we could go into the
National Theatre, into the movie houses, and into the restaurants. So building on
that, when Brown v. Bd. of Education was decided, I think this community turned
to the schools and getting African American young men and women out to the
high schools and their neighborhoods. And at that time there was also movement
northward, in the northwest sections by African Americans. So the focus, as I
recall, was really on the schools and making sure that African Americans got to
go to some of the so-called better schools, even though that proved fleeting
because as the African Americans moved into the schools that were historically in
Ms. Curry:
– 99-
Division I, the Division I students began to move out to the suburbs. So Brown v.
Bd. of Education did playa role, but it was mainly in the desegregation of the
schools of Washington, D.C. And then the earlier impetus surrounding
Thompson’s restaurant I think served to try to integrate the other parts of
Washington. I remember Garfinkels in particular was a department store at which
blacks were not welcome to enter, and there was a push around that too, making
sure to get into all the department stores, not just some of those department stores.
And then certainly when Martin Luther King Jr. became active. That in particular
galvanized Washington blacks. And I recall once, in particular, when Martin
Luther King Jr. came to Howard University, to one of the graduations that I
attended, and I recall how much he was welcomed, and the kind of mesmerizing
speaker he actually was. So his presence, I think, in the Washington community
also helped to spur the movement for equal justice.
I’m aware of the efforts to desegregate the schools, but I was talking about the
activism to desegregate the city overall which you touched upon, and I’m aware
of the work of Mary Church Terrell, but from my knowledge of that, I know she
certainly led a lot of demonstrations, but I don’t sense from what I’ve found in my _
research that oftentimes she had a big following. Sometimes it seems that Mary
Church Terrell was one of a few people out here, and because of her efforts, of
course, she has been recognized, I’m sure you aware, that there is the Terrell
building which houses the Venable law firm now, and there is a big permanent
display in the lobby to recognize and honor her because of her work in the city to
desegregate. I believe it was Hechts and some other stores she was trying to
– 100 –
desegregate. So I want to put in context just the overall activism, not just the
Judge Reid: You may not recall, but ministers also played a major role in trying to achieve a
sense of equality in the City of Washington. It was kind of a – I don’t know that
I’d call it a unique approach – but the approach was: education is a must, and
once you get your education, then your next goal is to lead. So it wasn’t as
though the movement here in Washington centered on this person or that person,
it was more pluralistic in the sense that a number of individuals were being
molded for leadership positions. So you wouldn’t see Ms. X out there, although
we had our Julius Hobsons and people of that sort, but the movement was more
around the talented tenth idea ofW.E.B. DuBois. It’s not just one or two people;
you’ve got to have a greater mass of leaders.
Ms. Curry: It seems like what you’re saying is that the general thought amongst the African
Americans in Washington was that there certainly was nothing wrong with
demonstrating, and that demonstrations have their place, but that one needed to be
prepared to take his or her rightful place in society and that education served as
the foundation from which you moved to everything else, so that when Martin
Luther King came through Washington and the leaders in Washington became
involved, they could do more than demonstrate, they could, in fact, help shape the
Judge Reid: That’s absolutely right. And there were influential figures like Mordecai Johnson,
James Nabrit, and Dr. Benjamin Mays would come through and speak. But
besides these influential figures, the community wanted to build with people who
had leadership capacity and who could take the movement, if you will, farther
because they were prepared to do so. They were well-educated. That was a
major drive of the community – education, plus you had to have some cultural
things. There were many concerts. Artists would come through and would
perform at the churches, and so forth. So getting a well-rounded person who
could actually perform, who was prepared to perform in a leadership capacity in
the future.
I believe Mary Church Terrell was very highly education, and I think her husband
was a Judge, Judge Terrell, is that not correct?
Yes, Robert Terrell. Terrell Law School.
That was a law school for African Americans only?
That’s right. Judge Haywood, for example, went to Robert Terrell’s law school.
Judge Haywood who served on the Superior Court?
You’ve mentioned Julius Hobson. My research of him is that he would have been
in the more radical wing, and more of the activist. Is that a correct perception?
Judge Reid: As I recall, and my memory has faded a bit, he played an early role in the school
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 101 –
situation. In fact, I think there’s one case, it may be Hobson v. Hansen which he
initiated which helped to make sure the District of Columbia schools at least had
an opportunity to become desegregated and to continue on after Brown v. Bd. of
Education. So I think what happened to him is, as he started out in the
educational world and he saw other needs, and as he became impatient with the
progress and with the “tipping” phenomenon – in other words, you might have a
– 102 –
school that was primarily white to begin with, but then it tipped as whites began
to move out of the community. Then, I think, he became frustrated and became
more to the Left.
Let’s talk a bit about the 1960s. By the 1960s the civil rights movement was in
full swing with Freedom Riders, sit-ins, demonstrations, and other acts of civil
disobedience. There were also protests against the Vietnam War. What was your
general reaction to the social and political activities of the 1960s?
That’s a very broad question: What was my reaction?
Well, break it into whatever segments that you need to. I want to know what you
thought about what was happening at the time, but I also want to know to what
extent you were involved in those activities. For example, part of what happened
in the 1960s was that Americans all across the country got an opportunity through
daily media coverage to see the disparity in the treatment of African Americans
and whites, de facto and de jour. You, of course, as an African American had
experienced some of those disparities. But as the events unfolded, were you
surprised at the extent to which those in power would go to maintain their
privileges of power?
Judge Reid: Let me put it this way. As I finished college, which would have been 1959, and
entered law school, which would have been in the fall of ’59 and continued on to
the 1960s, it became quite apparent that in the South in particular, there was a
push against integration of all kinds. That obviously had an impact, and it had a
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
spill-over impact into the New Haven community, and it led to some civil rights
activity in that community. So you almost got a force/counterforce-type situation
– 103 –
where the force was desegregate; the counterforce was don’t desegregate, make
sure things stay as they were. And then that required another force. I can’t quite
explain it in an abstract sense, but clearly, as we went through school, we were
reading the newspapers, looking at the television, seeing the movement from the
pure civil rights movement into the Black Power movement and beyond, and also
the war years and the impact of the war years. There’s a book by Alvin Toffler
Future Shock, and that sums up for me a lot of what was happening. It was very
rapid. Historically, it might have been a decade, but as you move from day-today,
it was like living two years in one year because it was so much of a rapid
movement and a rapid change. And when you have people with dogs and with
hoses, and all of this is being shown on television – the dogs attacking black
people and hoses being turned on black people by white policemen – all of that
sets into motion a force. And it almost gets one into Franz Fanon’s theory of the
use of violence as kind of catharsis. And there’s an interrelationship between
what was happening in terms of the international setting with the colonial powers
and the movement against the colonial powers and what was happening here. So,
in other words, if you take the African continent, a number of the countries in that
continent became independent in the 1960s. That had a spillover effect on the
movement in this country because that hastened the time in which a number of
blacks were saying we’ve got to take a stand now; we can no longer wait; the
moment is here. So it was all in a sense interconnected, although things were
happening in different places of the globe and in different parts of the
United States. So things were swirling rather rapidly, and that’s why I say that
– 104 –
it’s hard to dissect because things were coming in kind of a rush. We had the riots
here in Washington after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. That played a
major role in terms of the mobilization – that is to say, mobilization moving from
the civil rights movement to the Black Power movement and the reaction of the
white community to all of that. So it’s force/counterforce/counterreaction/
I know that asking your general reaction to the social and political activities of the
1960s is a broad question, and you’ve explained a bit about your reaction, but
you mentioned something which leads me to a follow-up question. You
mentioned the use of violence as a catharsis, but you reference that as someone
else’s theory. What I’d like to ask now is, do you see, or did you at the time see,
any role for violence? There’s always been this debate about Martin Luther King
vs. Malcolm X, before Malcolm X converted. Rap Brown, H. Rap Brown against
Martin Luther King. You were shaped in Washington, D.C., and talked about the
importance of education and using that as a foundation. What is your view on the
violence aspect of it?
Judge Reid: I’ve always been deeply committed to nonviolence, and that has never changed
Ms. Curry:
throughout the course of my life. I’ve always perceived violence as morally
wrong. The only time that I can honestly say I perceive violence as possibly on
the other side of the coin, that is to say morally right, is with respect to World
War II and the atrocities committed on the Jewish people. Aside from that, I’ve
never believed in violence as a tool for anything.
– 105 –
Your exception as to when violence may be morally right, may be, in your words,
a very narrow one. You limit it to World War II. Do you understand that there
may be others who have suffered very great wrongs, including some of the things
that are happening across the world today, where they may perceive that violence
as morally right? Or take the African Americans. What about the Civil War?
What about Emmett Till? And his murder was just one example. And let me just
reference: there is now an exhibit at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in
Baltimore that contains a separate section on lynching that is so emotionally
draining that one is not allowed down there without going through an interview.
So do you understand that African Americans could have viewed the cumulative
effects of what had happened to them as a reason for engaging in violence and in
viewing the violence as morally right?
Judge Reid: Intellectually, yes I can understand that. But your question is posed in terms of
my own personal views. Although I can understand it intellectually, personally I
don’t think even in that setting of Emmett Till that that violence would have been
the way to resort to it, to cure the problem. Let me try to explain what I mean. If
you look at World War II and the role of Germany in crushing Jewish people, the
apparatus of government was in the hands of evil people. If you look at the
United States as a whole, the apparatus of government was not in the hands of
people who were evil-minded to the extent that they wanted to crush the entire
African American population. Under those circumstances, right-thinking
Americans could have stepped in to preclude the violence that was going on. And
I think there were pockets within the United States that attempted to do just that,
Ms. Curry:
– 106 –
and I guess I don’t need to view the record historically, but just take one
institution that probably is not known to a great extent, and that’s the American
Missionary Association which was tied to the Congregational Christian Churches
historically. That institution played a m~jor role in trying to preclude the violence
that was being heaped on African Americans in the South through the form of
lynching; So in the context of a rational society, if you will, and I’m talking now
in terms of pockets of that society as well as a government which is not an evilminded
government, it’s possible to prevent or preclude that kind of violence.
And under those circumstances, I don’t think the violence would be justified.
My last question on this. Your interview will be very interesting for those reading
it, but the apparatus of a government of the South was in the hands of evil people,
and that apparatus was used for many years to crush and kill African Americans,
notwithstanding what missionaries were trying to do.
Judge Reid: But notice that I couched my thoughts in terms of the national government, and
what was possible within the context of a national government.
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry: Thank you.
I think we won’t pursue the issue of violence versus nonviolence, except that
perhaps one day we’ll have a debate. I recall that I did ask you to participate in a
panel once, the discussion that the D.C. Bar had on the lawyer’s role in healing
the racial divide, and you were very eloquent on that, so maybe at some point it
would be very good for the D.C. Bar to put on a panel discussion on when
violence is morally right and when it isn’t, and you would be my very first person
I would come to ask you to participate on a panel on that.
– 107 –
Judge Reid: Yes, it’s a very challenging subject area, and one that evokes a lot of passion and
reflective thought.
Ms. Curry: Let’s get back to other aspects of the 1960s. I believe in discussing what
happened on your college campus and your law school campus, you certainly
implied, and tell me if I’m wrong, that there were no demonstrations on your
campuses. Is that a correct inference on my part?
Judge Reid: There were no demonstrations that I can recall on the Tufts campus. In law
school, some of us did demonstrate downtown in solidarity with the movement in
the South, making sure that stores in New Haven did not discriminate and that
everything was open in New Haven. So there were demonstrations in New
Ms. Curry: When you were in New Haven, would there have been stores that at that time
were segregated?
Judge Reid: There was some perception that everything might not have been open, that is just
one reason why we wanted to make sure that everything was open. And also to
use it as an ~ducational tool to let =people of New Haven know what was going
on in the South and that there were people in the northern areas who would
support the movement in the South.
Ms. Curry: How big was the demonstration? How many students, I should say, participated
in it?
Judge Reid: This is a movement that both students at Yale and community activists – I can’t
recall numbers. We had a nice-sized group.
– 108 –
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry: Of the events that happened in the 1960s – college demonstrations, assassinations,
war protests across the country, inter-city uprisings following the death of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. – what for you was the most defining or the most
Judge Reid: I think the three assassinations – John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and
Robert Kennedy – gave one serious pause. When John F. Kennedy was
assassinated, I was actually in Africa and a next-door neighbor came and told me
that the president had been assassinated. And my reaction was “who?
Kasavubu?” Kasavubu then was the president of the Congo. And when she said
it was John F. Kennedy, naturally I was stunned. I was in the United States when
Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, and that just about snuffed the breath out of
me, and I recall at the time that my husband almost went berserk. I think he was
tom between tears and running out into the neighborhood and taking action. And
then the assassination of Robert Kennedy, this was a third blow. So I think those
three assassinations set into motion all kinds of forces within the United States –
the riots that occurred, the Black Power movement, the increased resistance, and
ultimately the counter-reaction. So I think I would look at those three
assassinations as defining moments in history.
You’ve talked a bit about your reaction to the news of President Kennedy’s
assassination. Let me ask you, before his death, had you followed his presidency
closely enough to form an opinion as to how you thought he was performing as a
– 109 –
Judge Reid: In a certain respect, yes. I did not think either John Kennedy nor Robert Kennedy
did enough to advance the cause of blacks in the South or the North. I think they
discouraged the kind of passive resistance if you will, the civil disobedience
activities of Martin Luther King, Jr., and they would have preferred to have seen
fewer demonstrations in the South. I don’t know if you recall, but one of the
campaign slogans of John F. Kennedy was the equivalent of just the stroke of a
pen and people were waiting for him to stroke that pen over executive orders, to
ease discrimination in housing and a number of other areas, and he delayed that.
People were looking for the Civil Rights Act, and there was not that much of a
momentum on the part of the Kennedy brothers at that time for the Civil Rights
Act. So my perception ofthe Kennedy brothers while John F. Kennedy was alive
was that they were not doing as much as they could have been doing even though
they were in control of the apparatus of the national government.
In fact, isn’t Ms. Curry: it true that President Johnson did more to advance civil rights than
did John F. Kennedy?
Judge Reid: He worked actively. Yes, definitely, he worked actively to advance civil rights.
And it was strange because I think in the campaign, I think the perception of
blacks was that Kennedy would be more forthcoming and that the Democratic
Party ticket was weakened by the presence of Johnson. So I don’t think anyone
imagined that Johnson would come in and start pushing not only for the Civil
Rights Act but also the Great Society movement, trying to end poverty within the
United States.
– 110-
Ms. Curry: Given what President Johnson did and actually accomplished, why do you think
there is still such a widely held view within the African American community,
and I think it is a matter of record, and that’s why I ask the question as I do, that
John F. Kennedy was the great savior and did so much to advance the cause of
civil rights.
Judge Reid: I think it was in part due to John F. Kennedy’s charisma. I think people really
believed and wanted to believe in John F. Kennedy. And I recall when I was in
Africa, actually when I was in Senegal in 1960 and then when I returned to Africa
to the Congo in 1963, 1964, Africans were thinking this man is going to do great
things, not only for your country – meaning the United States – but also for our
Continent – meaning Africa, so there was just the belief that someone who was as
charismatic and as handsome as John F. Kennedy could not go wrong in terms of
his policies toward the African American community, and the African
community. And I don’t think anyone sensed that Johnson would have done
anything. And in fact when Kennedy was assassinated, the reaction of a number
of Africans to whom I’ve talked was that Johnson was responsible because he
wanted to have the power, the presidency.
Ms. Curry: Do you think any African Americans held that view also?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
I’m pretty sure they did.
Well Johnson certainly redeemed himself.
Yes. Indeed.
Did you ever have an opportunity to meet President Kennedy or attend any event
where he was appearing?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 111 –
Actually, John F. Kennedy was the speaker at the Yale commencement the year I
But I did not meet him personally.
Do you remember anything he said? Memorably?
No. [Laughter] All I remember is the day and how ecstatic I was that that day had
come when I was going to get my law school degree, and my twin brother was
going to get his law school degree. I remember the day, but I cannot tell you what
John F. Kennedy said. I mean, I can describe walking down with my cap in my
hand and gown over the arm getting ready to go to the main graduation before
going to the law school graduation. And I can recall being at the law school
graduation and getting my degree. But I cannot tell you what John F. Kennedy
That’s fair enough.
You talked about your reaction and the reaction of those around you to the
assassination of President Kennedy. Did his assassination change you in any
I don’t think it did. I mean there was the shock value of it, but because I was not
one who put my stock in John F. Kennedy.
What changes did you note in others around you, if any?
I think a lot of people actually grew more cynical and less trusting of government
– 112-
Ms. Curry: We might have covered this, or you might have covered this in your responses to
other questions, but I want to ask you, do you have a view as to what President
Kennedy’s most enduring legacy is?
Judge Reid: I probably would say the Peace Corps. For me, it was the Peace Corps. I cannot
say that he has a legacy that would allow me to indicate that he did something
momentous in terms of the African American community, but I do think he did
something momentous in terms of creating the Peace Corps, allowing young
people, and even middle-aged and older people, to go out to different places in the
universe to assist them, internationally speaking. I think that for me was his
biggest legacy.
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, you talked earlier about your reaction to Dr. Martin Luther King’s
death. Do you recall where you were and what you were doing when he was
Judge Reid: I was actually in New York City, and I was actually – it was not long after I had
returned from Africa – and I was actually with my husband in our living
accommodations at the time.
Ms. Curry: And you mentioned earlier that your husband wanted to – was tom as to whether
he should rush out and participate in some of the uprising, or take some other ,
action. Did you reach out, did you all reach out and call other people, or how did
you respond after the news really sunk in?
Judge Reid: I think all we did was to just try to collect ourselves, and then we, like other
people, watched the events unfold on the television. That was that evening.
Obviously after that, then we engaged in the activities that people within the
general community did.
You mentioned earlier, I believe, that you saw Dr. King at Howard University one
How many times did you have an opportunity to actually see him in person?
I heard him speak a number of times. I know I heard him speak at the Riverside
Church; I heard him speak at Carnegie Hall I believe it was, but several times I
actually heard, I was in his presence while he gave speeches.
Ms. Curry: You never really met him, had an opportunity to go up and engage in dialogue
with him?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 113 –
Judge Reid: I think that early time that I met him at Howard University, I think I shook his
hand, but I may be wrong, but that’s my recollection. Now, my twin brother of
course, when he made his Freedom Ride, did meet him.
“Always the leader,” as you said in your written remarks about him.
That’s right.
The nation, at least most of it, now celebrates Dr. King’s birth as a national
holiday. Having his birthday designated as a national holiday was quite
controversial and took a lot of effort and organizing. Do you have any views you
want to share about that struggle and the significance ofthat becoming a reality?
Judge Reid: I think certainly Martin Luther King, Jr. deserved a holiday. At the time there
was a movement to make it a holiday I’m not sure I appreciated the politics of the
moment because one had ‘to sit down and reflect on what might have been the
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 114-
motives for getting the holiday. And that part of it I did not appreciate. I think
having a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is very important so long as people
remember why there is that holiday, and. by that I mean what Martin Luther King,
Jr. actually meant to the African American community and to the nation as a
whole, and there should be on that holiday either reflection or some activity which
would commemorate his existence and what he stood for, either in the
international setting in opposing war, or in the domestic setting in taking some
action to make life better for people of color and for people of lesser wealth.
Ms. Curry: What did you mean about what might have been the motive in getting a holiday,
that you just said in your answer.
Judge Reid: Politicians always have what they call a “goal,” or what I would call a “motive.”
Now, the motive in terms of the thrust for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday I
believe may well have been on the side of the ledger that said we’ve got to
appease our colored folks, and let’s give them a holiday and we’ll commemorate
Martin Luther King, Jr. In other words, I’m not sure that there was a genuine
feeling that Martin Luther King, Jr. had made considerable contributions to the
United States and the world, rather than political motivation, as I saw it at the
time, was to do something to appease the colored population.
Ms. Curry: What do you see as Dr. King’s most enduring legacy?
Judge Reid: I think his most enduring legacy was continuing to struggle against enormous
odds, both.domestically and in terms of his opposition to the Vietnam War. As
we progress, it may be that history will perceive his opposition to the
– 115 –
Vietnam War as equally, ifnot more important, than his opposition to the
segregation of the South.
Many persons and groups that are staunchly against affirmative action and the use
of race and/or gender, conscious remedies to level the playing field, now readily
quote Dr. King’s call for a color-blind society in support of their efforts. Do you
think these people and groups misunderstand Dr. King’s message and his life’s
Judge Reid: I think that’s clearly possible. I think one has to look at Dr. King in the context of
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
the entire movement, and by that I mean the entire movement to include what was
happening with the Charles Hamilton Houstons, with the Thurgood Marshalls,
with the Constance Baker Motleys of the world. And at the same time that Martin
Luther King, Jr. was doing his demonstrations in the South, Constance Baker
Motley and the Legal Defense Fund were working to get James Meredith into the
University of Mississippi – not only to get him into the University of Mississippi,
but to get a commitment before he even entered the University of Mississippi that
some law school would take him and give him a legal education. So it’s not just
bringing Dr. King out of context, but as an integrated part of the entire movement.
You, of course, were in Washington, D.C., – well, actually, I don’t believe you
were in Washington when the uprising – you were in New York – when the
uprising –
But certainly I watched it unfold on the television.
But you mentioned the uprising in Washington, D.C. What is your general
reaction to how that affected Washington, D.C., and any changes within the
– 116 –
African American community and any changes within the political leaders of
Washington, and just Washington, D.C. , in general?
Judge Reid: Well, for me Washington has always been kind of a schizophrenic community, so
I think it affected different parts of the community differently. I mean, certainly
there was that pocket of the community that bemoaned the fact that people would
go out and destroy 14th Street. On the other hand, another pocket of the
community would say it was almost too late; that people woke up almost too late,
and it’s good that they destroyed the 14th Street corridor.
Ms. Curry: They destroyed their own neighborhood, though, didn’t they?
Judge Reid: Exactly. And some people would’ve thought that that was fine because it sent a
message. What I want to get across is that it’s almost impossible to look at
Washington, D.C., as a monolithic community, and particularly not the African
American community of Washington, D.C. There are just too many differences
within that community.
Ms. Curry: You said they have too many differences within the African American community
within Washington, D.C., and I think anybody who has lived here would certainly
recognize that. Has there ever been a time when all of the different factions and
the different groups of African Americans in Washington, D.C., have coalesced
for a single purpose?
Judge Reid: I can’t remember it when I was growing up. It was a divided community when I
was growing up, and I think it still remains a divided community today.
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, I might very well have some additional questions about Washington
during that time, or certainly if you have anything you want to add at this time or
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 117-
at a later point, feel free to do that. Is there anything you’d like to add at this
point about Washington, D.C., or your general reaction to Dr. King’s death?
I don’t think so at this point and time, but I might want to revisit it later on.
Okay. Let’s then move to your academic and legal career, beginning with your
early experience. Could you describe your experience in preparing for and taking
the Bar examination following law school?
After law school, I actually went to California. I accepted a Ford Foundation
fellowship to do intensive African studies in California, at UCLA, so I actually
went directly to – well not directly, but I went to UCLA in the fall, in September.
So you did not take the Bar examination upon graduating from law school.
No, and there was a simple reason for that. I was too tired to take the Bar exam in
July, but I did take it in February in California.
So you took the California Bar then.
My first Bar was the California Bar.
And how did you prepare for that?
I wanted to have time to prepare; and I wanted to do it in a reflective setting, so I
prepared while I was studying for my Master’s at UCLA, and I took a Bar review
course, of course, and that did a great deal to prepare me. But aside from the Bar
review course, and I tell every student I can get my hands on, as to a law student
who has to study for the Bar, that in addition to preparing your mind, you have to
prepare your body for the Bar examination. And so I was very fortunate because
one of the people I met at UCLA was a young student who actually lived in
California, and her family actually took me in at the time I was to take the Bar
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 118 –
exam, and I lived with them on the days that I had to go for the Bar exam, and
that was very very helpful. Her father was a doctor, first of all. I didn’t need his
services, but it was comforting to be in his house, and she had a younger brother,
a little brother, and that was also relaxing, to be in that setting. So I was able to
not only prepare intellectually for the Bar exam, but to prepare my body to take
the exam. And at that time, it was a three-day exam, and it was all essay, so you
had to make sure your hand was going to get through the exam.
Now, you had always been a good student, so I suppose you had no apprehensions
about passing the Bar. That’s correct, right?
I think everybody has some apprehension, and this was the California Bar. And
California had the reputation of passing less than 50 percent of those who took the
Bar. In fact, the year that I took it, I think 39 percent passed the Bar. And as I
stood in the line the first day, I don’t think I have been around so many repeat
takers. Some people were on their fourth effort to get through the Bar. So, while
I can’t say that I had a great deal of apprehension, I was a little nervous.
But you did pass it.
Yes, I did pass it. And I got sworn in before I went to Africa.
Now, you mentioned that you enrolled in a Master’s program at UCLA, and I
believe it was in Political Science, in 1963, and you received a Ph.D. from
Columbia University in 1968. Let me ask, you reported that during your third
year at Yale, the Associate Dean called you and your brother into his office to tell
you that you should not expect to receive employment offers from law firms as
would other students. Was your decision to attend graduate school influenced by
– 119-
the Dean’s comments, or by the early indoctrination from your family that you
should not stop until you have received a doctorate degree?
Judge Reid: Actually, it was triggered, in part, by one of the other things that the Associate
Dean had said is you can always count on a federal job. Well, I had applied for
the Bureau of Prisons, and I applied to become a clerk with a Juvenile Judge here
in Washington, D.C. I had my interview with the Bureau of Prisons, and at the
conclusion of that interview, the gentleman who conducted the interview just
turned to me and said ,”I’m sorry, but we just hired a male from Howard
University, and he needs the job more than you,” an implication being since I was
female, I didn’t need it because I wasn’t going to be the head of the household.
On the Juvenile clerkship, the Judge wrote and told me that the previous year he
had had a female, and it was the year for a male. So both of those fell through,
but fortunately I had, urn, anticipated that this might be the case, and I’d applied
for the Ford Foundation fellowship. And at that time, I wasn’t actually thinking
Ph.D., I was thinking about getting to Africa again. So the long-standing
indoctrination that we couldn’t stop until we got the Ph.D. was not in my mind at
that particular time. That came a little bit later.
Was your experience Ms. Curry: with the Department of Prisons your first experience with
gender discrimination?
Judge Reid: Yes, yes it was.
Ms. Curry: And how did that affect you?
– 120 –
Judge Reid: Well, it made me more aware that this was going to be a double whammy – that I
not only had to overcome that hurtle, that is to say being a female, but also the
hurtle of being an African American.
Ms. Curry: Did the Dean’s comments have any other effect on you, other than pointing you in
the direction to look for something outside the legal community?
Judge Reid: Mostly, I thought it was rather odd that the Associate Dean would call us in to
begin with to say something like that. And this Associate Dean was a southern
gentleman, so I’m not sure that at the time I really appreciated it. I think he had
good motivation, that he wanted to alert us ahead of time, that we were going to
have to become more rigorous in our search for ajob than our fellow white
students. But, as I said, at the time I thought it was rather odd. And this is in
contrast to the Dean at Jackson College for Women at Tufts University who
seemed to pave the way and want me to pave the way, as opposed to saying you
can’t do this, or you can’t expect that this will happen. In other words, her view
was more of a positive one.
Ms. Curry: Did you share the Dean’s comments with Eleanor Holmes Norton, I believe who
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
was your roommate at the time, or had been your roommate.
I honestly don’t recall.
Can you recall what kinds of jobs the other women in your class accepted after
law school?
Actually, no, I don’t. I can’t recall that. Urn, one of the women in my class, of
course, went on to the Court of Appeals in Texas, the federal Court of Appeals,
but I can’t recall whether or not she went to a law firm right out of law school.
– 121 –
Ms. Curry: Is that Judge Dineen?
Judge Reid: Yes, Carolyn Dineen.
Ms. Curry: Yes, she was one of the Margaret Brent Award recipients at the ABA this year.
Judge Reid: Yes. Yes, she’s a good person.
Ms. Curry: She actually had some very interesting comments about the role of affirmative
action, and she said in her comments she couldn’t understand women who say
that they made it on their own and didn’t need affirmative action
[Laughter]. That sounds like Carolyn.
And she got a rousing round of applause from the audience for that. Of course,
the men had all kinds of opportunities open to them, being Yale law graduates. Is
that correct?
The white men, yes. Yes, definitely. Oh yes.
Now, did your brother go to the Legal Defense Fund when he left Yale?
You’ve had quite a career in academia, beginning with your first job in 1963 after
receiving your Master’s, as a lecturer in Criminal Law at the School of Law and
Administration in Congo, Kinshasha. And can you pronounce for the record and
spell the French pronunciation of that school.
Judge Reid: Yes. The Ecole National De Droit D’Administration. And actually it was in, urn,
at that time Congo, Leopoldville, because Leopoldville was still the name of the
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
main city at that time.
How did you obtain that position?
– 122 –
Judge Reid: I mentioned earlier that I had a Ford Foundation fellowship and I went out to
UCLA to prepare to go to Africa. And, actually, I was offered a Ford Foundation
fellowship for the second year and I had tentatively decided to return to Senegal,
but then I can’t remember how I got wind of it, but I learned that there was an
opportunity to – I learned actually through Yale Law School that there was an
opportunity to go to Congo, Leopoldville, to work for the Ford Foundation and
the Congolese government, a joint contract to actually teach law and establish the
law library in Leopoldville; and I thought that would be a really exciting
opportunity, and rather than to just study the second year in Africa, I could
actually do something worthwhile that would benefit the Congolese government,
and that’s the opportunity that I see.
Ms. Curry: Describe your experience, including your experience of living in the Congo.
Judge Reid: It was an extremely dynamic and exciting experience It was like living two years
in one year. And I say that because the conditions were not that easy because
there was civil war going on in the Congo at the time that I was there. And I
guess the first shock I got was one of the young men who worked at the law
school came to me and he asked me to protect him because he feared for his life
from another ethnic group, and since I was in the setting of mainly Africans, this
came as somewhat of a shock to me that he feared bodily harm from another
ethnic group. Teaching at the law school was also a great challenge. The
Director of Studies at the law school was a Frenchman by the name of
Mr. Benac, and, of course, he did not think that any Americans should be teaching
in the law school, nor did he think that anyone should teach in the law school
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 123 –
whose first language was not Parisienne French, and of course my first language
is not Parisienne French.
Was he a Francophile?
Yes. So, therefore, I learned in the first few days that I would have to be orie step
ahead of this man or else he was going to be trouble, and I managed to stay a step
ahead of him throughout my year of teaching at the law school. So not only was
this Frenchman a challenge, but the students themselves were a challenge,
because you have to imagine that you’re in a country where the Belgians believed
in the need for civilizing mission, and virtually no education for the people. So
here comes independence, and now you’ve got to staff all of these positions, and
you have people who are not prepared to staff the positions. But I say that the
students were a challenge because they thought that by right they should have the
position of a magistrate, and they shouldn’t have to go through all of this
preparation. And my method of teaching was somewhat different because I was
not satisfied with just having them do things by rote, but I wanted to make sure
that they could think through the problems and think through some of the cases
with which they would be presented. So I forced them to do that thinking. And
eventually they caught on. The other thing that was a challenge was getting
through the roll call, with the names, learning how to pronounce all of the African
names. And then the other challenge was living within the context of a civil war.
And that at one point and time for quite a while we had a curfew from 6:00 p.m.
to 6:00 a.m. and you were not supposed to be on the street after 6:00 p.m. at night
until 6:00 a.m. the next morning. But if you had to get someone to the airport and
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 124 –
the plane didn’t leave until 9:00 at night, then of course you had to be on the street
after 6:00, and the trick there was not to stop at the stop signs.
Your explanations raised several questions for me. First, how did you stay a step
ahead of the Head of the school?
You would just have to anticipate what he would come and ask you for next, and
you would have to be prepared, and you had to be prepared ahead of time.
Because he was throwing challenges at me, and I knew that I would have to meet
those challenges. The first thing he challenged was my educational background.
He didn’t expect your degree from Yale as being …
[Laughter] That’s right, I mean we’re dealing with a Frenchman. You’re dealing
with a Frenchman who’s thoroughly committed to the notion ofthe civilizing
mission. But committed from the point of view that only French can properly
teach the civilization.
Were you the only American at the school?
No. No, there was another Mr. McAdams.
Were you the only African American?
He was African American. He dealt with things in his own style. And then we
had a couple of AID people who were attached to the law school. So there was
really a community of Americans in the Congo at the time.
And I suppose you taught in English?
No, no. I taught in French.
You taught in French?
I taught in French.
– 125 –
Well, when – I was thinking, perhaps given the attitude of the Head of the school
– but talk about your study of French then for a moment.
Actually I started taking French when I was in elementary school.
And I continued throughout college. And then the year that I was out at UCLA, I
did intensive work in French. And then when I got to Leopoldville, because I was
with Belgians, their French is a little bit different from French French. Because
it’s partly a Flemish country. For example, their word for “ninety” is a little bit
different from the French word for “ninety.” So I had to make sure I understood
how to speak the Belgian-type French also. So I was tutored when I arrived there
for about a month or so.
Ms. Curry: You mentioned the attitude of the students. Were they openly hostile to you?
Judge Reid: No, no. They were, urn — the word I would use is “intrigued.” And one of the
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
things that they thought they could do was to bribe their way through. For
example, I was offered diamonds for grades. And obviously I didn’t accept any
diamonds for grades. But I would say they were more intrigued, and I didn’t feel
any hostility whatsoever.
Ms. Curry: What were your living accommodations like in the Congo?
Judge Reid: I had good living accommodations. I was in an apartment house, and I had an
apartment in an apartment house. I mean it was nothing spectacular, but it was
certainly adequate.
Ms. Curry: You had running water?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 126-
Yeah, it was just like being in America. It was an apartment house in a middleclass
neighborhood. It was an international setting, truly an international setting.
There were Canadians, Greeks, French, Belgians. I should also say that my other
job in the Congo was to establish the Law Library, and I catalogued all of their
books and established a system. And that’s where my work in the Tufts College
Library and also in the New Haven Public Library came in.
How big was the law school?
It wasn’t that big. We had a building. Urn, I can’t remember the number of
students, but it was definitely not that big.
Have you kept in touch with anybody you either worked with or taught at that
Actually, there was a family, the Kabwasa family, and I actually sponsored them,
one of the brothers, to come to America to study. So I kept in touch periodically
with that family. And in fact, since I’ve been a Judge, the two brothers actually
came here to my chambers, and we talked for a while.
Now, for the record, can you spell their name?
From 1964 to 1976 you taught at several colleges and universities, including
Hunter College, Barnard College, Brooklyn College, City University of New
York, and the State University of New York at New Paltz. This meant that you
spent about 14 years in academia before entering the legal profession. Let’s talk a
bit about those experiences. Urn, first, why did you lecture at three different
universities, and how did the experiences differ?
– 127-
Judge Reid: See, I started off at State University at New Paltz. When I came back from
Africa, I had not decided what I wanted to do next, and so I actually looked for a
job. And teaching at New Paltz opened up, so I actually lived in the New Paltz
community for about a year, and it was while I was there that the indoctrination to
finish the Ph.D. came home, so I decided that I would teach and get my Ph.D.
from – and I wanted to go to Columbia, so I applied to Columbia, and I was
accepted there – so then when I was accepted at Columbia, I knew I had to have a
means of supporting my way through that because I had to pay for my education
myself. So, I decided I would – actually I walked off the street – Hunter College
to see whether or not I could be hired there to lecture, and I was hired on the spot.
But this is a part of the City University system, so I started off at Hunter and then
I was at Lehman College, and then I actually was recruited to go to Brooklyn
College by one of the professors that I had at Columbia who was visiting but he
also taught predominantly at Brooklyn College.
Did you Ms. Curry: teach different subjects at these different schools, or was it in one general
Judge Reid: Oh well I had done two specialties. One was African politics, and the other was
the judicial process and constitutional law – political and civil liberties.
Ms. Curry: I apologize for this, but apparently I have the incorrect spelling of New Paltz. I
have P-I-a and you’re pronouncing it Pva-l-t-z?
Judge Reid: P-a-l-t-z.
Ms. Curry: Okay. Thank you. Urn, how much preparation time was required for your classes
in areas that you hadn’t taught in or worked in?
– 128 –
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid: There was a good deal of preparation. African Politics, I actually had to devise
the course, so that required quite a bit of preparation. The Constitutional Law &
Judicial Process was much easier because of my legal background, but even so, I
had to prepare well for those courses because it’s different teaching undergraduate
students from teaching law school students. So it required quite a bit of
preparation time, and in addition, I was doing the courses for the Ph.D. and
ultimately the thesis, the dissertation.
Ms. Curry: How did your teaching experiences shape you?
Judge Reid: Those were very important to me because it gave me an intellectual challenge, but
it also gave me the challenge of working with young students and molding young
minds, and I wanted to make sure that my students got off on a good footing. It
also required a great deal of counseling. You can imagine African American
students at predominantly white universities and the whole range of problems that
they would encounter, so a lot of my time was spent actually counseling African
American students.
Ms. Curry: But your classes were not predominantly African American at these colleges,
were they?
Judge Reid: No, no they were not. And actually I ended up counseling a number of white
students. And ironically, the more wealthy students who seemed to have greater
problems than the other students.
Problems adjusting? I mean, what was the nature of the counseling? Just
problems adjusting to school for these kids? Or what?
The African American students, it was a combination of adjusting to the
environment and also trying to figure out what they wanted to do for their careers.
I remember one young man who came to me and he said his mother had told him
that he was worthless and he would never amount to anything, so I worked long
and hard with him.
This was an African American student?
An African American male student. And he’s enjoying a very good career now.
Not in the legal field, but in the – I won’t say what field because his name would
be recognized.
So he is a person of national prominence?
He’s a person of more localized prominence, but he’s heard here in the District of
Columbia. The wealthy students, it was more as though they were lost, probably
because I don’t think their parents had enough time to spend with them. So part
of it was trying to instill self-confidence in some of those more wealthy students.
Have you followed any of your other students’ career paths? You mentioned the
one student who –
Judge Reid: Yes, I followed them, the career paths of a number of my students who are
lawyers, and who have other careers – professors, etc. But yeah, I’ve followed
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
– 129-
the careers of a number of my students, and in fact, one of my former students is a
judge on the Superior Court here, urn, Thomas Motley, and I remember a
conversation I had with him years and years ago, he was with –
You taught … ?
– 130 –
Judge Reid: Yeah, I taught Thomas Motley. Yes, he was with a law firm, a major law firm
here in town. And I remember saying to him, “Thomas, you have to get out; you
have to go somewhere else.” And I suggested the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the
Corporation Counsel’s Office, because he had been spending his time working on
this one railroad case, motions for a railroad case. So he accepted the advice, and
he went with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and then ascended to the bench. Louis
Anthony was also one of my students. I don’t know if you know that, but-
Ms. Curry: The minister?
Judge Reid: The minister, yes. And he went to Harvard Law School too. I think there are few
people who know that. So there are a number of success stories with my students.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Very good. So you, uh, take a lot of pride in helping to shape them.
Judge Reid, how did the students respond to you as a woman professor?
