ORAL HISTORY OF JUDGE CHARLES RICHEY
The following interview was conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the District of
Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is District Judge Charles R. Richey; the interviewer is Daniel
Singer. This interview took place in the chambers of Judge Richey in the United States
Courthouse in Washington, D.C. between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Thursday,
April 13, 1995. This is the second interview.
Judge Richey: As you know, Jews were chased out of Egypt, if you know anything about
Mr. Singer: That’s a history I know something about.
Judge Richey: And they have been chased all over the world ever since. And yet our
new and current President of the United States laudably said he wanted an
administration that reflected diversity, which is being construed as
minorities. And the only minorities he talks about are African
Mr. Singer: And women.
Judge Richey: And women. That’s right. African Americans and women. I happen to
have had a very unexpected casual conversation at the beginning of the
administration with Joe Biden, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
And the opportunity presented itself, and so I mentioned one of my former
law clerks as a possible nominee for being on the court. He said he
wouldn’t meet the qualifications. That made me very angry.
Mr. Singer: On religious grounds or racial grounds — or just being white?
Judge Richey: Just being white! I said, Joe, you have to understand something. He is a
Jew, and that qualifies him as a minority, and don’t you ever forget it.
Whereupon the Chairman says, “Judge, I knew you were smart, but I never
thought of that.” Here is the Chairman of the United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary — that’s you know, been there, in his third term
at least — that didn’t even recognize that fundamental principle. It angers
me. It angers me, Dan.
Mr. Singer: I find myself being very uneasy with Mr. Biden.
Judge Richey: Well, I could tell you a lot of things about Mr. Biden, and his crime
position, and so on, but here’s a man that didn’t even recognize that. And,
I don’t think the administration recognizes it. And I don’t think it’s fair. I
don’t think it is right. And the only thing you could say is it has a lot of
historical precedent even though the history is wrong. I am sorry. I am
sorry I’m in the minority again.
Mr. Singer: [Laughter.] In the minority, again.
Judge Richey: I apologize to you.
Mr. Singer: First of all, let me tell you I listened to the tapes of the first session.
Judge Richey: Yes.
Mr. Singer: They’re excellent! I mean excellent in terms of the mechanics, the
electronics. It works.
Judge Richey: All right. Okay.
Mr. Singer: And I could hear the noises, the words came though quite clearly. For
that I was immensely grateful.
Judge Richey: All right.
Mr. Singer: The other thing is toward the end of the session I mentioned that Mickey
Bazelon had married.
Judge Richey: Oh, yes.
Mr. Singer: And, I bring to you the announcement that we received of her wedding. I
wrote to her for my wife and me at the Watergate West address which I
believe is where she still lives. Where she and David lived.
Judge Richey: Oh yes, we were there, at the, you know — whatever you call it after
Mr. Singer: Yeah, you go to pay a condolence call. We were there at that point. We
had known the two boys, Ricky and Jim, when they were growing up. I
guess Ab Mikva was there the night we went. But, I think she now
spends a lot of time in Florida.
Judge Richey: St. Petersburg or Sarasota.
Mr. Singer: They had a place down there.
Judge Richey: I think it was in Sarasota. Mickey — somebody was teasing her that night.
I forget who it was, who was there. Mickey typically was running the
place and so on.
Mr. Singer: [Laughter.] That’s what I said — you’d like to keep that….
Judge Richey: I do want to and I know Mardelle will too. I hope Mr. Knox is a good
guy because he is getting a great quality lady. He is. She’s quite a lady.
Mr. Singer: The other thing that we talked about was you said you would offer me a
copy of Judicial Council Report on Gender and Race in the Courthouse.
Judge Richey: Oh, I sure will. Yes, I will get it.
Mr. Singer: Now, this wonderful book you gave me on Judaism and ecology…
Judge Richey: Yes.
Mr. Singer: …is actually one of a series in which each of the world’s major religions is
allowed and encouraged basically to write down how within its own
tradition they were ecologically correct over the years. That’s basically it,
is a kind of a search for quotable material and important considerations.
Judge Richey: That’s correct. It is a series, but to me it helped prove where the so-called
modern day environmental movement began and had its foundation or
genesis. And, it does come from the Talmud.
Mr. Singer: That the Talmud supports it for sure. And, indeed, I have been part of —
this is an interview of you not me — but, I was one of the founders of an
American support group for something called the Society for the
Preservation of Nature in Israel.
Judge Richey: Bless your heart.
Mr. Singer: The Nature Protection Society. It’s an organization that has done some
really wonderful things and also runs wonderful tours in Israel. You’re
out there walking. Actually the American group actually was founded by
me and Sam Lewis in 1985. Right after his term as Ambassador.
Judge Richey: I see.
Mr. Singer: Or, his second term as Ambassador. He then retired from the State
Department and then started this group.
Judge Richey: Interesting, I never knew how it started.
Mr. Singer: Oh, I will have to send you some information.
Judge Richey: Wow, if there’s anything I can do to help; I am an easy touch for the state
Mr. Singer: Good.
Judge Richey: Easy touch.
Mr. Singer: That’s not easy so I won’t return this to you. But thanks.
Judge Richey: All right. Well, that’s one of my favorite books. And Aubrey Rose
called me the other day and I was unavailable and didn’t get a chance to
take the call. So, I don’t know what he’s got on his mind. I like the man
Mr. Singer: Well, I think it’s important to develop as large a constituency as possible
for protecting the environment. Obviously, one of the biggest and most
difficult of these issues has to do with population.
Judge Richey: It sure does.
Mr. Singer: Which is right at the heart of the…
Judge Richey: Well, you know Dan, one of the troubles with Israel — I get into trouble
with some of my dear friends when I say this, but I think it is the truth, or
correct, is more appropriate — that when the state of Israel was founded in
1948 they allowed a lot of Arabs to live there too.
Mr. Singer: That’s for sure.
Judge Richey: I argued in the beginning they should be excluded. Of course, now that is
not a very humanitarian thing to say, I guess, but it is a practical thing.
Mr. Singer: It’s becoming the policy of the state of Israel. The separation – a serious
Judge Richey: It should be. For their own good. You see, people have spent their lives
seeking this out. After we get it, 50 years later, the Arabs are going to
take us over.
Mr. Singer: The problem as I see it is slightly different in emphasis and that is while
the Arabs are prolific, and the Jews have responded to that by at least the
current government’s willingness to give back territory.
Judge Richey: Oh, yes. An accommodation type of thing.
Mr. Singer: But what is much more distressing in the long run, to me — and I have a
daughter who has emigrated to Israel and another one who is about to
return from a year and one-half from teaching there, my wife is on the
Board of the Weizmann Institute for Israel. We are probably in Israel at
least once a year — is that as prolific as Arab families are the Orthodox
Jews are every bit as prolific, and from my point of view the shift within
the state of Israel with its 1946…
Judge Richey: 1948.
