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:
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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.
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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
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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?
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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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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.
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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.