I think a lot of the African American students were delighted, and even at
graduation time they wanted to be sure that their parents met me. The group that I
had the greatest difficulty with initially, and that’s been true throughout my
career, were white male students. The style that I use is more of a Socratic style,
and I think white male students had, and have, great difficulty being challenged
by an African American first, and second, an African American female. But after
about the first month, they get over it, and they’re able to relate well to me. But
it’s just that initial first month in which they don’t want to feel that they’ve been
embarrassed by an African American or an African American woman because
they didn’t know the answer.
Well how did you discern that they had problems with your, uh, style?
You can tell by body language and verbal puns in terms of responses.
What did you find most fulfilling about your teaching experience?
The intellectual challenge of it all, working with the students and overcoming any
obstacles that I encountered as a professor with my colleagues. For example, at
Barnard College, there was an economics professor to whom I spoke every time I
passed her. Never once did she speak to me. So, it’s just little episodes like that
that you have to get across and get the –
How long were you at Barnard? A year, I believe.
No, actually I went to Barnard, urn – when did I go to Barnard? It was shortly
after I finished, urn – I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was more than
a year.
I think it was three years now that I’m looking at my follow-up question, I believe
you were there for three years. And you’re saying that, anyway, during the time
that you were there this woman professor never spoke to you.
Judge Reid: Never. Never spoke to me. Never spoke to me.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 131 –
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, I think what we will do is conclude the interview for today, and we
will continue the next time with a little bit about your academic career and then
we will move into your legal career.
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Fine. Very good. Thank you.
Thank you very much.
– 132 –
Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
Fourth Interview
October 28,2005
This is the fourth interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid, Associate
Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the Oral History Project of The
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry of
The Curry Law Firm PLLC. The interview took place in Judge Reid’s Chambers at the Carl
Moultrie Courthouse, at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry: Good morning, Judge Reid.
Judge Reid: Good morning.
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, during the last interview, we discussed some of the social changes
and dynamics that incurred in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Since we last
talked, two legends who had a great impact on the changes that occurred in this
country, Rosa Parks and Judge Constance Baker Motley, have died. Before
picking up where we left off, I want to ask if you would please comment on the
passing away of these two giants, whether it had any significance for you, or any
effect on you.
Judge Reid: Well, I think both women certainly had a historic role in the decades when the
civil rights movement was most active. Rosa Parks, although not the first African
American to refuse to move from her seat on a bus, nonetheless took on a historic
role because on that day in Montgomery she refused to give up her seat. And I
think she, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., set the stage for the new impetus to
desegregate the buses or the transportation system down in Montgomery. So as I
say, she was not the first, but certainly has a place in history with regard to those
efforts in Montgomery. Now, with respect to Constance Baker Motley, I have a
– 133 –
greater feeling for her role in history simply because I was privileged to work a
bit with her in the decade of the 1960s when I spent short stints at the NAACP
Legal Defense Fund. I can remember her as a woman of enormous stature who
exuded quiet confidence, intelligence, and skill, plus a determination to get the
job done with respect to the desegregation of the education, school system and
other aspects of life, segregated life, which blacks faced in the South. And I can
recall her talking about the judges on the Fifth Circuit and her adventures before
those judges. But perhaps the most memorable thing about my experience with
Judge Motley was the day she came into the setting where I was working at the
Inc. Fund and said, “I want you to meet James Meredith. He’s going to
desegregate the University of Mississippi.” So that summer we had a chance to
be exposed to James Meredith and also to listen in on the strategy that was going
to be used to get James Meredith into the University of Mississippi. So my twin
brother and I both had an enormous experience thai summer with Judge Motley.
In addition, I was able to work on some school desegregation cases with her in the
South, writing briefs and all, and it was quite an experience to have a brief come
out with your name on it as a contributing member of that brief. So, when I last
saw Judge Motley, it was in New York, at a program which my twin brother was
moderating on Brown v. Bd. of Education and the 50th anniversary of Brown. At
that time, she really literally had lost a lot of her memory, so it was kind of a
poignant experience. Her husband was with her, and it was clear, at least to us,
that even though she still had a wonderful smile, that she was not the same
woman she was when I knew her at the Inc. Fund, but nevertheless, her legacy
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 134-
will live on, because she was an imposing woman and made enormous sacrifices
and contributions. And even when she left the Inc. Fund and went into politics to
run for borough president of Manhattan, I got to know her a little bit then, and she
had a great sense of humor about standing on the comer in Harlem and trying to
get people to vote for her to become Borough president. And, of course, I shared
the joy when she was designated for the bench.
Now, you mentioned working for her and writing, helping, assisting with some of
the briefs. Was she a great teacher? Mentor?
Yes she was, no doubt about it. Plus she expected you to work independently.
She would give you an assignment and she would come back a couple of days
later and simply say, “Do you have something for me?” and you knew you better
have something for her, and that something really meant, You better have a
product that’s close to the final product that I can really use.
Was she the only female Attorney at the Inc. Fund at that time?
As I can recall. I remember Derrick Bell was there, um, Jack Greenberg and
Jim Nabrit, my twin brother, LeRoy Clark, but yes, I think she was the only
female at the time. And needless to say, she was at the top, and the men actually
gave her a lot of deep respect.
Having grown up in Mississippi, actually only 20 miles from Oxford, which is
where the University of Mississippi is located, when I learned in my later years
about Judge Motley, then attorney Motley’s, representation of James Meredith
and her travels through Mississippi at that time, all I could think of was what a
courageous woman she had to be to really come into the bowels of that hostility
– 135 –
as an African American woman and to represent James Meredith. Did she ever
speak of her fear or any concerns for her safety during those times?
Judge Reid: If she had a fear, she always dressed it up in humor. And I think that’s one of the
ways she dealt with the scary moments of being in the South. She would just use
her sense of humor and get on with it and move on to the next thing. And I
should also say that she had great vision because the strategy for James Meredith
was not simply to get him into the University of Mississippi, but also to make sure
he would have a place at a law school so he could study law once he finished, and
so she worked on making sure that he would be able to be admitted to the
Columbia University School of Law, assuming that he did well in his studies at
the University of Mississippi. So I guess I was struck by her vision, that i”t was
not just the moment of getting him into the University of Mississippi, but it was
going beyond that in making sure that he had a professional school education also.
Ms. Curry: Now of course James Meredith, unlike Ernie Green, who is one of the
Little Rock Nine, and Ernie Green has remained a force and active in the African
American community and in civil rights to some extent. James Meredith,
however, kind of went the opposite way and is a very conservative person. Did
you ever have an opportunity to talk with Judge Motley about James Meredith’s
evolution and what happened to him, or that was just not a subject that you all
Judge Reid: No, we never talked about that. And I guess I would say that one never knows the
scars Meredith was left with, and he came to the venture to go to the University of
Mississippi from the military, so he had that background, and then who knows
– 136-
what he went through personally when he studied at the University of Mississippi,
and who knows what the transformation of his thinking was as he proceeded
through Mississippi and then at Columbia University.
Well, that’s certainly true. Judge Reid, we did not discuss the feminist movement
during our discussion of the significant 1960s movement. I do want to explore
that with you, but what I would like to do today is to continue where we stopped
the last time, and that is discussing your career. When we discuss the feminist
movement, I do want to revisit two issues raised by answers to questions the last
time, and those issues would be white male students’ reactions to you as a female
professor, and the female professor at Barnard who refused to speak to you. But I
want to, I think those issues are interrelated to sort of what happened in the
feminist movement, and I want to revisit those at that time.
Judge Reid: Okay, good.
Ms. Curry: Let’s continue then with our discussion about your career. I noticed that while
Ms. Curry:
holding the teaching positions at Barnard in New York, you also served as the
Executive Director of the Black Women’s Community Development Foundation
in the District of Columbia, where you served from 1971 to 1974. How did you
obtain that position, and describe your experience.
Judge Reid: Actually, I was approached by Jean Fairfax, who also spent a lot of time at the
NAACP Legal Defense Fund, not as an attorney. And I was also approached by
Marian Wright Edelman, whom I had known in law school. And they asked me if
I could find some time to come down to Washington, even though I was living in
New York, to help them out with the Black Women’s Community Development
– 137 –
Foundation. This was a foundation that had been created with funding from, as I
recall, Cummins Engine initially, and it was a foundation that was designed to get
at the heart of some of the problems of black women and to be of assistance to
them. So I agreed that I would come down and do a stint as head of the BWCDF,
as we then called it. Urn, I guess I would single out about three major projects
that I did. One was a symposium on the mental and physical health of black
. women. And we brought from across the country a group of women – I can’t
recall where we met, but I can look that up – and we had presentations from some
leading lights of the medical community on health issues. We covered cancer,
hypertension, the different types of mental illnesses that black women confront –
suicide – I mean, just a range of health issues. It was a marvelous experience, and
.the women at times got very upset. And, uh, they were so engaged that-
Ms. Curry: You mean those women attending the conference?
Judge Reid: Attending it, yeah. Urn, they were so engaged in what they were doing that
sometimes their emotions spilled over. But it was a very good experience. And
then we put out literature as a result of that conference which we distributed
across the country to try to get women to address some of these health issues early
on. And I recall that with cancer, for example, breast cancer was prominent,
prominently featured, and we had Dr. Thunderburk, who still practices here in
Washington, who has done a lot of work in cancer and cancer treatments, speak to
the women at that time. And we also wanted to focus not only on middle-class
women who had health insurance and all of that, but on some of the poorer
woman who were facing a choice between eating and buying their medications for
– 138 –
hypertension. So that was one project. The second project was to try to address
some of the problems of female juvenile delinquents, to get them out of a secured
setting and into a home where some of their major problems could be addressed,
so we did create a juvenile facility for young black women who were facing the
juvenile justice system, so that was a major project of ours. And then I was asked
if! would do a major study of the attitudes of black women, and so, with the
assistance of some of my Barnard college students, we interviewed women across
the country on a range of things, and the results of these interviews are published
in a book which I authored called Together Black Women, and that was an
enormous experience, getting to talk to black women about things such as their
attitudes towards politicians, were they aware of politicians, and one of the things
we discovered is that virtually no one knew who Senator Edward Brooke was at
that particular time. They had no recognition of that name whatsoever.
Ms. Curry: Was this true of the middle-class black women?
Judge Reid: [Laughter] All, all black women. Yeah, it was a very interesting phenomenon.
We also explored their attitudes, and we’ll talk about this next time, or before we
finish with these interviews. We explored their attitudes towards the women’s
liberation movement and their attitudes towards the role of black women within
the civil rights movement, so that was a very interesting thing. The other thing
we did at the Foundation was to give out small grants to people, to encourage
their work. And one of the groups that we early on sponsored was – what was the
name – Sweet Honey in the Rock, yeah.
Ms. Curry: Who is in concert tonight, at the Warner Theater.
– 139 –
Judge Reid: Oh, okay. Bernice Reagon. We tried to support her as much as we could. Oh,
and then finally I should mention before I left, we also got involved with African
women, and one of the things we wanted to do was to set up a project in Africa
that could benefit African women who were living in villages, and so we
established contact with a number of African women leaders in Senegal, Mali,
and what was then called Upper Volta, which is now Bourkina Fasso. We worked
also with the AID, Agency for International Development, and were able to get a
grant and to set up a project to help women – African women – in villages just
before I left.
Let me ask you, is the book – who published the book?
We used a little-known company called Emerson Hall that was run by a black
male at that particular time. And I specifically wanted to give the book to an
African American to do the publication. So he put out the initial volume. Then it
was picked up by another company, which is run by an African who was living in
New York at the time.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Is it still in print?
Urn, I don’t think so, but I have been told that one of my former students came
across it, reference to it, on the Internet, and there may be some copies around
somewhere that people are picking up off ofthe Internet.
This effort was really, urn, quite an extraordinary effort at that time. You hear
now of a plethora of organizations trying to achieve some of the kinds of things
that you all were doing at that time, but really, this is quite extraordinary, and you
mention it being the brainchild of Marian Wright Edelman and Ms. Fairchild?
– 140 –
Fairfax. Jean Fairfax.
Fairfax. And were there others involved in the founding of this organization, or
were these two women the primary founders?
I don’t know whether she was involved in founding it, and I’m blocking on the
name, but she later became a congresswoman from, I believe it was North
Carolina. Eva Clayton. But she also played a prominent role. And then there
was another woman out of the South, maybe Mississippi, but I’ll get those names
for you because I still have some literature on the BWCDF and the things that we
put together.
Ms. Curry: Now, was this Marian Wright Edelman’s first, sort of, foray into public interest
organizations before she, of course, founded the Children’s Defense Fund?
Judge Reid: Marian actually had gone – I think it was after law school- had gone to
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Mississippi, to work in Mississippi for a while, with urn, what’s his name-
Robert Moses. Is his name Robert Moses?
Ms. Curry: Yes it is. Bob Moses.
Judge Reid: Bob Moses. Yes, so no it was not her first, and as you know Marian’s roots are in
the South, I believe it was South Carolina. Her father was a clergyman in the
South, so it was not her first. Children’s Defense Fund was not her first venture.
How did you manage two positions in different cities before the age of
Judge Reid: Well, it was not easy. I mean, I had a small efficiency here in Washington, and
then of course I had my apartment in New York. And I structured my courses at
Barnard so that I would have days that I could come down to Washington to work
Ms. Curry:
on the BWCDF business. But fortunately there was Amtrak. And if I had to be
pushed, I could take an Amtrak.
And, was this position at the Black Women’s Community Development
Foundation, was that a paid position?
Yes it was.
And how many staff members did you have?
Uh, let’s see, we had 1, 2 – a very small staff, maybe 3 or 4 people, and some of
them worked part-time.
Where were your offices located?
Ms. Fairfax had gotten a place, actually right on Connecticut Avenue. And we
received a lot of assistance, and I’m not sure that we paid the prime rate to get that
small office. Ms. Fairfax was well wired and very persuasive in terms of
convincing people to do something for an organization that was designed to do
community work on behalf of African American women.
Ms. Curry: I don’t recognize the name of Ms. Fairfax. Is she African American?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
– 141 –
Judge Reid: An African American woman, yes.
Ms. Curry: Is she still alive?
Judge Reid: I’m not sure whether she’s still alive or not. She went out to the Midwest or West
after she retired. But she was also very active in church life.
Ms. Curry: Did she grow up in the District?
Judge Reid: No.
Ms. Curry: Well, you finally entered the legal profession in May 1976 when you accepted a
job as General Counsel of the New York State Executive Department, State
– 142 –
Division, in Albany, New York. Why did you defer entering the legal profession
for so long?
Judge Reid: Well, initially it was not my choice to defer. I think I explained that when it came
time to graduate from law school, there was a problem with African Americans
finding good positions in the law, and that’s one of the things that prompted me to
say, “All right, I’m going to go on with education and do something else,” and
once I got to Africa and started teaching, I liked teaching. And then when I came
back to the States, it was a question of finding a position fairly quickly, and I
thought that I would enjoy teaching, so I got into teaching and I stayed in teaching
because I really, really loved it. And then, as I say, when my twin brother said it
was time to justify the law degree; about that time, I got a call from
Peter Edelman asking me if I would become his General Counsel. Peter, of
course, is married to Marian Wright Edelman. And I accepted because it was a
position that would enable me to have contact with juveniles, and I saw this
position as kind of an outgrowth of the work that I had started with BWCDF with
the juvenile justice project for African American women.
Ms. Curry: Is that how you first developed an interest in working with juveniles, when you
were at–
Judge Reid: At BWCDF, yes. And then Peter is just an extraordinary man. He’s got an
intelligence that is not equaled by many people in the country. And he had a
history of working with the Kennedys, with Robert Kennedy, and being ingrained
in the affairs of African American people and with the problems, social problems,
confronting poorer people in the countryside, so I viewed it as a great opportunity
to work with him. And it was.
Now, were he and Marian married at that time?
Yes, and they had young children. I’m not sure all of the sons were born at that
time, but yes, they were married and living in Albany. And Marian would
commute down to Washington to her position.
After such a long hiatus from working in the legal field, did you have any
trepidation when you began your first job?
No, none. No, not at all.
Of course not with your background.
No, I just looked upon it as a great challenge. Because the position required me to
do a lot of travel throughout New York State because we had facilities across the
Why don’t you describe your responsibilities and a bit more about what it was
like to work for Peter. You just stated he has an intelligence unequaled by many,
but describe your overall experience.
Judge Reid: Well, the New York State Division for Youth had responsibility for children in
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
– 143 –
foster care, for what we called then persons in need of supervision, PINS, and for
juvenile delinquents and all of the institutions in which juvenile delinquents were
housed. So my work was partly in contracts because we had to do contracts with
all of the persons who were servicing those facilities and partly in personnel
because we had problems that had to be dealt with with the employees in some of
these institutions. The most memorable personnel case was one of child abuse,
– 144 –
child sexual abuse, by one of our employees. And then the responsibility was to
go out into the facilities to make sure that things were in order, that the rules and
regulations were being followed, that the juvenile delinquents were being treated
as they should; for example, getting the proper hearings. And I recall one
instance in which a young man was presented as a problem so they wanted to
transfer him to a maximum security facility but no one wanted to do his hearing
because they were afraid of him. So I took it upon myself to do it.
When you say they were afraid, was he, because of his criminal past, or because
he was-
Judge Reid: Because they thought he would assault them. It was to me the most amazing
thing. So I decided I would conduct the hearing personally, which I did. And as I
Ms. Curry:
got into his case, it became very obvious that the boy was traumatized because
both of his parents had died, as I recall one from cancer and one very suddenly, so
he was at sea, and he was rebelling, and hitting out at all kinds of people because
of his grief mainly. And so what I did was to suggest – there was a cleaning
woman at the facility where he was then housed – and I suggested that there
should be greater contact between him and this lady, the cleaning lady, at the
facility. That worked out well, and then ultimately we were able to place him
with a relative in the South.
Ms. Curry: Let me ask you – why did you suggest there should be greater contact between
this young man and the cleaning woman?
Judge Reid: Because somehow he seemed to relate to her. Whether or not she reminded him
of his mother, or what, I’m not sure, but there was something that she could say or
– 145 –
do for him that had a calming influence on him. And I was able to distill this
from the hearing, the hearing process and just talking with him.
Ms. Curry: Did he react in a hostile manner during the hearing or attempt to assault you
during the hearing?
Judge Reid: No, not at all. Not at all. And in fact, after the hearing, some time later, as I was
walking through the hall taking care of some other business, I saw him, and he
remarked to a young man with whom he was walking, “She’s a lawyer.” So I
don’t know whether or not he was impressed with the fact that I was a lawyer and
I was interested in his case, I’m not sure, but there was absolutely no acting out
during the hearing.
Now, I think I Ms. Curry: know the answer to this next question, but I’d like you just to state
it on the record. I’ve made an inference, at least, from your earlier answers, and
that question is: was Peter Edelman a good supervisor in the sense of did working
for him enhance your development in the legal profession?
Judge Reid: Yeah, Peter was great to work for. Urn, while I did some of the preparation for
his appearance before the legislature when the legislature was considering bills
that would affect our agency, he did the presentation, and it was just remarkable
to sit in the room with him, to listen to him field the difficult questions that he was
getting from the legislators. Peter was a good study, a quick study, and he was
able to feel out people, urn, to know what to say and when to say it, and he had a
remarkable capacity to retain facts in his head, statistics in his head, and it was
just impressive to sit there and to hear him defend our requests or to attack
legislation that was being considered by the legislature. He also was very good
– 146 –
when it came time to defend the budget, and his presentations in support of the
budget were always very well documented and very well conveyed to the
legislators so that – I can’t recall an instance in which we were not successful in
terms of the budgetary requests. Peter was also very supportive, and we rarely, if
ever, had a disagreement over policy or how to proceed with some of our work,
and this is one of the reasons why, coming up to present day, I recommended him
to head our Access to Justice Commission, and this Court did appoint him to take
on that task.
Ms. Curry: Oh, so that was your recommendation?
Judge Reid: Yes, but it also came from other quarters, which was very interesting. Some of
the legal service providers also wanted him, not even knowing that I knew Peter,
so that was good, we all, from different quarters, we pegged him as the proper
person to head this commission.
Ms. Curry: Who brought you first to his attention? Was it Marian Wright Edelman from your
time with her at Yale?
Judge Reid: Yeah. Evidently, um, Peter had discussed with Marian the possibility of trying to
find somebody to become his general counsel, and she must have suggested my
name. Because at that time I did not know Peter personally, although I knew he
was married to Marian.
Ms. Curry: Now, how many staff attorneys did you supervise in that job?
Judge Reid: I’m not sure I can even recall at this point. I guess I want to say there were at
least ten in the Albany office, and as I recall there were others out in the field.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
-t47 –
Did you meet with any resistance from any of them, either to your being a woman
or your being an African American in supervising?
No, we got along extremely well together, and I can not recall a single time in
which I had a personal problem with any of the attorneys on my staff. I mean I
spoke earlier – I mentioned earlier – this, um, child sexual abuse case which I had
the responsibility for investigating and then calling the employee in to let him
know that charges would be filed against him and then trying to work out a
solution with him, and his reaction was an interesting one at the end, after we
finally resolved it and worked out a solution, um, he shook my hand and thanked
me, and it was as though he were relieved that he had been discovered, but he did
a lot of damage to some of those young men, so we had to –
So this was male-on-male abuse?
Male-on-male abuse, yes.
And there was evidence that he actually did it; these were not just allegations?
Oh, absolutely, I mean I did a thorough investigation. Because at first blush you
don’t want to believe the young men who are saying “he’s abused me,” but as I
dug in deeper and deeper, it was clear that the children were not imagining that
they were being abused by this man.
Okay, we’re back on the record after abrief pause
Judge Reid, did you maintain a relationship with any of the attomeys you
supervised, or do you know if any of them went on to become noted public
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
As I recall, I maintained contact in the first one or two years after I left DFY, but
not thereafter, and I’m just not sure whether or not any of them did go on to
greater things.
What would you say was the most valuable lesson or experience you gained from
that job?
Probably matters of policy’and how to approach matters of policy in changing
times, um. I recall, for example, that there was an issue as to whether or not
juveniles who repeatedly engaged in antisocial behavior should be treated as
adults at a younger age, and we went through a lot of discussion, policy
discussions, at that time as to whether or not the age in which one would have
discretion to treat a juvenile as an adult should be lowered, and that’s one of the
things that I think I recall most vividly is engaging in those kinds of policy
decisions for changing times.
And ultimately, what was decided with respect to how juveniles should be
Ultimately it was decided that, as I recall, that the age should be lowered so that
the juvenile could be treated at the prosecutor’s discretion as an adult at an earlier
And you didn’t have any problem with that?
No, no not at all, I did not.
What – or I should say – were there positive reform-types of programs that were
designed to assist the youth with being rehabilitated?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
One of the things I mentioned earlier that we had responsibility for persons in
need of supervision and foster care, so one of the things we did was to concentrate
more on the treatment of persons in need of supervision and children in foster care
to make sure that they were receiving proper treatment, um, to make sure also that
they were getting the requisite educational assistance where they had special
leaming problems, and also to make sure that they were getting proper treatment
with respect to any kind of psychiatric problems so that there was an effort to
preclude them from re-engaging in those kinds of antisocial behavior
Before talking about your next job, let me ask – I noticed that you spent a lot of
time in New York. What was it about the city, or should I say, about the State,
because you actually spent some time in Albany, that made you stay?
Well, I enjoyed the challenge of New York. I liked what I was doing. I enjoyed
teaching at Columbi4 Barnard College, and City University ofNew York at ari
earlier point in time. I was also married at the time, and New York was a place
where my husband, who was from the West Indies, really wanted to be because he
had relatives there. One of his relatives was an ambassador to the United Nations
at the time, and he had other relatives in that particulau. are4 plus my twin brother
was there,
Always that connection to the twin brother.
Yes, but above all I think it was the challenge of the positions that I had in New
York because I really liked teaching in New York.
New York is a town, or city, much like D.C., where who you know is sometimes
as important as what you know. Did you make any contacts in New York that
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
have furthered your career or that otherwise have been valuable over the years,
other than, of course, Peter Edelman?
Yes. I would say that one of my valuable contacts was Dr. Elliott Skinner. At the
time, Dr. Skinner was a professor of anthropology, I should say the Franz Boas
Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York, and I first met
him when I went out at an earlier point in time to participate in Operation
Crossroads Africa. Elliott Skinner was a man of tremendous intellectual powers,
and he encouraged me to continue to hone my intellectual skills, not to forget
about writing, to make sure I did proper research, and also, I think that was an
extremely valuable contact that I made in New York that I was proud of having. I
didn’t know any of the political people in New York so I can’t say that I made
those kinds of contacts while I was inNew York.
Although you spent a number of years in New York, you spent only one year at
the Division of Youth, why is that?
Well, one day Peter came to me and said, “You are going to get a request to go
down to Washington to work in the Carter administration.” It turns out that
evidently he and Marian had recommended me for a position in the Carter
administration. And sure enough, the call came from, as I recall, Joseph Califano
at the old Departrnent of Health, Education & Welfare, who asked me to come
down and discuss possibilities of working at HEW, which I did, and then he put
me in contact with the General Counsel of HEW at the time, who was Peter
Libassi. And Peter Libassi ended up offering me a position as a Deputy General
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Counsel at the old Department of Health, Education & Welfare, which I ‘
eventually accepted.
Could you spell Libassi for this record please?
That is L-i-b-a-s-s-i.
What did your job as Deputy General Counsel – and I believe it was the correct
title, or the entire title, was Depufy General Counsel for Regulation Review at
HEW. What did that job entail?
This was a job that was responsible for all of the regulations issued at the
Department of Health, Education & Welfare, so that if there were regulations in
the Department of Education – I mean, in the Educational Branch – or in the
Health Branch or in the Benefits Branch, they all had to come through me for
approval and revision if necessary, so it was an enofinous responsibility. In
addition, atthattime there was a venture under way to rewrite all of the
regulations in what was then called Plain English. So I was in charge of that
project. But just the sheer job of discussing the policy that was embedded in the
regulations was a huge responsibility.
Given your early grounding in writing, as you explained from elementary school
on, you were a good one to have that job.
It came in handy I must say.
Who was the general counsel?
That was Peter. Peter Libassi.
Oh that’s right, you said that. That that was his job, as general counsel. Where is
he now?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
‘Last I know, after he left the old HEW, he went to connecticut, as I recall, to
work for Travelers Insurance, and he may still be there, but I’m just not sure.
Did you establish any lasting relationships in that job? And have you kept up
with Mr. Califano? Or did you have much dealing with him?
At the time, I had dealings with him. I can’t say on a day-to-day basis. Um, I’ve
kept up with him mostly indirectly because later in life I met and worked with an
attomey who subsequenfly became his son-in-law, so I kept up with him through
periodic conversations with that attorney.
And who is that?
Eugene Goldman. He works over at, uh, McDermott Will.
And where did you and Mr. Goldman work together?
We worked in the old Laxalt Washinglon law firm.
Oh, when you were in private practice?
When I was in private practice, yes.
Did you find your job at HEW gratifying?
Yes, yes. It was very challenging. Um, challenging not only from the point of
view of regulatory review, but I also had contact with others. There was a deputy
general counsel – I can’t remember his exact title – Dan Marcus, who
subsequently went to Wilmer Cutler law firm, it was a good contact that I had
with him because he really knew his law, and he was a very good attomey, so that
was a contact that I valued there at HEW.
Your next job was as Inspector General of the United States Environmental
Protection Agency where you were from December 1979 until January of 1981.
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had the interview, I decided I really did not want the position and so I informed
the powers ttrat be, whoever whs the initial contact, that I had decided I was not
interested in the position. And then I began to get some pressure to reconsider.
And one of the people who called me, and I’m blocking onhis name, but you will
know the name, he was wheelchair-bound and atone time served as the –
D.C. Bar President, Chuck Ruff.
Chuck Ruff. Chuck Ruffcalled me, and I explained to him- and as I recall we
had a face-to-face contact, and I explained to him that I didn’t think it was a job
+}ratl could do because it was a job that required supervision, not only of criminal
investigators, but also of the audit staff.
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Why did you decide to take that job, and what in your experience led you to
believe you were qualified for that position?
Actually, it’s a position that I did not seek, nor did I really want the position. As I
recall, I received the contact one day from White House personnel informing me
that I would get a contact from –
Now, you say you received a contact – you mean you received a call?
Yeah, telling me that I would receive a communication from the head or the
deputy head of the Environmental Protection Agency about the position of
Inspector General. At that time, the Inspector General Act had been enacted, but
an office had not yet been created at the EPA – Environmental Protection Agency.
So sure enough, I did receive the call, and I went over and talked to, as I recall it
was Blum who was the assistant administrator of EPA atthattime. And after I
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How did you come to be offered the job in the first place? I mean, why do you
think the initial contact was made with you?
I’m not sure, unless it was a recommendation out of HEW through someone who
thought I appeared to have the capacity to do the job. So, to this day, I really
don’t know who initialiy recommended me for the position. But Chuck explained
to me that he thought, from his perspective, that I could really do this job and that
I should not be scared off by the audit responsibilities or by the criminal
investigative responsibilities. Now, the thing that he had going for him was that I
did have an interest in environmental law and the environmental problems that
were facing the country. So he asked me to go through another interview at EPA,
which I did, and as I recall,I think her first name was Barbara,BarbaraBlum put
the full-court pressure on me, saying that she really wanted me to accept the
position. And in the final analysis, if you’re called upon to serve, I guess you
can’t refuse to serve, so given that point of view, and my interest in environmental
law and environmental problems, I finally succumbed and agreed to take the
position and to set up the offrce of Inspector General of EPA, which I did.
Where was Chuck Ruffat the time when he contacted you? What was his
llh, I want to say he was at the U,S. Attorney’s Office, but I’m not 100% sure, but
that’s my recollection at the moment.
But evidently he had some dealings with the Carter adminiskation.
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Yes. In fact,l think he had a position earlier in the Carter administration, and in
fact, it may have been the U.S. Attorney’s position. I actually may have come
across him, in fact I know I did later when I was Corporation Counsel.
You mentioned the audit responsibilities and the criminal investigations. What
else did the job of Inspector General entail?
Well, the overall framework was to weed out fraud, waste, and abuse. And one of
the ways of doing that was to look at all of the grants which EPA had made and
the expenditures with respect to those grants and the achievements; in other
words, did they actually accomplish the work that the grant was designed to do?
U:n, it also had responsibility for looking at all of the employees to make sure that
they were abiding by the rules and regulations, for example, that they did not take
time off without getting leave, that they did not abuse the travel regulations, that
they were abiding by the standards of conduct. So it was kind of a far-ranging
position, and it was a unique position in that there was a lot of independence
attached to it.
To whom did you report?
Technically I reported to the Assistant Administrator, Barbara Blum. But in
reality, it was really an independent position. And my dealings were a lot with
the Congress of the United States, when they were doing the hearings and
investigations on some of EPA’s programs.
Did you have to testify?
Yes. Yes, in fact I did testiff. One of the things I did early on was to decide that
we had to take a look at the waste water treatment grants. These were the grants
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designed to create waste water treatment systems across the country to treat waste
water, and it became very clear when we were doing both the audit side and the
criminal investigation side that there were real problems. So that’s one of the
things that I had to testiff on the Hill about. Um, and it was extremely
controversial. I recall one of the places where we had to do criminal investigative
work was down in Louisiana.
And what would have been the crime? I mean, who would have committed the
Persons who were given the grants. There may have been some political
influence in the implementation of those grants and the construction of the waste
water treatment plants, for example. So, we indeed discovered this was the case
in Louisiana and conducted a firli-court press with respect to criminal
investigation, and ultimately a grand jury was convened. And I recall getting a
call from a congressman’s office, um, it was a heated telephone conversation in
‘ which the message clearly was “you better back off, and back off now.” In
addition, the criminal investigators in the field were getting threats. And in fact,
they were actually frightened.
These were investigators from your offrce?
From my office. And so, um, I was called to testifu on the Hill, and I recall at the
end, astaff member said to me, “You know, you have a lot of courage,” and I
won’t use the expression that he used, but it was to s’ay that you have more
courage than the men have because evidently some people were too frightened to
go and testiff on the Hill.
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Did he say that in a commendable way, or was it –
Oh yes. No, no, clearly it was a compliment. And also I think it was said out of
frustration of not being able to get some of the people who should have been
testifring because they were witnesses first hand to the violations that were going
on, that they were simply reluctant to testiff because they feared for their lives.
How did you staff this office? You mentioned setting up the office, and then you
just mentioned the investigators were from your office. Talk a bit about your
process of stafErng the office and who some of the people were who worked for
Well, I inherited – EPA had an auditing staff. I inherited all of those auditors.
They had just a few criminal investigators, and that side had to be built up. But
the unique thing was that they were being brought together under one umbrella, in
one office, because previously, the auditors had not had communication wilh the
few investigators that EPA had on staff and there were very few at the time that I
walked in. So we had to hire more investigators. And then we crossed the work.
For example, the audit results gave us an appreciation of where some of the
problems were, and so we would take the audit reports and hand them over to the
criminal investigative side, and then the criminal investigators would go out into
the field to work the case, then where the situation warranted, we would work
with the Department of Justice. I think it was the – I can’t recall the exact section
which we worked – but those attomeys would work with us and then we would, at
least in the instance that I’m talking about now, begin the grand jury process for
the presentation of the evidence to the grand jury. How all of that ended up, I
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don’t know because the administrations changed, and then I went out of business
as the Inspector General.
Did you – Did you actually hire the criminal investigators yourself, or –
Yes. Yes.
And how did you go about that process? Through applications? Were they
referred to you?
Through applications. Some of the referrals came from men who were already on
staff who knew other criminal investigators who might be good for the job.
Now, Judge Reid, you talked a bit about testifying on the Hill. Um, that was
before a congtessional committee, correct?
That is correct. Yes.
Do you remember which committee?
No, I really don’t remember.
Do you remember the congressperson, or any persons you testified before?
No, I honestly don’t recall at this point.
Okay. What was the general reaction to having an Office of Inspector General at
Oh, the reactions were interesting, not only inside EPA, but outside EPA. Um, at
first there was curiosity – what is this all about. As the work proceeded, there was
kind of a fear that arose – afear in the sense of o’will I be caught doing something
that I should not be doing.” And so you were kind of isolated within the agency,
and those outside the agency who worked with EPA, who had grants from EPA,
of course wanted to know what your plans were, and why you were doing certain
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kinds of investigations. Now, this position was supposed to be a position that
would be isolated from politicians, the whole political scheme of government.
And so the intent of Congress initially was that it didn’t matter whether or not a
new administration came in. The inspectors general would continue on and not be
replaced with every new administration. Well, President Reagan ended that intent
very quickly when he demanded the resignation of all of the inspectors general as
he came in. I was – actually I found out about it by looking at Walter Cronkite, a
CBS News telecast, and he announced that the president had fired all of the
inspectors general. I was urged to take on the administration and to fight for the
position. I chose not to because I didn’t think it was something that I really
wanted to do. But at that point, that ended the idea that the inspectors general
were insulated from the politics of the day.
So you were watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite when you found
out yourjob had been abolished?
Yes, and then the next day some underling showed up in my offrce and said,
‘oYou’ve been fired; get your things and get out.” And that was it. I had, uh,
virtually no time to collect myself, just to collect my things and to move on.
There was no elose-out period? No wrap-up?
No. No. That very same day, I was out. I mean the way they did it was kind of
an incredible way to do it. I mean it’s not the way that I would have done it.
When you say you were urged to fight for the position, by whom?
People on staff within EPA. And then I recall I had a number of interviews with
television stations who were interested in the factthatthe president had fired all
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of the inspectors general. My general thrust as I recall was simply to discuss the
type of work that I had done, but to make it clear that I would not fight for the
And you didn’t engage in the politics of the day.
No, absolutely not.
Judge Reid, we talked earlier about the courage of Judge Constance Baker
Motley, for whom you worked, in going down to Mississippi and working on
behalf of James Meredith, and you later ended up in a position where you had to
show tremendous courage, and I just want to ask you, where did you summon that
cowage? Because you were in a position that certainly there were a lot of hostile
people out there, and as you testified, just, I’m sorry, said, some of the
investigators were afraid to testiff. Where did you get your courage?
Some people probably would say that I was just too naive to be afraid. Um, but I
suppose it’s from growing up imbued with notions of religious precepts and that
there was no need to be afraid, as long as one had a spiritual outlook on life.
Well, having gone through all of that at the Inspector General’s office, I guess you
were well prepared for your next stop, which was the Corporation Counsel’s
Office, actually it is now called the Attorney General’s Office. You were there
for over four years, beginning in February 1981, where you began as Chief of the
Legislation and Opinion Section, and you rose through the ranks to become the
Chief Legal Officer – that is, the Corporation Counsel, where you supervised over
200 attorneys. Tell me why you decided to go to the Office of the Corporation
Counsel. l
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Well after this, um, abrupt firing by President Reagan, I had to sit down and say
to myself since I had no job, Well what is it that you would like to do next? I
made a few phone calls just to get ideas from a few people. Those calls weren’t
that helpful. So one day I just said to myself, ‘owell, I’ve worked in the federal
government, I’ve worked in state govemment, in New York, but I’ve never
worked in local govemment. So one day I just decided I would make a hip to the
Office of Corporation Counsel, go to the offrce that was responsible for hiring
people, and leave my resume, which is what I literally did. I went there, and I left
my resume. Then, very quickly, I received a call from Judy Rogers, now Judge
Rogers over in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and
she asked me to come in for an interview. So I went down and I had the interview
with her, and she offered me the position. She let it be known to me that I would
come in as an attorney on staff, but I would quickly move to the position of Chief
of the Legislation and Opinion section because the current Chief was on his way
out. And so I did that, I accepted the position and went there. That’s how I got
that position.
Now, what was entailed in your position as Chief of Legislation and Opinion, and
did your work at HEW in any way help prepare you for that position?
In a sense, in that my work at HEW helped me to become acquainted with a body
of law that pertained to health issues, education issues, and social benefit
assistance issues. So in that sense, yes, that work at HEW was quite helpful. The
Legislation & Opinions section was responsible for generating all of the
Corporation Counsel’s opinions on a variety of legal issues. It was also
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responsible for reviewing all of the work of the legislature. In other words,
legislation that had been introduced and on which the mayor was asked to
comment. We had to write memos in support of or against the legislation, also
had to suggest amendments to the legislation of the counsel. So that was very
important. Also, the Legislation & Opinion section had to work in collaboration
with some of the other sections of the office which were responsible for things
such as the administrative arm, the civil litigation arm, and the criminal and
juvenile justice work. But basically it was writing opinions, reviewing legislation,
testiffing before the Council of the District of Columbia on various legislative
Had you had any dealings with Judge Rogers, not a Judge at the time, before
applying for a job at the Corporation Counsel and working there?
No. In fact, I did not even know who Judith Rogers was. That was my first
contact with her.
Describe your experience in working with her.
Working with Judy Rogers at the time was extrernely interesting. She, of course,
had been within the Mayor Washington’s administration early on, and she, of
course, had that experience. So she was deep into the issues confronting the
District of Columbia. As I recall, she worked very hard and wanted to make sure
that the work that was done in the Offrce of the Corporation Counsel was quality
work, and that we gave the proper advice to the mayor, and to make sure the
mayor was on the right track. So there was a lot of hard work. She was
demanding in terms of the quality of the product, and in terms of the extent of the
work. Particularly when we were preparing to go before the Council on some
sticky issues. And the work required us also to collaborate with the Office of the
United States Attorney. In addition, we had to interface with a number of the
community groups, a number of the different bar association groups. And I recall
in particular working on issues pertaining to intrafamily offenses that ultimately
led to legislation in that particular area. Also working on issues pertaining to
pretrial detention, which called for collaboration with the U.S. Attomey’s Office.
