Nancy Mayer Whittington Tenth Interview: May 17, 2012Catherine Nugent2022-05-03T11:51:23-04:00
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Nancy Mayer-Whittington Oral History
Interview Session X
May 17, 2012
Ms. Woodbury: Good morning. Today is Thursday, May 17, 2012. This is the
continued interview of Nancy Mayer-Whittington, who was the Clerk of the
Court for the United States District Court in the District of Columbia and
retired now almost two years ago, I guess… Is that right?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: A little over two years.
Ms. Woodbury: And when we spoke about a month ago, you were discussing some of
the big cases that had been heard in the United States District Court here in
Washington, D.C. and the ways in which those cases impacted the court and
your involvement. One of the cases you mentioned was the Hinckley case
involving the attempted assassination of President Reagan. I think you had
some discussions with the judge in that case, Nancy. Will you tell us about
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, at that time, I was working in the Jury Office. I was the Supervisor
and we were getting the jurors ready to go into the courtroom. We had divided
them into panels and we were sending them to the courtroom for voir dire. I
was calling the jurors by number for the second or third panel to be sent to the
courtroom and I called the number of one of the prospective jurors and they
said “Oh Lordy, they aren’t going to want me, I’m going to hang him.” I was
stunned. In the jury assembly room, which was fairly quiet at the time because
all the jurors were listening for their number to be called, there was this
Ms. Woodbury: Everybody heard him?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes and it was actually a woman.
Ms. Woodbury: Oh, a woman?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just continued calling the rest of the
numbers, and got the group of jurors together and sent them to the courtroom.
Then, I got on the phone and called Judge Parker’s courtroom deputy and I told
him what had happened. As it turned out the courtroom deputy I spoke to was
the Supervisor of the Courtroom Deputies. He was filling in for Judge Parker’s
courtroom deputy who was out ill that day. I explained to him what had
happened in the jury assembly room. I told him that I wanted to pass the
information along because I didn’t know what impact it might have on the
proceedings, but I just wanted to report it. I subsequently learned that the
Courtroom Deputy Supervisor did not pass my message along to the Judge and
Judge Parker had to …
Ms. Woodbury: You found that out later?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, I found out later. Judge Parker had this really famous reputation
for being very tough, and not keeping thoughts to himself especially if he
wasn’t happy about something, so people always walked a fine line about
conveying information to him.
Ms. Woodbury: They didn’t like to give him bad news?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: No they did not like to and so sometimes they didn’t. I’m not sure what
the thinking was behind the Courtroom Deputy Supervisor not passing the
information along other than Judge Parker’s reputation for “killing the
messenger.” When I found out that he had not passed the information along, I
didn’t know what to do. I tried to call my boss, who was the Clerk of the Court,
Jim Davey, but he was in a meeting out of the building at the time. So I really
couldn’t discuss it with Jim. I took it upon myself to call Judge Parker’s
secretary and told her what had happened and asked her if she would pass the
information along to the Judge. Probably about a half hour later I got a call
from her saying that the Judge wanted to see me, and could I come up right
away. So I did and when I went into the office I said to her, because I knew her
pretty well, “What did he say when you told him?” She said “I didn’t tell him.
You can go in and tell him. I just told him you needed to speak with him.” So I
was a new supervisor and I was young and I remember thinking I don’t know if
I’m going to be able to walk because my legs were shaking so much. But, I
walked in and the Judge basically said “You needed to see me?” He was kind
of looking over papers and not even looking at me, just clearly conveying that I
was bothering him and wasting his time. I said to him: “Yes I just needed you
to know about an incident that happened in the jury assembly room this
morning.” So I went on to tell him and he literally took off his glasses and
threw them across the desk, and threw down the paper he was reading and he
said: “What? What are you telling me? You know what could happen?” And
he went on to say that I was not training jurors properly and asked how I could
allow a juror to say such a thing. I said, “I don’t know why she said it. I’m just
trying to pass the information along to you and I did write it down, so I would
make sure that I would remember it accurately. I know which juror it is who
made the remark.” Thank goodness Judge Bryant, who was Chief Judge at the
time, was in the chambers as well. After Judge Parker had gone on and on about
how stupid the Jury Office was and how stupid a jury clerk I was and how
ridiculous this was and did I know the impact this would have on jury selection,
Judge Bryant interrupted him and said “Barrington, she’s given you
information that you needed to know. Now it seems to me that she has done a
good job of writing it down and conveying it to you and so that you have the
correct information. Why you were not told about this earlier today by the
Courtroom Deputy is something we will have to look into. But, Nancy has done
her job, now you need to do yours.” And then, he turned to me and said,
“Nancy, how are you doing? How is the family?”
Ms. Woodbury: This is Judge Bryant?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. I said “Everyone is fine. Thank you.” And then he said: “I think
you’ve spent enough time up here. Come on let’s go. Did you have any lunch
yet?” and we walked out the door. If I could have given him a big hug I would
have. He said “Don’t you worry about this. He’ll take care of it.” He said
“You did your job, you did the right thing. You just go on and take care of the
rest of those jurors for us.” And that was huge, really huge for me because I
had heard a lot about Judge Parker. I had not had any incidents with him, but
we had a little plaque, a little framed certificate that we would give to our
employees after they had survived a “trial by fire” with Judge Parker. He was
known for going off on people and really, truly killing the messenger. Hence
the reason people didn’t want to bring him information. Then you contrast that
with Judge Bryant. At no point did he yell at Judge Parker, he just said to him
“you’ve got your job to do, she’s done her job and you need to do your job
Barrington.” The he escorted me out of the chambers. I was so impressed with
his demeanor and his kindness. I had worked with Judge Bryant as Chief Judge
because he handled certain jury excuses so I had developed a little bit of a
relationship with him. But that moment in Judge Parker’s chambers made me a
lifelong fan of Chief Judge Bryant. Over the years, I got to know him on a
personal as well as professional level and it was one of the highlights of my
life. He was an amazing man, and when push came to shove he stood up for me.