Mr. Singer: 1948 boundaries toward an Orthodox community as opposed to an
accommodating community within the Jewish community is really bad
news, both for the state of Israel and, I think, for its neighbors as well.
Whereas the more liberal end of Judaism and the more liberal political
policies within Judaism are toward attempts to make peace within the state,
within the area, whereas the Orthodox have a different set of priorities
which I think are not promoting peace in the region.
Judge Richey: That may be true, I don’t know that.
Mr. Singer: Well, I have had my turn at being interviewed today.
Judge Richey: You have caused me to think a lot. I had one Orthodox young man who
was a law clerk. His father was the Director of the Federal Judicial
Center, Leo Levin. I will never forget. During the holidays he would
take eight days off from work. I said one day, “Allen, we’ve got an awful
lot of work to do here at the court. You should be in the temple on the
holy days, but my goodness gracious we have work to do. I didn’t know
that you have all these days off. Are you sure you are telling me the
truth?” I didn’t know this.
Mr. Singer: [Laughter.]
Judge Richey: “Well, you know it now Judge.” Okay.
Mr. Singer: That’s pretty straight forward.
Judge Richey: Well, you know it now Judge.
Mr. Singer: Toward the end of our first session we were talking about your work with
Judge Richey: Oh, yes.
Mr. Singer: And then your work with the National Committee and your escapades in
Salt Lake City at the Young Republicans Convention and how you
engineered a minor revolution, particularly, in response to this episode in
Salt Lake City being unable to house in public accommodations your
colleagues from the Northwest. And how you basically engineered a
declaration on the part of the Republican National Committee that they
would not hold any more conventions in any place where…
Judge Richey: Every American wouldn’t be accepted.
Mr. Singer: Right. That must have been pretty heady stuff at the age of twenty-five,
twenty-six years old.
Judge Richey: Well, you know, it may have been. In retrospect is seems that way, but at
that time, it was just a natural thing to do.
Mr. Singer: It seemed like the right thing to do?
Judge Richey: The right thing to do. And it was easy. I don’t claim any big credit for
it. It was easy to do because it was right. But, I haven’t changed one
whit since then.
Mr. Singer: You’ve gotten older, that’s for sure. [Laughter.]
Judge Richey: Well, I’ve gotten a lot older, but, you know, I haven’t changed a whit.
Some youngster came in here from Williams & Connolly a few years ago
and sat over there at the other end of this room at my desk and he said,
“I’ve finally figured you out, Judge.” I said, “Oh. What’s that Martin?”
He said, “You’re going to do what’s fundamentally fair. No matter what’s
involved — in every decision you make.” I said, “Martin, that’s about
right. I’ve never heard it put that way.” But, that’s the way you approach
problems and life. So, I don’t know.
Mr. Singer: But shortly after that set of episodes you left Congress.
Judge Richey: I did.
Mr. Singer: And it’s that transition that has got to be of interest in a variety of ways.
By that time you had met Mardelle?
Judge Richey: Yes. Yes, I hadn’t married her yet. But, yes, I had met Mardelle. We
met in the spring of 1948 before that episode in Salt Lake City, which was
in June of ’48, ’49. We were married in March of 1950. Dan, after
Ms. Bolton let me work for the national campaign. I think I told you.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: Dan, then since they lost I had to study for the bar. I went back and did
that. While I was there, I told you, they called and asked me to head up
the arrangements for the convention. That’s how I got into that skirmish
with the Mormons. And then, I came back here or at the Convention was
elected — head of the Young Republicans of the country.
Mr. Singer: You were the number one. You were the youngest of them.
Judge Richey: Right.
Mr. Singer: The number one Republican.
Judge Richey: Of the nation. Yes. Which would have never happened had I stayed a
Mr. Singer: Sure.
Judge Richey: There was just more opportunities for young Turks which we were called
at that time.
Mr. Singer: And your mentors?
Judge Richey: I’ll tell you another little side thing that you might historically find
interesting and of significance. Sometime shortly after I was there at the
Committee, somebody, I don’t know who now, brought to my attention that
the employment application form for jobs at the National Committee asked
the question about race and religion. And they brought it to my attention.
I said, “For goodness sakes, a modern-day political party asking these
kinds of questions. What difference does that make?” So, I called up
and asked then Chairman Carol Reece of Tennessee for an appointment.
I was told in advance. So, I told some of my friends what I was going to
do. They said, “You will be fired.” I said, “That’s all right.” I didn’t
have a dime anyhow when I came here. So, what the hell difference does
it make? So, I got the appointment. It lasted less than three minutes. I
said, “Mr. Chairman, I have been given this application and I think these
two questions are just absolutely abominable, and wrong. I can’t
understand why we would have them. And I’m here to ask you to take
them out.” He said, “You’re absolutely right. We will.” I was stunned
because here was a man who had served in Congress for about 30 years.
east Tennessee, I think it was east, there were two Republican districts:
his and Howard Baker’s. Howard Baker, Sr.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: That were solidly hill country Republican. But he agreed with me.
Right off the top of the bat. I expected resistance. Didn’t get a single,
solitary thing. It was changed which I have never forgotten.
Mr. Singer: Oh, I would think not.
Judge Richey: But, I did that.
Mr. Singer: Who were your mentors, the people to whom you looked up within the
framework line of the party?
Judge Richey: Of the party at that time?
Mr. Singer: The party and otherwise.
Judge Richey: Well, I looked up to men like Ralph Becker at the Committee, Ab
Hermann who Davidson brought in as the executive director, both
enormously honest, liberal, sensitive human beings. On the Hill, the
liberal way in the party, there were lots of them then in influential
positions. John Lindsay, a young member of the House; Margaret Chase
Smith, I was a great admirer of hers. Clifford Case of New Jersey, John
Lodge of Connecticut; Saltonstall of Massachusetts; his older brother; Bob
Smylie of Idaho; Gordon Allott of Colorado; Pat Hillings who succeeded
Nixon out in California; John Walter. Even though I opposed his election
as National Chairman, I became very fond of him.
Mr. Singer: But as Chairman of the Young Republicans, you moved your base of
operations off the Hill.
Judge Richey: Yes.
Mr. Singer: I mean, is that correct?
Judge Richey: Oh, that’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right. And at that time, and
to that work, I probably knew on a first name basis 95 percent of the
Republican members of the House and Senate. It was through that that I
was able in 1950 to begin the practice of law. Because when, for
example, H. Alexander Smith, liberal Republican Senator from New
Jersey, Ab Herman was his Executive Director. And people from an
industrial state like New Jersey would write to their Senator and say we
have this problem with this government contract or this immigration
problem. Would you help us? And in the same way on the House side
with many others and because they knew me — they’d refer them to me.
That was a reference point. I met lots of people from all over the country.
There was a leading Chinese American in New York City that sent me
hundreds of Chinese American claimants to Chinese American citizenship
— derivative citizenship. Until the McCarran Act came along, whenever
that was passed, near the mid-50’s, we were making a fortune here in the
Mr. Singer: But, you thought of yourself as a Maryland practitioner?