So in all of that work, she was very demanding, wanting to make sure that the
legislation was properly structured and that we had the right positions voiced for
the administration.
Ms. Curry: I’m certain that in having reviewed your resume, and noting your impeccable
credentials and your dedication, she thought it apparent from your resume and
jobs, that she knew you would be the right person for that position, which is why
she called you, having read your resume. So, you didn’t have any difficulty in
meeting the demands of the job? You said she was very demanding.
Judge Reid: No. No, I didn’t. And I was able to hire a couple of people whom I knew could
churn out good, good work with respect to legislation and opinions. One of the
persons I hired was Erias Hyman, who had been a professor up at Rutgers Law
School. I also was asked to hire the first gay employee, who turned out to be a
Harvard law school product and who was extremely good in terms of crafting
opinions and in reviewing legislation. And I got a lot of flack for agreeing to hire
the first gay person in the office because there was a lot of opposition to the hiring
of gays. This is when I rose to the position of Corporation Counsel.
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When you say you were, you were, um, asked to hire the first gay, what do you
mean by that?
That to our knowledge, there had not been a gay person in that office.
Who was this person?
I knew you were going to ask me his nuune, and I’m blocking on his name. He’s
no longer with the office.
Okay. Now, in all the positions you held at Corporation Counsel, I believe you
dealt with policy issues and litigation, is that correct?
Yes. After having a stint as Chief of Legislation & Opinions, I was asked to
move to the position of Deputy Corporation Counsel. I can’t remember the fuIl
title. But I took on that Deputy Corporation Counsel position, which had
responsibility not only for legislation and opinions, but also for the administrative
law section and for the personnel and labor section of the office.
I believe the title would be Deputy Legal Counsel Division. Does that sound
LegalCounsel Division. Yes, that is correct. So, I took on those responsibilities
which were broader. Broader in the sense that I was supervising sections of the
And you talked a bit about your job, your fust position there as the Chief of the
Legislation & Opinion section. Can you talk a bit more about your job as the
Deputy Legal Counsel?
Well, my work in Legislation & Opinions continued as part of that job. But I also
had additional responsibilities. For example, the Administrative Law Section
Judge Reid:
came under the Deputy General Counsel for Legal Counsel, and I had to have
ultimate supervision over all of the administrative agency work of the office,
whether or not that was in hearings or in advice which was given to the heads of
agencies. Aad then I had responsibility for the Personnel &Labor Relations
section, which was quite demanding because at the time, the District was in the
process of rewriting all of its personnel regulations to implement the
Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act, so there was a lot of regulatory work there,
and certainly my work at HEW was very important to the work that I was doing
with the regulations. And also my work at EPA because some of the regulations
pertained to environmental issues
Ms. Curry: What did you find most rewarding, and what did you find most challenging about
your position?
Judge Reid: All of the time that I spent in the Office of the Corporation Counsel, but the most
challenging thing was that we were still on the cutting edge of some of the policy
decisions and legal decisions that had to be made for what was then a relatively.
new government because we achieved self-government under the Act of 1970,
which was implemented as I recall in1973. So at the time I was in the Office, it
was still a relatively new government, and everything was new. Newpolicies,
new laws. And that was the challenging part because often there was no
precedent, and you really had to establish the precedent. Some of the legal
opinions that the Corporation Counsel’s Office wrote were then referred to in
cases that appeared in court. So, as statements of the Executive Branch’s view of
the law, and the ihterpretation of those laws, that was very important to have those
opinions come up to the court and to have the court to consider those opinions as
they were writing decisions for the cases.
Then also rewarding, and also my guess, was responsibility for employees,
making sure that they understood the standards of conduct. And, in fact, we
revised the standards of conduct at the time. Then interacting with the U.S.
Attorney’s Office where there were problems that had to be investigated.
Subpoenas had to be issued, and all of that. That was also very challenging and
rewarding work. So, there was an awful lot of work because it was so new still as
a govemment, and there were so many problems, whether or not it was in
housing, whether or not it was cutting-edge education, educational issues, even
though there was independent Board of Education, some of those issues still came
to us. There were wholesale contracting issues, contracting violations. I mean,
you name it, we had to deal with it. The whole prison system was at issue at that
time, and there were cases in the courts. Particularly regarding the operation of
Lorton and the operation of the D.C. Jail that had to be dealt with. Then we had
the whole issue of the fire department, and now I’m swinging into the work that I
was also doing as Corporation Counsel. Occasionally I would get called to come
to court and actually take over the case, and this was true with respect to the
lawsuit that had been filed regarding the fire department and the difficulty African
Americans were having in getting promotions within that department. But am I
now getting ahead of your questions?
No, actually, that fits in nicely because when I was talking about your experience,
what you found most rewarding and most challenging, it was dwing your entire
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time at Corporation Counsel, so that fits in nicely. And I did want you to talk a
bit about some of the litigation, because I recall when I clerked on this Cour[, the
Court of Appeals, yow appearance before this Court. Generally you would let
someone else argue the case, but you would come as the Corporation Counsel. So
if you want to talk a bit about some of those cases, that would be great.
Mmmm hmmmm. Let me continue with the fire department. This was a case that
was before Judge Richey over in the United States District Court, and one day, the
attorney – I think it was George Valentine- who was responsible for the case,
came to me and said that Judge Richey was going to order me to appear in court.
And so he did, and I appeared, and he said to me, “I want you to take over this
case.” So I ended up arguing the case, as I recall, it was a sunmary judgment
Let me ask you, when you say he wants you to take it over, take it over from
Take it over from the Assistant Corporation Counsel. And actually be responsible
for doing the major hearing. There was going to be a major hearing on the
firefrghters’ lawsuit, and involved in this case was Joan Burt who was
representing the firefighters. And then there was the FOP attomey, and then the
Why would he order you to take it over from the Assistant Corporation Counsel?
He was not pleased with that person?
To this day,I’m not sure, except that I think he wanted the top lawyer for the
District to be present. At the time, there were threats of violence, and I seem to
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get into these positions where there are threats. [laughter] And the issue was
extremely important because it had to do with the examination for promotion to
lieutenant and captain, and whether or not those exams were equitably strucfured,
and whether or not African Americans had an opportunity to take those exarris
under the same conditions as some of the white members of the fire department.
But it was just so fraught, the issue was just so fraught with controversy. That
may have been a reason that he asked me to come in. And indeed I did come in.
The day that the hearing was held, the courtroom was packed. And indeed a
threat c€lme, and enhanced security had to be called for the courtroom at that time.
But we got through the case. We argued it, and the case, of course, continued on
beyond me, because there was just so much to it that had to be addressed.
When you say beyond you, beyond your tenure as Corporate Counsel?
Beyond my tenure as Corporation Counsel, yes.
Now Judge Reid, normally as the Chief Legal Officer, you’re not involved in the
details of cases like that. You know what’s on the docket. You know them
generally. What did you have to do to prepare at the point that Judge Richey
ordered you to step in?
I actually became the staff attorney for the case, so that meant I had to do the
research to make sure we had good memoranda,legal memoranda, in to the Court,
and had to prepare the oral argument. So it was doing everything that a staff
attorney would have to do, that an attorney in private practice would have to do,
that a govemment attorney would have to do who was assigned to handle a case.
In other words, I had to use all of my legal skill to get through that case.
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But, ofcourse, relying on staffas necessary for research assistance and those
kinds ofthings.
That’s correct, but I was the type of person, um, who really, in a case like this,
trusted my research and only my research, building upon what others had done.
But I read, I took down and read every case, Shepherdized them, and made sure
that I had not left a stone untumed in terms of preparation.
You actually did your own Shepherdizing?
Oh, absolutely. Yes.
IJm, now, Judge Reid, having to be involved to that extent in one case, and a case
of that magnitude, took a lot of time I would imagine.
Yes it did.
And, then, how did that affectyour administration, your supervision, of the
It meant, um, longer hours during that span of time because I couldn’t let things
go at the office, and I was the type of adminishator that needed to have regular
meetings with all of the deputy corporation counsels on a regular basis. I also had
worked with, other work that had to be done. So I simply extended the hours that
I was working.
What was a typical day like? Twelve hours? Fourteen hours?
I can’t recall. I always, as usual, started very early in the morning and just went
on, through as long as I could, and then I would take work home, and after dinner
start in againuntil I couldn’t stay awake any longer.
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Now, it’s interesting that with that many attorneys under your supervision and
paralegals that you would find it necessary to do your own even Shepherdizing,
that you did not think that there was one person that, on whom, you could rely to
make sure that the cases were Shepardized accurately. And that leads me to my
next question –
Well let me just pause there a second to say, it’s not that I did not think that there
was a person on whom I could rely, certainly there were some very, very good
attorneys, particularly in the Civil Division, in whom I had great, great
confidence, but, as the person who would have to stand on her feet and actually
do this argument, I believed it was necessary that I know everything about the
case. And in order to know everything about the case, and to know all of the law
that was out there, the only way I could do that was by having hands on
Well, that’s certainly true. Um, but I’ll still proceed with my next question. As
you know, the Corporation Counsel Office and its attorneys have not always
gotten good reviews, but interestingly many of the attorneys use it as a stepping
stone to greater opporhrnity. What is your assessment of the quality and
professionalism of the attomeys who worked for you in the Corporation
Counsel’s Office?
Some of them are excellent, and I have to make an aside here. The public, I don’t
think and law firms, I don’t think, in the city, understood the conditions under
which people worked in the Corporation Counsel’s Office. When I arrived, we
had no computers, so therefore there were secretaries typing with carbon
paper. I’m notjoking.
Ms. Curry: There were no computers?
Judge Reid: We didn’t have computers when I first arrived in the Office. Eventually,
computers were introduced, but the conditions under which we labored were
really old-school conditions. In addition, the workload was simply enorrnous,
particularly for the litigators. Understand also that because of the workload, the
bumout was very high, and the turnover was high, particularly in the litigation
section, except for the very top levels of those who were able to endure through
the years. So when you have this kind of turnover, you have young attorneys
coming who get involved in the same cycle, that they have too much work to do,
they get burned out, so that an attorney may appear in court, be called to handle a
TRO motion. That attomey may not have had the time really to get into the case
to do the proper TRO motion. So from that, I think, a number of people got the
impression that attorneys in Corporation Counsel were not very capable people.
Some were not very capable, but most of those whor.n I hired and encountered
when I arrived at the Office, were extremely capable. They were simply
overworked and burned out working under these archaic conditions. So when
they turned in briefs that had errors because the secretaries couldn’t correct all of
the copies, then the impression was created, not only are they incompetent, but
they’re sloppy. So when I became Corporation Counsel, one of the things I had to
do was to meet with all of the judges and speak to the judges in the federal court
over here in the District of Columbia courts, and was able to explain some of
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those things. But of course it didn’t excuse the office for having to tum in those
kinds of documents. So that’s why we worked very hard on improving the
infrastructure. And also in restructuring the office so that we could get some
relief from burnout.
When did the office become computerized?
I can’t remember when the first computer was introduced’ But certainly by the
time I left there still was a lot to be done in upgrading the equipment. And I ftink
now they are atthe situation where they have the proper equipment to turn out the
good documents.
Judge Reid, I think we will conclude for today because this tape is almost near the
end. We will start the nexttime talking about your legacy as Corporation
Okay. Very good. Thank You.
Thank you.
OraI History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
f ifth Interview
January 26,2007
This is the fiflh interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid, Associate Judge
of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the OraI History Project of The
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry, now
of the law firm Mcleod Watkinson & Miller. The interview took place in Judge Reid’s
Chambers at the Carl Moultrie Courthouse, at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D,C.
Ms. Curry: Good moming, Judge Reid.
Judge Reid: Good morning.
Ms. Curry: We are back to your interview for the District of Columbia Oral History project of
the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit.
Judge Reid, when we last spoke, which was quite some time ago, we were
describing your work as Corporation Counsel, and I believe, Judge Reid, you’ve
had an opportunity to review the transcripts that have been transcribed ofyour
previous interviews, is that correct?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
That’s correct.
So you are prepared to go forward today, continuing to discuss your work as
Corporation Counsel?
Yes. I’m happy to respond to specific questions.
What I want to start with, we had talked a lot about your work as Corporation
Counsel when you were the Corporation Counsel and when you first started
working there for Judith Rogers. Let me ask you, what would you describe as
your legacy as Corporation Counsel?
My legacy as Corporation Counsel. I suppose it would be taking the office to yet
another level. I think I spoke about the difficulties with the infrastructure when I
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first arrived, not having computers. Part of the legacy would be bringing that
office into the 21’t Century, if you will, interms of technology, just atthe
beginning level. Another part would be trying to keep the staff together, and by
that I mean not just the attorneys, but also the lower-level staff. One of the things
that I established at the office was an upward mobility program which would
enable some of the clerical personnel to take courses and to improve themselves
to go to an even higher level, so I think that probably would be a clear part of the
legacy. The other part is simply the emphasis upon quality work. Although the
work of the Office of Corporation Counsel was demanding, I was not satisfied
with a lot of the work products, and I think I mentioned the sloppiness, partly
traceable to the fact that some of the secretaries had to use carbon paper and made
errors and it was diffrcult to correct carbon paper. Well even though we had those
technological difficulties, that was not accepable to me. So I constantly
emphasized the quality of the work. Also the fact that each and every individual –
not just the persons in the litigation sections, but everyone who worked in the
Corporation Counsel’s Office, including the attorneys – would have to give a full
day’s work, a full day’s worth of quality work. And of course that initially was
not something a number of people wanted to adhere to, but by sticking to my
guns, if you will, and insisting that every person in that office carry his or her full
weight, I think is part of the legacy that I was able to give, or come away with,
from that particular office.
A couple of questions. The govemment paid for this training that you provided,
or made available, to staff members?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid: That is correct. That’s the only way they would have been able to afford to take
the courses, that is, by getting some kind of subsidy from the government.
Another legacy I would say would be in terms of the substantive work. One of
the areas that I emphasizedrepeatedly was the necessity of correcting housing
code violations, and doing the enforcement work that is necessary for that.
Another arcahadto do with Medicaid fraud, and, in fact, one of the things that
bothered me greatly was that the U.S. Attorney’s Offrce did not have time to take
on some of the work that they considered to be lesser than the felonies or crimes
against persons and property. So, I initiated a legislative endeavor to get the
Corporation Counsel the authority to prosecute some of the Medicaid abuse and
waste and fraud cases, and, in fact, we were successful in getting that legislation
on the books so that even though the violatio, yr a criminal violation, we in the
Corporation Courrsel’s Office would handle them. Normally, all of the criminal
prosecutions were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. But as I say, because
they couldn’t get to some of the Medicaid fraud cases, those cases kind of
languished, and we sought the authority to work the cases and to prosecute them
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, your description of the work you did in the Medicaid fraud
prosecution, so let me understand, first, it was necessary for you to go to the
Council and seek the enactrnent of legislation to give you that authority?
Judge Reid: That’s corect, because we didn’t have the authority. Traditionally the division of
labor was the U.S. Attorney would handle the criminal prosecutions, Office of the
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Corporation Counsel would handle the regulatory infractions, but we could not
prosecute criminal cases on our own.
Getting that through the Council, was that difficult for you?
Not really, but we had to do some leg work. First of all, we had to get the
cooperation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for this legislation, and then, as I recall,
Mrs. Rolark, Council member Rolark, was instrumental in helping us to get that
legislation enacted, and there were probably a couple of other Council members
who saw the need for it, because they were insistent that the Office of the
Corporation Counsel not only assert itself in some of the violations in the District
of Columbia but also, in keeping the notion of self-government, they wanted us to
have that authority.
Do you recall who the U.S. Attorney was at the time?
No. I really don’t. It might have been Chuck Ruff, but it might have been Stan
Harris before he was elevated to the bench. I can check that.
I ask because you said you had to get the cooperation of the U.S. Attorney’s
Office. Was that difficult, or you didn’t experience any difficulty working with
them on that?
The U.S. Attorney’s Offlrce was, of course, jealous of its statutory prerogative to
handle the criminal cases, and there was some tension because around this time,
there was talk of hying to get that kind of authority for the District qua District
and to transfer those functions over to the Corporation Counsel. So in that sense,
there was some tension but at the same time, I think the U.S. Attomey’s Office
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recognized that it was not able to prosecute all of these different kinds of cases
because their workload was quite heavy.
You spoke the last time of certain functions that normally would have been
delegated that you had to assume responsibility for. In this particular case, who
negotiated with the U.S. Auorney’s Office? Did you handle those negotiations, or
did you delegate itto adeputy?
I handled them, but it was also in collaboration with our criminal division.
Was it necessary for you to hire additional attorneys with criminal background to
help once you had been successful in getting legislation enacted?
Not really because we had good persons, good staffattomeys in the criminal
division. As I recall, Jim Murphy was head of the criminal division, and he was
quite good.
What was the jurisdiction of your criminal division vis-i-vis the U.S. Attorney’s
Office? You spoke abouf the U.S. Attomey being jealous of its statutory
authority prerogative. What was the jurisdiction for the criminal division of the
Corporation Counsel’ s Offi ce?
We had to handle all the juvenile prosecutions – the juvenile delinquency
prosecutions and some of the regulatory offenses. There also was some tension
within the statute with respect to disorderly conduct. In certain instances, the
Corporation Counsel could handle some of the disorderly conduct prosecutions,
and the U.S. Attorney’s Office would have to handle them in other cases, and it
had to do with penalty. We could not handle cases that exceeded a certain
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Does the Corporation Counsel’s Office – actually, it’s nowthe Attorney General’s
Office – does the Attomey General’s Office still have jwisdiction over the
Medicaid fraud cases?
Yes. The statute is still there.
You talked a bit about your efforts to improve the quality of the work of the office
and to demand a frrll day of good-quality work. How did you go about
implementing those changes?
I had regular meetings with the deputies. Ultimately I brought in the chiefs, and
met with chiefs of sections, and met regularly with them and tried to instill in
them the notion that we had to raise the quahty level of the office. This was
particularly after I had made my rounds with some of the judges in the federal
cowt and in the District of Columbia courts, and they also emphasized the need to
correct some of the things that the attorneys were doing by way of low-quality
You said that it wasn’t easy, so I take it you met with some resistance?
Yes. Whenever you try to make those kinds of changes, you ultimately meet with
Are there any attomeys who worked with you who stand out in your mind as
being particularly good and consistently and continually met your standards?
A number of the attorneys in the civil litigation division actually met my
standards. They were exceptionally fine young attorneys. For example, Marty
Grossman, George Valentine, Bill Earl, there were just a number of them who
were extremely good.
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Do you know if there are still attomeys in the Attorney General’s OfFrce who
were there when you were?
Yes, there are still a few.
So some are career?
Some are career.
You were appointed Corporation Counsel by Mayor Barry, is that correct?
That is correct.
How did you come to be appointed to that position?
I’m not sure, but it may have been through my work because I was there in the
Corporation Counsel’s Office. As part of the legislation and opinions section, I
had regular contact with the Executive Branch. Partly maybe because of Ivanhoe
Donaldson whom I had known prior to my tenure at the Offrce of the Corporation
Counsel, so he may have put in a word for me with the Mayor.
How had you known him?
When I worked with the Black Women’s Community Development Foundation,
Ivanhoe did some work with Cummins Engine Foundation, which was one of the
entities which funded the Foundation, and I got to know him at that point.
I believe you were appointed Corporation Counsel after arelatively short tenure
in the Corporation Counsel’s Office, whereas there were other attorneys who had
been there for a while. What kind of resistance did you meet with in supervising
attomeys that you moved ahead of?
There was some tension there, and some resentment, but one had to simply go on
and try to get beyond that kind of tension and resentment. Part of the tension and
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resentment came because I insisted that the appointments that I made to positions
of chief and deputy were made on the basis of merit and did not take into
consideration race or anything of that sort, and some of the African Americans in
the office were resentful of that fact. I recall one moming I walked into the office
and on one of the chairs in the outer reception area was a swastika, and that was a
message we don’t want those people in leadership positions, so I had to bring in
the staffand say this is totally unacceptable, nothing like that can ever occur again
in the office. So I’m sure that there was some tension and resentment over that.
Your answer leads me to ask this question. Were most of your appointments,
then, non-Africari Americans ?
No. I tried to have a good balance, and we had both African Americans and non-
African Americans in positions of authority.
But nevertheless there were some that thought you should have more African
Americans apparently?
Yes. I inherited an administrator, the head of the administrative offrce, who was a
white male, and there was particular resentment of the factthathe continued in
that position. Unfortunately he developed cancer, and some people thought atthat
point that was a golden opportunity to oust him, and I insisted that he remain in
the position as long as he was able to remain there, and so he did, and he died
while he was still in that position. One of the things that was very rewarding to
see is that the office kind of came together, and in fact, he lived, as I recall, in
Fredericksburg, Virginia, and we assembled a number of cars to go down to his
funeral, and it was regardless of race or anything, this was Lowell Thomas, who
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had served the office well, under great odds, and everybody kind of came
together. We took a donation down to his wife, and she was extraordinarily
appreciative, I think people in the office who went on that trip remembered that
and came to see that it is important at times to rise above one’s particular race.
What is your record with respect to hiring and promotion of women?
We definitely had women in positions of authority, not only in the Civil Division,
but in the Criminal Division and in the Finance Division, so that never was a
problem in terms of hiring women and making sure that they got a fair chance to
go up the ladder.
I believe one person, and maybe perhaps more than one who worked with you, is
now ajudge, or was ajudge, Suda?
Yes. John Suda. Also, Kaye Christian was in the office with me. She’s a young
woman who had a lot of talent whom I encouraged to go as far as she could. And
also Nan Huhn was in the office and became ajudge. And Geoffrey Alprin.
I believe you were in the Corporation Corursel’s Office from February 1981 when
you were first hired as Chief of Legisiation and Opinion until you left in July of
1985, having served as Corporation Counsel.
Yes. I went in first as a staff attorney and then rose to the chief s position.
What kind of relationship did you have with Mr. Barry during your tenure as
Corporation Counsel?
Let me just give you my percepion of Mr. Barry. Marion Barry is an
extraordinarily gifted young man. He studied the field of science as an
undergraduate, participated in the civil rights movement, has extraordinary
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intellectual capacity. He doesn’t always use the best judgment in the world, so
our relationship was a two-fold relationship, I guess’ One, the excitement of the
intellectual exchanges with him. There’s a memorable event in that office
because he had great vision, he had the capacity to achieve that vision and put it
into effect. But at the same time, there were weaknesses. And as corporation
counsel, I had to point to those weaknesses, and that kind of advice is not always
the most receptive, but we had a mutual respect for each other, but at the same
time, we knew that there were certain things that I was not enamored with’
When you say as Corporation Counsel you had to point to those weaknesses, what
exactly do you mean? What kinds of issues?
I don’t think it was any secret that during part of my tenure as Corporation
Counsel there were ongoing investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and I
mean in that Particular area.
Albert Beviridge, a founding partner of Beveridge & Diamond, where I once
worked, worked to help return Mr. Barry to political offrce after Mr. Barry
returned from prison. He did so, he said, because he thought Mr’ Barry had one
of the sharpest minds of anyone he knew and was one of the best politicians he
knew. Did you find Mr. Barry to have one of the sharpest minds you’ve worked
Judge Reid: Absolutely, no doubt about it. Marion had a lot of talent, and on occasion I had to
say, Mr. Mayor, you’re not a lawyer, listen to your lawyers, because he could take
the statute, read the statute, and he would want to give us the interpretation of the
statute. So there’s no doubt about the fact that he has a very, very sharp mind.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
As you know, Mr. Barry’s record will always be marred by his arrest for cocaine
use and his imprisonment. What is your impression of his legacy as a mayor?
What I’m hoping is that people can divorce the personal weaknesses of
Mayor Bary from his achievements as mayor of the District of Columbia. He
had some extraordinary achievements, and he was one of the forces behind the
construction of the first convention center. He had a vision that the Disfoict could
take off by having a convention center, and bringing people from around the
United States and even the world and could make something of the Dishict of
Columbia. And I think he had a vision that took him beyond the civil rights
movement. In other words, when he was in the civil rights movement, he had a
leadership role, trying to bring people together to achieve equality within the
United States. I think he viewed himself as mayor of an emerging independent
entity, and there are things that had to be done to bring the District of Columbia in
line with a number of states across these United States, and he took on that
particular leadership role.
You spoke a bit earlier about your work to help enact a statute to give the
Corporation Counsel’s Offrce authority to prosecute Medicaid fraud. What other
kinds of issues were there, and maybe there are too many to talk about, where you
were required to testify before the City Council? Or are there other issues?
Certainly housing. Housing violations became a constant emphasis, particularly
by Ms. Rolark. How to handle problerns ofjuveniles became an issue. We had to
testiff whether or not the age should be lowered for juveniles to be considered as
adults. There were issues about treatment, issues about the D.C. jail. There were
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just so many issues that one could not imagine how many issues there were
confronting the District of Columbia government. The revision of the Criminal
Code was undertaken when I was in the Corporation Counsel’s Office, and they
clocked a lot of work on that revision, and Greg Mize, who was an assistant to
Dave clark, and who’s now a judge on the Superior Court, also did a lot of work
there. And the reaction of the Congress in terms of some of,the revisions to the
statute – for example, when it came time to eliminate the sodomy laws, there was
a counter-reaction to that from the Hill. And pretrial detention. There were just
so many issues.
So you were required to testiff on the Hill as well as before the Council? Because
the Congress ultimately had to approve any statute?
I did most of my testimony before the Council. When she was Corporation
Counsel, Judy Rogers, of course, did the testimony on the Hill. And I did have to
go on the Hill to defend our budget requests at that time, but also the Mayor took
the major role in those kinds of hearings
What was the size of the office when you were Corporation Counsel?
I think all told there were close to 200 attorneys, and that includes not only the
FTE positions – full time equivalent positions – but also some of the grant-funded
positions. So there were about 200 attorneys.
Is there anything else you would like to have on the record about your tenwe in
the Corporation Counsel’s Office before we move to your work as a private
Judge Reid: I don’t think so. There was one really controversial issue pertaining to a doctor
who performed abortions in a terrible way. There was a lot of pressure brought to
bear on the office to put him out of business as a medical doctor. I remember we
had to mount a strategy to accomplish that goal, and the strategy was both an
administrative strategy and a legal strategy, so we had to mount the strategy in the
courts, going into federal court, and also into some of the administrative hearings
with the Medical Licensure Board. That was on the boilerplate for a number of
Ms. Curry:
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I should ask you this question – other than the handling of the hearing on the
summary judgment motions in the Firemans case before Judge Richey, were there
other cases that you personally argued as Corporation Counsel?
I tried not to. We had the issue with the legislative veto after the Supreme Court
came down with the legislative veto case. We discovered that that would have an
impact on the District of Columbia and Congress’s review of our legislation, and
so there were cases in this court actually that related to that. I chose not to argue.
I came and I sat with John Suda while he argued because I knew John Suda was
an excellent attorney and had a good command of the case, so I decided it would
be better for him to argue the case than for me to do it. So what I did not want to
do was to take away opporfunities from the line staff to appear in some of the
high-profile cases.
Did you participate in any of the moot court sessions?
Yes. And also in the writing of the brief.
Is that the Chadha case, which was heard en banc here?
Judge Reid:
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Is there anything else, Judge Reid, about your tenure as Corporation Counsel
before we move to private practice?
I guess I should mention two other areas. One had to do with the South African
Embassy demonstrations, and the other had to do with the issue regarding the
homeless. The South African demonstrations at the height of the movement
against apartheid became controversial simply because of the confusion as to who
would be prosecuting some of the demonstrators here in the District of Columbia.
In a sense, both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Corporation Counsel’s Office had
authority, and there was some confusion, but the bulk of the work was handled by
the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Now there were conservative elements that were very
disturbed by the prosecutions and by the opposition to apartheid, so we would get
very negative letters from people saying you should back ofi South Africa is a
great place, and we would invariably have to write back and say, well we are not
the ones who are on the front line with respect to these demonstrators who some
thought were getting a free ride. But it’s the U.S. Attorney’s Office. So that was
very controversial, and ultimately there had to be some coordination between the
U.S. Attorney’s Office and Corporation Counsel’s Offrce regarding prosecution
of those demonstrators.
Were these letters from citizens of the District of Columbia, or from all over?
From all over the country
The other area was dealing with the homeless. There was a relatively large
homeless population here, and while I was Corporation Counsel, there was an
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initiative, a referendum that would require the District to do more for the
homeless, and one ofthe legal issues was the constitutionality of that referendum
and whether or not there was, so to speak, a constitutional right of the homeless to
be funded and taken care of by the District of Columbia. So there was a court
case that went on for a long period of time, and then we had to deal legislatively
with that issue also.
Well, as I said earlier, you left the Corporation Counsel’s Office in July in 1985
and I believe after that, you returned to one of your first loves, and that is
teaching. Is that correct?
Yes. That is correct. In fact, I was asked to take a distinguished visiting
professorship at the University of West Virginia College of Law, which I did, and
I spent ayear there teaching and also doing some writing.
In what subject area were you teaching? Constitutional Law?
Yes, as I recall it was Constitutional Law and another area. I want to say Torts.
And also a seminar in Trial Advocacy.
I believe that was your first foray into teaching law school, right?
Yes it was. It was a very challenging position. One of the reasons it was
challenging is because I was dealing with a number of law students who were
economically, extraordinarily poor. Poor to the extent that sometimes dirurer
would consist of fried green tomatoes and that was about it, and some of these
students did not realize their intellectual potential, and so I spent a lot of time with
the students. It was an integrated student body. Some of the white students were
extremely poor. Sorire had means, then there were a number of black students,
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some of whom were extremely poor and some of whom had means, and some of
whom needed an extra nudge in terms of preparation because their education had
not been the best for law school, so I enjoyed interacting with them and tutoring
them and teaching them.
How did you come to be asked? Who asked you to take the visiting
As I recall, I taught a young woman at Barnard College, Lisa Lerner, who’s now
with Catholic University Law School as a professor, and either she or her husband
had occupied this chair, this visiting chair, before, and it was she who
recorlmended me to West Virginia, and I was contacted and asked if I would
consider taking on a year as a distinguished professor.
And by then you were ready to leave the Corporation Counsel’s Office?
Yes. By then I was exhausted, to tell you the honest truth, and that’s one of the
reasons why I actually sought to leave.
You spoke earlier of your earlier teaching experiences when you met with some
resistance, particularly you said from white males, to your Socratic method of
teaching, their being resistant to being challenged. Did you have some of the
same experiences at West Virginia?
Yes, but to a lesser extent. Remember in dealing with Barnard and Columbia,
particularly the males at Columbia College and Columbia University, I was at an
Ivy League university, very elitist, and students of course thought that in some
respects they were God’s gift to the intellectual world, and to have a black woman
challenge them is not going to sit very well. At the College of Law at West
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Virginia, it’s a totally different student body. More down-to-earth people, some
of whom had to struggle a lot and were just happy to have an opportunity to be in
law school and study law and have an opportunity to go on to greater heights, so
they were more receptive to my teaching, but there was some resistance on the
part of some.
Were you the only African American atthatparticular time?
There was, I think, Professor Franklin Cleckley who was aiso on the faculty. He
was an African American male.
Any bright stars in your class?
Yes, in fact I still keep in touch with one young man, and he had a struggle
because his elementary, secondary, and college education was not the best. He
had some issues with the English language, so I spent a lot of time tutoring him.
He was able to graduate, did reasonably well, and went on to the Attorney
General’s Office in West Virginia, and he’s still there. He and I talk at least two
or three times ayear. The others have done well, they’ve gone on to careers
mainly in West Virginia making good contributions.
That must be very gratifying.
Oh absolutely. Yes.
I think we’ll move now to private practice. You began your private practice in
July of 1986 when you began as counsel for the law firm Washington, Perito &
Dubuc, and you were there as a litigator until July of 1991. Why did you decide
to go into private practice after having served in academia and the federal
govemment as well as the Disirict of Columbia government?
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Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
As I was ending my tenure leaving the Corporation Counsel’s Offtce and during
the year that I served on the West Virginia law faculty,I did some thinking about
what I had done in the past and what I had not done, and one of the things I had
not done was to be a litigator in the private sector, being in a private-sector law
firm, and I decided that then was the time to go into the private sector and an
opportunity came up with Finley Kumble,later Laxalt Washington, which
ultimately became Laxalt Washington Dubuc. One of the reasons why the
opportunity came up is that one of my undergraduate classmates was Paul Perito,
and Paul and I had a good relationship at Tufts, and I looked forward to the
opportunity to work with him in the private practice, and that’s one of the reasons
why.I wanted to go into that particular firm, plus Bob Washington was known as
a man-about-town. He and Marion Barry have had a fairly good relationship, and
so I had gotten to know him while I was in the Corporation Counsel’s Office.
What was the nature of the practice?
I was a litigator and during the first year with the firm, I actually represented a
family that had furly extensive real estate interests in New York. It was a Haitian
family, and a Haitian family in exile, and what had happened is, after their father
had died and the father’s the one who had amassed the real estate in cooperatives,
condominiums in New York, the managing partner of the limited parbrership had
taken over and, in fact, was taking over their interest in the limited partnership
and they asked me to come in and straighten the situation out so they could get
direct access to the resources that their father had left them. So I spent a lot of
time litigating in New York with this case and other types of litigation along those
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lines. Also ventured into the white collar crime area working with Paul Perito and
others to represent Samuel Pierce out of HUD and another individual whose name
escapes me; both were subjects of an independent counsel investigation.
In New York, did you have local counsel working with you when you were
litigating up there?
No, because I was actually a member of the New York Bar, so I was handling the
case solely on my own.
Was this in federal court?
No, this was in the Supreme Court of New York. And we also had some work in
the appellate division where the case was resolved. It was an interesting time
because the young man who was trying to siphon off the family’s resources got
. good counsel, excellent counsel, and I remember the first time that counsel called
and said we want to sit down and negotiate a settliment, but you need to bring a
male with you, one of the partners at the law flrrm. I just said to him in no
uncertain terms that if you want to seffle this case, you’ll have to settle with me
because I’m going to speak for the family and negotiate the settlement. After that,
we got along very well.
Was this an older man?
He was a middle-aged man, as I recall at one of the prominent law firms in New
York on the East Side.
I asked about local counsel because, even though I knew you were a member of
the Bar, but sometimes in these local courts, if one is not a regular practitioner
there, there is often some sense that you ireed the local counsel just to guide you.
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The court part of the case, I did ask a gentleman in our New York office to help
out on the corporate side, and that was very valuable assistance.
So Washington, Perito & Dubuc had a New York office also?
Yes. There was New York firm that was associated with our firm – Finley
Kumble. Finley Kumble collapsed, and that’s when Washington, Perito & Dubuc
came forth.
How did you develop a client base?
Through personal contacts. Like with the Haitian family that I represented,
actually was part of my husband’s family, and they approached me because they
trusted me to help out in the situation because some of them were actually exiled,
and so they needed someone in getting this through. And I did a fair amount of
civil rights work in the form of discrimination cases, and that’s how I began to
develop a client base. And I also assisted some of the other attorneys in the
office. At one point, Dubuc, who handled plane crash litigation, sought the
assistance of some of us to handle some of the depositions in aNorthwest Airlines
plane crash.
You were a litigator, a commercial litigator, so you handled cases in a broad range
ofsubject areas, is that right?
That’s right.
And of course with your background you didn’t have any problem making those
No. One of the clients that I represented was Superior Beverages which is a beer
franchise, and they had an administrative issue with the ABC Board, and I
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handled the case at the administrative level and then took the appeal. Another
kind of case that I handled which was different from that commercial area was
with the licensure of one of the doctors who worked with St. Elizabeth’s hospital,
and this issue came up after the transfer of St. Elizabeth’s hospital to the District
of Columbia government. She had a medical license in Michigan and, of course,
she was to be licensed in the District of Columbia. She was an outstanding
psychiatrist, board certified and all of that. The District of Columbia didn’t want
to give her the license because even though the State of Michigan had certified
that she had passed a particular exam, the District said she hadn’t passed, and so it
took a long time to straighten it out, and she ultimately got her license. So those
were exErmples of two of the cases that I argued in this court.
So did you do both trial and appellate work?
I did. I did administrative hearings, trial litigation, and appellate work.
Other than your practice in New York, were there other state courts that you
appeared in?
Yes. When I joined Graham & James, after Ileft Washington, Perito & Dubuc,I
went to Graham & James which is both a national and an international law firm,
and I got deeply into environmental law and environmental litigation and I
handled cases in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and I think Delaware
and Maryland.
When you went to Graham & James, and I am discussing your private practice
altogether, you moved to Graham & James in July l99l and you were there until
January of 1994, is that correct?
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That’s correct.
When you went there, did you find your work as Inspector General at EPA
helpful in any way?
Yes, in terms of my knowledge of the regulations. I handled a number of cases
under CERCLA and RCRA, and this is in the hazardous waste arca,the
enforcement area, and so my knowledge of the Superfund was very important
because I was at EPA when the Superfund legislation was enacted that led to the
CERCLA Act and that was important to my work as an environmental litigator.
My inference is that you went to Graham & James because Washington, Perito &
Dubuc, which later became Laxalt, Washington & Perito, atthattime had
basically imploded, is that right?
That is correct.
And Laxalt, would that be the former Senator?
You mentioned Bob Washington as being a man-about-town and indeed he was a
very preeminent attorney in D.C., considered by many to be so. Did you work
directly with him? You mentioned working with Perito. Did you work with
Most of my work was done either with Paul Perito and the attomeys in his section
or with I\[r. Dubuc and the attorneys in his section. And of course I came into
contact with Mr. Washington, who had mainly apractice dealing with securities
and bonds. And because of my past experience as Corporation Counsel, there
were times in which I was called in on some of the issues relating to bonds. l
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I believe at the time that firm started, Washington, Perito & Dubuc and later
LaxaltWashington, there was a lot of interest and pride because it was the first
time that an African American male had headed a firm of that size. There were
over 10O-and-some attorneys in that firm, is that correct?
That’s correct. And Bob was a very capable individual. He also, Iike Marion
Barry, had vision, and he wanted to take the law firm as far as it could go. And of
course he encountered resistance simply because he was a black man in a position
of power.
Where are those men now – Washington, Perito, Laxalt – if you know?
Perito is with alaw firm, and the name of it escapes me at the present moment
[Paul Hastings], but he and Larry Barcella went over to that firm from
Washington, Perito. And Paul has done very well. He also does some woik for
corporate entities. The last I heard of Mr. Dubuc, he had gone onto another law
firm. I’m not sure he’s still practicing now because his specialty was a very
narrow one, aviation crashes.
You worked with Graham & James, as I said, for a little bit more than three years
and then you became Of Counsel to a very respected African American firm
that’s based in Detroit, Michigan, highly regarded Lewis, White & Clay. Why
did you make that transition, and talk a bit about your time Lewis, White & Clay.
I had always respected David Baker Lewis and the other persons in his fimr. I
think I first encountered him when I was Corporation Cotrnsel doing some of the
bond work for the District of Columb ia, and.,frankly, I wanted to leave Graham &
James, a high-powered national and international law firm, and get into a smaller
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setting where I could be more focused on the kinds of things that I wanted to do
and the opporfunity arose to go with Lewis, White & Clay and I seized it.