That was so important to me and, as I learned, so typical of Chief Judge
Ms. Woodbury: He handled that really well, all around?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes he did, and for me I saw the consequences of a juror making a
statement like that. I felt like I had done the right thing by writing it down
because I wanted to be sure exactly what was said. Ultimately Judge Parker
questioned the juror about what she had said and soon thereafter she was
dismissed from the panel. The judge also, in the presence of the attorneys,
talked to the jurors who were in the room when she made the statement and
asked if anyone was influenced in any way by what she had said. All the jurors
told the judge they had not been impacted by her remark and ultimately it didn’t
cause a major problem.
Ms. Woodbury: This particular person in the juror pool who made the statement, she
hadn’t been selected to be on the jury, right?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: No she was just in the pool about to go into the courtroom for voir dire.
Ms. Woodbury: Right and I guess one of the things that was of concern to you and to the
judges was whether or not her statement had had any impact on the other
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes and whether the information she conveyed would end up coming
out during voir dire and whether she would be selected. And, did she have a
bias against Hinckley that she wouldn’t reveal under questioning during voir
dire but had revealed in front of everyone else. So yes those were all the
thoughts that were going through my mind when she was saying it.
Ms. Woodbury: How long between the times this incident happened, in which she made
that statement, and the time you felt you needed to go explain to Judge Parker
what had happened? Was it that day or… ?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, the incident happened in the morning and I went to see him on his
lunch break. So it was very soon after the incident. Ultimately, the Courtroom
Deputy Supervisor could have handled it and then I could have gone to see the
judge to give him the details. But since the Supervisor did not handle it, I felt
that I needed to let the judge know about the incident. I was the Jury Supervisor
who overheard the remark and I wanted to make sure the judge was aware of
what happened. I didn’t know what the judge was going to do because I didn’t
have a lot of experience with high profile trials. I didn’t know if the juror’s
remark was something that the judge would think was a common reaction to the
stress of jury duty. I just knew I needed to make someone in the judge’s
chambers aware of what happened so that it didn’t come up down the road and I
would be held responsible for not bringing it to the judge’s attention. When I
told the secretary what happened, I assumed she would tell the judge. Even
though she didn’t convey the information to him, she did make arrangements
for me to talk to the judge in person.
Ms. Woodbury: But it probably, from her point of view, it was better that he hear it from
the person with personal knowledge?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes.
Ms. Woodbury: But she might have given him a heads up?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. It would have been nice if she had told him that it was a juror’s
statement that I was concerned about and wanted to share it with him. Instead
of just telling him, the Jury Clerk wants to see you. Because it was clear when I
walked into his chambers that he was thinking, “Why in the world does the Jury
Clerk need to see me?” You know this took place back in the days before we
met with the judges ahead of time to discuss jury selection in high profile cases.
Our Jury Clerk now meets with the judge in advance of jury selection and they
go over the case.
Ms. Woodbury: Beforehand?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, but in those days the judges were not inclined to meet with a Grade
8 jury clerk about anything.
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy, when did it become part of the usual procedure for people from
the Jury Office to meet with judges in advance of jury selection for a big trial?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: It became more of the norm when our office established recommended
procedures based on our experiences with jury selection that were designed to
assist judges with jury selection in big cases. The judges who utilized the
information and found it helpful told other judges about their experiences and
more judges became interested in using the information we were providing. It
also took a change in the makeup of our court. In the early 90s when a group of
four judges came on board at the same time, the Clerk’s Office got the chance
to provide an orientation for all of them. Prior to this, orientations for new
judges were very informal – no real structure or agenda – just a few judges
sitting around a table with the new judge and answering questions. But once the
Clerk’s Office had the opportunity to conduct an orientation and introduce
ourselves to the new judges, they saw first-hand that we had a lot of
information that was very helpful to them. So, getting back to your question
about meeting with judges prior to big trials, that came about after we had
established that we had information and experiences we could share with them.
We let them know that we kept statistics from high profile trials. That we could
tell them the average time it takes to select a jury and why jury pooling works
well in some situations and doesn’t work in other circumstances. Once we
started compiling data that we could share with the judges, the newer judges on
the bench who didn’t have a lot of experience in selecting juries found the
information very helpful. That’s when it started becoming more the norm for the
Jury Office to consult with the judge about jury selection for a big case.
Another factor that helped develop a partnership with the Clerk’s Office was
Chief Judge Robinson’s decision to invite Jim Davey as Clerk of Court to the
monthly judges’ meetings. This occurred in the last few years of Jim’s tenure as
Clerk. A lot of the judges at first were asking, “What is he doing here, why
does the Clerk of the Court need to attend our meetings?” Jim had a few rough
moments at those meetings until the judges got used to having him there. That
paved the way for me to attend when I took over as Clerk. Towards the end of
my career, I used to have a regular place on the agenda where I would report on
the status of various projects and activities of the Clerk’s Office. Because the
primary purpose of the meetings was to discuss administrative issues not legal
Ms. Woodbury: And the Clerk’s Office was really the best source of information on that?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, and as I said before, due to technology the judges increasingly
relied on our office more and more to produce reports, analyze data and write
programs to extract the information they needed to manage their cases. This
reliance was difficult at first for our more experienced judges who were used to
working very independently and change can be a hard adjustment. But as more
and more new judges came on board, they were interested in working in
partnership with the Clerk’s Office and taking advantage of the changes.
Ms. Woodbury: The fact that the Clerk’s Office started participating in orientation of the
new judges meant you had a relationship with them from the outset?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes.
Ms. Woodbury: And they knew you and they knew they could go to you for help and
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Right and it put us in the position of sharing information that they
needed to do their jobs and not just as the staff whose primary job was to
receive and file papers. Instead of viewing us as clerical staff, they saw us more
as professional staff, people who could help them manage their cases, helps
them conduct research and connect them with their counterparts throughout the
country. They were open to that help even if it came from people who didn’t
have a law degree.
Ms. Woodbury: Right but from people who brought professional expertise of a different
kind to the process?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes.
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy, I know you can’t speak for all the district courts, but through
your work you have been in touch with several other courts, is it your
impression that in most of or many of the other courts there has been that same
change in relationships between the judges and the Clerk’s Office?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, I think generally that’s been the case. I think in the smaller courts
you have always had a closer relationship between the judges and Clerk’s
Office staff because there were fewer people involved so the contact was
limited to a smaller group. But I think that relationship has changed a bit from
being primarily a friendly one to a more professional one for the same reasons
as it changed in our court. But the smaller courts will always have a different
culture because of their size.