Judge Richey: In, D.C. at that time.
Mr. Singer: And you were alone in the practice?
Judge Richey: Yes, started out all alone. Totally unorthodox way of going about being a
Mr. Singer: That’s right.
Judge Richey: But, I always wanted to work for myself. And I like to be the beneficiary
of my own rewards for my own efforts. I didn’t want to be in a firm. I
wanted to start my own. And I did. There was a book that had a lot of
influence, entitled Never Plead Guilty. Have you ever read it?
Mr. Singer: No, but it certainly…
Judge Richey: It’s out of print. It was written by a fellow named Jake Ehrlich.
Mr. Singer: That’s a name I know.
Judge Richey: Well, Jake was a brother of Myron Ehrlich, a prominent criminal lawyer
here in town who became friendly with me. Or, I became friendly with
him in the practice of law. Both of those boys grew up as Jews in
Rockville, Maryland. Jake went to San Francisco and he described in the
book how he knew that because of his background, lack of money, and so
forth that he would never be able to represent the DuPonts and General
Motors so he cast his lot with the little people. Basically, that’s what I
did, based on that book.
Mr. Singer: That book will have a rebirth with three strikes and you’re out. Well, it
already is in California. Crowding dockets, unbelievable criminal law
Judge Richey: Well, sure.
Mr. Singer: Predicable outcomes.
Judge Richey: Of course it’s true. He became a millionaire in San Francisco.
Mr. Singer: Jake?
Judge Richey: Yes, Jake Ehrlich did, very successful.
Mr. Singer: Did Charles Richey become a millionaire in Washington with the same
Judge Richey: Charles Richey was on his way to becoming a millionaire. I could have
been in another four or five years.
Mr. Singer: Another four or five years?
Judge Richey: After 1971.
Mr. Singer: Okay, by that time. By that time you had been in practice almost 22 years
and you’ve got the world by the tail at that point.
Judge Richey: Yes, I did. I was very lucky.
Mr. Singer: But, you made your political bed in Maryland?
Judge Richey: I did and that was a very interesting piece of luck. I don’t know if you
remember, but Dan, there was a parochial war that started in the
Montgomery County Bar and then spread to the State Bar — that D.C.
lawyers could not probate estates or practice in Maryland unless they lived
there and had a full-time office.
Mr. Singer: I should remind you that one of my partners at Fried, Frank was Dick
Judge Richey: Oh, I love Dick.
Mr. Singer: You must remember him. Oh yes, from the political wars in Montgomery
Judge Richey: I do. I do. He and his wife, who is on the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Singer: Lilo, I think she is now a consultant to the Commission. She is no longer
Judge Richey: Oh, this must be very recent.
Mr. Singer: Oh, it is very recent. I think she and the present Governor I gather are not
as friendly as she was with his predecessor.
Judge Richey: Oh, that’s too bad. That’s too bad. They are appointed for terms or at
least there used to be. I don’t know. Six-year terms. Dick told me at
their house a few years ago that he got his wife the appointment because he
met Schaefer through the Sickles campaign. Carlton Sickles.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: And they have been on good terms since then. You know, Dick, to
everybody’s surprise, became Reagan’s representative during the 1980
Mr. Singer: I know; I lost a partner. I know that. I mean Dick was basically moving
away from the traditional Democratic party where he would say that the
traditional Democratic party had abandoned him beginning in 1972. He
was certainly disillusioned with Carter; the McGovern people, not
withstanding our other partner, Shriver, was the Vice presidential
candidate. [Laughter.] But they, Max Kampelman, Dick Schifter, and
many others became the core of the neo-conservative and so-called
neocons in the Democratic establishment. Basically, they were Henry
Jackson Democrats and they liked that. We know that they were very
proud of that status. And that they were domestic liberals, serious
Judge Richey: But how could they support Ronald Reagan? I don’t understand that.
Mr. Singer: Well, that’s something you are going to have to talk to them about because
I will not be an adequate interpreter of their views.
Judge Richey: I will never understand.
Mr. Singer: If I have one epigram that describes it — in Dick’s case, and also somewhat
in Max’s case, and that’s somewhat more complicated. Dick was born in
Vienna, came to the United States toward the end of the ’30’s, mid to end
’30’s. He went to City College and fought those, in the kind of you are
either a Stalinist or a Trotskyite, or you are a classical Socialist in political
terms. Dick was with the conservatives, but they fought like crazy at City
College. That experience, I think, is very much at the heart of a really
intense anti-Communist sentiment that Dick shared with this whole group
— Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Gene Rostow, and the guy who ran commentary
for so many years, I have cheerfully blocked it out, Norman Podhoretz.
Judge Richey: I see.
Mr. Singer: And that group. Notwithstanding their very strong support certainly
beginning either in 1948 or shortly thereafter, for the state of Israel. They
really have defined the world as Communists and those who were not
Communists and this was an equal… If you were against the Soviet Union
that was sufficient. Defined epigrammatically is “the enemy of my enemy
is my friend.” And Jeanne Kirkpatrick actually articulated that when she
was Ambassador to the United Nations. Dick very much shared that view
and, I think, Max shared it partially also.
Judge Richey: They must have shared it because they sure worked like the devil for
Mr. Singer: And that was — put in context, they were both real admirers of George
Schultz. I think they probably felt somewhat less kindly toward Jim
Baker who was then in the White House. Schultz was then the Secretary.
But, Schultz then became Secretary of State and he very much wanted to
use Max in the negotiator’s job.
Judge Richey: He couldn’t have picked a better person.
Mr. Singer: Max did a wonderful job. And Dick was, I guess, by that time Assistant
Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at State.
Judge Richey: He used to call me and ask me if I would be interested in helping, going
over, you know. I said, “No, Dick. That’s not my bag. We have too
many problems in the United States and in the courts here. I am not
interested in that. I am sorry. I’d do anything for you, but not that.”
Mr. Singer: And Dick is…
Judge Richey: He’s a committed person.
Mr. Singer: Absolutely. I think the nation is fortunate to have people like that around.
Judge Richey: So do I. I like him.
Mr. Singer: I think that once our own practice…the office began to expand physically
and the Indian practice, which he loved…
Judge Richey: He did.
Mr. Singer: Became a lesser part of our operation, in part because of the shifting
emphasis from within our firm and in part because we had trained oh,
maybe a half dozen really first-class young Indian lawyers — they began to
steal our clients. So, that our actual engagement in the contemporary
practice — that is not to say about the claims practice, which we did some,
but not very much.
Judge Richey: Oh, he was an expert in Indian law.
Mr. Singer: Absolutely. These were the heirs – he and his partner Art Lazarus — to the
mantle of Felix Cohen. The people who really knew American Indian
Judge Richey: Dick Schifter and I ended up in Baltimore before the court of which Sandy
Harvey, or later Chief Judge, now retired, was a member of the panel
arguing a reapportionment case. Dick for the Democratic party and me
for the Republican party. Both on the same side.