And you continued in a commercial litigation practice there?
Yes I did. I continued to do a lot of the environmental work there.
Did you have an opportunity to work directly with the name partners out of
Michigan? I believe Mr. Clay is now on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, is
that correct?
Yes, I had a great opporhmity to work with Clay and I had a great opportunity to
work with Munday, who’s now ntrme partner, and also with David Baker Lewis.
And that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go to that smaller firm and be able
to interact with people of their caliber. It also enabled me to get into a different
setting because a lot of their cases were in the midwest, particularly on the
environmental side.
Did you, as a practitioner there,have an occasion to argue cases in other than the
District of Columbia?
Not really. What I tried to do was resolve the cases before they reached that level
I believe Lewis is married to, his wife is the daughter of the first Aftican
American —
Yes, Wade McCree, the first African American judge.
And she’s a fine affomey in her own right.
Yes I believe she’s with a major firm in Detroit.
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Yes. And she also had been considered for the Sixth Circuit. But, of course, both
Clay and David Baker Lewis’s wife could not get that one seat.
It should be noted that Clay was a classmate of the Clintons.
You have been described by some of the younger attorneys who’ve worked with
you at Washington, Perito & Dubuc as being meticulous and a good teacher. Did
your work habits as an attomey in private practice differ in any’way from your
work habits in the government?
No, not really. At Washington, Perito & Dubuc, I took on the role of actually
instructing the young attorneys. We had regular classes, and I went over cases
with them to teach them proper litigation skills, even co{porate skills. So I
interacted with all of the young associates who came into that firm and tried to get
them off on the right track.
I didn’t rcalize that because in talking with them, I thought they were speaking
about one-on-one counseling with your giving them back memoranda and what
they learned in those instructive modes, but you actually had training classes?
Yes, and the training required me to interact with them one-on-one because they
were in different sections. Some were in the corporate section, some were in the
litigation section, so I had to make sure that I was gearing the training to their
particular needs.
Was this training developed by you and conceived by you?
Yes it was.
You must have been invaluable to that firm.
What were some of your affiliations, professionally and politically, during your
time in private practice,if any?
Judge Reid: I did a lot of volunteer work with the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil
Rights, headed by Rod Boggs. I handled some of th e Iron Workerscases, some
cases for Govemment Printing Office workers, all employment discrimination
suits, and down in Front Royal, Virginia, I handled the case of some construction
workers who also were involved in an employment discrimination case. That was
ayery fundamental part of my volunteer work, if you will. I was not so much
involved with the bar associations, qua bar association, and I wanted to get in a
setting where I could use my skills to benefit people who really need to have
different services.
Ms. Curry: You’ve never been active in the Democratic Party here in D.C.?
Judge Reid: No. I’m a good student of politics, but I personally hate politics and I would not
be involved in the DemocraticParty.
Ms. Curry: You were not involved in the Bar. Do you have any thoughts or memories you
want to share about the local bench and the Bar before you became part of the
Judge Reid: Only peripherally. The other area in which I did a lot of volunteer work was for
what was known as the Antioch School of Law, then the D.C. School of Law, and
now the David A. Clarke School of Law, and in that setting, of course, I had to
interact with members of the Bar who were also interested in making sure that
that law school stayed afloat and also got its accreditation on more than a
temporary basis.
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When you worked with the Antioch School of Law, did you work directly wittr
Jean and Edgar Cahn?
Yes, I was on the Board atthattime. I worked very closely and directly with Jean
and Edgar. We had aparting of the ways, in part, because of disagreement over
how they were venturing. The school was in some difficulty and we were trying
to keep it on a solid foundation. Jean is a very strong personality, and Edgar is a
very strong personality, so we had a clash at one point in time, but we worked
very well collaboratively and we have now restored our relationship and once
again on very good terms.
Jean has passed away, correct?
And you, of course, first met them at Yale, is that correct?
Yes, that’s correct.
They were ahead of you?
Yes, they were ahead of me.
How did you become involved in working on the Board at Antioch?
Eleanor Holmes Norton was a graduate of Antioch, and she, I guess, called the
then-president’s attention to me. I want to say his name was Dixon, President
Dixon, and I was asked to go on the Board of Antioch, first Antioch College
itself and I served on that Board for a number of years. And then as apart of that
work, I was asked to go on the Board for the Antioch Law School, which was
here in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry; Antioch is in Ohio, is that correct?
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Judge Reid: Yes, it’s in Ohio.
Ms. Curry: Do you know how they came to establish, or why they came to establish, the law
school in the District of Columbia?
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I’m not sure why they chose the District of Columbia, except that it’s the nation’s
capital and Jean and Edgar were here.
They’re the founders of the school?
They’re the co-founders, yes.
Do you know what Mr. Cahn is doing now?
He still is attached to the law school. He’s a professor there. H’e spends part of
his time in Florida. He does time value projects, getting people to do volunteer
work, in exchange for volunteer work, and multiplying the balance of volunteer
Judge Reid, we’ve talked about your private practice. Is there anything else you
want to say about that? I always ask this question before we move to the next
topic, which is the big topic, your appointment to this Court.
The years have passed very quickly. They were loaded with lots of challenges,
and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
How would you compare your private practice with your work in the government,
if that’s a fair question?
Totally different. As you know from being in law firms, it’s driven by billable
hours, and what you have to do is struggle to make sure that those billable hours
don’t overtake you and that you are churning out a quahty product for the client
regardless of the time it takes, and I’m one who didn’t want to charge the client
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for every single hour and minute that I work. I had resistance along those lines,
and I did not particularly enjoy the billable work climate of law firms because I
thought it interfered with the relationships with the client and trying to churn out a
quality product. As I say, I thoroughly enjoyed the work that I was engaged in.
I should have asked the more specific question, I meant it in terms of comparing
whether you found the work you were engaged in as rewarding as the work you
had done, say, in the Corporation Counsel’s Office.
Yes, there were different challenges. The Corporation Counsel’s Office was one
challenge, strong legal groundwork that had to be done, policy issues. In the
private sector, there were different kinds of challenges. I cannot say I enjoyed the
work in the Corporation Counsel more than the work in the private sector.
Judge Reid, let’s now move to your appointment and work on this Court, which is
the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and is indeed the highest court of the
District of Columbia. I want to begin with your appointrnent. You were
appointed as an associate judge to this Court in 1995. I want to talk a bit about
your appointment and your work on this bench. How is it that you came to be
appointed to the bench, and let me be more specific about what I’m asking. When
I became very active in Bar activities, I was surprised how intensely lawyers
lobby to be appointed to this Court. Did you in fact lobby to be appointed to the
Let me give you a liule bit of background. At one point in time, I was approached
about submitting my name to be a judge for a Superior Court position. This was a
time in which there were going to be about seven or eight Superior Court
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openings. I did not want to become atrialjudge and so I declined. Now, I then
began to get some pressure from my twin brother to really seriously consider
going on the bench. There came another opportunity at the appellate level, and I
forget who stepped down, but I did make it on the Judicial Nomination
Commission. I was on the list with Emmet Sullivan, and when I found out that I
was on the list with Emmet Sullivan, I decided that Emmet really should have the
green light to go ahead, so I really didn’t pursue the position to any extent
whatsoever. The next time I had an opportunity, there were two vacancies on this
Court, and I knew that there was some interest in having a Hispanic judge on the
court, so I submitted my name again, and also Vanessa Ruiz, who?s also now on
this Court, had submiued her name, and that created kind of a quandary for me
because I thought it was important that a Hispanic be on the court, and so in my
dealings with the Judicial Nomination Commission, and this was outside of the
context of the formal meeting that we had, but I had met individually with one of
the commissioners, and I simply had an interest in Vanessa, and I took the
position, there were two positions, and if we both go on the Court, it doesn’t
really matter to me in what order we go on the Court. So both of our names came
out at the same time, and then Vanessa got the nod. Then I was approached again
to keep at it, and my name was put in. I made the panel a third time, and the third
time I was selected. Now, in terms of what I did that third time around, I stayed
back, but there were people who did work on my behalf, not only at the law
school, but in other areas of-
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At the David A. Clarke IIDC School of Law,
I wanted to be clear you’re not talking about Yale.
No, it was local. The local law school because they had an interest in seeing that I
was on the bench. And then one of the people, the name surprised me, but one of
the people that decided I should be on the bench, was Barbara Lett Simmons who
is well known in Democratic circles. She just forged right on ahead without being
asked and interceded on my behalf. And a number of Council members also did,
and there were members of the Bar and members of the Clinton administration
who also I know went to the head of HHS, Donna Shalala, whom I’d known in
New York, even Ernie Green, whom I’d known through my contacts with Lewis,
White & Clay, so I had good support.
You said there were two positions when your rurme was up with Judge Ruiz.
What happened with that other position?
She took one and I took the other. There were fwo vacancies.
And she proceeded ahead. I see.
And all these people you just described wrote letters, called, or did whatever.
That’s right.
The process is your name goes before the Judicial Nomination Commission –
That’s correct. And you have to survive that interview.
And then the Judicial Nomination Commission submits your name –
Submits three names for each vacancy to the White House. And then you get
interviewed first by the FBI and they do a full background investigation and then
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you get interviewed by the counsel’s office, somebody in the White House
counsel’s office.
Do you know r,vho the three names were?
The two names that went to the president with my name were Superior Court
Judge Michael Rankin and Erias Hyman, Esquire, who was a former D.C. Parole
Board Director and who had worked with me in the Corporation Counsel’s
Office. Eleanor also played a major role in terms of her contacts.
Did she voluntarily offer her assistance?
I omitted to say thatat one point my name was up for a federal appointment and
she had say over that federal appointment, and when she chose not to recommend
me to the president for that but instead to recommend Judge Sullivan which I
understood, then she began to help in terms of the District of Columbia bench.
Where were you when you learned you had been appointed, and describe your
I was actually on the Hill in a hearing. I can’t remember whether or not the
hearing involved Samuel Pierce, but it may have come during my work on
Samuel Pierce’s case, or it may have pertained to some other endeavor that I was
involved in. It may not have been Samuel Pierce because that was after I left
Washington, Perito & Dubuc. But someone came up to me in the audience and
said, o’Congratulations,” and I’m looking at this person as if to say congratulations
about what. And that was when I learned that I had been nominated. And sure
enough, when I got back to the law offrce, there was acallfrom the White House
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Counsel’s Office, and that person informed me the president sent my name to the
You didn’t describe your reaction.
What was my reaction? Well obviously I was pleased –
Elated, of course.
Yes, but whatever I was doing at the moment was important to me, it might have
had something to do with the law school, but there w.as some reason why I was on
the Hill at that time.
And, of course, who was the first person you called? George?
Of course, yes. He pestered me so long.
Describe the confirmation process.
The confirrration process first of all involved an interview by a staff committee,
and at the same time I went up for the appointment on this bench, Eric
Washington and Linda Davis and Ronna Beck, there were four of us together.
And they were for Superior Court positions?
Two white women, then Eric and myself. Eric for the Superior Court position and
myself for the Court of Appeals. The ladies went through their interview with the
committee in about 20 minutes. Eric and I were retained for a much longer time.
I think my interview went on for one solid hour or more. They had a number of
questions not only pertaining to my past work, but even they had newspaper
clippings that had ever been written about me or when my name appeared. One
of the things they asked was kind of strange and it pertained to a complaint I filed
with the Taxi Cab Commission because I was just so tired of cabs passing me by
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and not picking me up and it just so happened that the complaint was against a
cab driver who was from Pakistan, and so the questions came, “What do you have
against Pakistanis?” Obviously I had nothing, the man just didn’t pick me up, but
I found that to be an interesting question, and some of the questions were on
judicial philosophy – what was my judicial philosophy. Well I didn’t have a
judicial philosophy, but I had read the writings of Felix Frankfurter, particularly
on judicial restraint, and I talked about those writings. They even got into my
representation of Samuel Pierce. They wanted to ask me questions about that and
of course I told them I was bound by the attorney-client privilege.
Did you find it odd that your and now-Judge Washington’s questioning was so
extended compared to the other two?
I was surprised by it, but with respect to hindsight, I guess I shouldn’t have been
surprised because I guess they wanted to make sure that Eric and I wouldn’t go
riding off on our horses somewhere, going down roads they didn’t think judges
should be going down.
Who was the chair of the committee?
I can’t remember, but the point that I wanted to make is that in comparison with
the interview by the staff, the actual confirmation hearing was a wonderful
experience, and Senator William Cohen was the one, he was not head of the
committee, but he did our hearing, and it was a very pleasant time, and the four of
us were there together – Eric, myself Linda –
Cohen, who became Secretary of –
Who came into the administration. Yes.
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Whom did you choose to speak for you?
Not at the hearing. For my investiture I did.
Well, that is my next question. Who spoke at your investiture and how did you
decide, among your many friends and colleagues and family, whom you would
ask other than George?
Well certainly David Baker Lewis. David was very important to me and I
enjoyed the lawpractice with him, so I asked David. And I asked Joe Sellers with
whom I worked on the volunteer cases with the Washington Lawyers Committee.
I asked Pat Worthy who was head of the Judicial Nomination Commission. And
then I wanted one member of the family to speak, but since I had two brothers, I
had to ask two members of my family. So Lisa, my niece, actually I had in mind.
her brother, but then she read me the Riot Act that I couldn’t ask two males from
the family to speak on my behalf and then George’s son, George Jr.
Lisa is an attorney, correct?
Yes. And George is ajonrnalist.
And where is George now?
He works for ESPN.
I recall atthe conclusion of your investiture people being struck by how
accomplished your family is and talking for a very long time about – people
didn’t have asense of all the things that you’ve done, and I might ask do you
think that in some ways the length of your interview before the committee might
have been in some part due to how extensive your resume is?
Judge Reid: That’s definitely possible because they had maybe two or three boxes of
materials. I had to submit all of my writings and they had all these newspaper
clippings, so it was quite a bit of material. That might have been a factor.
Ms. Curry: Why don’t we stop here unless there’s something else you’d like to say about the
investiture and the whole process of confirmation and the next time we will
actually begin with your work on the bench, your first case, and all those kinds of
things. But I always ask, is there anything you’d like to say?
Judge Reid: Just that I was gratified by the turnout and the number of people who came to be
supportive. That was very important to me, and I was gratified.
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Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
Sixth fnterview
December 1612009
This is the sixth interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid, Associate Judge
of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the Oral History Project of The
Historical Society ofthe District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry, now
of the law firm Mcleod Watkinson & Miller. The interview took place in Judge Reid’s
Chambers at The Historical Courthouse,43AL Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry: Good morning, Judge Reid. Since last we met, you have moved to new Chambers
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
in the new District of Columbia Court of Appeals building, and I must say that
they are really quite nice. Judge Reid, it’s been a long time since last we spoke,
and clearly I am largely responsible for the delays, and I apologize for the great
No need to apologize.
But I know that your mind is still sharp and your memory is intact, so the end
result of this interview will be just as compelling. Before beginning new areas of
inquiry, I want to follow up from the prior interview with a few questions. In the
second interview in talking about high school teachers who influenced you, you
mentioned Bertha McNeil, a Mrs. Brown, and a l\zlrs. Herbert, your homeroom
teacher. You mentioned that Mrs. Herbert was particularly patient during what
you described as a period of rebellion, and you mentioned that she brought in a
dead bird and asked you to take it home and stuffit, which you did, an experience
you described as challenging. What was the significance of that experience,
especially as it might relate to rebellion? Was it some type of corrective action?
I think, with the benefit of hindsight, that Ms. Herbert recognized that I was
rebelling, to use my word, because my mind was not filled with challenge, and I
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
think she made a concerted effort to try to give me something to do that would
bring out some of the creativity. There were no directions, how do you stuff this
bird. The direction was to go home and stuff it. I found it extremely challenging
because I had never done it before, I’m not one that likes dead animals around
me, but I found that I had to carry out that challenge and actually do the stufflrng
of the bird, and it was a calming influence because it made me realize that there
were probably hidden talents, and I just needed to calm down and find other ways
to fill the void that was in my brain at that time and that I didn’t need to reach out
in kind of destructive, rebellious activity. I wasn’t extremely rebellious or
destructive, I mean I didn’t go out and knife people or shoot people or anything
like that. I was probably disrespectful in the classroom, and I didn’t study some
things because there was no need to study because I knew I could get it on the fly.
For example, if I was in the Latin class and called upon to translate some phrase, I
was fairly confident that I could do it without having studied overnight. So I’m
very grateful to her for having extended that challenge to me because, as I say, it
was a calming influence.
I find it amazingwhat you would consider rebelling, you mentioned you were
getting A minuses instead of A’s, and I would say that many teachers would love
to have a rebellious student in their classroom now. A couple of other things, you
were to look for, and if you have not looked for them, that will be your
assignment after today. One was the caption under your photograph in your high
school senior book. This is just important, I think, for historical records because
you have excelled in so many various areas. Have you found it?
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Judge Reid: I looked for it, and I called my sister-in-law and wrote down what it said. Now
the challenge since we’ve moved is to find where I put it, but I will endeavor to
find it for the next time. I could just call her again and ask her to repeat it to me.
Ms. Curry: W’ere you ever able to locate the name of your college thesis?
Judge Reid: No I was not. The best I can recall, this may not be accurate, but I think it had
something to do with unions and also the civil rights movement, but I can’t recall
the details at this point.
Ms. Curry: You also told me atthe conclusion of one of the interviews to ask you why you
went directly from law school to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D., I believe it
Judge Reid: That’s correct. I don’t know if I went into detail about one of the associate deans
at the law school calling my twin brother and myself in our third year and
informing us that we would not be able to find jobs in law firms because law
firms were not going to hire, as he put it, “nigras.” He said to me that you can
probably find a job in the federal government. Well I interviewed for two
positions. One was here in the District of Columbia as law clerk to a juvenile
justice judge, and that judge said to me, “Well last year I had a woman and this
year I’m going to hire amara,” so in essence, “I’m sorr1z.” The other interview I
had was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the person who was
doing the interview said to me at the conclusion,ooYm really sorry, but we have
already hired a male from Howard Univerbity, and he needs the job more than you
do.” But fortunately I had not counted on just those two irons in the fire. I had a
third iron in the fire which was an application to the Ford Foundation for a foreign
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area training fellowship, and what I was planning to do was to go out to UCLA to
take an intensive course in African Studies and brush up my French so that I
could speak French more fluently and then go to Senegal to conduct some
research in preparation for completing a Ph.D. upon my return from field activity.
I wanted to go to Senegal to do some on-the-spot research, but then, as I was
completing my studies at UCLA, I got a call from someone at Yale Law School
informing me about an opporhrnity to go out to the Congo to teach at the School
of Law and administration. So I decided I would forego the second year of the
Ford Foundation fellowship in Senegal, and I would go instead to the Congo. So
an arrangement was worked out between the Congolese government and the Ford
Foundation to supplement a salary for me while I worked in the Congo, andmy
assignment in the Congo was to set up a law library and also to teach magistrates
criminal law. So that’s how I got from law school to graduate school at UCLA.
And then when I returned from Africa, I got married and decided that I really did
want to complete the Ph.D. and that I would start teaching, and atthe same time
study at Columbia and finish up my graduate work. And essentially, I ended up
going to graduate school because of discrimination in the field of law at the time I
graduated, which foreclosed opportunities in law firms.
That was the missing piece of it because you had talked a bit about your travel
and work in Afric4 the Congo, before. Let’s talk a bit about professional
challenges you’ve had. You certainly just touched on a few, but I want to talk in
particular now about your interactions with other women and with males. You
said in a prior interview that as a woman professor, the group you had the most
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diffrculty with and that you have had the most difficulty with throughout your
career is white males. What did you mean by “and have throughout my career”?
Have white males resisted your supervision and authority in non-academic
Judge Reid: Oh yes, in non-academic positions, yes. That’s a clear yes. I recall my days
practicing law, for example, when I was with different law firms. On one
occasion when I was with Laxalt Washington, I took on representation of a
family, and the family had a number of real estate interests in New York, and to
make a long story short, the managing partrrer of those interests – these were
younger people whose father had set up these real estate limited parfirerships for
them – and there was a gentleman in New York who, in essence, garnered the real
. estate interests as his own. So, the family asked me to step in and 1o get those
real estate interests back and into the hands of the family. I started litigation in
the Supreme Court of New York, and I was making great progress, to the point of
having a judge who was on the verge of appointing a receiver for all of the
corporations, and atthatpoint, the person who was trying to snare all of the assets
of the family called on a law firm in New York, a very well-known law firm
whose name eludes me right now, so I got a message either by letter or by phone
instructing me to come to New York to negotiate a settlement but to bring a male
partner of my firm so that that male could negotiate. My response to the person
‘ who had contacted me was, ‘olf you want to settle this case, you have to deal with
me because I’m the one who’s going to make the decision.” So after arocky
beginning, he finally accepted that, and he turned out to be a very nice gentleman
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who dealt with me at arm’s length and professional-to-professional, but that’s one
illustration of a white male who initially decided that I wasn’t the perpon to be
doing the negotiations. And he was not the client. He was the attomey for the
opposing pafi. And this was not just a few thousand dollars involved, this was a
multimillion dollar real estate asset that belonged to the family. We finally came
to a very good settlement for the family which resulted in their getting back all of
the assets that their father had created for them. But it just gives you an example,
and its examples like this that repeated themselves in law firms. Some of the
partners decided that I would be treated as an associate even though I was
of counsel in those law firms, and they would instruct me that I couldn’t go home
at a certain hour, that I would have to stay, and even if it was until 2:00 a.m. and
continue to work on a matter even though I completed the work on the
assignments that I had been given. But it was just things of that sort. And I don’t
think it was unusual for me as a woman to have that experience, as an African
American woman working with white males in power positions in partnerships.
You probably had credentials that equaled or exceeded those of some of the
people who wanted to supervise you and tell you what time to leave.
Yeah, but they probably . . . . In fact, I know they didn’t have the same academic
accomplishments that I had. Nonetheless, they believed that they were in
positions of authority and power and so I was to do what I was instructed to do.
It’s one of the reasons why I’m glad that I waited until – even though it was partly
due to circumstances of discrimination – waited until I was fairly accomplished
before going into a law firm. I could see some of the trials and tribulations that
Ms. Curry
Judge Reid:
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Judge Reid:
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African American associates went through in the law firms with which I was
It’s interesting that you make that point because at a hearing before the ABA
Commission on Women in 2003, there was a woman named Charisse Lillie who
testified before that commission about the difficulty she had experienced in law
frrms, although she said her mentors had been white males and Judge Leon
Higginbotham who were outside the firm but could, in a sense, tell people don’t
touch her.
And she mentioned, however, that it was easier for her having come from the
outside rather than coming up through the ranks because she had more
accomplishments at that time. So what you’re saying is similar to that factthat
having been out for a while, it facilitated your ability to negotiate the terrain of the
law firm.
Right. Exacfly.
You also said in an earlier interview that there was a female professor at Bamard
College, Columbia University, who refused to speak to you all during yourtenure
there. Now let me understand, did you speak to this woman and she iguored you.
I mean why did you mentioned that particular —
Oh no, I spoke to her every time I saw her, and I would try to look her directly in
the face – sometimes her eyes were averted – and say good moming, or how are
you, or something to that effect. And, nothing. Just absolutely no response.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Well given that your tenure at Barnard was during the time of heightened
emphasis on feminism and women’s liberation, and the thought of women
supporting each other, did you consider her action a strange phenomenon?
Well I thought it was bizarre, absolutely bizarre. And I just never understood it.
A, we were in New York City; B, we were at Barnard College; and C, as you say,
it was the height of activity in the civil rights movement and in the women’s
movement. So maybe it was some personality quirk that I didn’t know about, but
it was just real|y bizarre.
But that was a singular experience?
That was a singular experience.
Otheiwise your experience with others at Bamard was —
Very fruitful, very fruitful.
Now you talked about your involvement in the civil rights movement and, of
course, the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movement
overlapped. Were you involved at all in the feminist movement?
I can honestly say that I was not involved in the women’s liberation movement,
although I did appear on panels and in discussions of women’s liberation and the
feminist movement, but I was not a feminist in that sense of the word. I was a
supporter of activities that were designed to improve working conditions for all
women – white women and women of color – but I was not what one might call a
feminist like Gloria Steinem.
Ms. Curry: Why not?
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Judge Reid: Why was I not? I think because I was just much more traditional. Remember, I
grew up with trvo brothers. And in that setting there was a degree of equality, but
it was equality within traditional notions: some things that women do, and some
things that women don’t do. And to me, as I was growing up, one of the most
important things in life would be the integrity of the family and watching out for
the children, making sure that they grew up. And I was chastised on a number of
occasions when I emphasized the traditional roles of women as being extremely
important. And I sincerely believe that. I was concerned as I watched some
professional women – and sacrifice may be too harsh a word, but it’s the word I
want to use right now — sacrifice the family side in favor of advancing on the
professional side. I’ll give you an illustration. In one law firm there was an
extremely hard working white female. No doubt about the fact that she was
dedicated and devoted to the task. No doubt about the fact that she wanted to do
well as a mother. But she would often talk about the problems she was having
with one of her children, and it was clear to me that the child needed some special
attention and that she needed to get a hold of him immediately and get the help
that the child needed. But she was not there on that scene. And then, as I recall,
eventually it became so severe that she simply had to pay more attention to the
child. But I just use that as an illustration of my traditional views in terms of the
family and in terms of the role of the woman. Now you might say, well, what
about the husband. Why couldn’t he have paid some more affention to the child.
Fair enough. That would be a fair observation. But I just think that there are
some traditional things that women, professional women, really have to pay more
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
attention to. And if the male is not going to do it, then I believe the task falls to
the woman
Do you see a dichotomy in your view, perhaps, in how you just expressed it with
respect to the woman’s role. Because I’m thinking – and I will get to questions
later about your family – but you have two very accomplished nieces who are
mothers with children?
Yes. And at critical points, each of them realized the necessity of stepping back
from the professional career. One of my nieces decided that because of some of
the developments in her children that she did not appreciate that she had to step
aside from a partnership track in the law firm and go to a part-time track, which
she did. And to this day she still works with the firm, but on a part-time basis.
And it’s now at a high status, but it’s not as a partner in the firm. The other niece,
at some point in time, had a child when she was older and then ultimately saw that
in order to properly develop that child she really had to step away altogether from
her professional career, which she did. But to her credit, she spent years and
years in a professional career before she decided that she’d have this child.
So, let me be clear, you do support equality for women?
Oh, absolutely. Yes. Absolutely. And if she’s going to assume apart-time
position, as I always told my niece, make sure they do not take advantage of you
and expect you to work full time for part-time wages, and make sure that you get
the increments that are due to you as you move through your career. The firm has
been very good to her.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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Now I don’t think anyone would debate that the feminist movement was the
catalyst for a lot of societal and professional changes that have benefited women
in general. Do you think African American women have benefited as much from
the movement as have white women?
On balance, and on the whole, I don’t think so. But I think that there were
pockets in the women’s movement – and I intentionally omitted liberation
movement – just in the women’s movement, that were concerned about economic
issues, employment issues, and professional issues. And they sought to bring
along African American women and to include them in those efforts, including
economic, and the financial and employment status of women. But, those are few
and far beyond. And I don’t think, as atotal movement, that the women’s
movement was really concerned about the fufure of African American women –
women of color – Hispanic, Asian, etc. But there were pockets that were devoted
to equality for all women regardless of color and national origin, and that’s the
part of the movement that I deeply appreciated.
I want to follow-up with why you think that that has not been true, but I believe I
heard you make a distinction between the women’s movement and the women’s
liberation movement in your answer.
Yes. Yes I did.
Expand on that. And I believe you did it a bit more when you were talking about
women and the job, but is it something beyond that when you make that
distinction between the women’s movement and the women’s liberation
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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I think the women’s movement that I admired was the much quieter movement.
A methodical movement. A movement with specific goals to achieve in the
economic and professional arena. I think the women’s liberation movement was
not as methodical. It was much louder. It was much more intense, and much
more rhetorical, if you will. And that’s the part with which I did not really wish
to associate myself.
Why do you think the women’s movement was not designed to benefrt African
Americans and Hispanics, as I believe you said in your answer?
I think that white women, as a whole, did not have the same historical context of
African American women. For example, African American women have had the
history of being in the employment arena, whether as domestics, whether as
accountants, or whether as lawyers or doctors. So there’s all of that history there.
I think that there was a greater hunger on the part of white women who did not
have that historical context, but who had extraordinary ability – academic abilities
– achieved well in college, may have gone on for a Masters or even alaw degree
and then settled down at home. So when people like Gloria Steinem and the lady
from New York – whose name I’m blocking on – began to speak out, then the
hunger, I think, intensified. And they were ready to jump into the employment
market and to the professional market, and they were more strident about it, more
intense about it. Whereas African American women who had had this historical
context —
Because they’ve had to work because of economics?
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Judge Reid: Because they had to. They didn’t have any choice. So they were not in that same
box with those women who have not had that historical context.
Ms. Curry: You have written a book called Together Black Womenwhich was published in
1972. AnLd you actually explore in that book some of the issues you are talking
about, especially with respect to African American women. And you talk about
the process of writing that book, including some threats and some of your concern
as you were conducting the research about even protecting your work product.
Do you want to talk a little bit about that book and putting it together before I go
through some specific questions relating to your book.
Judge Reid: Yeah. The book was commissioned by the Black Women’s Community
Development Foundation. And the idea was to fan out across the country and to
obtain the views of Black women on a variety of subjects. And so I designed an
interview questionnaire and I worked with a number of my Barnard College
students to conduct some of these interviews. And some of the questions were on
sensitive topics. If you put it in the historical context of the day – the political and
historical context in the mid-7Os – in which we still had a lot of movement in the
civil rights movement and the women’s movement, political activity and people
feeling threatened. So it became apparent to me, and I had a sense that there were
people looking over my shoulder as I conducted these interviews. And I recall
one time in which I went to San Francisco to begin – not to begin but to continue
– to transcribe some of the tapes and also to begin to put together the book. And I
was in ahotel-I had ahotelroom- and I had gone out. And whenl gotback on
this particular day, there was a man in my room. And my first thought was not
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Ms. Curry:
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that this man is here to try to molest me, but he is here to look at my work. And
you might think that that’s strange, but that’s the context in which I was operating
because a number of people really wanted to see what were these women – these
women of color – across the country saying about political subjects, the women’s
movement, general liberation, Stokely Carmichael, things of this sort.
How was it publicized that you were doing that research.
As the interviews were being conducted, word began to filter out. Keep in mind
thatl was also doing discussions – panel discussions – and things of this nature.
And I probably was talking about the research and the book along the way. But it
may have just been that I was totally paranoid because of the context and because
of the feeling that people were watching developments and the research.
Well and also just because of that time. There were dangers around every corner.
But back to the man in your room. What did it turn out to be? Who was he?
To this day I have no idea who he was. He just apologized and left. My only
thought was, Are my records still intact?
He was not a hotel employee?
No. No, he was not an employee. No. That was the strange part of it.
And how did you get your subjects?
How did I get the subjects? You know at this point I can’t recall. It was some
degree of random nature.
Well you talk a bit about it in the book. I thought you might want to expound on
that. But through your college connections, you had college students, you had a
broad segment of people across the country, and you used the network, as I recall.
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Yeah, that’s probably right.
What struck me about the book was how broad the subject is. You interviewed
college women, you interviewed women who were blue collar workers . . . .
Just a broad range of people to get their views. It was not just, I’m interviewing
college educated women only.
That’s right. And as I recall now, the Black Women’s Co***ity Development
Foundation had a whole network of women – cross section of women – and we
tapped into that segment also.
Now in this book wherein you explored Black women’s attitudes towards the
women’s liberation movement and the role of Black women in the civil rights
movement, let me ask you in particular about a quote from Pauli Murray. She
was then a professor at Brandeis University and you quoted her as saying,
“[D]espite the common interest of the Negro and white women, the dichotomy of
the segregated society has prevented them from cementing a natural alliance.” Do
you agree with that conclusion of Professor Murray?
Generally, yes. If you go back to the days in which Negroes at that time, or
Colored people, were trying to get the vote and white women were also trying to
get the right to vote, there was tension between these two movements as to who
would get the vote first, white women or African Americans. And I think from
that day some of the tensions survived and some of the tensions may be traceable
solely to historical context and upbringing. But, ye*, there has been dichotomy
and I don’t think the two movements ever integrated, although I think each of the
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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movements in some way benefited from the activities of the other. And
particularly the women’s liberation movement and the women’s movement, I
think, benefited from activities in the civil rights movement
My next question was as segregation began to break down, did the white and
Black women begin to cement a natural alliance. But you just said you don’t
think the two groups ever formed that much of an alliance.
No,Ithinkthere’s still ahealthytension. Ithinkthere’s arecognitionby… .
How is it healthy?
Healthy in the sense that there are some things that the white movement – the
women’s movement – some things that they have done that have benefited
African American women. Now let me give you an example here at home. The
efforts of people like Marsha Greenberger and Judy Lichtman in the area of
domestic violence and intra-family conflict I think benefited a host of African
American women in this city. And what do I mean by that? I think they were
instrumental not only in seeing that the intra-family law was on the books in the
District, but also of making sure that when amendments were necessary, those
amendments were made. And I think today when women go down to try and get
a CPO or TPO – a Temporary Protective Order or a Civil Protective Order – that
they do so as a result of people like Judy Lichtman and Marsha Greenberger.
Now in your book, you also say that one of the things you wanted to test was
whether the women’s liberation movement – and you said women’s liberation
movement – was only using the Black struggle as a means of highlighting its own
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Judge Reid:
struggle without any serious intent to pave the way for the demise of racial
Uh huh.
What did you find in examining that issue?
I think the perception is that that’s accurate. That the white women tried to take
the best of the Black movement and use it without necessarily a concem about
assisting in the goals and objectives of the African American people.
Now in the two professions where you’ve spent most of your time – in academia
and in the legal profession – have you found that white women have helped to
facilitate your advancement in particular or the advancement of Black women in
general? And break those down please as you respond.
Okay, give it to me again.
I’m going to break it down for you as I give it to you then. In the two professions
where you’ve spent most of your time – in academia and in the legal profession –
have you found that white women have helped facilitate yow advancement?
Well, let’s talk about academia. And I’m going back in my mind through the
various academic positions that I have held before I make this general statement.
I’m discussing in my mind whether or not the general statement will be true..
Now on the academic side, as I think through all of the academic positions that I
have held, I think it’s accurate to say that I advanced in those positions not due to
a single white woman, with one exception. And that is that when I was offered a
distinguished professorship at the University of West Virginia College of Law the
person who pushed me for that distinguished professorship after I left the
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Corporation Counsel’s OfiFrce was a white woman who was a former Barnard
College student of mine. And without the role that she played in that position, I
don’t think that I would have been picked to be the visiting distinguished
professor of law at the University of West Virginia College of Law. But all the
other academic positions, as I think about it, the people who pushed me were
either African American men or – and this is usually the case – white men. For
example, at Brooklyn Co1lege, the person who pushed me to go and teach, to
accept the position at Brooklyn was Ben Rivlin who was a professor at Brooklyn
College, City University ofNew York. And I guess I met him as a result of my
study at Columbia. He taught one course that I took, and he tapped me and asked
me to consider coming down to Brooklyn College. But that’s how I usually got
these positions. For the Hunter College position, I literally walked across the
street looking for a position at Hunter and the gentleman who was the chair of the
department at the time was a white male, but he actually embraced my candidacy,
And in short order I was selected for that position. And then at Barnard,
Columbia the chair of the political science department was the person who pushed
me, a white male. And then when I came to Washington, the person who pushed
me was the then-chair of the department, and also was a white male.
Chair of the Department of Political Science?
Actually the School of Public Affairs, Department of Government at American.
Now whether someone actually facilitated your getting a position is, of course,
very distinct from whether anyone tried to derail you or put impediments in your
way. At the ABA Commission on Women in 2003, there was testimony that
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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white women, in fact, not only had not facilitated the advancement of African
American women but, in fact, had sometimes raised the bar and put impedirnents
in their way. What has been your experience in that realrn with respect to . . . .
On the academic side, I don’t think I experienced that atall. Within the
department, my relationships across the board – regardless of the institution *
tended to be fairly collegial. Now at American University, I was an Adjunct
Professor so I really didn’t have an integral role in the Deparfrnent of Govemment
at American. I was like kind of a solo. But in the institutional positions that I had
– the academic positions – where I was full time, the relationship within the
department was collegial. And I don’t think that there was a single person, white
or Black, who stepped into my path and said, “I’m going to block you from
getting tenure.” Now, of course, at Bamard, I walked into Bamard with tenure so
I didn’t have that problem at all. But at Brooklyn I went up through the ranks to
get my tenure, and I didn’t have anyone hyrng to block me.
Now you were going to also address that same question with respect to the legal
Yeah. On the legal profession, generally the first – I’m talking now about the
private sector. I spent nine-and-a-half years in law firms in the private sector.
The persons who were most helpfrrl to me in getting into the law firm and then
continuing atthe law firm were either Black men or white men. The first
position, two Black men and, actually, one white person. And the white person
was someone with whom I was a college classmate, and he and I had enjoyed a
good relationship through the years. Second firm I was actually taken over to that
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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firm by one of the white members of a previous law firm. And then the third law
firm – of course it was an African American firm – and I was accepted and
pushed by all of the males. Now, I hasten to say that in most of the law firms in
which I entered there were few females. So there were no white females for me
to have good relationship with.
Now you may or may not have an opinion on this, but I want to ask the same
question with respect to the advancement of Black women in general, if you have
any observations. Have you found that white women have either facilitated or
tried to derail the advancement of Black women in the legal profession or in
Other than anecdotal information, no I don’t know. Sometimes I’ve been told that
within a particular setting X white woman was not helpful to X Black woman in
advancing. But I can’t substantiate any of that.
That’s fine. Now you’ve been a keen observer of racial dynamics and the
evolution of race relations in this country for many decades. Since we last sat for
an interview, we’ve witnessed, as a country, an historical campaign for President
of the United States, and that a white woman was pitted against an African
American man to become the Democratic candidate. And we had the election of
the first African American president. Given some of the comments you’ve made
earlier today even about white women and their movement and the civil rights
movement, do you have comments you would like to share about either the
campaign or the election of President Obama as the first African American
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Judge Reid: Well let me just say this, I thought it was an exciting election. And I have a
colleague – a friend – and we maintained a relationship through the years. She’s a
white female who lives in New Hampshire. And we often had discussions about
the campaign and what was going on in New Hampshire – how the Clinton
campaign was fairing in New Hampshire and how the Obama campaign was
fairing in New Hampshire. But the race for me was exciting because on the one
hand there was a fairly sensitive woman, and on the other hand there was a Black
male, not as well known as the white female, both vying to become president of
the United States. And the challenge was trying to figure out which of these
candidates one would like to support. As a judge I mean, of course, there’s
nothing I can do on the front lines, but I still have my own individual vote. And
so thinking through that was arcal challenge as to which of those two candidates
to support. I think probably in the history of the United States, and the history of
the Democratic Party, we probably haven’t before seen two candidates that were
so prepared to become president. And when I say so prepared . . . .
Ms. Curry: The tape ended. This is side B. It is December 16, 2009, and this is the
continuation of the interview for Judge Inez Smith Reid.