Ms. Woodbury: People know each other?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. I think that the medium sized and larger courts saw the same
transition when automation and technology started to be something that the
judges could benefit from, but they didn’t quite understand or quite know how
to manage that and the Clerk’s Office could help them do that. I think that our
Court was unique and somewhat similar to the District Court for the Southern
District of New York. Because our courts are entirely located in one building
there are more opportunities for contact and the more opportunities you have to
see judges one-on-one the better chance you have of establishing that kind of
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy, I would like to ask you some broad questions about the changes
at the Court over your tenure, not just as Clerk of the Court but the whole time
you worked there. Looking back what were the biggest changes at the court
between the time you started working there and the time you retired, either in
staff or operations or the judiciary itself?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Well, broadly speaking one major change has been in the diversity of
the staff and of the judges. When I started out in the Clerk’s Office, our staff
was majority Caucasian and predominantly female. Our judges were
predominantly Caucasian and predominantly male. The same was true for our
law clerks. When I retired, we were much more diverse in our racial makeup
both on the bench and in the Clerk’s Office. We are still I think over 60%
female in the Clerk’s Office but the numbers used to be over 85% female at one
point. With the ability to attract a broader base of people because of going
from clerical to professional positions, we are getting more male applicants. A
lot of the diversity in the ranks of the judges came about because of Jimmy
Carter’s appointments. I think we started getting a lot more diversity on the
bench, and continued to…
Ms. Woodbury: Both racial diversity and women?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, but women still lag behind because there are remnants of the good
old boy network still in place. I do believe that there has been a lot of progress
in the past thirty years. There are more female judges than ever before but our
bench is still more male than female, even though law schools have been
graduating more females than males for some time now. Another change has
been in the Clerk’s Office. We were coming from a culture where we were
pretty much told what to do and took our directions from the judges without
any real input into the direction of the court or input into the direction of the
judiciary. That changed, and now there is really more of a partnership between
the judges and the Clerk’s Office. In addition to advances in technology the
change came about because we had some really good Chief Judges, who
recognized that as the leaders of the Court it was better to include the Clerk’s
Office when establishing a vision for the future and utilize the talents available
there. And not just limit yourself to your own chambers staff or your law clerks
for all the resources you need in order to run the court. Another big change is in
the area of security. This change has been very dramatic. When I first started
working for the court, we walked through the doors of the courthouse and
didn’t have to be screened and didn’t have to show any kind of ID. You were
just eye-balled by the court security officer who was at the entrance to the
building. Then, in the late 90s but prior to September 11, 2001, we had a
shooting in our parking lot where one of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys was shot
by a friend of a defendant in a drug case and that made everyone aware of our
vulnerability. The shooting did not take place in the courthouse, rather it
happened in the parking lot adjacent to the courthouse but it was in broad
daylight with lots of people coming and going. That made the Federal
Protective Service limit access to our parking lot to Courthouse employees and
not available to the public to walk through. Another change over the years is in
the nature of the types of criminal cases we handle. There was a time when we
didn’t have organized crime cases per se in the District of Columbia. Now we
have much more gang related criminal cases and cases involving criminal
enterprises than when I first started out.
Ms. Woodbury: When did that start, the gang related criminal cases?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Probably in the mid 80s. Now whether they actually started then or they
just started being prosecuted, I do not know. We were known as a stopping
point between New York and Miami for drug traffickers so sometimes people
would get arrested at Union Station because they were on an Amtrak train
carrying drugs. And then in the 80s, I’m not sure of the reason, there started to
be more organized gang activity associated with the drug activity.
Ms. Woodbury: Here in D.C.?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Here in D.C.. Yes, so the U.S. Attorney’s Office in addition to having a
Drug Task Force also had a Gang Activity Task Force. The gangs would block
off their turf that they operated on and protected and for a while it seemed as
long as they stayed confined to these areas, the criminal activity could be
contained as well. But then, when they ventured out of their areas, the public
got a lot more concerned about it. But ultimately, I think they just really
recognized that it was pervasive in certain parts of the city and they needed to
do something about it.
Ms. Woodbury: When you say it wasn’t viewed as a big deal? Do you mean by police
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: That’s the sense you got, that they kind of looked the other way because
the gangs weren’t heavily involved in murders, they were big on selling and
distributing. It wasn’t really as violent. Then everyone started recognizing the
impact it was having on school children and on the community as the gang
activity began to escalate.
Ms. Woodbury: Did those kinds of cases continue through the time that you were Clerk
of the Court?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. I think that different Police Chiefs had differing abilities to control
things, but I think that once the gangs established a foothold in D.C. it became a
matter of trying to manage them, rather than ever really getting rid of them.
And I think that’s still the case today. Then we had different cases of notoriety.
That didn’t change much, but the way we handled them changed just because
with more information and more technology everything was faster and more
accessible. Technology created huge changes and it was very different from
having everything paper driven. Going to electronic filing was huge. Another
area in which there were major changes was in Human Resources with the
advent of family friendly personnel policies and in staff development –
encouraging employees to take the initiative to think and make decisions on
their own to be more proactive and not wait for the supervisor to tell then what
to do. Before this change, we were very much a top down, hierarchical system
of management. Also, when I first started working for the court, there was an
attitude that employees were supposed to come to work, do your job, and go
home and you weren’t supposed to bring any of your family problems to the
office. You weren’t supposed to acknowledge you even had a family because if
you had children that might create problems and you might have to take off
from work when they were sick or if they were involved in school events.
Gradually, there was a change to being much more family friendly and
supportive of people as whole people instead of just as employees. There was a
time in the late 70s and early 80s that if you arrived late to work that you would
never dare say to your supervisor that you were late because your child was
sick; you would always say you were late because you had a flat tire or traffic
was very heavy.