Mr. Singer: Give us a date.
Judge Richey: Early ’60’s.
Mr. Singer: Okay.
Judge Richey: I’ll never forget the argument because Dick said, “As you know, I am an
expert in Indian law and that is something I know something about.” And
I said to myself, what in the world is he confessing error about knowing so
much about Indian law and nothing about reapportionment? But, we still
won. [garbled.] One man, one vote.
Mr. Singer: It was after Baker against Carr?
Judge Richey: Yes, yes, yes. We’re good friends.
Mr. Singer: What was the nature of your kind of day-to-day practice? Touching some
of the highlights.
Judge Richey: Started doing immigration work. The first case I tried was in this court in
the old building in 1950. Famous case, it’s in all the books on immigrant
and nationality law called Acheson v. Maenza. An Italian person. An
old Democratic politician from Ohio sent it to me and I didn’t know beans
from donuts. But, anyhow, I was able to prevail before Holtzoff.
Mr. Singer: I told you the Holtzoff story the last time.
Judge Richey: And that was in the days of the old general assignment system so you didn’t
know what judge you were going to get. He had written an opinion in a
case called Tomasicchio v. Acheson. I had learned it was wise to file a
Mr. Singer: With Judge Holtzoff? Or, just generally?
Judge Richey: Well, generally. Trow vom Baur told me how they always used to do that
in New York. So, I had it done in this case. I handed it up to him in the
beginning. And of course, he praised Holtzoff as much as anybody could
possibly….But he was smart. Oh, my God, brilliant. He said, “Have
you given this to the other side?” I said, “No, I understand in New York
you don’t necessarily have to.” He said, “Well, you do here.” So, I
handed it to the other side. A fellow named William Glendon, later with
Rogers & Wells in New York, who ended up arguing the Pentagon Papers
case in the Supreme Court. But in any event, I won. He just copied it
right out of my brief. To make a long story short there was an appeal.
Glendon handled the appeal. One of the three members of the panel was
Bennett Champ Clark, a former United States Senator from Missouri.
His law clerk at the time was my colleague and dear friend Harold Greene.
Mr. Singer: Judge Harold Greene?
Judge Richey: Judge Harold Greene. He, I know, wrote the opinion. Copied it right
out of my brief. When you are going to take away an American
citizenship, the most important right in all the world today.
Mr. Singer: Surely he had to feel very strongly about it.
Judge Richey: He did. He did. It became a seminal case. It is in every book on
immigration and nationality in the lexicon. You go to an undergraduate
college library and you will find books on it — on that case. My very first
one I ever tried. That led to all kinds of cases. It got lots of publicity all
over the country. Particularly, in the ethnic community, the ethnic
newspapers. It led to a whale of a lot of business until I then got to know
Jack Wasserman. We formed the Association of Immigration and
Mr. Singer: Of which one of my partners is now the president. Or, was recently, Bob
Judge Richey: Bob who?
Mr. Singer: Juceam. He was in my New York office and the moved down here.
Active for the Haitian immigrants almost from the beginning, a mini-career
Judge Richey: Well, they put us out of business with the McCarran Act, essentially.
That was a bad, a terrible thing.
Mr. Singer: We used to do immigration work at Fried, Frank.
Judge Richey: Did you?
Mr. Singer: Because…
Judge Richey: None of the big firms did it in the beginning, in those days. It was like
criminal law, you didn’t touch that stuff. It was beneath your dignity.
Now, come on, Dan.
Mr. Singer: It was not beneath our dignity. I’ll tell you why. It’s very easy. The
core of the firm’s practice in New York was commercial but the human
being clients who ran these commercial enterprises were many of the
refugees from Eastern and Central Europe. Including Hans Frank who is
the Fried Frank. Hans Frank and several of the other partners had come
out and retained their relationships with many people, some of whom came
out in 1956 or came out after the Second World War and who continued
being very wealthy people. I remember we used to have to count for
clients how many days they spent in and out of the United States – clients
who were naturalized citizens because, as you know, back then you could
lose your citizenship. That was declared unconstitutional in the ’60s
sometime. I mean it is only a question until the right case came up that
that would be found out. But you still had to go through… you still had to
go through the motions with your clients who… the consequences to them
were staggering and we did a lot of that work. It was one of the first
things I ever did was acting on behalf of some pretty heavy hitters. And
through that, we managed to get some people who were not heavy hitters at
all, but who were being dogged in the ’60’s, in the late ’50’s and ’60’s by the
fact that when they were young, these were among the people who had
come up from Hungary after the Revolution in ’56 who were tainted,
because in order to go to college, they had to belong to a Communist party.
Judge Richey: Oh, and I don’t doubt that.
Mr. Singer: That looked like it was going to be an absolute [garbled] and we developed
a whole kind of litany that we would go through in order to fight that first
at the Board of Immigration Appeals, then the hearing officer who was a
waste of time but at the Board, sometimes you could achieve a better result
and if we didn’t, we went to court and it was just a constant battle.
Judge Richey: Well, that BIA was something else right there in the Department of Justice.
Mr. Singer: But your practice must have expanded well beyond the immigration.
Judge Richey: It did. I began to get criminal cases. I began to get personal injury
cases, domestic relations, the whole panorama. I think in my career I
tried every kind of a case that any lawyer tries except a patent case. I
even tried some copyright cases. What today is called intellectual
Mr. Singer: The whole thing is called intellectual property.
Judge Richey: Right, so I had a broad range of experience and to some extent I did it
deliberately only because I liked people as such. And it wasn’t until the
last eight or ten years of my practice that I began to represent corporations
and banks and things like that and that came about as a result of my
political service in the county government and the public service
commission because I met people there that law firms in Baltimore at that
time had no connection with Montgomery County or the District of
Mr. Singer: It was awfully far away from Baltimore.
Judge Richey: It was.
Mr. Singer: It was even quite distant from Annapolis.
Judge Richey: But, they needed lawyers over here and they knew me through that political
office I held. Paid $5500 a year.
Mr. Singer: Which political office?
Judge Richey: General Counsel of the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Singer: Yeah. But that comes after you’ve….
Judge Richey: In 1967.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: And then before that, for three years before that, I was a member and
Chairman for two years of the Montgomery County Board of Appeals –
powerful job in zoning and land use – and there was a time when I was the
only one in the county because of my former colleagues; there was no
ethical prohibition against it getting special exceptions for my friend Jack
Coopersmith to locate a filling station on some corner.
Mr. Singer: Now, in this case, you’re now acting as counsel to Coopersmith.
Judge Richey: Right. Right. Facts of law. Represent all kinds of banks, New York,
Baltimore all over heck and back. Did a lot of real estate work, too, in the
Mr. Singer: So that although your practice started as basically a courtroom practice, it
then changed its focus or added a focus?
Judge Richey: Added a focus, I had at the end five or six major insurance carriers, I didn’t
much of the work myself except supervise it. But I had beaten them so
badly they finally decided to hire me.