Judge Reid: I was about to say at the early stages of the campaign within the Democratic Party
I probably would have given the edge to Hillary Clinton as the person that I
would want to see become president, but then as the campaign developed, there
were considerations, new information about, now-President Obamathatkind of
had me shifting back and forth before making a final decision as to which one I
would vote for.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Did you see played out during this campaigr any of the issues that surfaced
during the civil rights movemerit and the women’s liberation . . . that tension that
you spoke of earlier concerning the advancement of women vis-d-vis the
advancement of African Americans?
There was clear tension, and some of the white women, I think, believed that
African Americans should have been loyal to Hillary Clinton because not only of
her legacy but also because of the legacy of Bill Clinton when he was president,
and the kinds of things that he attempted to put in place to improve the situation
of African American people. On the other hand, there were some African
Americans who were saying, “Oh, wow. Now maybe we should support this
person of color over here, but what’s his track record? What has he really done?”
So I think there were tensions in both camps. White women who didn’t want to
go over to the Obama camp, and African Americans who didn’t want to go over
to the Clinton camp. And I think those tensions began to play out in terms of is it
better to have this white v/oman in, would she really look out for our interests, or
is it better to have this African American man in who really may not have looked
out for our interests previously, but who might look after them now. So I think
the tensions continued to play themselves out. And I think that they exist today.
Judge, you are a judge so I’m not going to get you too deep into political
I appreciate that, but I still like to think about it in my head from an intellectual
perspective but, of course, I’m not out there on the campaign trail.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Let’s talk a bit about your work on the bench. We ended the last session having
discussed your investiture and talking about how special that was for you and the
people who participated. Now before you actually began hearing cases, did you
attend any type of hearing of how to be an appellate . . . I mean any type of
training on how to be an appellate judge?
The answer is no. I wanted to sign up for the New York University Institute for
new judges, but they wanted you to have a track record before you actually came
to the beginning program of the Institute for Appellate Judges. So it was not until
the following year that I was able to go to the New York program – the summer
of 1996. Now what I did get when I came in was there were two judges on this
bench – Willie Krg, Judge Warren King, and Judge John Steadman- who came
to me and they were assigned to give me orientation as to some basic things that I
needed to know to be an appellate judge. And I think we spent about maybe an
hour together, and that was the extent of it. And so you got thrown in and what I
had to do was watch my colleagues, do a lot of reading. And I did an
extraordinary amount of reading for the first year that I was a judge – the
standards of review, applicable principles of law, and just orienting myself
especially in the criminal law field, the substantive criminal law field which I
didn’t know at all -things like malicious destruction of property, what do you
need to prove to establish that? Or second -degree murder. What are the
elements of second-degree murder? Now all of this I had gone through in
preparation for the Bar and, of course, for law school, but I had been away from
that for years and years and years. So it was like a new process. And, of course,
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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because my law firm practice was concentrated on the civil side, I had a heavy,
heavy, heavy calendar of criminal cases the first year.
Am I understanding that once you were swom in you basically . . . you’d better be
ready to go?
You’d better be ready to go in this court, yes. I think that Superior Court has
more of an orientation – planned orientation – but on this court it’s, you know,
“alright, you were appointed, the Senators approved you, now let’s get to work.”
What was your experience with appellate advocacy before you became a judge?
I had argued at least two cases here, before this Court, one in the U.S. Court of
Appeals, and one in New York in theappellate division. I think that was the
extent of it. And, of course, I had done a lot of reading. Now fortunately on this
Court there were two people who were very, very helpflrl to me. One was, of
course, the then Chief Judge Annice Wagner, who was my high school classmate,
and Judge Julia Cooper Mack. And Judge Mack, bless her heart, kind of took me
under her wings and helped me to understand a lot of the dynamics. Even little
things that I should do like, ‘oYou go down there to the dining room and sit and
listen to your colleagues as they are eating lunch because you can pick up some
pointers from that.” So her advice was always extremely, extremely helpful.
Of course you are known – and you spoke a bit about it in your last interview –
for your thorough preparation. And you talked, in particular, during one of your
interviews about Judge Richey calling you as the Corporation Counsel and that
your in-depth preparation included your actually Shepardizing yow own cases
Judge Reid;
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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and reading every single case. So you were no stranger to how to prepare for
No. No, that’s true. That’s true. And I wanted to make sure before I even
considered coming on the bench that I had done all of these things – the college
teaching, the research and the writing in the academic arena, and law, not just at
the private sector level, but the public sector too. And my role as Coqporation
Counsel was very, very valuable to my preparation for this position.
Now you just identified a number of things that I’m sure collectively they all
prepared you well. Is there any ore thing in your background that you think best
prepared you to serve as an appellate judge on this Court?
That’s a good question. Well, in addition to the research and the writing,
probably just the upbringing. The value-laden upbringing, if I can put it that way.
But there are just certain traditional values that you have to adhere to. And you
are strong enough not to be upended by people who may oppose you, either for
the sake of opposing you or for good reasons. And that you stick to your guns
and, if necessary, you operate independently – come to your own independent
conclusions – and then be in a position to advocate the conclusions that you have
reached. I thfuk all of that was important in the molding and the nurture that I got
as a youngster, in addition to the research and the writing that I did and the
experiences that I had before coming on the bench.
Well, as you said, you had abroad range of experience – from the private sector;
the Corporation Counsel; you worked in New York for Peter Edelman; for IIEW;
and for EPA.
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Do you remember your first case that you heard? What can you tell me about it?
Judge Schwelb never lets me forget it. But even before the September calendar
began, I was on motions. And I got assigned to this case involving the Board of
Elections and one of the elections. I forget which election it was. So Judge
Schwelb kept saying to me, “I think you should write this opinion. I think you
should write this opinion.” And I said, “Judge Schwelb, I’m not going to write
the opinion. It was not assigned to me as the writing judge.” That was my first
case, and he never let me forget that case.
Well, dwing your fust case or your first few cases, did you . . . you’re one of
three, right? Apanel ofthree?
Yes, one of three. Right.
And so during your first few cases did you play a role of more of an observer or
were you an active participant, firing questions to the lawyers?
Oh, no. I’ve always been an active participant in the oral argument. And I
prepared well for the oral argument . . .
How do you prepare for oral argument?
When I frst came on the bench, my preparation was to take those calendar sets.
And the calendar sets consisted of what’s called the record. And if I was the
assigned judge to the case we would have transcripts, and I would just read
Ms. Curry: You read everything yourself?
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Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Oh, yeah. I also had clerks reading. But, yeah, I read everything. And in
addition, I did my own research. After I got the bench memos from my law clerk,
I would go and read all of those cases so that when I took the bench I had a preffy
good command of the case. But I found that that was necessary as a new judge.
You couldn’t let things go undone. And then ultimately I was told I’m doing too
much preparation.
By whom were you told that?
My colleagues.
And how would they know that?
Because of the questions I was asking from the bench, and the demonstration of
the knowledge of the record.
How can one do too much preparation?
I don’t know. But to me you can’t ever do too much preparation. But as things
moved on, I was told, the workload will get heavier, and heavier, and heavier. So
to this day I still try to read about everything and sometimes, I should admit, I
don’t get to the last transcript or the last record entry.
How do you use your clerk. You have two clerks, correct?
I have two clerks, yes. And it depends upon the skills of the clerk. But generally
I start them off the same way. They write the bench memos. And then I start
them off doing drafts of the opinions that are not going to be published. That is to
say the MoJs – what we call the MoJs – Memorandum opinion and Judgment.
And then as we go through the term if I see that a clerk is evidencing good writing
skills, is evidencing good analytical skills, and is chomping at the bit to draft
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
opinions to be published, then along anywhere between April and May I begin to
try them out on drafting opinions that arc going to be published. And a lot
depends upon the background. One year I had a clerk who had a Ph.D. in one of
the sciences – I believe it was physiology – and she had taught at Duke Medical
A little mini you in a way?
And she decided that she was going to go to law school. I mean she was insecure,
but exceptionally good. Yes, she was very insecure and I didn’t know this but
after her term ended I had had a good relationship with the other clerk also and he
said to me, “You know she used to close the door and cry.” And I was astounded
by that. That somebody with all that skill and talent. But at any rate,I got her to
begin drafting at an earlier point in time than most of the other clerks because she
was just that skillful.
Describe what you found to be the most satisffing and what was least satisfring
during your first few months on the bench.
I think what was most satisffing were the challenging cases. The different kinds
of issues that would come up in the cases. And it was a good learning curve for
me in terms of those issues. That was most satisffing, dealing with those types of
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry: Give some examples of what you’re talking about when you say different kinds of
Judge Reid: Well we had all kinds of criminal cases. They were giving me this load of
criminal cases from things like prosecutors’ rebuttals and whether or not the
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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prosecutor had said something which required, perhaps, characterization as
improper. Improper rebuttal, improper comment. And some of the judges called
it misconduct. And then the challenge was determining whether or not it was so
severe that we had to reverse a conviction just based upon the words that were
uttered. But some of these cases, like first-degree murder cases, just weaving
through the evidence, understanding the subcultures out there, all of that was
extremely challenging. And then I did have a smattering of administrative law
cases, and also disciplinary cases – attorney discipline cases – which were
extremely interesting in terms of the issues because most of these issues were
totalty new to me. Those were not my fields of concentration. So the issues were
very challenging. Now what was a little bit vexing was trying to get your draft
through the other two panel members. And keep in mind that when you come in,
of course, the other judges are sitting around watching you and watching your
work product, and tryrng to be helpful, but at the same time not hesitant to be very
critical of things you were doing. And so working through that process I think
was extremely challenging, but at times, vexing.
What do you mean when you say “not hesitant to be critical?” Describe how the
panel works. You go to an argument – I mean I have a sense of it having clerked
on this Court, but I want it for the record. Describe how that works.
You go to the argument, you listen to the argument, you conference and a
preliminary decision is made as to how everybody comes out in the case. If
you’re the assigned judge and you get at least one other judge to take your
position, then you go. It’s your opinion. You have to write the draft opinion.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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And then after you are satisfied with your first draft you farm it out to the other
two members of the panel, and they read it and give you comments – feedback.
Now, I always liked the substantive feedback. But what I found particularly
vexing were what we called the nits or the editorial comments. I think you should
put a period here instead of a semicolon, things of that sort. That’s what I found
very, very vexing. Or, ‘oI wouldn’t say it that way. I would say it this way.” And
they would rewrite a sentence for you which in essence said the same thing that
you already had written.
Did you get many substantive comments, given your level of preparation?
Not that many. I would say that the – what I call the old hands from the
prosecutor’s office, the US Attorney’s Office – would give more of the
substantive comments on criminal law, And some of those I really appreciated
because of their experience, and I think both Judge Terry and Judge Farrell were
very good in making sure that I thoroughly understood the substantive criminal
law. And that was very helpful. But you know you had people who would spend
time editing drafts and things of that sort. But that was the part that I didn’t
appreciate that much.
And cases are assigned by the Chief Judge? He assigns who writes . . .
No, there’s a random system that is controlled by the Clerk’s Offrce.
Yes. Yes. It’s random. Now, having said that it’s random, the iast word goes to
the Chief and the Chief can make adjustments in the calendar.
Ms. Curry: How can the Clerk’s Office decide which judge is going to write opinions?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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I have never understood the random process that the Clerk’s Office goes through.
I can’t answer that question.
What has been your most memorable case that you’ve heard during your tenure
on this Court?
Most memorable. I’ll probably give you two examples, one from civil and one
from criminal. The civil was probably Ltvely v. Flexible Packagtng. It was a case
involving allegations of sex discrimination on the part of a white woman against
the men with whom she worked. And she actually got a verdict and went to trial,
and the verdict was reversed. I was on the panel assigned to that case and I guess
I was astonished when my colleagues announced that the case should be reversed.
That the case should have been decided in favor of the employer and not the
employee. Well I ended up writing a dissent in that case. Then there was a
petition for a rehearing en banc that was filed, and the petition was granted. And
then we heard the case en banc. And so the question became what’s going to be
the outcome? And so I played a role in the conference after the en banc hearing.
And at the end of the day we had a majority to reverse the panel, to go back to
reinstitute the jury’s verdict. And I was assigned to write the opinion for the en
banc cottrt.
Based on your dissent in part?
Yes. Now that was an extraordiriary challenge. It’s probably the most
challenging assignment that I’ve had on this Court. Now keep in mind that the
person who wrote the majority opinion still believed that he was correct. And we
went through several drafts of the en banc opinion, and gradually and gradually
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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we came out to everybody but this one judge now favoring my position. And the
interesting thing . . . the interesting dynamic then was that my colleagues began to
talk to the gentleman who had written the original majority decision and to try to
persuade him that he was wrong, that he had to come over. So at the end of the
day, we came out with a unanimous decision which focused on the hostile work
environment. And this is in the aftermath of the National Ratlroad case. So, I’11
always remember that experience, and going from a dissenter to writing the en
banc opinion, and then ending up with a unanimous decision on the hostile work
environment. So that was satisfying. Now the other case on the criminal side is
the Sykes case. And this involved a great issue of whether or not the U.S.
Attorney should have handed over information . . . disclosed information to the
defense before the trial. And the information that was important was grand jury
testimony by two witnesses. And so I studied that record, and studied that record,
and studied that record, and read and read and read cases. And after my research
and study of the record, I concluded that the conviction would have to be
reversed. And this was a murder case, and it had intemational implications
because it was the murder of – I think the Bulgarian, someone at the Bulgarian
Embassy. But at the end of the day we reversed.
Thepanel, notenbanc.
The panel. The panel reversed the conviction and sent it back for a new trial.
And the interesting part is the U.S. Afiorney’s Office did not file a petition for
rehearing en banc. And the case got some play and, in fact, the Legal Timeshad
called and wanted some pictures . . . put my picture on the front page of the Legal
Times. Now, I drew the line there. And I said, o’No, why don’t you go out and
get the picture of the attomey who actually prevailed in the case.” And that’s
what they did. But the case was discussed . . . it provoked some discussion within
the community and also began to emphasize again and again the need for the U.S.
Attorney to disclose Brady information and also Jencl<s information. And also
Rule 16 information. That was the satisffing criminal case.
Ms. Curry: I think you’ve talked a bit about this, but is there any further elaboration on how
you decide your cases. I didn’t ask that question, but in your answers to some of
the others, I think you worked in your process for deciding cases.
Judge Reid: Right. Now one thing I probably didn’t work in is the law clerk input. And
through the years I’ve had some interesting law clerks. I remember one year I had
a?aw clerk who didn’t see a criminal.conviction that he didn’t think should not be
reversed. So it was delightfi.rl to work with him, and he’s now over at PDS. So
getting the views . . . the input from the law clerk was interesting . . . has been
interesting through the years.
Ms. Curry: Well I actually had a question to ask you. How do you interface with your clerks?
I mean, what specific roles? You talked about assigning them to write the MOJs
aurtd, at some point, the decisions, but talk a bit more about how you interface with
Judge Reid: Well I prepare an assignment sheet every month, and each clerk has definite
assignments to complete. And then the person who’s given my writing
assignments has double-duty to do because that person knows I’m going to do the
draft opinion if there’s going to be a published opinion. But after all of the oral
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
arguments and the conference that we do with the judges, I come in and I
conference with the clerks and get their views of what happened, and then use it
also as a teaching moment as to what not to do when you become involved in
private practice. And then I ask the clerks to give me their views and talk to the
other judges’ clerks and let me know what the other clerks are thinking. So it’s
good to have that kind of bouncing off and feedback from the clerks.
Have you generally been pleased with your clerks?
Yes. I think I can count on less than one hand the clerks about whom I thought I
made a mistake in hiring them. But generally, they’ve been very, very good.
What’s your process for selecting clerks?
I like to get references. I like to get calls from a law school saying, “I want you to
look at so and so.” That person has a good record, is very good. So that’s one
thing. I listen to the professors and then bring in the applicant. Other people
across the city may call and say, “I’ve got a good candidate for you.” Even
family members have called and said, “I’ve got a good candidate for you.” But
basically, I study the resume, the writing assignment, and the references and the
academic transcript of grades. And then I do my own interview. And when I
interview I go all the way back to when the applicant was born and go through
their family history, and come up to reasons for going to law school. Traditional
What kinds of careers have your clerks followed after leaving? You mentioned
PDS for one.
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Yeah, PDS. In the federal government, one has done an outstanding job with the
Department of Education. And then he was detailed over to the White House
Counsel’s Offrce when President Obama came in. His role with the Department of
Education was ethics, so he was brought in to do a lot of the vetting of the
Yeah. So he’s very good. So federal government, PDS, and law firms.
U.S. Attorney’s Office?
I’ve not had – I’ve had two come close to the U,S. Attorney’s Office, but did not
get hired. One of my last clerks went the second round, and then another one
went farther. I think he stills hopes to get interviewed for the U.S. Attorney’s
Office. But he’s probably making too much money to make the transition.
Once you’re in a law firm?
I intended to ask, and don’t want to close this session without asking. You’ve
mentioned – and I think it was almost as a given as though everyone would know
– the Institute for Advocacy in New or something you mentioned. What exactly,
for the record, is . . . .
The Summer Institute for Appellate Judges. It’s held at NYU. The law
professors at NYU conduct the training, and then sometimes they have visiting
professors come in and they run a course for a whole week for new judges. And
then there’s a second course for advancedjudges, advanced appellatejudges.
And they go through dverything from writing to substantive law. And the beauty
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
of it is that there are judges from all across the country that you get to meet and
associate with them and learn what their experiences are. So I found the NYU
Institute to be very, very helpful. But even more than the New York program,
was the Virginia program.
I was about to say, you also got a Masters at Virginia since you became a judge.
A Masters of Law, right?
Right, in the judicial process. And that involved two srunmers of intensive course
work, graded exams and papers. All of the traditional academic work, and then
you had to write a thesis. And there were, again, judges from across the country
that gathered. And it was quite intense.
Well I understand that because actually we were doing this interview when you
1* to go and do it. But did you actually feel that you needed that Masters, Judge
Reid, to be a good judge on this bench?
I didn’t think I needed the Masters. I could have done without the Masters. But I
wanted refresher work in the law, and I wanted to be exposed to some of these
outstanding professors. And also Virginia was challenging simply because when
I was coming along I couldn’t have gone to Virginia School of Law, the
University of Virginia Law Sehool.
But you went to Yale?
Yeah, I went to Yale but the point is the doors were closed to me at Virginia. So
the doors opened up, and why would I pass up an opportunity to walk in the door?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Judge Reid, we’ve talked about your tenure here and we’ll talk some more about
it. But apart of that tenure, of course, is your relationship with your colleagues. I
want to ask you now, in particular, to describe your relationship with the prior
Chief Judge.
W’e11, the prior Chief Judge, Annice Robinson McBryde Wagner and I, of course,
were high school classmates. Not only were we high school classmates, but we
were oratorical contest competitors. And I developed a fairly deep admiration for
Annice way back in high school. Annice was an individual who came from a
large family. The family worked hard. She was not in the category that I would
describe as snobbish people with good family backgrounds and good economic
situations. She was comfortable, but as I said, I began to develop an admiration
for her in high school and her accomplishments. And then, of course, after high
school our paths diverged. And then when I came back to Washington in the – I
guess it was around 1976,’77 – tojoin the Carter administration, I began to read
about Annice again andrealized that she was in the judicial system. So when it
came tirne for me to try to become a judge, and my name was sent over to the
White House the last time, I met with Chief Judge Wagner just to get the lay of
the land, to get her views on a number of things. And then when I began my
tenure at the Court, we had a natural relationship. And we worked pretty closely
together outside of the traditional work of a judge. And what I mean by that, she
indicated that she wanted to appoint me as the first judge to chair the . . . what
was going to be created as the Standing Committee on Fairness and Access to the
Court. The Committee would make sure that people had good access to the court,
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Judge Reid:
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that there were no barriers, that discrimination was non-existent in the D.C.
Courts or that it was curtailed. And this came out of the task forces on racial,
ethnic and gender bias in the D.C. Courts. So on that plain, outside of the
courtroom, we had avery, very good relationship and we worked in tandem to
achieve certain results to.improve the D.C. Courts. Now, of course, we sat on
cases together and I enjoyed that experience except for one thing. And what I did
not enjoy was the Chief was so busy that it took her a long time to respond to
drafts. And I suppose because of our relationship, and because I knew what her
workload was, I was reluctant to press her too hard sometimes. But then, I didn’t
want those papers to be sitting for weeks and months, and even as long as ayear –
my drafts. And so I had to develop away of trying to get the draft out of her.
And so I would send her the emails as diplomatic as I could, prefacing it with
something like, “I know your plate is full, but we need to get this case out.” And,
“Have you had a chance to look at the draft?’ So, that’s the part that I did not
enjoy – pressing to get the drafts approved.
What is your opinion of her as a jurist and as an administrator?
I think that, on balance, Annice is a very good jurist. Now, what do I mean by
that? I began watching her from-her days as a trial judge, particularly, when I was
in the Corporation Counsel’s Office. And I remember, in particular, her work on
the homeless initiative . . . her legal work on that. And I think she took too long
to decide, but her work on that issue was solid. And when I came up here the way
the Chief approached the cases was, she would read the briefs and she would go
out and have her clerks Xerox every case cited in each of the briefs. And then she
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Judge Reid:
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would endeavor to read those cases before coming into oral argument. So her
preparation was fairly thorough, and I respected that. I didn’t always agree with
her analysis. I think as an appellate judge with experience on the trial bench,
there were certain things that the Chief leamed in the trial court that she brought
to the appellate court. Positions that she wanted to adhere to. And what do I
mean by that? I think, particularly in the area of child abuse and neglect, tlle
Chief had a certain approach. And the approach was, if it is at all possible we
keep the biological family intact. Now, at times, in my view, it was impossible to
keep the biological family intact because the biological family, in many respects,
was responsible for the abuse and the neglect. And so I found myself being a
little impatient at that end – inwardly impatient. Not outwardly impatient, but
inwardly impatient. If there’s a track record of abuse and neglect, and you want
to tell me that maybe this charge was made in error in terminating parental rights,
I have to say inwardly, “Huh, how can that be? And so then it takes time to work
through that issue. So I think I had a healthy respect and admiration for the skills
that the Chief brought to the job, but less admiration for the time and some of the
thought processes that were put into resolving the cases.
So your admiration – you spoke about her as a jurist, but you also – then that
extends to her as an administrator also?
As an administrator, I divide administration into two parts. One part is the
administration required to interface with the Bar and the legal commr.rnity out
there. I don’t think I know of any Chief that attended as many events as Chief
Judge Wagner and sought to accept all of the invitations extended to her. I mean,
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that alone is a backbreaking assignment. To go to event, after event , afrer event.
But I think she did it in the sense of trying to develop the Bar and the
relationships with the Bar that ultimately might prove helpful one day in getting
the objectives and goals of the court achieved. so I think administration . . .
outward administration, I think, was very effective from my perspective. Inward
administration I think also generally was good. If I had to fault the Chief in one
area, it would be in the area of getting the cases out and cleaning up the backlog.
I think the backlog was too high in the days in which she was the Chief. And it
was hard to address the backlog when, due to her press of work, she had a backlog
of her own. So that was difficult, and if I had to fault her in one area, it would be
in that area of administration inward.
Do you think there was poor judgment in properly apportioning the amount of
time to focus on what you call the outward administration, the wine and dine with
the Bar, and the amount of time that was necessary to focus on the operation of
the Court – the inward administration?
Yeah. Let me say it wasn’t all wining and dining with the Bar. In her days there
were some pressing issues. I mean I spoke briefly about the fairness and access
within the Court. I mean she presided over the Court as those task forces were in
play and winding down their work and finding out some things that were not
favorable to the D.C. Courts that did not instill public trust and confidence. So I
think she spent a great deal of time with lawyers working through some of those
issues and trying to resolve them within the D.C. Courts. And I think that was
valuable work – the output from the lawyers inward into the Court in trying to
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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resolve those particular issues. So it wasn’t all wining and dining. Now as to the
balance, the Chief had a plate which involved both courts, the local Bar, and
Chief Justices across the country. And ultimately she became the head of the
Conference of Chief Justices, which meant an additional plate, if you will, that
she had to address, because the Conference of Chief Justices had its own
objectives and goals and, if you’re playing a major role in that Conference, then
that’s going to limit the time that you have to do the other things . . . to satisfy the
other plates that you have.
Would her serving as the head of that organization advance this Court in any
Yes, and let me tell you how. To give you one illustration, in the area of fairness
and access to justice, this Court in the District of Columbia has been recogruzed
across the country as putting into place some things which are very valuable in
restoring public trust and confidence. So in that sense, yes. Now you asked
earlier about the judgment call. I mean, how do you balance all of these things?
Did the Chief use the best judgment in coming to the balance? Well I can’t speak
for her on that issue. I think she recognizedthat she had these plates and she
made her own judgment calls as to which of these plates were important to her.
And then I’ll just add my perspective to this in another sense. I have great
admiration for then Chief Judge Wagner and now Judge Wagner. I think she
suffers from, in part, something that many of us suffer from and that is not being
able to let the product go. After you’ve done the best that you can with the
product, you let it go. After you’ve done the best that you can with another
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
person’s product, you let it go. But I think in her there’s a gnawing sense, “f
haven’t achieved perfection on this product. And so I’m going to have to achieve
it. Let me put it aside, and I’ll come back.” And then the time to come back
begins to stretch, and then you have a backlog. And then you have people who
are anxious about getting their own work out.
So Judge Reid let’s end with that for today and we will continue our discussion
the next time with your relationship with Chief Judge Wagner and your other
colleagues on the bench.
Verygood. Thankyou.
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Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
Seventh Interview
December 22,2009
This is the seventh interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid, Associate
Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the Oral History Project of The
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry, now
of the law firm Mcleod Watkinson & Miller. The interview took place in Judge Reid’s
Chambers at The Historical Courthouse,430E Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Good morning Judge Reid.
Good morning.
Judge Reid, first offlet me thank you for making time today to continue this
interview. I know that you’re very busy and, of course, this is the holiday season
and everything has been complicated by the blizzard we’ve just had., It is, indeed,
quite treacherous still to drive andto walk. So thark you for making time to do
Thank you for coming.
When we stopped last week, we were talking about your service on this bench and
your relationship with the prior Chief Judge, Chief Judge Annice Wagner. Now
you and the former Chief Judge attended high school together. Based on how
society typically measures success – from schools attended, degrees received,
class rank or standing, professional positions one has held – all of those measures,
you would be considered the far more accomplished or successful of the two of
you. Given your credentials compared to those of Chief Judge Wagner, how did
you feel serving in what some may view as a subservient role to her?
Well, first of all, Iet me tackle your underlying premise. I’m not sure I would
describe my background and accomplishments as greater than those of former
Judge Reid:
Chief Judge Wagner. I think she has had an excellent ctlreer, and sometimes I
think I cannot hold a candle to her. But nevertheless, let me go on and accept
your underlying premise. And I guess I would respond in a couple of ways. First
of all, I do not believe that I had a subservient role. Rather, I would describe it as
a collaborative role. We collaborated in a number of respects, and the Chief
would often seek out my opinions on a variety of things. And when it carne to the
whole issue of fairness and access to the Court, and fundaffrental justice within the
judicial system for all participants, I think we had a very strong collaborative
relationship that panned out beyond the Court to the Bar and other quarters. But,
secondly, I would Eu:r.swer it is that I enjoyed being in the background. I do not
like the limelight. And I’ll tell you when I first rcalizedthat I’m not a limetight
person. And that is when I was in New York and teaching at Barnard
College-Columbia University,I was in demand in terms of speaking
engagements. And I recall on one occasion I accepted the engagement to speak in
Albany, New York, at this big, big weekend dinner of the, I think it was the Black
Caucus – the legislative assembly. And there were politicians, and civic workers
from all over the State of New York who gathered in Albany for that occasion.
And a number of them were jockeying for position onthe stage. As the keynote
speaker I, of course,had a position on the stage during the dinner. But I was
prompted to give up my seat at the dinner table so that other people could gather,
because the competition was so fierce to sit at the table and to be seen. So
ultimately, after everybody had his or her say, it was time for my keynote address,
which I made. And it was kind of hard-hitting keynote address and extremely
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
-253 –
well received. So what really, I guess, unnerved me was the fact that after the
conclusion of my address – which was the last thing on the program -people
swarmed onto the podium and, I mean, I was surrounded. And it was the most
uncomfortable feeling I think I have ever had. And, in fact, in this one sense it
was a frightening feeling because I really did not want to be in the limelight. And
so from that point on I recogn izedthatl’m not a limelight person, and that I prefer
to work in the background and not to be on the front iine. So those are the two
responsos that I would give you.
Let me ask a question, when you say you were prompted to give up your seat on
the stage – By the program planner?
No, no. On my own. On my own I decided I was going to give up that seat
because so many people wanted to bb seen, and I didn’t have any need to be seen.
Well, because you knew you had a speech that would be heard, and once it was
heard you would be seen?
Yeah, that was the purpose. To be heard, but not necessarily to be seen. I could
have, I could have done it behind the scenes and have itjust broadcast over the
Judge Reid, you disagreed with me – and I’m not surprised – with my
charucteizing or describing you as what I said many believed, based on how
society measures success. You said you did not think you were the more
successful of the two. Clearly, Judge Reid, I mean, JD, Ph.D., three Masters,
positions at several distinguished colleges and universities in teaching, Inspector
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
General at EPA, Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia. Tell me how
you could make that statement.
Because I actually believe it. I think accomplishments are a question of
perception, and the perception that I have of the former Chief Judge is that she
made some very, very strong contributions. Not only on this Court, but in the
District of Columbia at large and also nationally through her work with the
Conference of Chief Justices. Now that’s not to detract from my own
accomplishments, but I just don’t try to look at my success as being superior or
not superior to anybody else. One of the things that I did early in life, once I
rcalized that I had certain talents, was to pray consistently for humility and
patience, for humility and not a display of pride. That was very important to me,
and I can honestly say that I’m grateful that my prayers were answered through
the years.
Would you describe yourself as a confidant of the former Chief Judge?
Oh, absolutely. Absoluteiy. Yeah.
Now, I intended that question to mean when she was serving as the Chief Judge.
When she was serving as the Chief Judge. Yes, that is correct. And, in fact, she
wanted to groom me to replace her. But that was not in my book.
Consistent with your not liking the limelight?
That’s absolutely correct. And I thought that it was time to pass the mantle to
someone else.
Ms. Curry Describe your relationship with the current Chief Judge.
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-255 –
Our current Chief Judge and I have had avery good relationship. We came onto
the Court – he went onto the Superior Court and I came onto the D.C. Court of
Appeals at the same time. We had our hearings together over in the Senate before
senator william Cohen. And we have abond in the sense that we both are
graduates of Tufts University, and we refer to ourselves as Jumbos. In addition,
he’s a graduate of Columbia’s law school, and my graduate work was done at
Columbia, so we have that bond. And we attend the same church, so that’s
another piece of the bond. So I was delighted . . . . In fact, I t}rew my support
behind Chief Judge Washington to become the Chief Judge despite the fact that I
was approached by someone who was in a position of influence and power to
stand for the position of Chief Judge. But I thought that Eric Washington would
be agreat Chief Judge and I was pleased to throw my support behind him.
I just wanted to check the tape to make sure that we’re each being picked up.
Judge Reid, once again you found yourself then in a position, if you had wanted
to be, in competition with someone who had not done as much at a professional
level as you, yet you chose to support this person. And sometimes when people
support . . . . Well, let me strike that question. You chose to support him. Did
you have any reservations, or was there at least apart of you that thought, perhaps
I should do this?
Well I $ew up under the concept of noblesse oblige,and I gave it great thought
because of being approached not once, but at least two times and urged to do this.
But I have no regrets in deciding that it was something that I should not do. I
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
thought the position needed really new blood. I thought the position needed
someone who had great vision and great energy. And I thin . . . .
But Judge Reid, let me stop you. You need vision, you have a vision. And then
energy; I’ve never met anybody with more energy than you.
Yes, but Chief Judge Washington has a different kind of energy. I thought he
would be able to tackle some of the problems that existed on this Court better than
I could. And I would have had to have a more delicate approach because the
position, first of all, required somebody who was going to be very aggressive in
tackling the backlog of the Court of Appeals. And I thought that Eric was equal
to that task, whereas I would have had to have had kind of a delicate balance in
approaching that because of my relationship with the past Chief Judge. In
addition, Chief Judge Washington is very well connected, probably more
connected than I am to pockets of influence throughout the District of Columbia.
I thought that would be very helpful in terms of the well-being of the District of
Columbia Court of Appeals. Now I’m not saying that I don’t have some of the
same kinds of connections, but he is more outgoing than I am, let’s put it that
Did you discuss your final decision with George?
Yes, and he told me that I should do it. But, of course, I have a mind of my own.
And not only that, but I let it be known to Chief Judge Washington that I had been
approached and like a gentleman he said, “We11, I will step aside.” And I said,
“[N]ow I’m telling you because that’s just exactly what I don’t want you to do. I
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
_257 –
want you to stay the course because it’s not going to happen, in terms of my
becoming Chief Judge.”
So he has a gteat admiration for you also and your abilities now?
We have a very, very good relationship.
What is your opinion of him as a jurist first, and then secondly, as an
Well, I have developed a strong admiration for Chief Judge Washington as a
jurist. If you come to the oral arguments, you’ll see that he is very well prepared.
And he has kind of a spin on his questions which not only reflects greatlegal
knowledge, but the ability to translate the legal issues on a practical level with the
questions that he poses. So I think he’s a very, very strong jurist. And, of course,
he would have to be being a graduate of Tufts and Columbia Law School. AIso,
he was a partner at Hogan & Hartson, and I think we both know that he would not
have become a partner at Hogan & Hartson if he did not have some inteliectual
And the second part of that was yow opinion of him as an administrator.
I think Eric is avery, very good administrator. And he’s able to push forward
despite the push back. And to his credit, he has helped to decrease the backlog in
outstanding opinions. And he keeps the pressure on individually whenever he
sees things flagging. For example, if we have an en banc argument and
somebody else has been assigned to write the opinion but is not producing the
opinion, then he doesn’t hesitate to step in and to make a change in the
assignment. I think he keeps the Court running smoothly. In terms of calend.ars,
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
you know way ahead of time what calendar you’re going to be on, and what,s
your assignment on the respective calendars. And the calendar sets are received
in the chambers in more than a timely manner. For example, if we’re in
December, we get January’s calendar by the middle of December. He’s just that
well organized,, andl think he’s an excellent administrator.
A couple of things, you’ve mentioned his role in the assignment, but I thought I
heard you say the other day that assignments are made randomly from the Clerk’s
Oh yes, initially. But once the assignment is made, we have priority with respect
to en banc opinions. So after orai argument, conference, the assignment is made.
Now en bancs are different. The person who is assigned to write the en banc
opinion is not by random, but it’s the person who’s in the majority. Or if the
dissenting opinion for the panel becomes the majority position of most of the
people, then that dissenting person gets to write the en banc opinion. But once
that assignment is made, if the judge assigned is not carrying through, then he
doesn’t hesitate to step in.
So, let me understand this. The person who wrote the majority opinion for the
panel will be the person who is assigned to write the en banc opinion initially.
Provided that that position prevails among the majority of the en banc Court.
I see. I see. Now you said that he has the ability – to use your words – to push
forward “despite the push back.” Exactly what did you mean by that, “push
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms, Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
-259 –
If people make excuses for not beirig able to get their opinions out, that’s what I
call apush back. “You don’t understand, I’ve got X, Y and Zto do.” And then
he will push back again and say, ‘olt has got to be done.” And he will keep the
judge’s feet to the fire until that opinion is out. Now it’s a thankless task, a really,
really thankless task. But he keeps going ahead regardless of how much he might
like a particular judge.
How does he generally communicate with the judges, through email or walking
the halls and going into the chambers?
He does both. But he does a lot of walking the halls and into chambers and
having face-to-face discussions with the judges. He was also very good in taking
up the mantle from Chief Judge Wagner in getting this building completed. In
fact, that was a tremendous job because he had to interface with a number of
different sectors, not only the architects and the engineers, but the National
Capital Planning Commission – I think it’s called – and the Fine Arts Association,
and also the Congress to get the funding continued.
And at what point did he step in? Where was this process when he stepped in?
We had broken ground. We went over there and did the shovel to break the
ground for the – went over here I guess I should say – to break the ground for the
renovation. And then at that point he stepped in and carried it forward.
And what about his role with Congress and with the – there’s a Judicial Council, I
believe, that the Superior Court Chief Judge is a part of?
You mean within the Court?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-260 –
The Joint Commiffee on Administration. Yes, he does very well. He’s really the
leader of both courts. And from my understanding – I’m not on the Joint
Committee – but from my understanding, that process has gone well. And I know
in my role as Chair of the Standing Committee on Faimess and Access if we have
an issue that has to go before the Joint Committee, he’s been very good in seeing
to it that the issue is presented, and the resolution is one that we had
I will not ask you to opine about what otherjudges think about him.
Oh, I can tell you that he enjoys the respect of all of the judges on this Court. I
have never heard a negative word about him from any judge. I mean he’s just got
a nice, infectious personality. But he can be stern, but very pleasant at the same
How would you describe your relationship with your colleagues on this Court,
other than the two chiefjudges about whom we just spoke?
I think I talked, when I first came onto the Court, about Julia Cooper Mack, Judge
Julia Cooper Mack, And I had a very good relationship with her. Some of the
other judges, it took a while for me to get accustomed to them and get acclimated
to their personalities. One judge in particular has a biting wit and at times – and
it’s kind of sarcastic – and at times I would feel uncomfortable around that judge.
But eventually I got to see that that judge treated everybody the same way, and his
wit, which sometimes was negative wit, was directed at everybody. I mean, that’s
just the way he was. And in addition, there were some people who have this
tendency * I may have mentioned this before – to be editors because in their
-261 –
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
former positions they had edited briefs and other documents. And so it took a
while for judges to understand that I didn’t believe that their main role was to edit
my work. But I think we’ve all come to a meeting of the minds now. So there
were some undercurrents there, I think, which were natural because judges begin
to feel out a new judge and to question everything about that judge’s work until
they are satisfied that that judge meets their own individual tests.
Were the comments that the judges who had a tendency to make editorial
comments, did those judges also make substantive comments, or were their
comments generally limited to those that may be described as editorial?
Mainly editorial. Some limited substantive comments, but mpinly editorial. And
I think that was partly a function of their past existence as supervisors of a cadre
of attorneys and they were accustomed to doing that kind of editing.
How did you communicate to your colleagues that you did not desire them to play
that role, or that you thought that was an inappropriate role for them?
Well I guess the most drastic thing I did for one judge was to simply say to that
judge, “[W]e11I think it would be better for you to write the opinion.” And I
turned over the assignment to that judge. And from that point on, I did not get as
many editorial comments.