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy, do you think those changes came about because of changes in
the law? Why do you think those changes happened…the more family friendly
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: I think that a variety of things contributed to that change. One, the laws
were beginning to change in response to the needs of a growing population of
women in the workforce. Formalizing maternity leave policies and extending
the ability for women to use sick leave not only for their own illnesses but also
for their child’s illness as well were examples of the changes. There was a
growing recognition that women had rights and we shouldn’t be discouraging
their interest in having a family just because we felt we needed them to be
available 24/7. I think also we had a workforce that was changing. I remember
sitting in the Clerk’s Office lunch room one day a couple of years after I started
at the court and listening to the women talking about the lack of opportunities
to advance to higher positions in the office. They were very, very frustrated
with the fact that they wanted to do a good job, they wanted to get ahead, but
every time they went to an interview the supervisor or manager who was
conducting the interview would pose these impossible questions: “What
happens if your child gets sick or your mother dies? Are you going to come to
work the next day?” If you responded that you would not go into the office
under those circumstances, you wouldn’t be selected for the position. The
women who were discussing this at the lunch table just wanted some
recognition for the responsibilities that they had at home, they just wanted some
flexibility. But the culture in the Court at that time was such that your work at
the Court had to be your number one priority and everything else was a distant
second. Fortunately, society was changing and that helped. I was coming
from a large family where family was first. I was really disappointed when I
got to the court house and found people so reluctant to talk about their families
or share any information about them. I started seeking out work-family
seminars and tried to collect as much information as I could on the subject. I
remember the subtitle of one of the seminars on balancing work and family
went something like this: “If you think that your employees are leaving their
personal problems at home, think again.” The implication being that all
employees from time to time had to deal with family issues, health issues, and
home issues and that they were going to have to use some of the time that they
were at work to take care of these issues. By recognizing this and giving
employees the opportunities to address personal issues on the job, it would
relieve some of the burden and stress of the situation and they would be better
able to focus on the job. I came back from that seminar and talked to Jim Davey
about changing some of our personnel policies to accommodate employees’
personal lives. For example, we had a policy at that time that said employees
could only use their office phone to make and receive business calls. This was
before cell phones. I proposed that we change the policy to allow some limited
personal calls each day. Employees would be allowed to make and receive
personal calls not to exceed twenty minutes total time per day. This allowed
someone to make a call from work to schedule a plumber or other maintenance
worker for a home repair. Also to check in with their children to make sure they
arrived home from school safely since there was no one at home to greet them.
It was amazing how appreciative the staff was from this one change in the
personnel policies. In addition to attending seminars on work and family
issues, I was reading as much of the literature as I could on the subject. The
early data showed that the employees who had outside interests, including
families, were better employees, overall and that they scored better on
productivity and they were more reliable than people who had no life outside
the office. So, there was a cultural shift that was going on and a variety of
things that were coming together at the same time that led to more family
friendly policies. Also, having a Clerk at the time, Jim Davey, who was very
receptive to new ideas who basically said: “Let’s look into some things and try
some things to see if we can make life in the Clerk’s Office better for our staff.”
That helped a lot. Again, it was a variety of things, from the employees being
fed up, to society changing, to an interest on my part and a willingness on the
part of management to explore our options. That is what caused things to
change. Today employees talk openly about their families and we encourage
people to make choices that are in the best interest of the family at certain times
and then make choices that are best for the workplace and so that you have a
balance. That has worked out for everybody.
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy was most of the impetus coming from the work force, was it
coming from the women employees who were mothers or was there ever a time
when the men employees also seemed interested in making sure that they had
time and the ability to attend to their families?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: When I first started at the Clerk’s Office, most of the interest initially
came from the younger female employees. For a while there I thought that no
one who was a Courtroom Deputy was married. That wasn’t the case, but I
would say that about 75% of them were not married. They were single,
divorced or whatever, and so they were able to dedicate their whole lives to
their judge. And it was just kind of an interesting demographic. Then, as
courtroom deputies retired and people who were younger applied for those jobs
it became apparent that the questions used in the interviews that effectively
weeded out anyone who was married and had children were discriminatory.
Those questions were based on the perspective that, if you are going to get
married in the next few years, or if you are going to have a baby you really can’t
take this job. But it was hard to change the culture until one clerk who had
been in training to be a courtroom deputy and then interviewed for the next
opening for a courtroom deputy job took matters into her own hands. After the
official job interview, she had the audacity to go and talk to the judge who had
the opening and told him, “I’m a mom right now and I’ve got two young kids
and I would like to work for you. But, I would also like to get out of here about
4:30 p.m. and if that’s okay with you, I will make sure I get in early the next
morning and to do what I have to do.” And the Judge said “Okay let’s try that.”
Ms. Woodbury: So some flexibility from the judges too?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. And it was interesting too, because in talking to some of the older
judges who had had courtroom deputies that weren’t married, they were like
“Man they were awful, they had no life.” The judges had nothing to really talk
about with those courtroom deputies. The judges said they enjoyed it so much
better when they got a new person who came in, who had something to talk
about, somebody who had interests outside the courthouse. But it was the kind
of a culture that was there when I started. I don’t think that was a culture they
even cultivated as much as that was a reflection of the people who were
attracted to those positions, which were pretty much highly clerical.
Ms. Woodbury: And possibly the kinds of jobs that could take up all your time, because
the judge might not even know the extent to which his or her demands were
foreclosing a lot of other options?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes that’s true, and then we had courtroom deputies who, because they
didn’t have anything to go home to, would stretch the work day and be here
until 9 o’clock at night, and not because they had that much work.
Ms. Woodbury: It’s their home?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. Then they had a hard time when they were trying to train
someone. The bad habits of manufacturing work didn’t sit well with the
trainees. They, in essence, were being taught to fill up the day and into the
evening when working more efficiently and getting out of the courthouse at a
decent hour were what they wanted to do. But yes that was another big change.
Ms. Woodbury: Do you have any impression whether the other district courts in the
United States have gone through a similar metamorphosis in terms of,
historically courtroom deputies who devoted their lives to their jobs and then
moving towards something that’s a little more balanced?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. I think that a lot of the courts went through the same issues. The
courts which didn’t, in my opinion, benefit from some of the changes were
some district courts whose Courtroom Deputies were located in chambers and
are just not clearly…
Ms. Woodbury: Say that again?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: The Courtroom Deputy for each judge in some courts is actually located
in the Judge’s chambers. So that they work totally for the judge and they do a
variety of things including backing up when the judge’s secretary is not there.
Our District Court has never done that and we have been able to use Courtroom
Deputies who are available to support another judge whose Courtroom Deputy
is unavailable. And that gave the Courtroom Deputies a wider range of
experiences and kept them from being beholden to the judge 24/7. So I think
some of the courts where Courtroom Deputies still are located in chambers
have not necessarily seen that kind of shift from people who devote themselves
entirely to a single judge.