Mr. Singer: And, when you said you didn’t do the work, it sounds as if you then had a
firm of some significant size.
Judge Richey: Right. I did. I supervised it. I also had a substantial real estate
practice, settlements, closings, things like that.
Mr. Singer: How big was your office; how many…
Judge Richey: I had eight lawyers at the time I ended.
Mr. Singer: And with how many of them did you share the profits since…
Judge Richey: I owned the firm. They all…
Mr. Singer: (Telephone interruption)
Judge Richey: … basically what I did. It was the best advice I ever received from
Mr. Singer: Will you be good enough to repeat it because I confess that after the phone
call I forgot to turn the tape on.
Judge Richey: Oh, I said in 1950 Senator Taft of Ohio called me and I went up to see him
and he asked me what I was going to do after he was reelected in that
terrible race he had in 1950. Organized labor and everybody was out to
beat him and I said I wanted to be a politician and a lawyer and he said you
can’t be either because you don’t have any money and you don’t know
anything about the law yet. And it takes 12 to 15 years to learn enough to
be a lawyer. I think in retrospect he was probably right. And certainly
right about money. Because you can’t be in his view a successful
politician without having some financial independence. It was the best
advice I ever had.
Mr. Singer: Maybe we’ll come back to that later because nowadays while it is still true
that you need a lot of money to be a successful politician very little of it is
your own money.
Judge Richey: If I had my way, I’d adopt a Common Cause Wertheimer’s view abolish
PACs and everything else. But, I’m a voice in the wilderness. It’s too late
for me to do anything about that now.
Mr. Singer: You remained involved though, throughout…
Judge Richey: Not very much. I did because Clarence Brown of Ohio, ranking member
of the Rules Committee, called and asked if I would help Taft at the 1952
Convention against Eisenhower. I went out there and spent 10 days at the
convention in Chicago at the Stockyards and worked night and day. I
lived with Clarence and his wife in a suite, I think it was the Hilton Hotel
on the lake, the big hotel in Chicago, at least then the biggest.
Eisenhower was around the corner at a smaller hotel called the Blackstone.
I’ll never forget it. And in that convention there was the famous Brown
Amendment, I can tell you a lot of stories about that convention.
Mr. Singer: What was that? The Brown Amendment? I don’t recall. I remember
Judge Richey: Well, it had to do with the Southern delegates and they called all of us
crooks and so on and so forth for trying to steal the nomination for
president of the United States because at the hearings prior to the
convention the national committee hears delegate contests and they had
150 seats all reserved in the halls. They wouldn’t allow TV cameras in
the meeting room. It was the largest facility that was available in the city
of Chicago at the time for that and there just wasn’t room. And I never
will forget Eric Sevareid and then Governor James H. Duff of
Pennsylvania. Right outside the hearing room it had a big sign
“Republican National Committee In Session,” and they were hearing the
delegate contests. And I stood there and watched Sevareid do an
interview of Duff and the question went something like this: “What’s
going on in there, Governor? ‘Oh, those Taft people are in there stealing
the nomination for president of the United States. They won’t allow
anybody in there. Everybody is excluded.'” Well, that was just a bold
face lie. A bold face lie! And Dan, as God is my witness, it shook me to
the bones that two men of that caliber – Duff and Sevareid – would stoop to
tell bold face lies to the American people like that. I didn’t think that at
that point in my career that people would do such terrible things.
Mr. Singer: You’ve learned a great deal over the years that suggest that…
Judge Richey: That was the beginning of it. That convention convinced me that the
advice two years previous by the Senator was absolutely right I didn’t want
to have anything to do with it at all.
Mr. Singer: My recollection of that convention is quite limited but the one thing that I
remember seeing on television, if I got it right, is Taft kind of storming up
to the rostrum saying “but a deal is a deal” it had to do with something with
the Pennsylvania Delegation, if I remember correctly. Is this a non-memory
on my part?
Judge Richey: I think it is a non-memory. You probably remember Dirksen’s famous
speech “at the last minute I campaigned hard for you in 1948, Governor
Dewey, and you lead us down the road to defeat.” This was in the
Stockyards and I was on the platform standing next to Hugh Scott and I
thought Scott was going to have a heart attack he was so angry. I thought
there was going to be a riot. If Dirksen had spoken one more minute
there would have been. It was that tense. I’ve never been in a place like
that – there was no escape – people would have been killed but for the fact
he finally stopped. And I was there when somebody asked him to be the
next speaker and he said I don’t a darn thing about this stuff. And they
made old Tom Jenkins who was then Chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee give up his seat on the aisle to the platform. Dirksen listened
to the previous speaker, made a couple of notes on a piece of paper, we
were all asked to stand back and then he went out there and made that
famous speech. Attacked Dewey by looking right down at him ahead of
the New York delegation, Governor, so on. Will never forget it as long as
I live. But that was the end of it. And then out of the blue they
appointed Nixon to run for Vice President. After that evening, I’ll never
forget standing out there waiting for a car to take us back down town.
This mob there was Nixon with his arm around Pat Nixon, his wife, I said,
“What did you think of the speech?” It was after MacArthur had made
the keynote address. Just a blunt comment, “Good, but not great.” And
that was probably exactly correct. I was in the car that went out to the
airport to meet MacArthur that night. Never forget. What an incisive
mind that guy had. He asked, not me, but a couple others in the car — a
couple of very particularized, specific questions, I don’t remember what
they were. After he got the answers he said, “Well, it is all over then.”
He was for Taft.
Mr. Singer: This was essentially a Taft delegation who wanted to pick him up.
Judge Richey: Right. They controlled the convention machine there, except the vote.
Thought they did.
Mr. Singer: Except the important vote.
Judge Richey: Yeah. They did. That’s exactly right. But it was in a whisker. I liked
the Senator very, very much. I thought he was a great American.
Reading the other day how he had supported federal aid to education,
federal aid to housing.
Mr. Singer: He is really the Father of the National Science Foundation.
Judge Richey: That is correct, which Dave Bazelon used to love.
Mr. Singer: Yeah. Dave played a very important role in our family. My wife went
to graduate school.
Judge Richey: Oh, is that so?
Mr. Singer: At first, she was graduated in 1952 from college and the first pre-doctrine
in fellowships really ever given on a national scale were given out by the
National Science Foundation in that program and she was one the first 625
or so people. I’m delighted to say that my youngest daughter is…
Judge Richey: Isn’t that neat. That’s great.
Mr. Singer: I know. They both went to graduate school on the National Science
Judge Richey: That’s marvelous.
Mr. Singer: Really.
Judge Richey: Well, good for the women in your life.
Mr. Singer: The women in my family have done very very well. That’s for sure.
Judge Richey: Oh, so has their husband and father.
Mr. Singer: So tell me. Can we talk a little bit about your family – how they looked at
the practice, how you looked at them from the vantage point of being
obviously a very busy, very successful lawyer, probably rarely had an
uninterrupted dinner, and things of that sort.