Judge Reid, we’ve been talking about your experience compared to that of the
former Chief Judge, and a bit compared to that of the Chief Judge. But actually,
your academic accomplishments and the breadth of your experience, eclipse that
of most of your colleagues. How do you navigate through the thicket of working
Judge Reid:
-262 –
with and for people whose academic preparedness and experience are not equal to
well, accepting your underlying premise for the moment, I have a fairly soft
approach to individuals, and I try to come in on the most positive side of the
individual and to do the best that I can to relate well and to point out things that
need to be done. Let me give you an illustration. I received a draft opinion from
onejudge several years ago, and I was astounded that thejudge had overlooked a
controlling precedent. And so I sent the judge an email saying, “I don’t think the
draft can go as you have prepared it because of this particular precedent.” The
judge pushed back on me, and then I strongly suggested. that he read the
precedent. And then the judge came back and said, “oh, that precodent proved
that I was right.” But that is one of the techniques that I have. It’s kind of a soft
approach. I put on the table something that the judge may have overlooked that
needs to be addressed. Now on the other side of the coin, we have some
extremely, extremely bright judges on this court. And i lift up by name one
judge, and that’s John Steadman. i think John Steadman probably has the greatest
intellect and the greatest mind on the Court. Sometimes it takes a little bit for
him, surprisingly, to grasp an issue, but once he’s grasped it, he’s good to go.
And I’ve worked fairly well with Judge Steadman through the years. He will
send you these long emails, what I call a stream of consciousness email. And
when I first got those emails, when I first came on the Court – and before emails
he did memos – when I first got those memos, sometimes in three pages, I would
say to myself, “\\Ihat on earth does he expect me to do with these three pages, and
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-263 –
what is the point? What is he trying to tell me?” And then I would force myself
to calm down and to read it. And throughout those three pages, sometimes he’s
only saying to you, “I think you should make this adjustment, and this is the way I
would say it.” But it took him three pages to get through that simply because his
mind is so fantastic that it’s like a labyrinth, and you have to follow it and then
come to the same point that he comes to in order to understand where he’s going
and what his puzzlement might be at a given point in time. But I lift
Judge Steadman up because I’ve enjoyed through the years working with him and
foilowing his intellectual line. But as I say, I think he’s probably got the greatest
intellectual mind on the Court. And next to him I probably would put
Ted Newman, who has an extraordinary mind and extraordinary retention. He
recalls these cases and there is no equal for him, I think, in the evidentiary world.
He’s mastered evidence very, very well. And some of our colleagues quietly go
to Judge Newman to get his opinion on some of the more difficult issues that they
have to grapple with. So I give you those two illustrations.
So that’s still the case with Judge Newman, because when I clerked for
Judge Rogers, what I found arnazingwas that irrespective of any of the judges’
personal views or anything, when there were difficult issues, they all found their
way to Judge Newman’s door.
That’s correct. That’s still the same situation to this day regardless of how people
feel about how he reacts to some things, and whether or not he will go offon
attorneys as they are trying to argue their cases.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-264 –
Now Judge Reid, you keep saying, or you said at least twice, you said in respect
to my question about your credentials compared to those of Judge Wagner’s, and
then with respect to this question you said, “accepting your underlying premises.”
Do you not at least agree that from a societal standpoint, that’s generally the way
people are judged. I mean, whether we are looking at them in the Obama
administration or however. It’s not just my underlying premise.
Sure, yes. That’s why I say accepting the underlying premise for the moment.
But it’s not necessarily how I look at things because I think there are perceptions
of intellectual ability that may differ along the spectrum.
Have you had any particular challenges with any of your colleagues that you’d
like to discuss, or that you feel you can share on the record?
Two things I would lift up. I may have mentioned this before. One has to do
with – The interesting thing is we all come from different backgrounds. There’s
one judge on the Court who grew up in this area, and he belongs to the majority
culture. And he had a set of experiences that gave him a virtual lens on society
and how things develop in society. I also grew up in this area, and I have a
different perspective, And our dif[ering approaches, I think, met in a particular
case that we had.for which he wrote the majority panel decision and I dissented.
And then ultimatety we went en banc and then I forged the majority unanimous
en banc opinion. And I raise that as an illustration because that was a particular
employment discrimination case. And I think our respective backgrounds brought
something different to the table so that in the end we came out on the same wave
length. But it took a bit to get there. It took a lot of patience, it took a lot of
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-265 –
working through those particular issues and problems. But that’s one illustration
of how I worked together with someone who’s views were not the same as mine,
but we came out in the final anaiysis at the same point.
Do you recall the name of the case?
Yes, I was avoiding it intentionally.
It was a published opinion, wasn’t it?
Yes, it is. I will give you the name of the case. It’s Lively v, Flexible Packagtng
I think you addressed it the other day, but not with respect to this particular issue.
Right. That’s right, it’s a different nuance on issues. And the second illustration I
witl give you is something I didn’t want to do but I was forced to do. If a judge
sits on a draft too long, I become anxious. I become anxious because I think it’s
not fair to the parties – to the litigants – particularly to those people awaiting the
outcome of the case and have a stake in the outcome. At some point in time
during the course of my tenure, I finally came to the conclusion that I could no
longer really work on cases with this particular judge, so I did something
extraordinary that I normally would not do. I went to the Chief and I made a
request that I not be assigned to any panels with that judge, because I was on a
waiting curve anywhere f,rom two months to a year before I could get a reaction to
my draft. And I felt that that was just too long. And then when I got the reaction,
there were so many what we call nitpicks that it began to – simply put – get on my
nerves. And so I made that extraordinary request to the Chief and it’s not known
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-266 –
generally in the Court, but it was honored. But we did it in such a way that
periodically I do sit with the judge so it’s not absolutely obvious.
Well, that was my question. That if you never sit with this judge, wouldn’t people
divine that there’s been some arrangement?
Not necessarily because keep in mind we have our own problems and our own
workload. And no judge has ever come to me and said, ‘oI notice you’re not
siuing with Judge X.” ‘oWhy aren’t you sitting with Judge X.” I don’t think it’s
been recognizedyet.
Now you said that if a judge sits on a case too long – I’d like for you to define for
the record what you perceive as too long, because you’re known to be on this
Court, but also just generally, yow work ethic is almost unequaled and you
produce at fast clips. What’s too long for you?
Well, we have internal operating procedures that when I arrived on the Court
simply were not honored. They’ve been revived a little bit but, for example, if
you send out a draft opinion to a judge, that judge has fourteen days to respond.
Now the judge can come back and say, ‘ol-isten, this is a very difficult case and I
need a couple of more weeks,” or “I need tlree more weeks.” If the judge says
absolutely nothing, then you’re supposed to have the right to move on in the
process to send the opinion to the full Court if the other member of the panel has
approved it. But people have been extremely reluctant to do that, and so the
internal operating rule has been dishonored, generally dishonored. But to me if
the procedures say two weeks to respond, and you have not responded in two,
three, twelve months, then something is radically wrong with the system.
-267 –
Ms. Curry: You’ve mentioned sending an opinion to the fi.rll Court. So is it my understanding
that even panel opinions are circulated to the full Court before they are
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Yes, except for MOJs, which are unpublished. But any published opinion has to
go to the full Court before it is released. And there’s a five-working-day period
for the other judges to review it and to comment on it.
Based on their knowledge of the Court precedent?
That’s correct, or if there’s a recent Supreme Court decision that has been handed
down that the opinion does not mention, then they’ll mention that too.
Your comment about your background vis-i-vis that of one of your colleagues
and how that might in some small or indirect ways inform how you perceive or
approach your inteqpretation of the law brings to mind a comment by
Justice Kennedy – and I believe they were published in a Stanford Law Journal in
honor of Justice Marshall – where Justice Kennedy recalled that on a number of
occasions Justice Marshall – Thwgood Marshall – hearing of his background
sometimes influenced really how he began to view the cases. Do you see that in
yow judging that often or even sometimes the background of a particuiar judge?
Let me ask the question this way. In the conference or in discussions is there any
reference to one’s particular background in elucidating your discussions?
Occasionally, but generally not. Most people, particularly myself, tend to keep
things that developed in their background to their chest. Most people really don’t
know what my background is, particularly growing up here in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
-268 –
Some people will put their background on the table. For example, at least one
judge was the victim of an assault, a mugging, and he will often put that on the
table. Some people have grown up in different parts of the country, and they will
put that on the table. But generally, background is not displayed in the
You don’t see or have not seen where your revealing more of your background
and how Washington was at the time you grew up may, in fact, be important to
interpreting or deciding the cases? What Justice Kennedy said Justice Marshall
explained so well for them was how the law would impact the real world. What it
Those considerations, I think, are fair play xa conference because part of our
looking at a particular opinion is what will be the impact of this opinion on other
cases coming down the line, or what will be the impact of this opinion on a
variety of the segments of society. I think that’s fair game. But while
background inevitably plays some part, I strive to control the background and the
influence the background will have on decision making. I mean I prefer to look at
precedent. I prefer to look atpractical considerations, lines ofcases not only in
this jurisdiction, but outside of the jurisdiction rather than to look inwards to the
particular cultural experiences that I had in growing up here in V/ashington, D.C.
We talked about your working with your colleagues, and what I deduced from
what you said is that you have a very understated, quiet, dignified personality, and
that those traits have facilitated your ability to work with your colleagues. Am I
correct in that conclusion?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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I think that’s a fair statement, yes.
Would you describe your professional activities and associations as a court of
appeals judge. I know you served on the Access to Justice Committee. Are you
chair ?
I am Vice Chair of the Access to Justice Commission. Early on some
representatives from the D.C. Bar and the D.C. Bar Foundation, the Consortium
of Legal Service Providers and one other group came to us and asked the Court to
set up an Access to Justice Commission because they were just beginning to
evolve in other parts of the country. With that thought in mind, Chief Judge
Wagner asked Eric Washington and myself to meet with these representatives to
start the ground work for consideration of an Access to Justice Commission. And
we worked with them. We worked with Andy Marks through the D.C. Bar
Foundation; I forget who was the Bar president at the time, but that person;
Jonathan Smith and Patfy Fugere of the Consortium. And we had a number of
sessions together and they presented us with issue papers which we helped to
refine and ultimately we all came to a meeting of the minds that the Access to
Justice Commission should be established. But, I want to stress that that took a
long time, and it took a lot of conversation to get us to that point where we could
go to the rest of our colleagues on this Court, including Chief Judge Wagner and
say, “Yes, we think we’re ready now to surface the idea of an Access to Justice
Commission and what its mission should be-” And we were able to get that
through. Now the tricky part was to make sure that the Access to Justice
Commission was not treading the same ground as the D.C. Courts Standing
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Committee on Fairness of Access. And so we stressed that the Access to Justice
Commission should look outward, should look at collaborative efforts among the
various legal service providers, should look at the possibility of public funding,
should look at the kinds of systemic changes that would be necessary. So through
time and over time we managed to distinguish and to intenelate, to a certain
respect, the work of the Standing Committee on Faimess and Access and the
Access to Justice Commission. So that’s one of the outward-looking activities in
which I have been involved. And it’s a big area because it encompasses a whole
range of things including language access.
[Side B] Judge Reid, you were describing your professional activities and
associations on the Court and, in particular, you were talking about your activities
on ttre Access to Justice Commission and some of its accomplishments and some
of the things you are looking at when you were talking about the language aspect.
Yes, as aprt of the Standing Committee on Access and Fairness to the D.C.
Courts, we have been looking at some of these language issues to make sure that
when litigants came into the Court that they have the proper language for an
understanding of the proceedings. And the District is complicated now because
of the changing demographics. It’s not only spanish that we need to provide
interpretation for, but there are other languages such as Amharic, Vietramese,
Korean, chinese and several of the chinese dialects like cantonese and
Mandarin, even Tigrinya which the Eritrean population speak. Amharic is spoken
by Ethiopians. And the challenge is, not only within the Court, making sure that
the parties have proper interpreters, but it’s also outside the Court because legal
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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service providers have difficulty understanding what it is that some of their clients
are saying because they don’t have the skills in the various languages. So, one of
the things that we did in integrating the work of the Standing Committee on
Faimess and Access and the Access to Justice Commission was to say that the
Access to Justice Commission needs to focus on t}re outside world, making sure
that there is language access for persons in the community who need lawyers but
who can’t even say, “I need a lawyer,” in English. It has to be in their own
language. So part of what we’ve done in the language area through the Access to
Justice Commission is to set up this interpreter bank – language interpreter bank.
And one of the things that the bank does is to train interpreters in the language of
the law. In other words, you might have agood interpreter in Vietnamese, but
that person doesn’t know anything about the American judicial system. And so
part of the grant that we were able to get through the appropriation from the
Council is designed to make sure that interpreters know the language of the law,
This is the Council on Court Excellence?
No, no, no. The Council of the District of Columbia.
Oh, the D.C. City Council?
Yes, the D.C. Access to Justice Commission approached the Council for public
I see.
And part of the funding was for interpreters and to establish that interpreter bank.
Another part of the funding was to make sure that we were beginning to have
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from attorneYs.
Ms. Curry: Sotheseattorneys,andalsotheinterpreterswhoworkedthroughthelanguage
bank are Paid –
Judge Reid: Throughappropriation’Thefirstyearwereceiveda$3.2millionappropriation
from the Council. What haPPened was that money went to the Office of the
it was Ayuda that got the language grant to develop the interpreter bank’ So that’s
public funding – the $3.2 million – which then translated into grants to some of
the legal service Providers’
Ms. Curry: AndsowouldAyudaberesponsibleforgettingotherthanSpanishspeaking
Judge Reid: Oh,yes.Yes.Therearesixmainlanguagesnowthatarerecogrizedinthe
And that bank is working on all of those six languages and training people in the
language of the Court in those particular languages’
wanted to carve out for myself – Access to Justice and Fairness and Access to the
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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Courts – and that’s where I’ve put my energies. And we’ve gone through a wide
range of things.
I believe your good friend, or a person you admire much, is Peter Edelman?
Yes. He’s the Chair of the Access to Justice Commission. Yes, and we’re, again,
in a collaborative mode. I was his General Counsel for the New York State
Division for Youth. And then when we both ended up here in Washington, we
collaborated with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee in establishing the Fair
Empioyment Council. And we used testers to go out to do some testing to try to
help eradicate employment discrimination in the District of Columbia. So Peter
and I have worked together through the years.
Judge Reid, you spoke a few moments ago about at least two judges whose
intellect you much admired. Are there other judges that you admire, ffid-
Well, let me ask the question this way. Name some other judges who you most
admire, and what qualities they have that make them admirable to you.
Judge Mack would be at the top of this list. Judge Mack had a flair for writing
and translating some difFrcult legal issues into understandable prose. In addition,
having come to understand her background and what she had to go through in
order to get to where she ended up as, perhaps, the first African American woman
on a court of appellate jurisdiction. I can honestly say that I admire where she
started and where she ended, and the struggles that she had to overcome to get to
where she ended. So, Judge Mack would be there. And I’ve talked about Chief
Judge Wagner, and I’ve talked about Judge Newman and Judge Steadman. Two
people whom I believe know the criminal law areabetter than anybody else on
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
this Court are Judge Terry and Judge Farrell. And they were of enorrnous help to
me when I first came on the Court in understanding the bolts and nuts of criminal
law. I had done some – I call it – criminal work before coming on the Court, but
frankly I had not had any kind of cases dealing with the run of the mill criminal
defense. And now Judge Fisher comes ftom that same kind of background and
he’s been helpful on the Court. So those are some of the names that come out.
The more recent judges, of course, Judge Thompson has a wonderful mind and a
wonderful background, and Judge Blackburne-Rigsby also. And I enjoy working
with them. Now I should probably get out my picture so I can see who else I’m
One judge is Judge Kramer. I believe she came on after you did.
Yes, yes, Judge Kramer. She is delightful to deal with because of her background
on the trial court, and I always like to listen to the way in which she asks her
questions from the bench in a very skeptical way if she thinks that the judge is
really, really off- offthe center.
Are there judges on this Court who are particularly effective in influencing other
I think Judge Farrell has been a mainstay of the Court, and he always has done his
work in a timely manner, and he keeps abreast of the latest developments. So
people tend to listen to him. People will listen to Judge Newman, people will
listen to Judge Steadman. So those are some of the, what I call, the leading lights
of the Court.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Cury:
Judge Reid
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Which reasons do you think account for their leadership in particular? Just their
intellectual ability?
I think not just intellectual ability, but the background and the demonstrated
ability to get the job done.
Aren’t those all senior judges? Aren’t they all in senior status now?
Yes, they’re all in senior status now.
Weli that presents aproblem now. The judges that you mentioned as the most
effective in influencing others and the ones whom other judges respect the most
are all in senior status on this Court.
Yeah, the historical journey that I’ve made from 1995. Yeah, those are the people
who had deep influence. Now there are others who are budding and who are
beginning to come up. Judge Thompson, I think, is one who in another two or
three years could be one of the greatest influences on the Court. But it takes time
to develop that kind of reputation.
And, of course, you spoke earlier of Chief Judge Washington also.
What would you say is your overall view of this Court and your impact on this
Court? Two separate questions.
Give it to me again.
Well first let me just break it down. What is your overall view of this Court and
its impact in administering justice in the City and establishing the rule of law in
the city?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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I think this Court has great influence simply because it is equivalent to a state’s
highest court, and the opinions that have come out of this Court through the years
have influenced the development ofjurisprudence in the District of Columbia.
But I think the Court is respected highly by different corridors of the District and
the nation. One of the things that has surprised me is the influence that this Court
has with respect to access to justice issues, and fairness and access issues. And
we are being touted as one of the leading courts in this particular area. Now tlere
are courts like California and New York that have been at this for a long period of
time. But in terms of the work that’s being generated here in the District of
Columbia, that work has been influential in other parts of the country, and we
often get requests from other jurisdictions to help them in terms of their fledgling
efforts at Access to Justice Commissions. But also, I think, the opinions that have
emanated from this Court have been influential. You’ll see that other
jurisdictions periodically and increasingly quote from opinions in this jurisdiction.
That was my next question.
Yes. So I think we have established ourselves as a good court. And the work of
this Court is very difficult because we don’t have an intermediary court. And we
have mandatory jurisdiction. I know my brother’s court up in New York when he
sat on the New York Court of Appeals always could choose their cases to be
heard. My nephew-in-1aw’s court – the Virginia Supreme Court – also chooses
the cases that it will hear. But, by and large, we don’t have any control.
Generally, parties have the right to appeal, and we hear the appeal.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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At one time there was at least some talk of an intermediary court. Has that just
died completely?
Well Chief Judge Judith Rogers spearheaded that effort, and got it to a certain
point but it just would not fly. And periodically we would dust offthe concept
and put it on the table, and inevitably the conclusion is that Congress is not
entertaining that, so we can’t get it approved.
What do you think your impact has been on this Court?
I think I’ve been a quiet presence on the Court. The opinions that I’ve generated
through the years, I think, have been well received. I think, setting humility aside,
my colieagues respect the work that I have done. So I think I’ve had a place in
the history of this Court. What that place ultimately will be, I don’t know.
What would you think describes your most interesting case, or the case that you
think will have the greatest impact at this point in your career?
Well that’s difficult to say. Probably I would point to the Ltvelyv. Flexible
Packing opinion on the civil side, and I would point to Sykes on ttre criminal side.
One of the things that I’ve tried to focus on are criminal procedures in the
criminal area, and making sure that the defendants have a fair shake. And I’ve
written some opinions that deal with the obligation of the U.S. Attorney to turn
over to the defense Brady material and material requested under Super. Ct. Crim.
Rule 16. And I think the Sykes case, in particular, has had an impact in making
sure that the U.S. Attorney’s Offirce does turn over those materials in a timely
way. And there have been other opinions in different areas of the Court, whether
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-278 –
attorney discipline, or administrative law, or medical malpractice that I think
someday may be viewed as important decisions.
What kinds of cases are typical? Are they the medical mal or the administrative
law cases?
One of the great things about this Court is that we have a variety of cases. Yes,
we get criminal cases – both the routine and the very complicated criminal cases
from simple assault to sexual abuse to first-degree premeditated murder – and on
the civil side, we get the simple slip-and-fall cases up to the complicated medical
malpractice cases – neurosurgery. And I recall the last opinion in the malpractice
ueathat I wrote concerned a very delicate brain neurosurgery. And some of
those medical malpractice cases have been very, very challenging. So the thing
that I have always liked about this Court and the reason I’ve always said to
people, “I don’t want to go anywhere else,” is that we have had a great variety of
cases, and at least I’ve never been bored. And the challenge has been very strong.
V/ould you describe Sykes as your most difficult case, or is it hard to say what the
most difficult case is, or the most challenging?
It probably was not the most difficult. It probably was one of the most
challengin gthatl’ve ever had simply because it took not only going through the
record and the franscripts and reading the applicable law from Supreme Court
cases to cases out of other jurisdictions – lower court cases out of other
jurisdictions – but it also took sitting back and thinking. Judge Newman often
says that the problem with appellate court judges is that we don’t look out the
window often. And that’s one of the things that I think he’s right about, that you
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-279 –
have to look out the window and look up and ponder. You can’t just keep
writing. You’ve got to really reflect on what it is that you’re thinking and writing.
And so Sykes in that respect was quite challenging. Some of the med mal cases
have been very complicated and diffrcult to work through. In another areul
remember lhad, aconstitutional takings clause case one year that involved firnds
that were put into the Court registry. And the case lasted a number of years. And
that takings issue became very, very complicated, in part because the money
eventually was sent to the D.C. Treasury due to.the length of the case. So a
number of the cases I’ve had have been extremely challenging. I don’t know
why, but my plate has been filled through the years with some very, very difficult
and complex issues.
Judge Reid, before I stopped to check the tape again I was about to ask you, in the
cases you find that arevery challenging, where you need to look out the window a
lot, are there any particular judges that you speak with before circulating your
draft opinion?
I generally do not speak with judges before circulating the draft opinion. I think
there are probably two exceptions, and I neglected to mention this judge early on.
Judge Glickman is one whose opinion I value a great deal. He and I both went to
the same law school, and he’s got a giant intellect. And I enjoy being on panels
with him and watching him go through the process of thinking through some
issues. And we’ve developed a good working relationship since he’s been on the
Court. And I might go to him and just try to figure out . . . bounce offof him
some of the ideas that I have. I don’t often do that, but if it’s very difficult, I may
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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do that. And the other judge I’ve done it with is Judge Newman, particularly in a
case that I had where he wrote the seminal decision and now the case czlme to me
with a challenge to part of Judge Newman’s decision based upon what the
attorney perceived as developments at the Supreme Court level. And so I wanted
to get some conversation in with him before I sat down to actually draft the
opinion. But generally, I’m kind of quiet and I just prefer to do my own thinking
and working through the issues, and then I will surface it and wait to see what the
reaction is.
I asked this question of a federal judge I was interviewing, so I want to ask it even
though I know this court does not handle federal cases. In what way, did any, or
have the events of September I I and the responses to September 1 1 affect your
I don’t think it really has except in the sense that if one is looking at criminal
cases that touch in any way upon security issues – and we have few and far
between of those cases – then there is some sensitivity there. But in terms of the
jurisprudence, no, I don’t think it really has impacted the way in which I perceive
these cases.
Well, judges must exercise judgment in the performance of their duties, and by
judgment I mean a balancing of rights when different societal goals are in conflict
in the case. In these situations where policy choices must be made, what do you
look to to help you resolve the conundrum and to exercise good judgment?
I’m not one who really looks at social policy. If the attorneys raise policy issues
that we have to address, then I will address them. But I generally don’t look at
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
cases from that point of view. One of the things that I do do in the criminal area,
and probably because of my work in faimess and access, is to take a hard look at
procedures to make sure that the procedures that the defendant has experienced
coming up through the line have been fair procedures. And I think I will stop
there. I started to go into another direction and that is the direction of child abuse
and neglect, particularly when it comes to cases involving sexual abuse where
policies may loom large. I guess I could also talk about the domestic violence
issues where there are some tensions between the rights of the defendant and the
protection of women, or even men, in those domestic violence type situations.
Well it might be appropriate because I wanted to ask you. You alluded to this
earlier but you didn’t address it specifically. And that is, how influential is this
Court on public policy?
I think what most of us attempt to do is to steer a narrow course on public policy.
Policy generally is generated through rules and regulations, or even touched upon
in laws. And our function is to be judicial decision makers, not regulatory
decision makers, or even legislative decision makers. But at times, policy does
come in. I’ll give you an illustration. Several years ago we had to tackle the
doctrine of at-will employment. And the.question came up, if an at-will employee
is fired and the at-will employee is asserting that he or she was fired because of
devotion to certain definitive public policy issues, then what happens? Could we
follow the at-will line of decisions and simply say that if that employee is
terminated, that’s the end of the story. Or, do we look at it and say because this
employee was exercising a public policy right, then perhaps the termination was
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
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unfair. So we do get to look at policy in certain respects. But “policy qua
policy,” I just try not to get too involved in that. For example, if someone says
you’re deciding an insurance case and the policy ought to be X, if the parties have
not argued that policy then I don’t reach out to get to the policy.
At least at the federal level, there’s been a lot of talk about a trend toward what
some call judicial activism and others call judicial legislation. You don’t see
much of that on this Court, do you?
No, and I think I can understand it at the federal level because the U.S. Court of
Appeals, for example, has to decide a number of regulatory issues where policy
comes into play at the agency level. And sometimes that Court has to grapple
with those policies and may come out on a different side, or one side or the other
of that policy perspective. We sometimes see policy at the administrative level,
but not as much as the federal courts see. Now I hasten to add that if you ask
some of the other judges on this bench about their perspectives on policy, they
may give you a totally different answer.
But none of you are viewed as judicial activists on this bench?
Not to my knowledge, no.
How would you describe your view of what a judge’s role is in society?
When I ha! my judicial hearings, one of the things that I did in response to a
question was indicate my belief in judicial restraint from the Felix Frankfurter
perspective. I don’t believe that my role is to reach out and grab issues that
should be decided. And one of the frustrating parts of this job is to see the issues
that a trial attorney may have missed in the trial court. And you really wish that
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Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
you could reach out and grab that issue and say to the attomey, “This is the issue
on which you should focus.” I mean I’ve seen too many cases lost because the
focus is not proper in the trial court. But because of my belief in judicial restraint
– you just can’t reach out and decide any issue that you really think needs to be
decided – I forego the temptation of getting into that issue. But I may put
something in the opinion which suggests that this was an issue that was
overlooked that should have been treated.
The attorney missed the issue?
The attorney missed the issue. Too many attorneys miss too many issues.
Is there a way that courts can address that? I mean I know you just said you don’t
want to be a judicial activist, but your last statement, ‘otoo many attorneys miss
Sometimes we can remand a case, and remand with instructions to develop X, Y,
andZ as essential to proper decision making in this case. And that happens
occasionally, but not that often. But I think the problem has to be addressed in the
first instance by the law schools. I think the law school development is extremely
important to turning out attomeys who won’t miss those kinds of issues. And I
think the kinds of things that the University of the District of Columbia School of
Law – David A. Clark School of Law – has been doing with clinical education for
so many years, and that Washington &Lee recently came up with in its prograrn.
In its third year.
And Georgetown. Even American University has started some of that, and
Catholic too. This is very important, but once the attorney becomes a member of
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
the Bar, then I think there has to be a devotion to continuing legal education. Too
many attorneys don’t participate in voluntary continuing legal education, they do
only what is required to maintain their Bar credentials. But the law is a
continuing learning process, and to understand the new issues that may evolve
and that could be raised in the trial court, you’ve got to do the study. You’ve got
to do the courses. So I think that if we can mold attorneys, the continuing legal
education type attorneys, then attomeys are going to miss fewer issues in the trial
court and justice will be better served by the proper preparation of those attorneys.
I want to retum to that when I talk later about the qualities of a good lawyer, but
let me continue right now with your role as a judge. Has your judicial philosophy
evolved over the years since you’ve been on this bench?
I don’t think I have a judicial philosophy, qua judicial philosophy. I take each
case that comes to me, and it’s like I’m reading a new story. And I take that case
as it comes to me, and I don’t think I have any overarching judicial philosophy or
judiciat ideology that guides my cases. Now somebody looking with hindsight
twenty years down the road mrght say, “Well, no, that’s not true. She did have a
judicial philosophy.” But at least I’m not aware of any particular judicial
Well, if you do not think that, then I won’t ask my next question. And I think
what we will do is conclude for today and we will pick up next week talking a bit
about the qualities of a good judge and the qualities of a good lawyer. Because
your last comments, in particular, about what needs to happen in law schools and
with CLE, we want to pursue that for a minute. And I believe I said next week,
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
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actually, Judge Reid, it will probably be in the next year now because the
Christmas holidays are coming up.
I was wondering about that when you said next week.
I am leaving with you today, Judge Reid, the transcript of the fifth interview
which Mr. Pollak gave me permission to give to you. At your leisure, please
review this, make any corrections, and you can either send it back to Stephen
Or give it directly to me and I witl give it to them.
Alright. Very good.
Thank you so much, and happy holidays to you and your family.
Thank you. And you travel safely.
Thank you.
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Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid
Eighth Interview
January 13,2010
This is the eighth interview of the Oral History of Judge Inez Smith Reid Associate
Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, as part of the Oral History Project of The
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Devarieste Curry, now
of the law firm Mcleod Watkinson & Miller. The interview took place in Judge Reid’s
Chambers at The Histprical Courthouse,430E Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Good morning Judge Reid.
Good morning.
Judge Reid, we’re in the home stretch. Indeed, we may conclude your interview
today. I’m not certain, but if not, we certainly will not have that much left. And I
want to thank you at the beginning of this interview for participating on behalf of
the D.C. Circuit Historical Society, and also for your patience, and want to ask
you to tell me now, or at least at the end of the interview, whether you would like
to have your transcrips sealed and, if so, for how many years you would like to
have them sealed. If you don’t want to answer that now, certainly we would like
that answer before the conclusion of the interview.
We concluded last time talking about your service on the bench, and I want to ask
you today at the beginning, from your perspective on the bench, what are the
qualities of a good judge?
Well, I think a good judge has to be one who is both a manager of a caseload and
someone who is willing to give deep reflection to some of the difficult issues that
come, particularly, to an appellate court. it requires not only reflection, but a
great deal of study and reflection and reading, research. All of those things, I
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Judge Reid:
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think, go into making a good judge. In addition, I think a good judge is one who
is not satisfied with the first draft of an opinion, but puts it aside and then comes
back and does maybe five or six drafts of one opinion before the judge is satisfied.
But that’s my approach to the resolution of issues.
I know you have not served on trial courts, but how would you distinguish an
appellate judge from a trial judge in terms of what the qualities of a good judge
I look at atnaljudge as one who is constantly under fire, and has to make some
fairly rapid decisions. The appellate judge has much more time to reflect. In
addition, the trial judge absolutely needs to have very good temperament, very
good patience. An appellate judge is not tested in that same respect. The trial
judge has to interact repeatedly with counsel and with clients. Some of the cases
are very, very difficult. Some of the cases are very controversial, and I’m
speaking now of the trial judge. Some of them are fraught with family matters
and concerns, disputes among family members, husbands and wives who do not
get along together. So, the trial judge doesn’t just manage a caseload, but the trial
judge has to manage people more than an appellate court judge. So you need
someone on the trial bench who’s good at that, who is patient, who’s not going to
get hysterical, if you will, or bent out of shape, or biting atpeople. The person
just has to have wonderful judicial temperament and a balanced approach to the
resolution, not only of the issues that come before that judge, but also to the
handling of the people who come before the judge.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
You’ve seen many lawyers come before you, and over the course of your career
you have practiced with a wide variety of lawyers. What are the qualities of a
good lawyer?
I think, primarily, a good lawyer is one who’s willing to put in the time and
attention to the case that is necessary regardless of the fee that is being paid. An
attorney may earn maybe . . . well when I was in private practice $200 an hour
$250 an hour. But you can’t bill the client, at least from my perspective,.you
couldn’t bill the client for all of those hours that you put in on the case matter. So
the attorney, I think, has to be willing to swallow some of the costs of the
particular case. But even more important, I think the attorney has to be willing to
do the kind of research and analysis and reflection that’s necessary to figure out
the best strategy for the client. Half of the cases are won by preliminary thinking
about what the strategy ought to be to get a good resolution for the client. And
unless the attomey invests the time to think through the strategy before beginning
to embark on the representation, then there are things that might be missed, issues
that could have been brought, but were not because there was not the time that
was needed put in up front to determine how best to carry out this case. In our
adversarial system, it is essential for the attorney to be a step ahead, and to think
not only about his or her approach to the case – what his or her strategy will be –
but also what is the counterstrategy of the opposing counsel. If an attorney
doesn’t think about that counterstrategy of the opposing attorney, then surprises
may come the attorney’s way, unexpected developments that the attorney simply
is not prepared to address. So I think it’s not only figuring out the strategy for
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one’s own case, but also figuring out the strategy that the opposing counsel will
use, and then putting in the time and attention that’s necessary whether through
research or through writing or through analysis.
During one of our last interviews – I think it was, in fact the last one – you said,
“too many attorneys miss too many issues, and that the problem is with the law
schools.” And you also said that attorneys need to have CLE – continuing legal
education. Should the D.C. Bar require mandatory CLE, which is something this
Court could require?
From my perspective, continuing legal education is absolutely necessary. I don’t
care how bright you are or where you stood in your law school class, you have.to
keep up. And, from that perspective, I anra fan of mandatory CLE.
Pass that word on to the president of the D.C. Bar. Are there any attomeys who
appeared before you that you remember as being particularly well prepared, or
that you would consider a model of what a good attorney should be?
Most of the public defender attorneys and the attorneys representing the United
States Attorneys Office are exceptionally fine attorneys. The PDS, I guess I
would single out Samia Fam – I think her name is – who’s very, very good. And
there are a number of others on the PDS staff, including Corinne Beckwith, who
are very good. On the U.S. Attomey’s staff there is Ann Simon who is just an
exceptionally fine attorney. Florence Pan, who is now on the trial court, was also
an exceptionally fine attorney for the U.S. Attomey’s Office. In private practice,
also Richard Gilbert who was a CJA attomey. On the civil side – I’m blocking on
his name – used to be Corporation Counsel – Fred Cooke, surprisingly, plepales
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very well when he comes up to this appellate court, and he’s always on top of his
cases. So there are a number of very, very good attorneys who have argued cases
that have come before me.
Now, you said “surprisingly” when you said Fred Cooke. Was there any reason
for that?
Yeah, Fred jokes around a lot. And I think about Fred in the setting of the Giant
grocery store on Saturday morning when I often encounter him at the Giant. And
he has this playful personality when he stops to talk. And sometimes you don’t
think that Fred can be very, very serious. But he can be extremely serious.
From your time as Corporation Counsel, are there any attorneys who worked for
you that you would single out as being exceptional, if you can recall back that far?
George Valentine and William Earl are two names that stick in my mind. I think
many of the attomeys in the Civil Litigation Division were exceptionally fine
attorneys. In the Criminal Division there was Geoffrey Alprin, who is now on the
trial court, who was also a very good attomey. There were some outstanding
attorneys in the Corporation Counsel’s Offrce, but the main problem with the
attorneys in the Corporation Counsel’s Offrce was that they had to work
extremely hard and some of them suffered burnout very quickly.
You have served in the role as an administrator having had various positions,
including that of Corporation Counsel and, of course, you have served with others
who are administrat ors, i.e.,your Chief Judges. What would you say are the
qualities of a good administrator?
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I think in many respects a good administrator is one who is on top of the
workload, and who has the flexibility to respond to the needs as they come up.
For example, when I was with the Corporation Counsel’s Office there was the
regular work, but there were also unexpected things that would come up. So, one
who is a good manager has to have the flexibility to know how to tap the
resources to address those unexpected matters that may come up. In addition, a
good administrator or manager has to know how to interact with people, not just
the top people with the organrzation – for example, in the Corporation Counsel –
not just the attorneys. Or in the Inspector General’s Office, not just the criminal
investigators or the auditors, but to the last person within the organization. ln
other words, the administrative staff consisting of the secretaries, the paralegals,
the clerks. One just has to have a good relationship throughout that entire
organization, I think, to be a successful manager. Otherwise, things can really get
out ofhand.
Now Judge Reid, you spoke a few moments ago of the perception that one would
have of Fred, and I think it’s probably not just your perception. And, perceptions
are important. You are perceived by many as being quiet, demure, and very
easygoing. How did you meet the challenges as an administrator in the
Corporation Counsel to have your staff respect you and not take advantage of you.
Well there are two sides to my personality. I am very low key, soft spoken, but
there’s another side to my personality and that is, I’m very firm. And I am very
persistent in what I think is the right approach and the right way to go. And
sometimes you just have to take people aside and to make it known to them that
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there’s no way in the world that they’re going to get away with giving less than
what is required to accomplish the position. So along the way I have had to have
firm talks with people who’ve been under my supervision.
Were there any- Well, let me ask a different question. Are there any particular
challenges you faced as an administrator in the Corporation Counsel in which you
were tested that you would care to share with us, and how you dealt with them?
There are some, but I don’t think I’m ready to talk about them.
I said we could seal your transcript. [Laughter] Okay, I will respect your wishes
then. Judge Reid, let me ask the question, perhaps, a different way. How did you
motivate your staff, or how did you get the most from your staff? You mentioned
earlier having to sometimes take people aside and talk to them. Would that be
sufficient to deal with difficult employees who might challenge you on any
number of levels? )
Let me put it this way. During part of my tenure as Corporation Counsel, I had a
push back against me. By push back I mean, when I was demanding the very best
work from the attorneys – when I was demanding a full day’s work, and fulI
concentration on the workload- a segment of the office began to push back, and
began to float rurnors, began to take actions designed to undermine my leadership.
And then I had to develop a strategy to push back against them. The strategy was
actually, I guess, at least twofold. One was taking people aside to make it clear to
them that there was nothing that they could do to undermine my leadership, that I
was determined to continue on. And, the second was to back it up, if necessary,
with demotions or with placing people on probation, and just being very firm that
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less than your best simply would not be tolerated. There are instances when
males tried to test me in a different manner. One man determined that he was
going to get me in an interpersonal relationship – to understate it – and I had to
make it clear to him that I was not interested, that he had to do his work, and if he
was unable to do his work, he would just have to step aside. There were instances
in which some of the men pushed back against other women in the office who
came to me with their complaints, and I had to handle tlose types of complaints.
Some of it was nerye-wracking, but I insisted that I would demand the full
measurs of the attorney’s talent regardless of what the extent of that talent was.
Whatever the extent of it, that attomey, from my perspective, should give it. So
this is an illustration of how I had to push back against the push back against me.
And there was one African American woman in the office who insisted that she
was going to coms back at me by floating the rumor that I was practicing
genocide on Black people by not elevating more Black people within the structure
of the office. So I had to cope with her. And I had to design a different strategy
for her because, from my perspective, she was not very stable mentally. So there
were challenges, but you meet the chalienges that come along your way.
Have any of these people who challenged you unduly come to you since your
tenure there and offered an apology, or any type of rapprochement?
One of the interesting things is that one of the male attorneys who was involved
with the segment that pushed back against me is now a member of my church.
And we’ve worked very well together on the deacon board. We’ve never talked
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about that period of time, but it’s clear that mutual respect has evolved over time.
So some of these things get ironed out, and some don’t.
Did you have a particular confidant during your time as Corporation Counsel with
whom you could candidly share experiences and seek guidance?
There were two persons whom I will not name within the Corporation Counsel’s
Office during my tenure that I used as sounding boards in terms of what was the
best strategy.
Did you fre a lot of people?
Well I won’t say I fired a lot of people. I transferred some people to other
divisions and convinced some people to simply walk away.
Now, speaking of this Court, how have the demands on this Court changed since
you were appointed?