Ms. Woodbury: In terms of your tenure as Clerk of the Court, what achievements you
are most proud of?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Well, one of them is developing staff, developing employees to reach
their potential — five or six of my deputies have gone on to be Clerks of their
own courts — and watching them grow. Seeing them develop and take on
different responsibilities. And, for those who didn’t go on to be Clerks in other
courts, but just developed to their full potential in the office, well, there is
nothing more satisfying than helping them reach their full potential. I am really
proud of them and that has been one of the most satisfying parts of the job. Just
giving people the resources and the support and the opportunities to go do what
they want to do and do what they want to do well. There is nothing to compare
to that feeling of accomplishment, it’s huge. Another thing I am proud of is
helping develop a partnership with the judges and having the ability to actually
work with them and help make their job better and truly assist in the
administration of justice. To recognize and get your staff to recognize what the
true mission of the court is and not think about the job in terms of what your
particular piece of it is, but instead looking at the Clerk’s Office as a whole.
Seeing how everything we do is inter-related and thinking of yourself as having
a role in the administration of justice. For all of our employees, everything they
do impacts somebody’s life either down the road or potentially somebody’s
immediate freedom, if they don’t process information correctly, and that’s a big
responsibility. Doing your job well and owning the importance of doing it
correctly the first time can be very gratifying. Also, seeing our true job too, in
addition to the administration of justice, as conveying information and
recognizing that there are lots of audiences out there for the work that we do.
So that being accurate and being timely in getting the information processed is
critical in the age instant messaging and real time technology. Without a doubt
seeing all the different efforts that people engage in within the office, the
different projects they take on where they demonstrate their talents and
capabilities and the creative ways we have been able to use people’s talents to
fulfill our mission – that’s very satisfying.
Ms. Woodbury: What were the opportunities for development that you have talked
about? What did it involve? Supporting people going back to school, internal
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Exposing people to lots of different training and helping people see that
if they have a talent that they can use in the office, then we will explore ways to
utilize that talent. For example, we had some staff members who we
discovered were really good with computer graphics but their job did not
involve that skill set. When we asked them to help develop the logos and
templates for our annual reports and other publications, they jumped at the
chance to contribute at that level. If we hadn’t made efforts to discover these
hidden talents, we would not have benefitted from their creativity and they
would not have had the opportunity to showcase their talents. We provided
training in public speaking and found that we had several employees who were
wonderful at it. These staff members began making presentations at our
monthly meetings and volunteered to lead tours of our office for student groups.
The positions they held in the office did not call for them to do any public
speaking but because we uncovered these talents we were able to take
advantage of this skillset and the employees were able to add a new and
satisfying dimension to their job. Exploring through training and staff
development all the talents and capabilities of our staff was definitely a winwin for everyone. It is interesting to note that sometimes this process resulted in
an employee concluding that they really needed to take their talents and find a
different position in a different organization. They realized that they had a good
job and they were making good money, but they really wanted to utilize their
talents full time and they couldn’t do that in their positon at the court. For
example, one of our employees realized she wanted to teach so she left us and
went back to school to get a teaching degree. We had let her do some training
for us and she discovered that training/teaching was where her heart was, where
she was happiest. We encouraged people to find out what they were passionate
about – what skills they had that when they used them they felt fulfilled and
fully engaged. If you can figure out a way to move that passion into your daily
tasks, it makes everything so much better, and it makes for much better
employees. Other ways to help employees have a more positive approach to
their jobs involved telecommuting. Some staff members just needed to work at
home a day a week so they could cut back on their commute. Getting that
opportunity to spend one day a week working from home and not fighting
traffic for two hours on the way to work and two hours on the way home
improved their whole outlook on their job and their overall well-being – again a
win-win for everyone. We tried to be creative and innovative in our approach
to developing our staff. We tried to tap into as many areas of staff development
as we could. We wanted to think outside the box and use flexibility, creativity,
the utilization of hidden talents and innovative ideas to make our workplace and
workforce the best it could be and thU.S. Attract and retain productive and
We had a project one time involving our files room. Our files room was
a mess. The files room staff would do their best to keep the files organized but
since most of our staff and staff from our judges’ chambers had access to the
room and pulled and refiled case files on a regular basis, there were too many
opportunities for misfiled case jackets and files left in random stacks
throughout the room. We decided to start a program called “Adopt a File
Shelf.” It was based on the popular “Adopt a Road” program that most of our
employees were familiar with where an organization volunteers to clean up and
maintain a section of a major road. We asked our staff who were not assigned
to work in the files room to sign up to adopt a shelf or adopt up to three shelves.
They would then be responsible for going through the case files on that shelf or
shelves and make sure they belonged on that shelf and that they were filed in
the correct order. Then it became their job in their free time to manage those
shelves. It had to be during their lunch hour or before or after their work hours.
I was so pleased with the enthusiasm and all the efforts that our staff put into
the shelves they adopted. It was amazing. It was a program that was such a
little thing and it went over so well. It was effective in stopping all the
displaced files and everyone benefited because when they went to locate a file,
it was actually in the correct place on the shelf. It made everyone more
efficient and our staff more productive. And it was fun. After getting the files
they were responsible for in proper order, people decorated their shelves, and it
was a chance to utilize their creativity. It was people showing off a little bit. It
was people getting competitive but collegial and in the long run it benefited
everybody and it was a lot of fun.
Ms. Woodbury: That’s very interesting, and it gives everybody who is participating a
project that’s doable. It is not quite so overwhelming as taking on the
organization of the entire file room.
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Right and it made the staff in the files room feel like people appreciated
them for what they did. Because when people went in to manage their shelf, it
was hard – it was harder than they thought. It was eye-opening for everybody
and it actually caused some changes in the file room.
We also had a poetry contest one time for Valentine’s Day. People
submitted poems anonymously and then a group of employees reviewed all the
poems and picked one winner. The woman whose poem was selected
published her poems about three years later. She said “I finally got the courage
to send my poems in for publication and that was because I won the contest.”