Judge Richey: Well, that’s about right.
Mr. Singer: In… I mean, I can empathize with that.
Judge Richey: I’m sure you can. Well, you can see, I probably have more books than any
other judge in the building. But that’s not new that’s been that way all my
life. I love books and I can’t exist without them. I have a full library at
home in our apartment consisting of…
Mr. Singer: You said in your apartment.
Judge Richey: Yes. 8101 Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase. I have USCA, Wright
& Miller, all of the Court of Appeals, U.S. Appeals D.C. back to 1970, all
the Supreme Court decisions back to 1970. I don’t know, they keep
coming out of the air like water out of a fire hydrant. Fed. Supp. I give
those away from time to time, when I run out of space, to one of the law
schools. I have a complete library at home plus being a computer nut I
have access to the library here at the courthouse.
Mr. Singer: From home. So you’re on online.
Judge Richey: From home. There’s a little program. You can get it called PC
Mr. Singer: Yeah. We have it in the office.
Judge Richey: Oh, yeah. But you can get it for your computer at home.
Mr. Singer: I have it on my computer. The office gave it to me.
Judge Richey: To use at home.
Mr. Singer: To use at home.
Judge Richey: Right. So you can have access to the library.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: And, we have that. I use that to do a lot of work at home and as a fax
capability so I can fax things to my staff here in the middle of the night
Mr. Singer: Whenever you feel like it.
Judge Richey: Yeah. My children. Do you want to know about them?
Mr. Singer: Well, I kind of want to get a sense of what the family life was like.
Judge Richey: We had a marvelous… I never missed a football game, a baseball game, or
a basketball game. The kids in those days didn’t play soccer.
Mr. Singer: How many were there?
Judge Richey: Just two boys – one is I think 42 now born in ’53. Does that make 42?
Mr. Singer: Yep, pretty close.
Judge Richey: And the other one two years later. We ended up sending them to Sidwell
Mr. Singer: Where you met the Democratic cream…
Judge Richey: I don’t know. I guess. We loved the people. I became President of the
Parents’ Association there and was very active in school affairs and all the
lives of both of my kids. The eldest is a lawyer in Massachusetts now and
a very successful one. He was a law clerk to a federal judge of what is
now the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The judge is now
Mr. Singer: Which judge was that?
Judge Richey: Bob Kunzig, managed Arlen Specter’s campaign for DA in Philadelphia.
Then he went to the U.S. Attorney’s office and then he went to a firm down
town and he married a woman along the way who has a lot of money in
Massachusetts. Well, she was from Massachusetts and she wanted to go
back home. She had been married to one of Charlie’s high school
teachers, believe it or not, and was divorced and they met while he was in
the DA’s office and by God, she had two children, and he has essentially
reared those children and adopted them. He is a jokester like his mother,
got a great sense of humor said he “l like my history professor so much in
high school that I married his wife.” Goodness, he’d say all kinds of crazy
things like that. But anyhow, the younger boy was in the construction
business and is now separated from his wife, has a little boy, sells time
shares. He’s the sadness in our lives, although those things happen to all
families. Seems to be doing quite well – I think he is going to come out of
Mr. Singer: At the period when you were building a practice and building a family,
obviously working as hard as you could ever work, there were still political
alliances that you were a part of and political engagements?
Judge Richey: There were but none really. Between 1952…
Mr. Singer: Which was the front of the presidential campaign.
Judge Richey: And really, during that interval between 1950 and 1952, I didn’t do
Mr. Singer: Anything political.
Judge Richey: That’s right. But then between 1952 and 1966 I didn’t do anything either
politically. I did a lot of civic work.
Mr. Singer: What kind?
Judge Richey: I was on the Board here in the City for, oh, what in the world. I’d have to
look in the bios. The Redevelopment Land Agency was one of them. I
was active in civic association work; I went to the District Building once
every month to debate the issues of the city and so on. Advocated Home
Rule and all kinds of crazy liberal causes.
Mr. Singer: Did your Republican…
Judge Richey: I just lost interest. Your friend Eisenhower…
Mr. Singer: My friend (Laughter).
Judge Richey: Yeah. He beat my candidate Stevenson. I didn’t like Eisenhower.
Mr. Singer: I know you didn’t.
Judge Richey: I didn’t like him a bit.
Mr. Singer: You told us in the first session the story about being late to that Armed
Services Committee outside the…
Judge Richey: Yeah. That was the first day in Washington. Collided face to face. I
also told you after the nomination it was suggested that we, the National
Committee, meet the candidate and I wasn’t going to do it but I went to the
room and sat in the back of the room and by golly the line formed and I
was the last person to go through the line and I looked down at his shoes
and he had military brass buckled shoes. Of course, I didn’t want to like
him and that was just another reason not to.
Mr. Singer: Right. You were looking for reasons not to like him.
Judge Richey: And boy that sure cinched it. But, one of my best friends who had a great
deal to do with my appointment to the court went on to become his counsel
– an Irishman.
Mr. Singer: Who was that?
Judge Richey: Ed McCabe. Edward A. McCabe. And he served on the board that
created the public defender service here in the District of Columbia in the
first instance at the request of Dave Bazelon. Very conservative fellow
but a man of decency, a lot of decency. An abundance of decency. A
good friend, a good friend.
Mr. Singer: At what point does Mr. Agnew begin to play a role in your development?
Judge Richey: In 1966 I had achieved reams of publicity as a member and chairman of the
County Board of Appeals.
Mr. Singer: This is now a Zoning Appeals Board.
Judge Richey: Yes. Because when I went there they wouldn’t allow cross-examination
of witnesses and it was a five-person Board and the chairman would by
rule exclude any request for cross examination and I would dissent. And
the press in Montgomery County were pretty liberal and they like that.
And finally Rita Davidson, a Democrat, who later became a judge, her
husband was on the Labor Board, counsel on the Labor Board or
something high in the Labor Board, David, took one of those cases to the
Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest Court and by God my position was
sustained. And so I kind of was kinda made overnight in the State of
Maryland, person of legal acumen and so on.
Mr. Singer: For fifteen years you were…
Judge Richey: Then I got involved in the reapportionment efforts on a state-wide basis
and then locally for the County Council. And then the Charter came
along, a proposal for the Charter, it was authorized, written in my law
office, in my library by a committee on style of which I was vice chairman
because the Democrats then controlled the council.
Mr. Singer: And the chairman was a Democrat.
Judge Richey: Chairman Jim Worsley, a lawyer in town. And…
Mr. Singer: Was he a Klagsburn, Hanes partner? Worsley?
Judge Richey: He may have been. I’m trying to think of the name… it was in the Ring
Mr. Singer: Yeah. That’s where they were. That’s the firm.
Judge Richey: Yeah. It’s now a Baltimore firm. I don’t know what the name of it is.