I think the demands have been fairly consistent. The one thing that I would say is
different is when new judges come onto the bench. There is a period of
adjustment where one has to work fairly diligently with those new judges until
they get the lay of the land. But, generally, things have not changed radically
since I was elevated to this position.
What would you say is the chief problem facing this Court at this time?
The chief problem actually since I’ve been on board has been the same, the
enonnous workload, and handling the enormous workload and cutting down on
the time it takes from when an appeal is filed to when the final disposition is
released. There have been a number of cases that have been heard at oral
argument, but the opinion has been slow to be written and to come out. That, I
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think, is the biggest challenge – is to reduce the backlog. And I think Chief Judge
Washington has done a tremendous job of reducing that backload. There’s still
some things to be done, but it’s not as bad as when I first came on the Court.
Judge Reid, as you can see, I’m just asking a number of sort of general questions
now that I consider wrap up, perhaps, in areas where I did not get to them when
we were in those particular areas. And so now I want to ask you another general
question. I’ve read somewhere that the legislatures and bureaucracies could not
function without informal contacts that cut across hierarchal chains of command.
Is that statement generally true with respect to a court, or at least with respect to
the District of Columbia Court of Appeals?
Let me reflect on it and ask you to repeat the question, I’ll reflect as you repeat it.
Well, it’s said that legislatures and bureaucracies could not function without
informal contacts that cut across formal hierarchal chains of command. Is that a
true statement with respect to courts in general or the District of Columbia Court
of Appeals in particular?
Well, I don’t think I’m totally out of school when I say that one of the ways in
which this court has operated over time has been through intermediaries. By
intermediaries I mean those who have contacts with either the legislature, federal
or District of Columbia, or contact with the administration, whether it’s federal or,
again, a District of Columbia administration. And those contacts have been used
generally. I, of course, have had informal contact with the District of Columbia’s
delegate. Rarely, but on occasion, I have used that contact to help out in a
squeeze. But there are intermediaries, particularly members of the Bar who
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interact with the court and then who interact with the legislative and executive
spheres of government.
Now when you said you had a contact with the District of Columbia’s delegate,
you mean Delegate Norton?
Yes. We grew up together, and so therefore that’s a natural contact for me.
I believe you said in one of your last two segments, perhaps the last one, that your
professional focus has primarily been working on the Access to Justice
Commission. Has that been your exclusive professional focus, or are there other
activities in which you are involved?
The D.C. Courts Standing Committee on Fairness and Access has demanded a
great deal of my time, and then the Access to Justice Commission since it was
created. Outside of that sphere, I was active in the American Lung Association of
the District of Columbia. The American Lung Association of D.C. was a part of
the national American Lung Association. And you might ask, oowell, why,
professionally, would you become involved with the American Lung
Association.” I became involved because of my interest in asthma and the asthma
epidemic that has existed in the District of Columbia over time. And I wanted to
address some of those issues, and also issues pertaining to things like ltrng cancer
or sarcoidosis. So I devoted a good bit of my time to those kinds of issues. Now
they were separate and apart from my work on the court but, nonetheless, are
professional issues. And then during part of my time on the court, of course,I
served as a trustee at Tufts University because of my interest in educational
issues. And I was on that board for 10 years as a trustee and got deeply involved
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in the affairs of the university, and also some of the issues that transcended the
university that were cofilmon to many universities.
What exactly did you do with respect to the lung association? You said that you
were actively involved. Could you be a bit more specific in terms of what you’ve
done? Have you written policy papers, or what exactly have you done?
One of the things we did was quietly mount a campaign against asthma in the
District of Columbi4 and we were able to get a major grant through one of the
major for:ndations, whose name is escaping me at the present moment. But it was
a grant that enabled us to work with Howard University’s medical school, and the
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – one arm of that – to design a study and an
approach to eradicating asthma in the District of Columbia. And as part of that
grant we had to create a consortium of different nonprofit $oups who were all
interested in asthma to kind of develop a joint attack. And we had to work with
medical doctors, and health plans and schools in order to educate nurses and the
doctors to what needed to be done to get children to be able to manage their
asthma. So that required agreat deal of my time. At one time I headed the
American Lung Association in the District of Coh:rnbia, and it was during that
tenure as the head of the organtzation that I was able to work with the Dean of
Howard’s medical school and people at the University of Michigan to create this
consortium and campaign in the District of Columbia.
Do you remember what time period that was?
I want to say it had to be some time probably in the early 2000s.
Did you play a leadership roie as a trustee at Tufts?
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Yes, I did. I was on a number of the key committees, and I was also on the search
committee that had to go out and find a new president after Jean Mayer, who was
a noted educator and doctor and nutritionist, had to step aside for health reasons.
And then there were some internal issues within the university that related both to
race and to what was known as binge drinking on the weekend. And I got
involved in those issues too.
Judge Reid, I believe you also lectured, continued to lecture, atlaw schools while
serving on the bench?
Actually I served as an adjunct professor at American University, but in the
School of Public Affairs. I prefer to teach undergraduates, so I continued my
teaching career here in the District of Columbia as an adjunct professor at
American University. And I did that until I guess now two maybe three years ago
when I decided I had to devote full time to the court. But I’ve also lectured at
others, for instance, UDC’s School of Law and served on that law school’s Board
from the day of its affiliation with Antioch University (Antioch Law School) to its
days as the independent D.C. School of Law to its days as the UDC David A.
Clarke School of Law, UDC School of Law Foundation. I have lectured there.
And I know you’ve also served, I believe at least at one time, as chair of the
Arrangements Committee for the D.C. Court’s Judicial Conference, is that
I’ve served on two occasions as chair of the Arrangements Committee for our
Judicial Conference. Those were demanding times. Of course you had to
establish the committee to design the program and to get the speakers and all.
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One time we were able to get Johnnie Cochran and a number of people who had
high-profile cases. And that was the first time that I chaired the Committee on
Arangements. And it was very challenging and very rewarding. And the second
time I think we focused on juvenile gangs within this particular area. Mounting
that was also very challenging and time-consuming.
What would you consider the hardest part of your job as an appellate judge?
The hardestpart,I think, is once the opinion is drafted, getting the approval of the
other two panel members in order to get the opinion released. That shouldn’t be
the hardest part but it is sometimes the hardest part, partly because of delay on the
parl of some judges in getting back to you on yow opinion. And then there’s the
whole process of back and forth if one judge thinks that something should be
changed within the opinion. So my challenge through the years has been to try to
get a draft that was not going to be challenged or what I call nitpicked to death.
And as time has passed on, I think I have had less of a problem with getting the
other two members of the panel to approve the draft.
You decided to accept or pursue a judicial position, I think in your case more of
accept, after really having held a number of other very, very successful and
celebrated positions. Where in a lawyer’s career should a judgeship fall, if there
is any particular place?
I think it really depends upon the individual and what the individual wants to
aspire to in life and achieve in life. I contrast myself with my twin brother. My
twin brother decided early on that he wanted to be a judge. When he came out of
law school he spent a couple of years with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and I
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think he spent a year in the Beame administration – Mayor Beame’s
administration in New York City. And then he began to be the secretary for a
couple of the judges, one on the New York Supreme Court and one on the
New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, who actually groomed him to
become a judge. So he went on the bench at avery, very early age, and that was
his decision. My desire was to do everything I wanted to do before I would even
think about a judicial career, and so I came to the bench through a longer route
than my twin brother did. But I think it really depends upon the judge and what
the judge is comfortable with, or what an individual is comfortable with. Some
people want to go on early, some people want to go on late.
Of all the positions you have held, including your current position, which would
you consider the most satisffing or gratifying? I know that they are all different,
but this is a “most” question, if you had to say,
I have reflected on that very question because I’ve been asked it before. And I’m
unable to distinguish between the positions. One of the things that I have
thoroughly enjoyed about my career is that I have done what I wanted to do, and
what I enjoyed doing. When I was teaching, I thoroughly enjoyed that. When I
practiced law, I thoroughly enjoyed that except for the billable hours pressure.
When I’ve been ajudge, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that. When I was out directing
a community development foundation, I thoroughly enjoyed that. So I find it
difficult to say I’ve enjoyed or have been challenged more by one of my careers
than by the others.
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That’s quite unusual, but that in and of itself must be of satisfaction to you. I
mean, o’I’ve done it all, and I’ve benefitted from them all, and I’ve enjoyed them
a11.” Judge Reid, let’s move now to talking about your family and friends. I told
you that we would come back to that. Considering your workload, how would
you describe the quality of your family life.
The quality of my family life – the family is extremely important to me, and I find
time to interact with the family. I speak with both of my brothers every Sunday.
My twin brother I speak with in the morning, and my older brother I speak with in
the evening. And that way I can get the news, including the news that happened
on Sunday early morning, especially from my twin brother, and then the total day
from my older brother. In addition, I’ve interacted very closely with my nieces
and nephews and in terms of their children the interaction has been close. With
respect to the ones who are on the scene, particularly the children of my niece
Michelle, I have taken her sons to the Georgetown basketball games since they
were little boys. And one is now in college and one is about to graduate from
high school. And even their sister goes along, who’s the youngest in that family,
on occasion. So I do communicate quite often, and even those who are not in this
area- my niece Lisa – I communicate with often and her little girl, and even my
nephew who’s out in the Midwest, George, Jr,, I communicate with almost every
week. So family is very, very important.. And I had them . . . I hosted the
Christmas dinner this year and everyone who didn’t have to go to the in-laws
came and was present and we had a good Christrnas time together.
So, it’s a family tradition to rotate the Christmas celebration?
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Yes, it is. But usually – it’s the second generation that decided they were going to
take responsibility – and usually my nephew or my niece, both of whom are here
in the Washingtort area, or one of my nieces in Virginia – in Norfolk or in
Chesapeake – will take on Christmas. But this year my nephew had to go with his
wife to London to be with her sister, and one of my nieces in Virginia had to go to
her inJaws, and another niece had done Thanksgiving. So I stepped in to do
Now we talked earlier at some length about your parents and you’ve spoken about
your brothers earlier and just now, but I note that you were maraied at one time.
Will you tell me a bit about your ex-husband and his family and how you met
your husband? I just checked the tape and we still have a bit more on that side, so
that’s fine.
I actually met my husband when I was working in the Congo, then Leopoldville,
and now Congo, Kinshasa, and that was in the early 1960’s. I had gone out to
work with the Congolese Govemment and the Ford Foundation setting up the law
library at the National School of Law and Administration and also teaching
magistrates. And one day I actually got a knock at my apartment door, and there
was this gentleman standing there who wanted to introduce himself because he
knew that I had come to the Congo and he wanted to meet me. And that was the
man who turned out to be my husband, Frantz Reid. Itre actually was from Haiti,
and he had studied not only in Haiti but also in Paris. He studied law and
economics. And so that was my introduction to him. He was working in the
Congo too, teaching, and we had a good relationship, and then at the end of the
year, actually in September, we got married. His family is an interesting famity.
His parents actually divorced at an early age and his mother actually – as he tells
it and I don’t think it was just that literal – but as he tells it, one day she got up
and went to the airport and came to the United States and left him with his father
who had remarried. And he was raised from that point on by his father and his
father’s second wife. He had one other brother whose mother was the same; that
brother died several years ago. And then he has a host of brothers and sisters, half
brothers and sisters, who belong to his father and his stepmother. Frantz’s
grandfather on the mother’s side was actually an immigrant from Germany, and
he was a scientist – as he calls him, a savant, a highly educated, knowledgeable
man who interestingly enough married a woman who was a voodoo priestess, and
they had Frantz’s mother as their child. On his father’s side, his grandfather was
from Jamaica, and his father actually went to Haiti and met his mother and
married her in Haiti. But both sides of the family growing up were very well-off.
His father’s side of the family managed to spend their money rather rapidly, but
his father was very well-educated. His father was also educated in Paris in
addition to being educated in Haiti. I got to know many of the members of
Frantz’s family, especially his brother Gerald who’s now a surgeon, a cancer
surgeon in Massachusetts. Gerald was brought to this country by persons from
Yale Medical School. He passed his foreign medical boards and became board
certified and an established surgeon at a hospital in Massachusetts. One of
Frantz’s sisters also went to medical school, and she’s now practicing in New
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York. So, generally, the family has done extremely well, and they are either
nurses, teachers, or doctors.
And, of course, you knew some of his family history before you would even think
about ma:rying him considering your own family history?
Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And then, we had a very good
relationship. There were cultural differences that separated us, but we remain
friends to this day.
And where is your ex-husband?
He is now in Haiti. He retumed to Haiti – in fact, I encouraged him to return to
Haiti – because he just wasn’t really suited for fast-paced life in the United States,
and I was fearful that he would get into things that he should not get into. And
when he went back to Haiti, he established a successful law practice and business.
And he’s done extremely well there.
So you maintain contact with the family then?
Oh, absolutely. In fact,l talked with his brother last night, and I communicate
with Frantz on a regular basis.
And you talked with his brother after the devastating news that we heard about?
Yes, and no one has contact with him.
You and your husband did not have children, is that correct?
We did not have children. He has children now, but we did not have children.
But you have spoken very fondly of your nieces and nephews, all of whom, as far
as I know, are very accomplished. I believe there are at least two lawyers, a
doctor and a journalist. Talk a bit about what role you have played in raising and
helping to develop the nieces and nephews. You talked about getting together for
significant holidays and the basketball.
Judge Reid: One of my sisters-inJaw, the one who’s married to my older brother and with
whom I went to high school here in Washington, D.C., tells me – and I really
don’t remember this – but she told me that I once said to her if you will have the
children, I will help you raise the children. And I guess I kept that promise
because I was involved in the lives of my older brother’s children from the
earliest time, from the time they were born to this day, I’m still involved in their
lives. I’ve played a significant role, I guess, in terms of their education and their
formation, helping to send them through college. Sometimes it was easier for
them to come to me to discuss their problems than to go to their parents. I guess
you understand,
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, I apologize that the tape clicked off. You were discussing being a
confidant for your nieces and nephews.
Judge Reid: Yes. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who’s not the mother or the father,
so I followed their careers. Lisa was first to go off to college, and she went to
Wesleyan in Connecticut. And we had close contact throughout those years.
Ms. Curry: Judge Reid, as you talk about them, tell me – tell the record – whose child. Lisa
is George’s?
Judge Reid: No, Lisa is my older brother’s daughter. She was the first born to my older
brother. As I said, she went on to Wesleyan University in Connecticut and
subsequently went on to law school at Rutgers, Newark, after working a year or
so. And we maintained that close contact as she went through law school and got
into the Bar. She was admitted to the Bar in New York and New Jersey. She
went into telecommunications and had avery successful legal career in
telecommunications, both in New York and here in Washington, D.C., working
for a cable company in New York and then the FTC and MCI here in Washington
before going off to Virginia with her husband. The next in line was Michelle.
Michelle is the second daughter of my older brother Sidney and, like her sister,
she went to a high school in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and then went on to
Radcliffe/Flarvard for her undergraduate degree. And we, of course, maintained
that contact, and then when people were discouraging her at Harvard from
applying to medical school, I encouraged her to strike out on her own and go
ahead and apply to medical school. She got into Yale’s medical school – finished
up at Yale – did her residency in Virginia (that’s tough) and then went to Johns
Hopkins to take a degree in public health. And she has two specialties now, one
in occupational medicine and one in internal medicine. The third person was
Sharon. Sharon is the third daughter of my older brother Sidney, and Sharon went
on to HarvardlRadcliffe also, following her sister. And then she had a choice
between going to Yale Law School and the University of Virginia Law School,
and I encouraged her to go to the University of Virginia because she was going to
get married to a gentleman who was at the University of Virginia Law School and
who had been with her at Harvard as an undergraduate. I’ll just go through my
oldest brother’s children frst. And the last child of my oldest brother Sidney is
Sidney III. He went to Yale as an undergraduate, and then to the University of
Virginia Law School. As you can imagine, he was rather spoiled because he was
-307 –
the only boy, and the fourth child with three sisters, all of whom wanted to tell
him what to do. So, interacting with him along the way has been very, very
interesting. For my twin brother, he has two children. The first-bom was
George Jr., and George Jr. went to Oberlin. All of the males, by the way,
including Sidney, my nephew, and George, my nephew, went to Andover as did
my twin brother, George. So that was the tradition that the boys would go to
Andover, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. George went from
Phillips Academy to Oberlin, had a successful college life there and, in fact,
became All-American in track. He was sitting on the basketball team, and one
day he just got tired of siuing on the bench because they weren’t playing him and
he rcalized that he was very fast at track and he broke Oberlin’s record in the 100
and200 and became All-American. And then he went on from Oberlin to
Columbia School of Journalism and studied journalism. And he’s now a
journalist. He’s done both print and television, television news and television
sports, and he now works for ESPN as an investigative joumalist, but he’s been
news anchor in places like Houston, Texas, and also in parts of Connecticut.
Then his sister, Beth. Beth also went to Wesleyan as an undergraduate, And then
she got a Masters from the New School for Social Research in New York, and
she’s now teaching at a community college in New York. So those are my nieces
and nephews, and they all have done extremely well and we’re proud of each and
every one of them.
Well, as well you should be. And I know that the accomplishments of the family
continues even for your grand nieces and nephews now. In describing your
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
upbringing, you said that you and your brothers led fairly sheltered lives and that
your friends were selected for you. To what extent did your brothers follow your
parents’ model in child rearing? Because I’m interested in knowing how you and
your brothers have raised successful children.
Well, let’s take my older brother first. My older brother’s approach to parenting
was balanced by my sister-in-1aw’s approach to parenting. So, while their
children were raised with some notions of selectivity, the balance came when they
were raised also with the notion that you associate with everybody. And they
have emerged as, I think, very balanced children, not as sheltered as we were. My
twin brother has had an open policy. Let the children do what they would like to
do, and they have emerged in a very balanced way. Now, at the same time, that
my twin brother has said, “let the children do what they want to do,” whenever he
thought they were not doing what they should be doing, he would step in. For
example, my nephew George Jr. was a playful child, and when he was at Phillips
Academy in Andover he got into some difficulty because he engaged in a prank
which was to go to the neighboring girls dorm and to climb up to the window and
get in. And, of course, he was disciplined for that. And my twin brother took it
upon himself to go up every other weekend and to bring his son down to
New York every other weekend to supervise his studies, to make sure that he
would get out of Phillips Academy and not be damaged in terms of getting into
college and his college ctreer. So George Jr. learned very early from that
experience at Andover that, yes, there was freedom, but there was discipline
within freedom.
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
And how did you get all of the children to embrace the search for excellence and
quest for high academic standards?
Well, we had a tradition. Every Christmas we would quiz the youngsters as to
what they wanted to do in life. And we would mix the qtizzingwith hints that
with the talent that you have, you ought to be considering X, Y, andZ. And then
as they grew up, when it came time for them to think about college, we would
again quiz them at Christmas time as to what colleges they were thinking about
and what the values were that they would aspire to, and what the careers were that
they would aspire to. And we also, I think, through time imposed upon them the
notion of a strong work ethic. We got some push back on that, but interestingly
enough everyone of thosp children who are now adults emerged with the same
work ethic, that you put in the time that it takes to do the job even if it means
working on weekends or working early in the morning or late at night. So it was
really through talking to them and being apart of them every step of the way, and
also directing their reading. One of the things that I’ve done throughout life is to
give books as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. And I’ve done that still with my
great nieces and nephews. And so through reading selected books – books that
we selected for them – they also had knowledge of how olher people rose through
adversity and achieved great things in society and made contributions.
So there was, within the family, you, your brothers and, I presume, your brothers’
spouses also, a shared vision. And everyone had the same values and aspirations
for this children.
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
That’s right. We grew up on the concept of noblesse oblige. I mean, you’ve got
this ability, you come from good roots, and there’s a social obligation – o’nobles
oblige” – to share your talents.
What are the careers of your brothers’ spouses, or did they work?
Oh yes. My oldest brother’s wife, Katherine, taught school for a number of years
in Ridgewood, New Jersey. And she aetually had to go back to college and finish
her college work because she married early and had not completed college. So
my brother made sure she got back to college and completed the work that she
needed to do to get her college degree and certification as a teacher. So she
taught as an elementary school teacher. And then George’s wife, Alene, went and
got her doctorate. She taught college. The last position she held before she
retired was at Hunter College.
Before we leave the discussion of your family, Judge Reid, is there anything else
you’d iike to share with us about yow family? I thank you for speaking so openly
about your family. Arc there other things you want to share?
Just that we’re continuing the traditions with the great nieces and nephews, and
they are doing well. The oldest great nephew has led the way under some
adversity because he has a learning disability. But he’s done very well at
William &Mary. He actually spent a post-high school year at Andover carrying
on the tradition of the males going to Andover. And he’s done very well at
William &Mary. Last semester he came out with a 3.3 average for that semester.
And so I told him, “Well, next semester has to be 3.5.” And so I think he’s now
getting very acclimated to college. And the next in line, Quinten, is a senior in
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
high school and he’s contemplating whether or not he’s going for postgraduate or
if he’s going directly to college. I’m encouraging him to go directly to college
because I don’t think he needs postgraduate. His sister, Courtney, has a world of
talent. She plays violin, she sings, dances. She’s at a magnet school in
Poolesville, and will either go on there or at apivate school.
Poolesville, Maryland?
Uh-huh. It’s an environmental, marine biology program. But she will either go
on next year to Andover or the Madeira School in Mclean, Virginia, because
she’s that talented. And then the little ones, seven and eight year olds, are doing
well also.
Good. Other than your church, what has been some of your activities and
affiliations outside of your professional life? Other than the church, which we
will talk about?
Well I think I spoke about the boards. I spoke about Tufts and the Lung
Association. I didn’t speak about Lancaster Theological Seminary. I was on the
Board of Lancaster’s Theological Seminary for, I think, 10 years also.
Where is that?
That’s in Pennsylvania.
So it is Lancaster, Pennsylvania,that you’re talking about?
Lancaster, right. It’s across the street from Franklin and Marshal, I think it is.
How is it that you came to be on the board of atheological seminary in
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
The theological seminary has a relationship with the national church to which I
belong, and I was tapped from the national church to go on the board.
You mentioned earlier that religion and church attendance, and church
involvement, not just attendance, were an integral part of your upbringing. And I
know that you are currently active in yow church which is Peoples
congregational church in D.c. Talk to me a bit about what it is you do at
Weli at Peoples I’m on the deacon board now, actually heasurer of the deacon ‘
board. And that means that we have a role of spiritual advisor to members of the
chwch, for sick and shut-in, we go and we serve them communion. we are
called upon to do the scriptures during the morning church service and, of course,
to serye the elements, the bread and the wine. In addition, I was called upon, I
guess about 6,7,8 years ago now, to lead a study group in preparation for the
transition from the minister who had been there for many, many yeaxs and who
retired after 39 years as the senior minister of the church. So I led the study group
for two years to study the church upside and downside in preparation for the
search that had to be launched for a new minister. And then I was called upon to
lead the search committee, which I did. And we spent two years looking for a
new minister, going across the country trying to find the right person, and finally
did. And then I was called upon to lead the installation committee preparing for
his installation as senior minister. So, I’ve done a number of things for the
How do you find the time to do all of these things?
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
-313 –
I mean you make time. For the search committee, we generally met 8:00 a.rn. on
saturday mornings. You just find the time to do it. So I would go to meetings
there, and then sometimes hop on down here to the courthouse and continue
working down here.
Who was your minister who just retired?
A. Knighton Stanley.
What role has your church played in the life ofthe District of Columbia?
Reverend Stanley was kind of informal advisor to two mayors. And every time
there was a major political campaign, of course, the candidates would find their
way to our church trying to get his support. But we don’t support candidates in
the church, but the minister was willing to give them that kind of exposure so that
they could be seen. They couldn’t speak in the church, but they could go outside
after the service and meet and greet the members of the congregation. So
informal advisor to mayors was a role that the minister served. And informally
there was a lot of interaction between members of the church and the government.
Some of the members of the church actually served in the government. Reverend
Stanley spent a number of years on the Judicial Nomination Commission here,
and he was instrumental in selecting people whose names would be sent to the
White House for consideration for judggships.
Was he on.when your name came up?
No. He would have had to recuse himself.
Yeah, that would have been a conflict?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Now I know that there are many, many prominent citizens of the District of
Columbia, and of the Washington metropolitan area who are members of your
church. But, indeed, that’s not why you joined Peoples Congregation, or is it?
No, I grew up in the Congregational Church. I think I alluded to the fact that my
father was a congregational minister. And when I was born, he was a minister of
a Beecher Memorial Congregational Church down in New Orleans. And then
when my parents separated, we relocated here, the District of Columbia. My
mother’s people had been instrumental, historically, in one of the congregational
churches, so we grew up in that church, Plymouth Congregational here was my
childhood church. And then when I went away to college, and worked in
New York and came back to Washington, I decided that I wanted to join Peoples
because it appeared to have a more progressive interaction with the issues of the
Well, indeed, I knew of your connection to Plymouth and so that’s why I made
the statement or asked the question about your joining Peoples. Because some
people do join because of the other heavyweights. And I believe that
Judge Washington is a member of your church. Several prominent attorneys in
D.C. David Driskell, the artist, is a member of your church, isn’t he?
That’s correct.
And he, in fact, did the stained glass windows for your church?
Yes, he did. And he sits right behind me on Sunday morning when we both
attend the eleven o’clock service.
And Bernice Johnson Reagon at one time was a member of your church?
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Yes, she still is. In fact, we tasked her to sing for the minister’s installation. As
you know, she doesn’t really perform anymore, but she can be pressed into
seryice. And now Melody Barnes, of course, is a member of the church. She’s
now in the Obama administration as the Domestic & Economic Policy Advisor to
the President.
Are your nieces and nephews involved in any church, since we talked the
necessity of making sue they have the right foundation and development?
Yes. Lisa is very active in the Presbyterian Church in Norfolk. Her present
husband is a very, very active member of the church, and together they found this
Presbyterian church. He sings in the choir and she does other things around the
church. So that’s Lisa. Michelle is a devout Methodist, and she’s a member of
the Woodside Methodist Church up in Silver Spring. And all of her children have
been confirmed in that church. Lisa’s little girl, of cowse, is involved in the
Presbyterian Church. Sharon is a member of the Baptist Church. Her husband is
a deacon in the Baptist Church, so she went with him to the Baptist Church. Sid
is not an active church member, and George Jr. and Beth attend church
occasionally. George Jr. just ma:ried, and when he and his wife were here for
Christmas she made sure that he got up on Christmas morning and went to the
National Cathedral to the Episcopalian service. Beth goes when her father
prompts her to go.
What legacy do you hope to leave as a judge?
That’s a hard question for me, but I guess I would start by saying a legacy of one
who had a balanced view of the law, who took each case as each case came and
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
went through it trying to follow the lead of the law. And when there were policy
issues, trying to determine whether or not we could resolve the policy issues in
the legal case as one devoted to trying to achieve the right result in each case.
And it’s hard to determine what the right result in each case is. But a person who
works diligently to get the job done, who interacts with her colleagues, who was
not in competition with her colleagues, but rather in collaboration with her
colleagues on the bench. And who tried to help newjudges as they came onto the
court. But mainly to look at the case as each case came to her, and to try to
fashion a solution that was just and equitable under the circumstances.
Is there a particular judge or justice whom you have tried to emulate, or someone
whose service as a judge or a justice might have influenced how you have served
your tenure as ajudge?
Well, there are a number of people, and I guess I would single out two persons
who are not a member of my family – not my twin brother. One would be
Constance Baker Motley. When I was in law school, and the year, I guess, I
completed law school, I worked at the Legal Defense Fund during the summer,
and had good contact with Constance Baker Motley.
And let’s just be clear for the record because there are a number of legal defense
funds now. But we, of course, know you mean the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Right, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. And we affectionately call it the Legal
Defense Fund and the lnc. Fund.
-317 –
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
And as I worked and interacted with Judge Motley, I was just awed – if you wiil –
by her presence, by her dedication and devotion to the law and to the civil rights
movement, to getting persons educated in the South on an equitable footing
regardless of color. And the really hard and courageous work that she put in.
Then, I watched her career as she became borough president in Mantrattan and
then was elevated to the bench. And she always carried herself with great dignity,
always gave the best that she could to each and every one of her ef,[orts. So, she
is one that I would lift up. The other one is Judge Julia Cooper Mack, who was
on this bench as a Senior Judge when I first joined the court, and who stepped in
to mentor me and to guide me. Her opinions are exceptional. She writes
extremely well, and when you read her opinions she leaves no doubts about what
the issue is, how the issue is analyzed and how it is resolved. And you understand
the opinion. So she and I had developed a very good relationship, and even to this
day – although her memory has faded significantly and she is in the throes of
Alzheimer’s disease – we still maintain a relationship. I guess I saw her around
her birthday. I think the birthday was about the last time I sawher and just after
that, around Thanksgiving time.
You spoke a minute ago about the legacy you’d like to leave as a judge. What
legacy to you hope to leave as a human being, and as one of God’s creations, if
thatlegacy is, indeed, different from the legacy you’d like to leave as a judge?
Well, I’ve always aspired to treating people fairly and on an equitable plane
regardless of race, color, national origin, economic stafus or what have you. And
that’s one legacy I’d like to leave, that I treated people equally regardless of their
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
status in life, regardless of their ethnicity, their gender. It’s just something that I
think is commanded by the scriptures and by my own upbringing that one is not
greater than another individual.
Are you satisfied with the contributions you’ve made to your community and
society? In other words, have you lived up to the standards that you believe your
family had for you or that you had for yourself?
I’ve tried my best to live up to that standard. The poet Robert Browning said that
one could aspire to perfection, but never achieve it. That’s the message that’s
conveyed by some of his poetry. And I believe that that is true. One can aspire to
perfection and aspire to the greatest standards in life, but he or she somehow falls
short. And there are things that I wish that I could do that I couldn’t do, and you
can’t do everything. But, hopefully, I’ve made a difference in the society, at least
a portion of the society.
I believe this concludes your interview. It certainly concludes today. I would like
to, however, reserye the opporhrnity to recall you, if necessary. And by that I
mean I want to read agunthe transcripts and, particularly, once the last tapes are
transcribed, and if there are things that I think would enhance the record, I would
like the opporrunity to have those follow-up questions.
That’s fine, And let me thank you. I was pleased that you were chosen to do this
work because I’m not sure that I could have done it with anyone else. And I
really appreciate the time and effort you’ve put in and your preparation and the
questions that you have posed to me. And I think the Historical Society should be
pleased with your work product. You got me to talk about some things that I
-3t9 –
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
Ms. Curry:
Judge Reid:
didn’t want to talk about, but that’s the nature of your excellence. And thank you
very, very much.
Well, it was my pleasure to do it. Thank you for your patience. Do you want
more time to think about whether you want it to be sealed after you have read the
transcripts, perhaps?
Yes, but I’m pretty sure I would want it to be sealed.
You just don’t know how long at this time?
That’s my thinking. I am thinking about 10 years at least, but I need to reflect on
that. And I’ll go back to everything and see.
Okay. Well, Judge Reid, thank you so, so very much. And again, thank you for
your patience as I’ve worked through several Bar committees that were supposed
to be short term and then, of course, personal crisis. And you’ve gotten a master’s
degree since we’ve started this. That was ar initial problem for us, but that was a
long time ago. So I certainly thank you for your patience with me.
Thank you.

Oral Ilistory of Judge Inez Smith Reid
Congo, I 10, l2l, 122, 123-24, 125-26, 212, 302
Senegai, 7719,ll0
women in, 139
African Americans, 84-85, 180
careers, 5, 2+25, 35, 95, 142, 168
churches, 11, 15, 314-15
and civil rights, 97-99
class structure, T6-19
and Clintons,23D
in District of Columbia,9S-99,116
faculty, 189
judges, 196,273
andJFKennedy, Il0,1l2
and law firms, 195,215,228
presidential campaign of 2008, 228-30
students, 128-30,187
and Terrell Law School, i01
at Tufts University, 50, 5l-52, 60-61, 6445, 96
at Yale Law School, 691 0, 7213, 9l-92
and women’s movemsnts, 138, 219,22011,223-24
writers, 30
See also Black Women’s Community Development Foundation (BWCDF)
Alexander, Emily P., 86-87
Alprin, Geoffrey M., 181,290
Anthony, Louis, 130
Antioch School of Law, 198-200,298
Amold, Thurman, 84
Baer, Thomas,76
Bantel, Liz,53-54
Barcella, E. Lawrence, I95
Bames, Melody, 315
Barnett, Ida Wells, 97
Barry, Marion, 179,181-83, 184, 190, 195
Beame, Abraham D., 300
Beck, Ronna,205
Beckwith, Corinne A, 289
Beecher Memorial Congregational Church, 3, 3 I 4
Bell, Derrick, 134
Beveridge, Albert J., 182
Bible Way Church, 36
Black Women’s Community Development Foundation (BWCDF), 136-41, 142,221.,223
Blackburne-Rigsby, Awra, 27 4
Blockwood, James Christian, 60
Blum, Barbara, 153, 154, 155
Boggs, Rod, 198
Brooke, Edward, 138
Brooks, Walter, 94
Brown, H. Rap, 104
Browning, Robert,3l8
Burt, Joan A.,767
Cahn, Edgar S., 69, 73,199,200
Cahn, Jean Camper, 69, 73, 199, 200
Calabresi, Guido, 7213, 7 5
Calhoun, James,76
Califano, Joseph, 150, 152
C armi chael, Stokely, 222
Carver, George Washington, 72
Chenault, Elsie Dickerson Smith, 94
Children’s Defense Fund, 140
Childs, George Wiliiam, 6, 11, 13,23,87
Christian, Kaye, 181
Civil Rights Act, 109
civil rights movement, 79, 85 , 96-99, 102-104, I07 , 132, 2L6, 224, 317
leadership in, 100-101, 183
Clark, David, 184
Clark, LeRoy, 134
Clay, Eric L.,196,197
Clayton, Eva, 140
Cleckley, Franklin D., 189
Clinton, Hillary R., 22910
Clinton, William J., 230
Coffin, William Sloan, 7 7
Cohen, William, 206, 255
Conference of Chief Justices,249
Cook, Frederick D., Jr., 289-90
Cook, Pav[.,47
Cronkite, Walter, 159
Cummins Engine Foundation, 137, 179
Dallas, Judy, 53-54
Darrow, Clarence,6T
Davis, Linda, 205,206
Dershowitz, Alan, 87-88
desegregation, 98-1 00, 133
Dineen, Carolyn, 7 4, 120-21
District of Columbi 4 2-3
activism in, 98-100
African American class structure, 19, 116
American Lung Association of, 29 6, 297
asthma epidemic, 296, 297
churches, lI, 13-14, 3L3-14
and civil rights activism, 98-99
Council of, 162, 17 5:l 6, 27 1-72
Access to Justice Commission, 26913, 296
language interpreter bank, 27112
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration, 260
Standing Committee on Fairness and Access to the D.C. Cowts,24546,269-71,296
Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington, 273
govemment issues, 1 83-84
homeless, 186-87
underMayorBarry, 183
Offi ce of Corporation Counsel, 16l-63, I 65-66, 17 4-7 5, 201
attorneys, 17 012, 17 8, 184, 290
and U. S. Attorney’ s Offi ce coordinatio n, 1 66, 17 5-:7 8, 186
riots in, 704,115-16
and segregati on, 23-25, 98-1 00
Self-Govemment Act of 197 0, 165
District of Columbia Bar Foundation, 269,272
District of Columbia Court of Appeals,249
Access to Justice Commission, 269-:73, 296
language interpreter bank, 27112
case backlog,256,295
case variety, 278
Chief Judge. See Washington, Eric
en banc opinions,258
influence of, 27 6, 281-82
intermediari es, 29 5-9 6
judges, 260-64, 27 3-7 5, 27 9-80
panel procedures, 237 -39, 266-67, 299
Standing Committee on Fairness and Access to the D.C. Courts,24546,269-:77,296
Dixon, James P., 199
Dodds, Harry,69
Donaldson, Ivanhoe, 1 79
Driskell, David C.,314
Dubuc, Canoll 8.,192,194, t95
Dunbar, Paul Lawrence, 30
Duncan, Charles, 14
Duncan, Todd, 13-14,32
Earl, William,I78,290
Edelman, Marian Wright, 69, 136, 139, 140, 142, 743, I 46, 1 50
Edelman, Peter, t4243, 14546, 150, 233, 273
Eisenhower, Dwight D., 43
EPA. See United States Environmental Protection Agency
Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington,2T3
Fairfax, Jean, 136, 140, l4l
Fam, Samia,289
Fanon, Franz, 103
Farrell, Michael W ., 238, 27 4
Finley Kumble, 190,192
Fisher, John R.,274
Frankfirter, Felix, 206, 282
Fruzie1E. Franklin, 19
Freedman, James O., 73, 7 4
Fugere, Patricia M’ 269
Gilbert, Richard,289
Gill, Gerald,61
Glickman, Stephen H. 279
Goldman, Eugene, 152
Graham & James, 193,195
Gray, Arthur D., i4
Green, Ernest G., 735, 203
Greenberg, Jack,l34
Greenberge r, Mar sha, 224
Grossman, Martin, 178
Hairston, Jester, 65
Halstead, Bernard, 60
Harris, Stanley, 176
Haywood, Margaret A., 101
HEW.,See United States Deparhnent of Health, Education and Welfare
Higginbotham, A. Leon, Ir.,2l5
Hobson, Julius, 100, 101-102
Houston, Charles Hamilton, 35,36,66, 115
Houston, Clotille,66
Howard University, 22, 4849,66,99, ll3
Hughes, Langston, 30
Huhn,Nan, 181
Hyman, Erias A., 163,204
Ince, Basil,52
Inc. Fund. See NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund,Inc.