You know she was in our finance office. Her work had nothing to do with
poetry, or even writing. But the contest gave her the opportunity to show off
Mostly I felt like I was the cheerleader and the resource provider. I
wasn’t the originator of the ideas for the most part. I would have Open Forums
where we would talk about ways that would solve problems, and invariably
people had great ideas. It was giving them the opportunity to use that creativity
to solve problems. It showed that people could be motivated by incentives other
than money. Sometimes, because of the way an employee solved a problem
using their creativity, they received a cash award. But, it wasn’t just about
financial incentives. It was more about “Hey if you could have ownership of
this problem how would you solve it?” And letting the people who actually did
the work tell the people who didn’t do the work how it should be done and how
it could be done better. Over time you saw some of our courtroom deputies,
who didn’t have great partnerships with chambers staff, build on those ideas.
We didn’t have this we versus them mentality that we sometimes had in
chamber’s staff. It was just tons of those opportunities over the years that were
very fulfilling and satisfying, but it was the people, working with the different
Ms. Woodbury: You gave people surprising ways to develop, kind of nonstandard
outlets for their talents?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Right.
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy, you were giving an overview of the changes that happened
while you worked for the court and especially during the time you were Clerk
of the Court. I wanted to ask you if there were any disappointments or things
that you might do differently in retrospect.
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: I don’t know that I have any disappointments. I’m sure that there are
things that I could have done better. Actually, I know there are. I’m not
necessarily a detail person, I’m more of a big picture person and I am sure that
sometimes, because that’s not my constitution, we could have done a better job
on some reports maybe or focusing in on some issue that was an underlying
problem but we didn’t necessarily address it. I guess maybe because I’m two
years out, the disappointments have faded a little bit. One disappointment I had
was that I really never felt that the Administrative Office, which is the central
office that has oversight for the administration of the judiciary, ever really
appreciated the significance of the role of the Clerk of Court. I think that they
enjoyed dealing with judges and they set the tone for the Judicial Conference
meetings because the AO does all the planning and supplies all the materials for
the judges for their work at the conference meetings. But I don’t think that
there was ever really a good healthy relationship between the administrative
staff of the courts and the Administrative Office.
Ms. Woodbury: You’ve mention from time to time over these interviews some of the
changes that occurred in the Administrative Office, were there other changes in
the Administrative Office during the time you were with the Court?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, we went from what they called a “Mother may I” approach, where
every time you wanted do anything you had to send them a letter or pick up the
phone and ask them if you could buy more paper than you bought last year, and
that sort of thing. Certainly decentralizing the budget to the courts and letting
the courts make day to day decisions, was huge. That was a huge change. But
the problem was that the AO started growing at a very fast pace and outgrew its
ability to manage itself. It grew from a fairly small entity into a major agency.
In my opinion, the AO staff often forgets that the courts could exist without
them but they could not exist without us. If there are no courts, there is no need
for an AO. But the courts can exist on our own, without them. I’m making a
broad generalization. But because of the size of the Administrative Office and
because of the difficulty of managing the Administrative Office and its growth,
you’ve got a stove pipe organization where each division within the
Administrative Office had its own marching orders. The divisions did not work
well together and the business of the courts suffered as a result. The AO was
not a well- oiled machine. I think that in recent years they have made some
efforts to change. Ralph Mecham, who was the head of the AO for a long
time, tried to modernize the relationship between the courts and the
Administrative Office. But it was a big cultural shift for the AO and it was hard
to get people to change. Mecham was a strong leader but he needed a really
strong second-in-command who actually managed the internal operations of the
office. And for years and years he did not have one. As a side note, at the
present time the AO has a judge who is the head of the agency. Judge Hogan
from our court is now the head of the AO. The Supreme Court Chief Justice is
the one who selects the AO Director and traditionally this person has been a
non-judge who has extensive leadership and management experience. The man
who was hired to replace Mecham — James Duff – stayed for about 7 years and
then moved back to the private sector. Before he came to the AO he worked as
a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. He was hired primarily to persuade Congress that
the judges deserved a pay raise and he worked very hard but ultimately
unsuccessfully to accomplish that goal. But all of his efforts went toward that
goal and none to reforming the internal culture of the AO. Jim Duff went back
to private practice because it didn’t appear that there was going to be a raise in
the next few years, and he was tired of hitting his head against the wall. The
search for a successor was not going well so, as I understand it, Chief Justice
Roberts asked Judge Hogan if he would take over as Director of the AO on an
interim basis. I guess until they could really decide what they wanted to do in
the long term. Judge Hogan has been in that position almost a year and I think
he’s either going to be asked to stay on a little longer or they will ask another
judge to come and do the same thing. I think that this is unfortunate because it
misunderstands the whole nature of the Administrative Office. You need a
trained experienced administrator to lead that effort, not a judge. I know in
talking to other Clerks of Court with whom I still have contact that their
relationship with the AO is still an issue. You still have to ask the question the
right way in order to get resources. You know I met recently with one of our
judges and the Deputy Director of the Administrative Office who is sort of new
to the position. Our judge was recounting his concerns and they were very
similar to the ones we had about how can you wrest back control from each
individual AO office now that they have all created their own internal
automation staff, they’ve created their own little (for lack of a better word) HR
staff, even though there is a central HR staff. But they have all worked on their
own so much that it’s hard to take that back from people when its been the
culture for so long. There is a lot of…still a lot of misdirected energy there.
Ms. Woodbury: When you say each office, are you talking each court?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: No, I’m talking about the offices or divisions within the Administrative
Office like the Court Administration Division, the Probation Division, the
Office of Defender Services, and the Judges’ Division. All of those groups
over time, because there wasn’t a lot of direction from the top, improvised and
created their own internal systems and now the upper level management is
seeing the duplication of functions in so many offices. And the courts bear the
brunt of that misdirection. The lack of coordination sometimes meant never
getting things done because there was so much in-fighting among the divisions.
The tension between the Administrative Office and the courts was there when I
started and it was there when I left. Clearly what’s really frustrating about it is
that there are some very, very good people in the Administrative Office, really
good staff, and they were equally frustrated.
Ms. Woodbury: And maybe it was just a hard thing to figure out what the relationship
should be across all these different divisions, and what AO’s role should be?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes and I go back to the fact that they had just had unprecedented
growth, and with growth you need management of the growth and systematic
review of it.