Jim’s a nice guy but a doctrinaire Democrat. He wouldn’t vote for a
Republican if his life depended on it. Wonderful person though. But we
did. We created the county executive in Montgomery County and then
there was a three-way race for Governor: Mahoney, Carlton Sickles and a
fellow named Finan, who was the Attorney General. They had unit
Mr. Singer: What year was this?
Judge Richey: 1966. And so the person who got the plurality of the County votes, who
won the most counties of the 23 counties, was the nominee and Mahoney
slipped through. He campaigned on the platform “Your home is your
castle”. Well, nobody thought that (a) he would win. It would either be
Sickles, who was the favorite, or Tom Finan and that Agnew would just be
an also ran.
Mr. Singer: Agnew was on the Republican ticket…
Judge Richey: Agnew was on the Republican ticket as nominee for Governor. Nobody
else would take it. I remember Newton Steers called me to say he had
been up to Hagerstown to some meeting and that the long and short of it
was that nobody else wanted to run and Agnew was willing to run, that he
was county executive of Baltimore County and so he was going to get it by
default. It was kind of a joke. About 25 of us young lawyers who were
Mr. Singer: But active within the party and a certain status and credibility…
Judge Richey: Well, yes. But I wasn’t really. By that time I had some status because of
my position on the Board of Appeals. And so, as it turned out Mahoney
won. The liberal Democrats like Dick Schifter and Bill Greenhalgh
–they had formed in the Democratic primary a group called the
Democratic Action Group (DAG) and they immediately threw their
support to Agnew because he had pushed through the first public
accommodations ordinance in Baltimore County.
Mr. Singer: As County Executive.
Judge Richey: As County Executive. He was a liberal. Would you believe he ran with
the endorsement of the ADA and the NAACP for Governor the first time?
Mr. Singer: That’s hard to remember. Yes.
Judge Richey: That’s how I met Joe Rauh. I’d never known Joe Rauh until we started to
raise… after Mahoney came into the picture – we had to defeat him no
matter what and Agnew had no money and so I decided I was going to
work like the devil for him. It was the principle thing to do. And we
did. He won by about 90,000 votes, carried Baltimore City; Baltimore
County; and Montgomery and Prince George’s County, kind of like this
fellow that is now Governor did, except by a bigger margin. And then
they had a heck of time finding people to take state jobs because there
weren’t enough Republicans in the state of Maryland to fill them. I got
calls from his staff, party officials will you take this, will you take that, no
Mr. Singer: This is in ’66 when Agnew was elected.
Judge Richey: And I wouldn’t take any full time job because by that time I knew I wanted
to be a judge period nothing else! And I did offer to take a part time job
as long as I could keep my practice. And so finally at the behest of a
fellow named Sachs on his staff I gave him a list of three because there is a
book of all the state patronage in Maryland. And I went through that
book as well as the Code and I figured well People’s Counsel to the Public
Service Commission, General Counsel or Judge of the State Tax Court.
Well, they’d already committed to the other two jobs so I got the General
Counselship – paid $5,500 a year.
Mr. Singer: But that was an add-on to you.
Judge Richey: Yeah. Cost money to do it but it brought me into contact with the power
structure of the whole state of Maryland.
Mr. Singer: You were involved in Baltimore Gas and Electric.
Judge Richey: You’re absolutely right. PG&E, the telephone company, the banks – even
though we didn’t regulate the banks they were heavily involved in the
utility work. Just was like night and day. My goodness gracious.
When I went out there to be a member of the County Board of Appeals you
got a parking space at the courthouse. Doors opened like they had never
been opened before. Same way in Baltimore when I went over and had
an office in the state office building and started going around the state
handling appeals. My goodness gracious, it was amazing when you
represent the state, the people so to speak. The difference in attitude that
you would find if you were there for a private litigant. So I shot up like a
Mr. Singer: You liked that?
Judge Richey: Yeah, it was fun!
Mr. Singer: You said that beginning in 1966 you kind of decided that you wanted to be
Judge Richey: Oh, I knew that long before then in the early-1950s.
Mr. Singer: But then you must have known or assumed that this goal of becoming a
millionaire, you would have to do it very quickly or never.
Judge Richey: I didn’t have a goal of becoming a millionaire. I told you I would have
become a millionaire in a few more years in private practice. That was
never a goal. Money was not my objective. If it had been I would have
stayed doing what I was doing. No. Money was not their objective.
Just enough to eat, sleep there is only so much you can do with money.
It’s nice to have but…
Mr. Singer: During this period, your kids are now on their way to being teenagers in
the time you are talking about. What was dinner table conversation?
What was vacationing like? And so on… Those kinds of things.
Judge Richey: We didn’t do too much in the way of vacations. We participated in all
their activities in the way of school work, PTA. I was President of our
younger son’s PTA in Potomac, Maryland. Was active in community
work out there. Wherever I lived I’ve always been active in civic work.
The only thing I was never active in really was bar association work.
Mr. Singer: You’ve probably become much more active since you became a judge.
Judge Richey: Oh, 100%. I was the first trial judge to ever become a member of the
ABA House of Delegates and I learned then it was the biggest mistake I’d
ever made professionally.
Mr. Singer: Why? Because it’s an interesting perception.
Judge Richey: It’s not a perception, it’s a fact. I saw there was one of the most
conservative Attila the Hun people from Oklahoma had been there for
Mr. Singer: This is in the House of Delegates?
Judge Richey: Right. Joe Sample or something like that was his name. Here was
Sidney Sachs a member of the ACLU in Washington and he sidled up to
me, I’m a teetotaler, at a bar in Las Vegas. “Judge, you know my friend
Sidney Sachs?” “Yes, Joe I know him very well.” Well you know, he
came from some little town Enid, Oklahoma, something that didn’t have
more than 300 people in it, you know Wexler’s in Washington, and I said,
“Sure that’s an auction house.” Well, you know, I had an old widow that
died in my town and she had lots of money and I had to have some kind of
ancillary proceeding in Washington so I called up my old friend Sidney
Sachs and he handled it for me.” And I thought to myself, my God, I’ve
never seen two people more politically opposite who hated each other
more so than they did, and yet when it came time to share economics, that’s
the way it worked. Those guys fed off each other. All you had to do
was be there and see it. It may not be that way today in 1995 but that was
it was when I was there in the early 80’s and late 70’s and 80’s. And I
could have done that if I’d wanted to but never thought it was worthwhile.
I always thought that fooling around with lawyers, your competitors, was a
waste of time. But that is wrong. That is wrong. I didn’t know it,
nobody told me.
Mr. Singer: Were there family vacations? How did you….you must have created
Judge Richey: Oh, we did some. We’d go to see our parents in Illinois and Ohio. We did
take a trip once to the Islands for the Thanksgiving holidays. My wife
arranged that without my knowledge. I thought I was going to have to go
to the hospital after we got back I was trapped and couldn’t do anything
which is what she wanted but it didn’t work.
Mr. Singer: Is this when you were a judge or still in practice?