inspectors general, 1 58-59
Jeffers, Katherine, 53, 64
Jenkins, Timothy, 70
Jewish people, 12
at Tufts University, 50,96
in World War II, 20,104,105
Johnson, Lyndon B., 109-10
Johnson, Raymond,36
Johnson, Mordecai, 22, 100
Jones, Clayton,69
Jones, Ethel, 86
Jones, Lawrence, 14, 83, 91
Judicial Nomination Commis s ion, 202, 203, 207, 3 13
Kennedy, Anthony, 267, 268
Kennedy, John F., 108-12
Kennedy, Robert F., 108, 109,142
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 83, 85,99,100, 113-15,132
assassination of, 104, 108-109, 1 12
King, Warren R.,231
Kramer, Noel Anketell, 27 4
Laxalt Washington, 190, I94,213
See also Washington, Perito & Dubuc
LDF. See NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Lemer, Lisa, 188,226
Lewis, Burnis, 77, 78, 80
Lewis, David Baker, 195,196,207
Lewis, Kathleen Louise McCree, 196-97
Lewis, White & Clay, 195-96
Libassi, Peter, 150-52
Lichtman, JLldith,z24
Lillie, Charisse R., 215
Little, Malcolm. See Malcolm X
Locke, Alain,49
Mack, Julia Coop e4 232, 260, 273, 317
Malcolm X, 82-85, 104
Marcum, John A., 80
Marcus, Daniel, 152
Marks, AndrewH,269
Marshall, Thurgood, 5’1, 58, ll5, 267, 268
Mayer, Iean,6l,298
Mays, Benjamin, 15, 100
McCree, Wade H., 196
McNeil, Bertha, 41,, 44, 47, 209
Medicaid fraud cases, 17 5-7 6, 178, 183
Meredith, James, 115, 133, 134-36,160
Mize, Gregory E., 184
Moses, Robert, 140
Motley, Constance Baker, 115,13215, 160, 316-17
Motley, Thomas, 129-30
Munday, Reuben A.,196
Murphy,Inez Childes Bundy,5, 11, 13,14,15, 18, 2t,23
Murphy, Janes,177
Murray, Pauli, 70,223
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), 80-81, 133-j4,136,3t6
Nabrit, James, 100, 134
New Haven, Corurecticrtt, 9 l-92, 102
civil rights demonstrations, 107
Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church, 83
Public Library,7l,126
New Orleans, Louisian a, 2-3
New York University Institute for Appellate Judges, 231,24344
Newman, Theodore R., 263, 273, 278, 284
Nichols, Susan, 53,54
Niebuhr, Rheinhold,90
Norton, Eleanor Holmes, 3 6, 69, 7 0, 92, 120, 199, 204, 296
Obama, Barack H., 228–29, 243
Pan, Florence,289
Parks, Rosa, 96,132
Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, 25, 30, 3 +3 5, 3 6-37, 4647
extracurricular activities at, 3 8{0
impact of Brown on,4244
Peace Corps, 112
Peck, Neil,76,77
Peoples Congregational Church, 3 l2-I 5
Perito, Paul L., 190, 191, 794,195
Peters, Ellen, 71
Peyton, Benjamin,9l
Pierce, Samuel, 191, 204, 206
Plymouth Congregational Church, 11, 13-15, 33,314
Pollak, Louis H,75
Powell, Colin,52
Presidential campaign (2008), 228-30
Rankin, Michael,204
Reagan, Ronald, 159, 161
Reagon, Bernice Johnson, 139, 314-15
Reich, Charles A., 81
Reid, Frantz, 108, 1,12, 7 49, 192, 302-304
Reid, [Elsie] lnez [Virginia] Smith – PERSONAL
Banneker Junior High School,32-34
brothers. See Smith, Sidney Randall Dickerson, Jr.; Smith, George Bundy
childhood, 7-8
Christmases, 301-302, 309
church secretary, 4041, 47
civil rights movement impact, 97-100,103-104
Columbia University Ph.D., 118, 127 , 128,212,255
Colonel Charles Young Elementary School, 26–27,36
Dunbar High School, 21, 25, 3 0, 34-35, 36-37, 4547, 57
basketball, 38-39,40
impacts of Brown on,4144
oratorical contests, 3 8-40
teachers, 44 45, 47,209-10
family life, 301-11
father, 3, 4, 7, 8-9, 16, 94, 314
Ford Foundation fellowship, 1 17,119, 122,211-12,302
French language, 124-25
gender discriminati on, ll9-20, 2lI
godmother, S6-87
See also Murphy,lnez Childs Bundy (maternal grandmother)
great-nieces and nephews, 301, 309, 310-11
great-uncle, 6, 71, 13, 23, 87
and historical events of 1960s, 108
Howard University, 47, 4849, 57, 63
husband.,See Reid, Frantz
integration experiences, 12-13
on JF Kennedy, 108-12
on ML King, 85,99, 100, 108, 112-15
Lancaster Theological Seminary Board member, 311-12
maid work,40,4l
Mary and Coleman Jennings Club, 25,38
mother, 34, 2I, 23, 86, 87, 314
complexion of, 16
death of, 58-59
influence of, 9-12, 15, 16-18, 58
PTA president, 9, 14,27,45
nephews, 301-302, 305, 309
George, Jr., 207, 307, 307, 308, 3 1 5
Sidney m, 306-307,315
New Haven, CT, 9l-92, 702
civil rights demonstrations, 107
Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church, 83
Public Library, 71,,126
nieces, 301102, 305-309
Beth, 307, 315
Lisa,207,218, 301, 305-306, 315
Michelle, 301,306, 315
Sharon, 306, 315
Operation Crossroads Africa, 77-80, 1 10, 150
Peoples Congregational Church, 3 14-1 5
treasurer ofdeacon board, 312-13
politics, 198,229-j0
reading, 23,29,90,309
religion, LL-12, 15, 22, 312
in Senegal, 77-80,1t0
sisters-in-law, 305, 3 1 0
summer church ctrmp, 12-13,30,41
Supreme Court hearing attendance, 56-57,58
tennis, 33, 50
travel, 30
Tuft s University, 3 5, 47 48, 49-52, 57, 63 44, 92, 9 6
and civil rights movement, 55-56
classmates, 53-54, 190, 255
Distinguished Service medal, 60
extracurricular activities, 50-5 1, 6243
influences, 53-54, 120
library job, 6+65,126
Trustee Board member of, 59, 61,296-97,297-98
and Yale, 90
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 1.17,118,122, 125,212
University of Y ir girua 244
volunteer work, 40
Wellesley College interview, 64
World War tI remembrances, 19-20
Yale Law School, 65-70, 86, 9l-92, 244
Associate Dean at, 118-19, 120,211
Barristers Union, 89
classmates, 7 0, 7 31 4, 7 6-:77, 87-88
commencement, 86, 111
finances at,68,71
honors, 81-82
and Inc. Fund, 80-81, 87, 133, 316
and Malcolm X, 82-85
moot court activities, 88-89
professors, 7 7, 72-73, 75, 80-8 l, 85
public defender intemship, 81-82, 88
and Tufts, 90
Reid, Inez Smith – PROFESSIONAL
Adj unct Professor, American University, 227, 298
Associate Judge, District of Columbia Court of Appeals,234-35
appellate and trial judge qualities, 286-87
attorneys, 282-84, 28 8-90
cases, 236-37, 23941, 277 I 9
Chief Judge offers, 255-57
colleagues, 260-64, 299
confirmatio n, 20 5 -20 6, 25 5
impact on Court, 277-:78
influence of Court, 276,281-82
judges of note, 273-7 5, 279-80, 317
law clerks, 23516, 24143
panel procedures, 237-39, 265-67 , 299
preparation fol23l-33
and public policy, 28V82
role in society, 282-83
background infl uences on cases, 28-29, 26445, 267 -68
Board member, Antioch School of Law, 198-99,298
career satisfaction, 300
California Bar exam, 117-18
Chair, Standing Committee on Faimess and Access to the D.C. Courts,24546,260,269-71,
Chair, Arrangements Committee for the D.C. Court’s Judicial Conference,29S-99
on civil rights movement, 102-104
in the Congo, ll0, 12l-26, 212, 302
on continuing legal education, 283-84,289
Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia,l55, 16ffi7,190,194,201,232-33
administrative appointments, 1 79-8 I
administrative approach, 29 I -9 4
appointment to,179
attomeys, 17 0-72, 17 8_79, 184, 290, 292-94
firefighters’ case, 167 -69, 185
legacy as,t73-75
and Mayor Barry, 181-83
Medicaid fraud cases , 17 5-:1 6, I 78, I 83
South African Embassy demonstations, 186
and U.S. Attorney’s Offrce, L66,176-77,186
Chief of the Legislation and Opinion Section, 160-63, 181
Deputy Legal Counsel, 164-66, 181
cowage of, 156, 160
deferment of legal profession, 1 1 8-1 9, 120, 142, 2ll, 2t2
Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEVD, 150-51,
Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of West Virginia College of Law, 187-89, 190,
Executive Director, Black Women’s Community Development Foundation, 136-41 ,142,179
General Counsel, New York State Division for Youth, 14142,14345,14849, L50,273
supervising, 14647
supervisor, 14546
Head, American Lung Association of the District of Columbia,296,297
humility of , 252-5 4, 25 5-56
Inspector General, u.S. Environmental Protection Agency @PA), 15240,165,194
judicial philosophy, 2819, 284
Bamard College, 126, 13 t, 1, 40, | 49, 188, 226, 227, 252
and female professor snub, 131, 215-16
and student assistance on book, 138,221
Brooklyn College, 726, 127, 226, 227
City University of New York, 126,149
Columbia College, 188
Ecole National De Droit D’Administration, | 10, 12l-26, 1 42, 212, 302
challenges, 123-25
and Law Library, 122,126,302
Hunter College lecturer, 126, 127,226
State University of New York (New Paltz),126-27
and students, 128-31, 188-89
Litigator, Graham & James, 193-94,195
Litigator, Lewis, White & Clay,195-96,203
Litigator, Washington, Perito & Dubuc, 152, 189-93, 19 4-9 5, 228
cases, 190-93,213-14
instructor at,l97
and Motley, 732-35, 316-17
NewYorkBarmember, 191
New York University Institute for Appellate Judges, 231,24344
private practice vs. government work, 200-201
Together BlackWomen book, 138, 139, 221-23,22+25
on violence, 104-106
Vice Chair, Access to Justice Commission,26913,296
volunteer, Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, L98,207
and Wagner (former Chief Judg e), 245-50, 25 l-52, 25 4, 269
as classmates, 36, 46, 232, 245
and Washington (Chief Judge), 254-60,269,295
and white males, 130-3i, 188, 213-14,226,227-28
women’ s advancement facilitati or, 225-28
on women’s movements, 216-25
work ethic, 169, 266, 309
Richey, Charles R., 167, 168,232
Rivlin, Benjamin,226
Roach, Hildred,9l
Robinson, Aubrey, 74, 66
Rogers, Jefferson P., 33
Rogers, Judith, 161, 162-63, 17 3, 784, 263
Rolark, Wilhelmina, 17 6, 183
Rufl Charles, 153-55, 176
Ruiz, Vanessa,202,203
Rule 16 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure,24l,277
Schwelb, Frank 8.,234
Sellers, Joseph M.,207
Shalala, Donna 8.,203
Simon, Am K. H.,289
Simmons, Barbara Lett, 203
Skinner, Elliott, 150
Smith, Alene, 310
Smith, Beatrice Virginia Bundy, 34, 21, 23, 86, 87, 3 I 4
complexion of, 16
death of, 58-59
federaljob, 3, 6
influence of, 9-12, 1 5, l6-18, 58
PTA presidenl, 9, I 4, 27, 45
Smith, George Bundy, 3, 6, 21, 32, 41, ll3, 149, 301
Albany Lavv Review tribute to, 10-11, 56
Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, 7,300
godmother of, 86
influence on twin sister, 65, 67 , 81,202, 205, 256
at NAACP Legal Defense Fund, 121,133,134,299
Operation Crossroads Africa, 7718
parenting approach, 308
at Phillips Academy, 34,36, 67 ,307
Supreme Court hearing attendance, 56-57
Yale Law School, 67,68,73,74,75, 81, 86, 111
Yale University, 47, 59, 7 5
Smith, James A,94
Smith, James Roy,7
Smith, Jonathan,269
Smith, Katherine, 305, 3 10
Smith, Roberta, 86
Smith, Sidney Randall Dickerson, Jr., 3, 7-8,36,76,86,301, 308
education, 47,59,75
Smith, Sidney Randall Dickerson, Sr., 3, 4,7 ,8-9, 16,94,314
Smith, Stanley A.,94
Smith, Thomton,94
Smith, Weynemo, 94
Stanley, A. Knighton, 313
Steadman, John M., 23 1, 262-63, 273, 27 4
Steinem, Gloria, 216, 220
Sudq John, 18i, 185
Sullivan, Emmet, 202, 204
Supreme Court, U.S,, 56, 57, 58, 85
Terrell, Mary Church, 98, 99,101
Terrell, Robert H., 101
Terrell Law School, 101
T.rry, John A., 238,274
Thomas, James,70
Thomas, Lowell, 180-81
Thompson, Phyllis D., 27 4, 27 5
Thurman, Howard,90
Till, Emmett, 96-98, 105
Toffler, Alvin, 103
Tufts University, 59, 296-97, 298
African American students, 50, 5l*52, 60, 64–65, 96
and civil rights movement, 55-56
Jewish students, 50,96
professors, 53, 54, 60-61
student body, 54-55
Turner, James,73
Turpin, Eleanor, 51, 52, 54
Tyler, Richard,36
United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), 151
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), I 52-53, 15 5-57, 1 5 8-59
University of Mississippi, I 1 5, 133, 134-36
University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, 198,202-203,283,298
Valentine, George C., 167, 178, 290
Vermeil, Steven,61
Vietnam War, 114-15
Wagner, Annice Robinson McBryde, 245-50, 25 l-52, 259, 264, 269, 27 3
classmate of Reid, 36,46,232,245
head of Conference of Chief Justices, 249,254
Warren, Earl, 85
Washington, Booker T., 6445
Washington, DC. See District of Columbia
Washington, Eric, 205, 206, 25M0, 269, 295, 3L4
Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, 198,273
Washington, Perito & Dubuc, 189, 190, 192,194-95, L97
Washington, Robert, 190, 194-95
Washington, W alter, | 62
Whitehead, Matthew, 6I-62, 95
Whitehead, Thelma Reid, 33-34, 6i
Whitehead, Matthew, 33
Williams, Edward Bennett, 89
Williams, Terry, 5I,52
Williams, Yvonne,36
Winston, Martha, 26,27
and law schools, 67 , 68-69,74
and law positions, 120-27, 2ll, 2I5, 228, 27 3
women’s movements, 216-25
and African American women, 219,220-21,223-24
and civil rights movement, 22315
World War II, 19-20,104, 105
Worthy, Patricia M, 207
Yale Law School, 85,90-92
and African Americans, 681 0, 72J3
professors, 7 l, 72-73, 75, 80-8 1, 85
Judge Inez Smith Reid 0ral History
Cases Cited
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), 241,277
Brown v. Board of Education,347 U.S. 483 (1954),4144,58, 66, 98-99,101, i33
Cooper v. Aaron,358 U.S. 1 (1958), 56-57,58
Hammonv. Barry,606 F. Supp. 1082 (D.D.C. 1985), 167-68, 185
Hobson v. Hansen,269 F. Supp. 401 (D.D.C . 196T,l}l
1NSv. Chadha,462 U.S.919 (1983), 185-86
Jencla v. United States, 353 U.S. 657 (1957),241,
Lively v. Flexible Packaging Association, 830 A.2d 874 (D.C. 2005) (en banc),23940,264-65,
National Railroad Passenger Corp. V. Morgan,536 U.S. l0l (2002),240
Powell v. Alabamq, 287 U.S. 45 (1932),66
Roe v. Wade,410 U.S. 113 (1973),28
Sykes v. United Stat e s, 897 A.2d 7 69 (D.C. 2006), 24041, 27 7, 27 8-:7 9

to Date:
June 1995
to Dec. 12,20ll:
February 1994
to June 1995
July 1991
to lanuary 1994
July 1986
to July 1991
7405 – 14th Sheet, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20012
(202) 87e-2726 (o)
Senior Judge
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
430 E Street, N.W.
Washington, D,C.20001
Associate Judge
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
(Chair, D.C. Courts Fairness and Access Standing Committee,
1996 to Dec.2012) (Access to lustice Commission, District
of Columbia,2004 to Dec. 2012; Vice Chair,2009 to Dec.
Lewis, White & Clay, P.C.
1000 – 16th Street, N.W.
Suite 401
Washington, D.C. 20036
Main Office: 1300 National Building
660 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48226
(Environmental Law; General and
Commercial Litigation)
Graham & James
2000 M Street, N.W
Washington, D,C. ZOO:O
(Environmeutal Practice Group: Litigation)
Washington, Perito & Dubuc (formerly
Washington, D.C. office of Finley, Kumble,
et al.; also Laxalt, Washington, Perito &
Dubuc)(firm ceased business in summer 1991)
1120 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D,C. 20036
(Litigation Department; Specialties:
environmental; civil rights and commercial law)
Fall 1985 William J. Maier Jr. Visiting Professor of Law
to June 1986
Fall 1989
to May 2006
Sept. 1983
to luly 1985
Dec. 1982
to Sept. 1983
to Dec. 1982
to Jan. 1981
May 1977
to Nov. 1979
May 1976
to May 1977
l97l to 1976
University of West Virginia, College of Law
Adjunct Professor of Goverament and
C ons titutional S cholar, Department of
Government, School of Public Affairs,
American University
Corporation Counsel, D.C. (Chief Legal Officer of the
District of Columbia responsible for Civil Litigation,
Regulatory Offenses, Juvenile Justice, Legislation and
Opinions, Advice to Departments, Agencies and
Offices of Government; supervised office of 200 attorneys)
Deputy Legal Counsel
Legal Counsel Division
Office of the Corporation Couusel
District of Columbia Government
Chief, Legislation and Opinion Section
Office of the Corporation Counsel
District of Columbia Government
Inspector General
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460
Deputy General Counselfor Regulation Review
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
(Subsequently divided into Department of Health and Human
Services and Department of Education)
General Counsel
New York State Executive Department
State Division for Youth
Albany, New York
Associate Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University
New York, New York
Executive Director
Black Women’s Community
D evelopment Foundation
Washington, D.C.
l97l to 1974
1966 to 1974
1965 to 1966
1964 to 1965
1963 to 1964
1962 – 1964
Moved from Instructor to Associate Professor of
Polittcal Science
Brooklyn College, City University of New York
New York, New York
Lecturer in Political Science
Hunter College, City University of New York
New York, New York
Assistant Professor of African Studies and
Political Science
State University of New York, College of New Paltz
New Paltz, New York
Lecturer tn Criminal Law and Law Librarian
(Contract through Ford Foundation and the
Congolese Government)
Ecole Nationale de Droit et d’Administration
Congo-Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville)
Legal Researcher, then Lawyer
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
New York, New York
Elementary and Secondary:
Public Schools of Washington, D.C.
1 955-56 Howard University
I 956-59 Tufts University
(8.A., 1959, Magna Cum Laude)
Law SchooL: 1952-62 Yale University
(LLB, 1962,C. LaRue Munson Prrze,
Public Defender Chairman’s Cup)
Graduate School:
T962-63 UCLA
M.A., 1963 (Political Science)
1 965-68 Columbia University
Ph.D., I 968, Dissertation Topic: Constitutioual
Development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
University of Virginia School of Law
Graduate Judges Program, 2002-2004
Master of Laws in the Judicial Process,2004
2009 – Ollie Mae Cooper Award, Washington Bar
2008 – Olender Foundation, Hero in Law 2008
2007 – Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia
Star of the Bar 2007
2007 – James F. Jenkins Pillar of Faith Award for Outstanding
Contribution to the Spiritual Community
2006 – Equal Justice Award, University of the Dishict of
Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
2003 – Designated into the Hall of Fame, Washington
Bar Association of the National Bar Association
2000 – Bar Association of the District of Columbia
Hero in Law Award
1998 – Tufts University Chair
In Recognition of Ten Years As A Trustee
1996 – Charlotte E. Ray Award
Greater Washington Area Chapter
Women Lawyers Division
National B ar Association
1996 – D.C. School of Law
Outstanding Service Award
As Former Chairperson, Board of Governors
1995 – Tuskeegee University
Tuskegee, Alabama
Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree
1995 – Fifteenth Annual
Founders’ Lecturer
Ollie May Cooper Award Ceremony
Washington Bar Association
“Guns, School Violence And
United States v. Lopez”
1990 -NAACP Legal Defense and Educational
Fund Pro Bono Award
1988 – Tufts University Alumni Distinguished
Service Award for outstanding contributions
to profession
1986 – to date – Who’s Who in the East
(and other Who’s Who directories)
1983 – Award for Service, United Church
of Christ, Board for Homeland Ministries
1982 – Arthur Morgan Award for Outstanding
Service to Antioch University
1978 – Certificate of Appreciation,
Board of Trustees, Antioch University (June)
1978 – Brooklyn College (CUNY) Award,In
rebognition of contributions to higher
education and to human understanding
1976 – Emily Gregory Award for Distinguished
and Outstanding Teaching and Service
to Students,
Barnard College, Columbia University
1976 – Life Service Award, Association
for Study of Afro-American Life and History,
Region 2
1974 – Certificate of Appreciation,
Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D,C.
197 4 – Certificate of Recognition,
Council of Concerned Black Executives
1973 – Achievement Award, Brooklyn
Chapter of theNegro Business and
Professional Women’s Club
Board of Directors, Local Church Ministries,
United Church of Christ, 2009-date
American Lung Association, D.C., Board of
Directors, 1994to 2009 (Chairperson, 1998- 2000)
D.C. School of Law Board of Govemors/DCSL Foundation,
1991 to date (Chairperson, July 1991
to June 1995)
Tufts University, Medford, MA,
Board of Trustees:
1988 to 1998
Trustee Emeritus, 1999 to date
Board of Overseers, Liberal Arts and Sciences:
April20ll to date
Lancaster Theological Seminary,
Board of Trustees,
1988 to 2002
Trustee Emeritus, 2003-date
National Conference of Commissioners on
Uniform State Laws, Commissioner, District
of Columbia, 1982 to 1995
Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
Under Law,1987 to 1995 (Co-Chairperson,
1989 – 1990)
Antioch University, Board of Trustees,
1975 – 1985 (served as Chairperson of the
Executive Committee and Chairperson of the
Board for part of this period)
Antioch University School of Law
Board of Governors,late 1970’s to early
1980’s (served as Chairperson of the
Executive Committee (during this period)
Fair Employment Council
1990 – June 1995 (Chairperson, 1993 to
Iune 1995)
United Church of Christ Board for Homeland
Ministries, 1979 – 1983 (served on the Board
of Directors from 1978 – 1983 and Vice
Chairperson on the Board of Directors from
r981 – 1983)
(Journal published by the University of
Chicago; Editorial Board, 1975 – 1976)
Member, American Bar Association Foundation
Member, California and New York State Bars
Member, District of Columbia Bar
Member, Federal Bar Association
Member, National Bar Association
Member, Washington Bar Association
‘oFrom Birth to the Bench: A Quiet But Persuasive Leader”
(Tribute to the Honorable George Bundy Smith), 68 Albany
Law Review 215 (200s).
o’Historical Links: The Remarkable Legacy and Legal Journey
of the Honorable Julia Cooper Mack,” 8 University of the
District of Columbia Law Review30l (2004)
Maryland Environmental I.aw. 1990; revised
L99l:. Prepared for Federal Publications, Inc.
(with William D. Evans, Jr. and Associates of
Washington, Perito & Dubuc).
Environmental Problems on the Jobsite.
1990; Prepared for Federal Publications Inc. (with
J. Lifschitz and Associates of Washington, Perito & Dubuc)
“Is There a need for an Elected D.C.
Attorney General?” Washington Lawyer. March/
April 1987,pp.59-64.
“Law, Politics and the Homeless,” 89 West
Vireinia Law Review. 115 (1986)
“District of Columbia Not Liable for
Injuries When Police Officer Shoots Relatives” with Charles
Reischel, 25 Municipal Attornev. July to August, 1984.
“An Issue That Minorities and the Poor No
Longer Can Ignore: The Environmetrt,” in
Cottingham, editor, Race. Class. Povertv:
The Worst Losers (D.C. Health Co., 1982)
“The Impact (or Potential Impact) of
Selected Public Policy Coucepts on the Poor,”
prepared for the Vassar College Public Policy
Conference, March 7, 1980.
“Womsn and Presidential Policies. Women and
Presidential P olitics,” Howard University, B lacks, Presidential
Politics and Public Policy Conference, October 25,1979.
“How Powerful Is Powerful? The Women’s
Movement, The Four Black Congtesswomen” in
Berniee Cummings and Victoria Schuck, Women
Organizing. An Anthology. Metuchen, N.J. and
London: the Scarecrow Press, Lnc.,1979,
“Optimism Is Not Warranted,” Howarr!-
Universiw Law Journal. April1977.
Prentice-H all, 197 6, pp. 648-683.
“Cancer, Sterilization, Hypertension,
Alcoholism, Depression, Etc.: Is There Hope for
for Black Women, for Black People?” Prepared for the
for the National lnstitute of Education (HEW), Dec.1975
“Science, Politics and Race,” SIGNS
(University of Chicago Press), Volume 1,
No.2, Winter 1975.
“Equal Protection or.Equal Denial: Is
It Time for Racial Minorities, the Poor, the
Women, and Other Oppressed People to Regroup?”
3 Hofstra Law Review. 1-36 (1975).
“Black Man, Black Woman at the
ConEoversial Gate,” with Frantz Reid,
Essence, October (1 973).
“Cast Aside by the Burger Court: Blacks
in Quest of Justice and Education, ” 49 Notre
Dame Lawver. 105-l2l (1973).
From Gammon to Howard. Proceedings of
the 197 2 African-American N ational C onferenc e
of Africa, Washington, D.C. 1973 (edited with
Ronald Walters).
“Together” Black Women, fust editions,
1972; second edition, 1975, Third Press, New York
“The Burger Court and the Civil Rights
Movement: The Supreme Court Giveth and the
Supreme Court Taketh Away,” 3 Rutgers-Camden
Law Journal. 4 10-440 (1972).
“African Nationalism in Southern Africa
and Zimbabwe,” itr Potholm, editor, Southern
Africa. in Perspective. New York: Free Press (1972).
“An Analysis of Black Studies Program”
I Afro-American Studies 1l-21 (1970).
TbE Black Prism: Perspectives on the
B1ack Experience. New York: Faculty Press,
1970 (edited works of the 1969 Brooklyn
College Summer Institutes in Afro-American Studies)
“The Conflict Over Decentralizing of the
Educational System in New York City,” 2Pan
African Journai. 69-93 (1969).
“Arab Africa and Black Africa:
Prospects for Unity – A Bibliographic Essay,
3 African Forum. 82-091 (1966-68).
“The Bvolution of a New Nation: Problems
of Judicial Reorganization,” 37 Southern
California Law Review. 2l-46 (1964).

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Accomplished attonney with a proven tack record counseling and representing clients in contract
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maximum results. I have taught continuing legal education courses on ethics and litigation issues for the
Distict of Columbia Bar and ALI-ABA and have served on and/or moderated panel discussions for the
American Bar Associatio& the Dishict of Columbia Bar, the Women’s Bar Association of D.C, and
before various corporate entities. I have conceived and organized panel discussions desigrred to promote
diversity in employment and to promote racial and ethnic dialogue and healing. I am a frequent
speaker/commentator on legal and non-legal issues.
Award-winning public interest contributor/commanity senice progrum manager who initiates, plans
and directs highly successful fund-raising, professional development, public awareness and educational
events. As a member of the Executive Board of a national public service organization for four years, I
interfaced with elected and judicial ofEcials at all levels and organized highly successful conferences on a
wide variety of issues.
Mcleod, Watkinson & Miller, Partner, l0/06-Present; The Curry Law Firm, PLLC, Sole Proprietor,
12103 – 09/06; Curry & Wilbourn, PLLP, Founding Partrrcr, 09197- 11/03; Law Office of Devarieste
Curry, Sole Proprietor,04/97 – 09197. Selected accomplishments and responsibilities:
SERVE as General Counsel to a national non-profit membership organization. Provide advice and
counsel and representation on a range of issues. Responsibilities include, among others, managing
litigation and local (outside) counsel; negotiating commercial contacts; drafting a full range of corporate
documents; consulting on employment and personnel issues; drafting ethical guidelines and conflict of
interest policy for 40 member Board; and conducting intemal corporate investigations.
SUCCESSFULLY DEFEND corporate, non-profit, and individual clients and NEGOTIATE settlements
in a variety of employment discrimination and business and commercial matters, including a civil NCO
matter in federal cor:rt.
Resume of Devarieste Curry
CONDUCT intemal corporate investigations.
I\4ANAGED office and stafffor Curry Law and Curry & Wilboum; as a partner at Mcleod, Watkinson &
Miller, supervise junior attorneys, paralegals, and other staff.
Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., 1987 – 04197, Pqrtner (1993-04/97), Associate (1987-1993), Chair,
Recruiting Committee (1995 – 96) and member two other years. Selected accomplishments:
SERVED as Lead Counsel and Co-Lead Cormsel in multi-million dollar jury trials in complex litigation,
handling all aspects ofthe cases, inoluding directing defense stategy and expert witness/jury selection
and supervisingjrmior attomeys and other staff.
SERVED as Co-Lead Counsel in civil rights case (stip searcQ at tial level; prepared all briefs for
appeal, and en banc appeal to the Eleventh Circuit argued appeal and en banc appeal; and assr:med lead
in preparing petition for writ of certiorari.
Ilowrey & Simon, 1985 – 1987, Associate (Member, Recruiting Commifiee); The Honorable Judith !V.
Rogers, Dishict of Columbia Court of Appeals, 1984 – 1985, Law Clerk Cole, Ra,,wid, &
Braverman, 1983-1884, Law Cle*; Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social Security Administration,
fulington, Virgoiq 1975 – 1983; Senior Heuings otd Appeab Analyst, (full-time 1975-1983), Equal
Employnent Opportunity Couruelor (part-time 1976-1980); Bureau of Disability Insurance, Social
Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland, 1971- 1975, Social Insurance Clatns Examiner
Disfict of Columbia and before the United States Supreme Court; the United States Court of Appeals for
the Dishict of Colunbia Circuit; the United States Court of Appeals for ttre Eleventh Circuit; and the U.S.
Distict Courts for the District of Columbia; the District of Maryland; and the Eastem District of
District of Columbia Bar –Currently: Vlce Chair, Legal Ethics Committee; Previously: C/rai4
Practice Management Service Committee, 07104 – 06/05 @est Bar Committee Award, 06/05); Member,
Disciplinary System Study Committee, 2003 – 2006; Judicial Evaluation Committee (2001-2006);
Menber – Board of Govemors, 07195 – 06/00, assigned to: Screening Committee (Chair, 1998-99),
Budget Committee, Executive Committee, and Steering Committee on Sumnit on Women in the Law.
United States Court of Appeals for the District of ColumbiarMember, Commission on Admissions
and Grievances, 09/08 – Present
District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Member, Committee on Arrangements for the Judicial
Conference of the Dishict of Columbia for the 22d,28fo, and 30m Annual Conferences, and for upcoming
20l l Annual Conference. For 306 Conference (05/05), obtained Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones
as the keynote speaker.
American Bar Association, Curren tly: Memher- Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the
Profession (07109 – Present); Previously: Co-Chair – Wrongful Discharge and Employrrent at Will
Sub-Committee, Employment and Labor Relations Law Committee, Litigation Section, 08102 – 07104;
testified before ABA Commission on Women in the Profession at ABA Annual Convention, 08/03;
Resume of Devarieste Curry
Page 3
Women’s Bar Association of D. C., Co-Chair -Diversity Task Force, 1997-98; C*Chotr – Annual
Dinner, 1997-98; National Bar Association – Member, 1989-2008, – CLE presenter numerous times at
annual meetings and at Commercial Law Section’s Annual Corporate Counsel Conferences; Greater
Washington Area Chapter, Women Lawyers Division, National Bar Association, Manber – Board of
Directorc, 199l-1994 Chair – Membership Committee, 1992-1993; Chair – Law Firm/Corp. Counsel Ad
Hoc Committe e, 199l-1992
Georgetown University: Member, African American Advisory Board (Appointed by University
President), 09/00 – 2004; Member, Board of Governors, 1996 – 2002; Member, National Law Alumni
Board of Georgetown University Law Center, 1992-1998 (Secretary, 1994 to 03197)
Legal Counsel for the Elderly – Member – Policy Board, 1993-1996 (Seuetary,1994); Advisory Board,
Us Helping Us, People Into Living Inc., Provide pro bono services to local AIDS advocacy
organization, 1998 – present
Everybody Wins, I)C, Participant in reading program for elementary school children, 2007
Employment Opportunities for Youth, As principal of Curry & Wilboun and Curry Law, hired high
school students for summer employment every year except two.
National Opera Association – Chair, GALA Dinner and Reception, 48ft National Convention in 2003
celebrating the centennial birft of Todd Dunoan; Chair, GALA Dinner, National Convention in 1995
celebrating the Golde,n Anniversary of African Americans in the Mainsteam of Opera, Chilit, DC
Committee of the Legacy Fund, 2004 -2007
University of Maryland, National Associate and Fundraiser for the David C. Driskell Center for the
Study of the African Disapor4 Q002to the present)
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (a public service organization), Member, Executive Board @oard of
Directors), 08/96 – 07/00, Acted with other Board members to set the overall policy and focus of the
organization; to maintain oversight of thc financial affairs of the organization; to determine stategic
alliances; and to implement pro$ams consistent with progammatic thrust of the organizatton; Co-Chair
– Social Action Commission, 08196 – 07100. Plarured and organized annual, national legislative tlueeday
training conference in the Nation’s Capital (increased number of participants from approximately 200
to almost 700), Interfaced regularly with national and local political leaders and their staff and political
and social activists to achieve common objectives; lead efforts to overtum the mandatory minimum
sentencing laws; to ensure an accurate Census 2000 count of African Americans; to increase voter
education/registration; to educate African American community on environmental justice, workplace, and
economic issues; to improve educational shndards within the African American community; and to
improve access to higher education for African Americans.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Washington, D.C., National Capital Presbytery, MemDer – Permanent
Judicial Commission (06/10 – Present); Ordained Elder (Fiulng Elder, 1988-1991); Sargent Memorial
Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C. Active member; member, Centennial Planning Committee,
2008, responsible for drafting historical and commemorative resolutions and provided pro bono legal
assistance; Altemative presenter for children’s sermon; Church of the Redeemer Pre.sbyterian,
Resume of Devarieste Curry
Page 4
Washington, D.C., Chair, Education Committee, 1989-1990 – Designed and led haining progtams for
church offrcers and lay leaders; drafted new officers’pledge; supervised commrurity outreach and general
educational programs; and planned and helped implement general membership taining programs; Chab,
36th Anniversary Dinner Cornmitteg 1994
Charter Review Committee, City of Neru Carrollton, Maryland – Member,09100 -07102
Stillman Collegen Member, Board of Directors, National Alumni Association, 1992-1996, Chair,
Chapter Development Committee; Orgozizer & President, D.C. Area Chapter, Stillman College
Alumni Association, 1987-1992; Chab – Benefit Concert Committee, 1987-1995
WAMU-FM Community Council, Member 01194 – 12196
DCWorks Advisory Group – Member,l993-1997; Mentor to DCWorks Students 1993-1996
Mentors, Inc. – Mentor to District of Columbia high school students, L989-1992
LAw REvIEw, 1983-1984; Member, National Administative Law Moot Court Tear; 1981-1982;
Finalist, Georgetown University National Moot Court Competitioq (1981); Associate, Appellate
Litigation Clinic (Briefed and Argued Section 1983 case before United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit, 1983-1984; 8.A., Sociology, Magna Cum Laude, STILLMAN COLLEGE 1971,
President, Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society, Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges
& Universities, 1969-1971; Mernber, Gamma Iota Sigma Honor Society; Recipient, Citizenship Award,
Wuo’s WHo [.I BLAcK WASHnIGToN, Second Edition, published September 2010, Profiled as one of 16
Women of Excellence
Georgetown University Law Center Alumnae Award, for service to Georgetown and the legal profession,
Women’s Bar Association of DC, Stars of the Bar recognition, 2004
Us Helping Us, People Into Living, lnc. for pro bono legal assistance (presented to Curry & Wilbourn,
PLLP, predecessor finn), 2001
National Opera Association’s Excellence in Opera Award for pro bonolegal assistance, 1999
Pro Bono Equal Rights Award, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fun4 Inc., 1994
Elected Fellow oftheAmerican Bar Foundation
Distinguished Alumni Citation of the Year, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher
Education, 1988
Resume of Devarieste Curry
Page 5
Ethics and Litigation: Ignore Professional Rules of Conduct at Your Own Peril,5 TIIE CoMMERctAL
Lew ColNecro& I (Spring 2008) (National Bar Association Publication)
How to Use Trial Experts Effectively: The Opponent’s Expert, 15 TID Pnacucat LtuceroR
(ALYABA), htly 2004, at 17
Ethical and Practical Considerations in Client Selection,l8 Wasu. LawyrR 33, Nov. 2003
The Double Burden of African American Women Lcwyers, THE JUDcEs’JoURNAL, Spring 2000, at 8, l0
S*ategies for Women Litigators,Tlm PnacucAl LrrrGAToR (ALVABA), Mar. 1997, at 15
The Problem That Won’t Go Away: Toxic Tort Lttigation, Conponem LecAL Thms, Dec.
1994, at 7 (with Sula Baye)
Cttizens Sutts Littgation Under The Clean Water Act: An Overview, NBA Macaznm, Mar.
1990 at 18
QUOTED in Wcnhingon Post; The Philadelphia Inquirer; Comrnercial Appeal (Memphis); 7&e
Tuscaloosa News (Tuscaloosq Alabama)
Speaker, GE – Delta Sigma Theta Leadership Conference, Prepctring for Success: Make Ethics Your
C onst ant C omp anion, L0 I 16 I 10, l0 /241 09, and 1 0/ I 1 /08
Lecturer, ALI-ABA, Will You Take my Case?: The Ethics and Practice of Client Selection,l l/20l08 and
Speaker, Unveiling of Portrait of the Honorable Judith W. Rogers, District of Columbia Court ofAppeals,
A C onfirmation of Sound Values, 05 I 07
Lecturer, DC Bar Winter Continuing Legal Education Training, How to Use Trial Experts Effectively,
12103,lilA4 afi 12105
Speaker, Georgetown University Law Center, Women’s Forum, Leadership and Ethics,04104
Panelist, ABA Convention, Employment and Labor Law Committee (Litigation Section), Motions in
Limine in Employment Cases: The Plaintiff’s Case,08103
Speaker, Arizona University School of Law, Investiture of Professor Myles V. Lynh Ethics : It ‘s a Matter
of Morals,02125102
Resume of Devarieste Curry
Page 6
Panelist, DC Bar Winter Convention, Ethical and Practical Considerations tn Client Selectton,
Panelist District of Columbia Bar, Continuing Legal Educationo Appellate Littgatton (Oral
Argument, 10/99 and 10/00
Panelist, The Arena Stage, The Jury in America – Justtce Served or Justice Denied?, 03112197
Moderator, Women’s Bar Association Litigation Forurh, Effecttve Practice tn Local Courts:
What Every Judge Wants You to l{now,02129196
Participant, LPxs CouNsrr CoNNecr Seminar, Emerging Environmental Torts:
Ele ctromagnet t c F iel d s, 04 /9 5
Panelist, Developments in Commercial Litigation, NBA Commercial Law Section, Eighth
Annual Corporate Counsel Conference, Jointng Hands: Promoting Good Relations Between In-
House counsel and outs tde comsel Hondling commereial Littgation, 03 l0l I gs
Panelist, Toxic Torts and Environmental Claims Litigation Update, The Canadian Institute,
Toronto, Canada, The U.S. Perspective on Toxic Tort Litigation,06110194
Panelist, Beveridge & Diamond Seminar for Clients, Washington, D.C., Working with Outside
Counsel, 05112/94,
Panelist, Beveridge & Diamond Seminar for Clients, Washington, D.C., Recommendations to In-
House Couruel For Managtng Toxic Tort Litigation,l2ll4lg3
Panelist, Environmental Law Seminar, NBA Convention, Boca Raton, FL, Recent Developments
In Toxic Tort Lttigation,07129/93
Lecturer, The WCM Group (client), Houston, TX, Preparing For and Giving Deposition
Panelist, Beveridge & Diamond Seminar for Clients, Washington, D.C., Complex Litigation
Strategies, ll120/92
Panelist, EnvironmentalLaw Seminar, NBA Convention, Indianapolis,IN, Complying With the
Requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, OBl07l9l
Panelist, Environmental Law Seminar, NBA Convention, Oakland, CA, Citizens Suits Lttigation
Under the Clean Water Act,08l02l89