Ms. Woodbury: Why do you think that the AO had that growth? What caused that?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: I think part of it stemmed from the fact that there were some GAO
reports of poor practices in the courts. One in particular was a report about jury
management and how much money was spent on jurors who reported for jury
service but were not actually needed. The GAO decided and recommended to
Congress that the courts needed more oversight. So the courts’ reaction was to
form a Judicial Conference committee on jury improvements which is like
taking a hammer to get a gnat. In order to support that committee the AO had to
hire more staff. So some of the growth was just a reaction. Another example is
the Civil Justice Reform Act. When it was enacted, the AO saw it as an
opportunity to again hire more staff under the guise that they were doing it
solely to support the judges. In turn, the judges’ reaction was that they were
happy to have the additional support.
Ms. Woodbury: So piece by piece people justify the growth, but then overall it gets out
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Overall you sit back and say “What can all those people be doing?”
Ms. Woodbury: And maybe the pieces stay on after their useful life?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Absolutely. Also, the AO got creative in their growth at one point. This
happened when several judges who were on Judicial Conference Committees
got concerned when the number of employees at the AO was getting close to
1,000 people. The AO decided to use funding that was designated for the
courts to hire contract workers. The rationale was that the contract workers
were supporting the mission of the courts and thus the AO was justified in
doing this. The AO got some judges on the Judicial Conference to sign off on
this practice and it went on for more than a few years. By hiring contract
workers the AO could stay below the 1,000 employee limit because contract
workers did not receive benefits and so did not count as employees in the
traditional sense of the word. There was never a sense of transparency in what
the AO was doing. The courts found out about this practice through some
insiders at the AO who would leak information to the courts. Some of the
Clerks of Court brought this practice to the attention of their Chief Judges and
the AO had to discontinue using court funding for what are technically AO
employees. In the present situation at the AO the Deputy Director Jill Sayenga,
who was formerly the Circuit Executive for the D.C. Circuit, together with
Judge Hogan have done a good job of going division by division and reviewing
the mission of the office and reducing resources where there is duplication of
efforts. There have been some good changes but there is still a lot of frustration
because it has taken so long to make the adjustments.
Ms. Woodbury: What prompted you to retire when you did?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: I was actually going to retire when I turned 50. That would have meant
taking what is termed an early out. That was my plan. Ultimately, it was a pipe
dream, but that was my original plan. I think that dream is what helped me get
through some of the tough days when being a full time mom and being a full
time Clerk seemed impossible to accomplish. I wanted to go while I liked what
I was doing a lot and was still young enough to do something else. So my
decision to retire definitely wasn’t because I didn’t like my job, and it definitely
wasn’t because it got overwhelming or because of the people, or because I got
bored, or anything like that. I really loved what I was doing. Going back to my
original plan, I didn’t retire at 50 for a variety of reasons. The number one
reason was I hadn’t thought through the financial implications of taking a 10%
reduction in the annuity I would receive for leaving 5 years earlier than age 55
which is the earliest you can retire and receive a full annuity. Ultimately, it
wasn’t in the best interest of our family’s financial situation in the long term.
Another reason was the Court was in the midst of implementing online filing
and it just wasn’t a great time to go. Also when I turned 50 that was the point
when my counterpart in the Bankruptcy Court decided that she wanted to retire,
and take an early out. So, I decided to retire when I turned 55 and oversee the
full implementation of electronic filing, consolidate the District and Bankruptcy
Clerk’s Offices and receive my full annuity. I would have been at the court for
just over 30 years and that seemed good enough. There are great people in the
office, and I knew the office was in really good shape, they would do fine, and
in fact they would do wonderful new things. So that was my new plan and that
would have been right before Judge Hogan stepped down as Chief Judge.
What influenced me to stay after I turned 55 quite frankly was Judge Lamberth
saying: “I’m going to be the new Chief Judge and you are trying to desert me
Ms. Woodbury: Judge Lamberth was saying: “I have to have a transition here”?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: I understood. I would have felt the same way. Once I let go of the pipe
dream of 50 then 55 became the target. Adding two more years and going at 57
didn’t seem so bad. So I told Judge Lamberth I would stay on for two more
years and then I really wanted to retire. He was wonderful to work with and
when I turned 57 he was very supportive of my decision to go. I had wonderful
relationships with the Judge Hogan and Judge Lamberth, and all my Chief
Judges and good relationships with the other judges. That wasn’t why I
decided to retire. It was just the right time for me and my family.
Ms. Woodbury: Did you participate in any way in the choice of your successor?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, I was involved in drafting the vacancy announcement, reviewing
applications and being a part of the interviews. My successor is Angela Caesar.
Ms. Woodbury: Did you have any advice for her when she assumed your job as Clerk of
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Well, yes. Let me give you some background so you can understand my
relationship with Angela before she became Clerk of Court. While Chief Judge
Hogan was still Chief Judge, he asked me if I had any idea of any candidates in
the office interested in succeeding me as Clerk when I decided to retire. I told
him there were a few people in the organization that would do a good job. One
person was Greg Hughes, who was at that time and is still the Chief Deputy for
Operations, and the other was Angela who at that time was the Assistant Chief
Deputy for Operations. There were a couple of other people who I think had
and still have potential to move up to a Chief Deputy and potentially a Clerk of
the Court position. So I talked to Greg about his plans for the future and he
said he might be interested in being Clerk of the Court, but he wanted to think
about it. Ultimately, he concluded that he preferred being a Chief Deputy. This
was like again, 2 or 3 years out. I talked to Angela and she was interested, but
she wasn’t sure she wanted to do that and she was very humble and she said
“Oh, I’m not sure I can take on all that responsibility.” I told her “I think it’s
important for you to look at where you are now and decide if you are satisfied
with your position. If not and you might want to become Clerk someday, you
need to learn the other half of the court” which is the administrative part.
Angela was mostly in the operations end of the Court. So she did, on her own,
take on some projects and work with the Chief Deputy for Administration to
become more acquainted with her responsibilities. Ultimately, when that
position became vacant, because my Chief Deputy for Administration became
Clerk of Court for the District of Connecticut, Angela applied for the position.
I did not participate on that interview team. They had a screening process and I
selected the person from the 3 candidates and we had Angela and two external
candidates that applied. One from another court and one from the private
sector. Ultimately, Angela’s experience and knowledge and her work ethic and
her working knowledge led to her appointment as Chief Deputy for
Administration. And once that happened I knew she would then be able to pick
up the budget piece and the finance piece and that would be a good thing for her
if she decided to become the Clerk.
Ms. Woodbury: Is she happy, do you know, in her new role?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, yes.
Ms. Woodbury: She’s glad she did that?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: She’s glad she did it. And for the first 6 months to a year, she and I
talked on a regular basis. This was mostly to help her take care of some issues
that she had not dealt with in the past. Some processes come up once every 3
years, for example, renewal of the Magistrate Judges, and some only occur once
every ten year such as the reappointment of our Federal Public Defender, things
like that that she would not necessarily have experienced first hand. Also, I had
worked a lot with the judges on the Judicial Conference committees and
although I shared that information with her, and Greg, once she became Chief
Deputy some issues had long histories, you know and there was some
institutional knowledge where I could help her, give her more background. She
was very good at calling to get more information when she needed it. She was
sweet. She told me, “Every time I have a difficult problem that I need to solve,
I ask myself ‘What would Nancy do?’” She was great at asking me for
background information but she didn’t ask me to solve any of her problems.
She was very capable of doing that herself.
Ms. Woodbury: She was using you as a resource?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, and that’s exactly what I should be used for at that time, and it was
very nice. She just showed really good judgment.
Ms. Woodbury: Have you enjoyed your retirement?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: I’ve liked it a lot. I can honestly say that there is not one day that I have
woken up and said “Gosh I wish I was back at the Courthouse.”
Ms. Woodbury: “Oh I can’t wait to get to the office this morning?”
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes, and it has nothing to do with the people or the work. Most of it has
to do with not having to commute every morning, and evening. Some of it is
not feeling the pressure every day from being in a fairly high profile, highly
intense work environment. Not having that pressure has been really, really
Ms. Woodbury: Being able to decide what you want to do with your day?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. And that actually was harder than I thought. I’ve been very busy,
but some of it hasn’t been as fulfilling as the work I was doing so I’ve learned
over the last two years to pick and choose what I get involved in. I want to help
out on efforts that are important to me but I don’t want to run the whole thing –
at least not right now – I just want to help out.
Ms. Woodbury: Right, you’re not going to take on the whole organization or project?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Exactly. But I have been able to spend more time supporting the group
that my friend and I founded, 16 years ago.
Ms. Woodbury: This is Isaiah’s Promise?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Yes. I’ve been able to do a lot more with Isaiah’s Promise. I’m able to
speak regularly to groups or help with starting support groups, and talk about
the importance of this type of support. I was actually just down at the Rayburn
Building in February talking to some Congressional staffers about my work
with Isaiah’s Promise. I don’t see my role or work with Isaiah’s Promise as
advocacy. I’m not convincing anybody to carry their child to term. I’m letting
people know about the resources out there for people who decide to carry to
term. We don’t get involved in the politics of pro-life or pro-choice, or
anything like that as much as we try to offer support to people who make that
Ms. Woodbury: Let them know about things they might not have known about?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Right, and make the path a little easier for them. We used to work with
maybe 4 -5 families a year, when I was working full time. Right now we are
supporting 6 families at once and we expect that number to increase as the year
progresses. Last year we supported more than 20 families. So that’s been a
great benefit of retiring and having the time to expand our efforts with Isaiah’s
Promise. I’ve had the freedom to be able to do that. I’m writing a little bit,
working on my second book, and I’m Vice President of the Rockville High
School PTA, a member of a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees at the
Academy of the Holy Cross High School and I’m chair of our Pastoral Council
at my parish, the Shrine of St. Jude’s.
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy, one of the things that we touched on in one of the interviews
was how you and your husband had juggled the family with the demands of
your jobs. I’m just wondering as you stayed in the position of Clerk of the
Court, and I’m sure a lot of women wonder, how you were able to handle such a
high profile job and raise your children at the same time? I know in addition to
Molly, you and your husband also adopted children. Were there any changes in
the court that made juggling those responsibilities easier or was it again your
family being close and able to help?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: It was probably a combination of both. I think that I benefited from the
shift that occurred in the late 80s early 90s of accepting the idea that women
with children were in the workforce to stay. That it was okay to say that your
family and your job were important to you. I educated myself so that I had a
better understanding of how you could develop policies that that helped
employees balance work and family responsibilities. Often times it was through
trial and error that effective policies and practices developed but it was a
learning experience and it helped me when I married and had children to be a
good employee, employer and parent. Also, I had judges who had children and
recognized the stress imposed on working parents and who encouraged me to
be flexible and keep my priorities straight. I didn’t get married until I was 34 so
I was also an older mom, and I was more established in my career. I had already
proven to the court my commitment to the office and I wasn’t trying to impress
people — those are not the right words — I didn’t feel as though I had to go
overboard to stay endless hours at the courthouse in order to get the job done. I
needed to work smarter not harder. I knew I could work really hard but I also
needed to be there for soccer games and dance recitals, and because I was
established in my position I was allowed that flexibility. I had wonderful Chief
Judges who when I said to them one of my daughters is receiving an award
tomorrow afternoon so I’m coming in early so I can leave a little early, or I have
to come in a little bit late and I will stay late, they would always say “I’m
measuring you on what you are doing not the schedule you keep. Be there for
your family.” That was really good to hear. I think if I had been in my 20s and
I’m still learning my job and trying to plan for my future and at the same time
wondering how to be a wife and mother, it would have been much harder. My
husband was amazingly flexible. He was a school teacher, he was off in the
summers and he’s off during all the vacation times so that helped a lot that he
could be home when I couldn’t. He was around for those times when I had to
spend more time at the office. He got home earlier than I did and made dinner
and I came home and helped with homework.
Ms. Woodbury: So, sharing?
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Very good sharing and an extended family. I remember saying to all
my kids that you can’t join any team unless one of your cousins is on it. That
way we could share carpooling. Having nine sisters living close by and their
families, its helps hugely, it helps a lot. I’ve been blessed with having a great
career and a wonderful family.
Ms. Woodbury: Nancy, we have come to the end of today’s session and of your
interview for the Historical Society’s Oral History Project. This has been a
wonderful experience and I want to thank you again for all of your time.
Ms. Mayer-Whittington: Thank you, too.