Judge Richey: Still in practice. Then I acquired a condominium at Rehoboth Beach
when the boys were in high school and we used to go down there the first
week after school before the public schools let out. They had a good
time. I did that and I could work down there. But we didn’t take long
vacations, go out West, or to Europe. Hell, I never was out of the U.S. as
far as Europe was concerned until June of 1994.
Mr. Singer: Wow!
Judge Richey: And, I don’t really want to go back. This man Rose is the only one I met
over I really cared about.
Mr. Singer: That was when you went to England.
Judge Richey: First time I had ever been to the continent. I used to go in my
immigration practice to Montreal, Canada all the time you had to go out of
the country to bring people back. Been to Mexico a couple times, but no,
I had to stay right here and work.
Mr. Singer: And as a judge you didn’t find opportunities to vacation. You still own
the condominium by the way?
Judge Richey: Oh, no. We had to sell it about within three years after I came down here
because I couldn’t afford it. It was as expensive as a big house in
Mr. Singer: Which you’ve divested also.
Judge Richey: Right. Right. We’ve made money on all of it. People have teased me
over the years that I have moved a lot but always at great profit. That is
what enables me to be a judge.
Mr. Singer: I think that’s an important observation, one that would be of interest to
those who try to figure out what…
Judge Richey: What makes me tick?
Mr. Singer: Well, not you alone, but certainly that’s part of it. The notion that there
are significant financial sacrifices.
Judge Richey: Boy there are. I’ll tell you one story about that. My wife didn’t pay
much attention to the law. She still doesn’t really care about it although it
has been pretty good to her. When I came down here you know you sign
a billion and one forms the first day, and one was to have your checks sent
direct deposit to the bank. She got the first notice that the check had
come from the bank and she called up my secretary at the time and said
“Mary, is this for a week or two weeks”, she said “no, my dear, it is for a
month.” She was stunned. I think the pay was $40,000 a year then.
Fortunately, I had some investments that I couldn’t continue, but
arrangements were made to pay me off over a period of time.
Mr. Singer: Do you think that’s typical, or do you think it’s unique to Washington
which is a very high cost place to be? That being a judge, recognizing
that one, frequently, almost always will take a pay cut. Because that
universe from which judges are selected, are basically successful
practitioners or university/law school professors who are paid quite well.
But, is the bar missing, is the bench missing something important in the
people who opt not to say, “I want to be a judge.”
Judge Richey: Probably, they are – nationwide. Not only because of economics, but
because of the scrutiny people have to go through — political and otherwise
— in the confirmation process. I had no problem whatsoever.
Mr. Singer: You were in and out of that process…
Judge Richey: Within ten days of the nomination.
Mr. Singer: That’s not true now.
Judge Richey: Not true now. I might not have been had John McClellan lived. He was
a Senator from Arkansas, a prominent Senator. At that time the Justice
Department had a man named John Duffner who was the career guy over
there that shepherded through for every administration judges in the
confirmation process. I got a call one day in my law office from someone
saying, “This is John Duffner from the Justice Department.” I said,
“Yes.” Well, he called me judge. He said, “I just want to tell you who
your subcommittee is so you can make your courtesy calls. And I also
wanted to tell you what their lines of inquiry would be.” I thought it was
a joke. So, I asked for his number and called him back and sure enough
he was from Justice. My Subcommittee was Eastland, Hruska of
Nebraska and McClellan. When he got to McClellan he told me, “Now,
he will not vote for any judge even a district court judge who is not in
favor of the death penalty.” I didn’t say anything to Duffner, but I had a
lot of struggle with myself. I wanted to be a judge very badly. But, I
didn’t want to be badly enough to lie. And I wasn’t gonna lie. I made up
my mind about it. So, I called on Hruska, the Republican, first. He said
to me, I will never forget it –office full of about 30 or 40 people, and when
I told them who I was and what I wanted, they shuttled me right into him
with a friend of mine from the Hill who was taking me around.
Mr. Singer: Who was that?
Judge Richey: A fellow named Dick Moat. A long-time friend who was the liaison for
the Vice President up on the Hill, the Senate.
Mr. Singer: Was this someone you had met back in the early ’60’s?
Judge Richey: Years and years, yes, before that — the ’40’s.
Mr. Singer: Was he an Ohio person?
Judge Richey: No, he was from Nebraska. He knew Hruska. So, he just carried me
around by the hand. He just picked up the phone and asked me when my
hearing was. He called the counsel, was a Democrat. He got my
hearing almost immediately. That was it. Then, at the time of the
hearing, I went over to see Eastland. That went quite well, to my surprise.
McClellan was sick out in Arkansas. I never had to see him. If I had, I
wouldn’t be here.
Mr. Singer: Maybe yes, maybe no.
Judge Richey: Well, I would have told him the truth and he wouldn’t have voted for me.
The people, Duffner told me he would never vote for anybody.
Mr. Singer: But would his refusal to vote for you have carried sufficient weight?
Judge Richey: Well, he could have put in a blue slip and…
Mr. Singer: You would have to go off the consent calendar.
Judge Richey: And all that stuff and God knows what would have happened. You never
know about those kinds of things. This was the end of the first term,
Nixon’s first term — getting towards the end of the term. 1971, the
election was in 1972 and this was in April of ’71.
Mr. Singer: Correct.
Judge Richey: So, it was touch-in-go.
Mr. Singer: Those were very difficult times in the United States.
Judge Richey: Not easy, with the Vietnam War and all that sort of thing. Yes.
Mr. Singer: Very tense. Were you in Chicago at the ’68 Convention?
Judge Richey: No.
Mr. Singer: You were not in?
Judge Richey: The ’68 Convention was in Miami. Wasn’t it?
Mr. Singer: Well, maybe the Democrats were in Chicago.
Judge Richey: Well, the Republicans were in Miami. I know that.
Mr. Singer: The Republicans were in Miami, that’s right.
Judge Richey: Right ’68 was an awful thing.
Mr. Singer: Really troublesome.
Judge Richey: I can see poor Abe Ribicoff, my dear friend.
Mr. Singer: It was. I mean Martin Luther King was killed.
Judge Richey: Robert Kennedy.
Mr. Singer: And Robert Kennedy. All that in the run-up to the elections.
Judge Richey: Terrible.
Mr. Singer: It was very difficult times. It all, in my mind at least, come alive again
with the publication of McNamara’s book.
Judge Richey: You couldn’t be more right. It’s one heck it took him so long to admit it.
Mr. Singer: Mr. Halberstam was very perceptive.
Judge Richey: Wasn’t he though.
Mr. Singer: Talking about the best and the brightest.
Judge Richey: One of my college classmates, John Sagan, was one of those whiz kids for
the Ford Motor Company, an economist. I don’t know where he got his
Ph.D. in economics. But, he went to from Ohio Wesleyan to some place
and then he became Treasurer of the Ford Motor Company. McNamara
was President. John never came to Washington. I guess he didn’t have
any political aspirations. He liked business. Well, he’s retired know, but
he just thought the world of McNamara and how bright he was and so on
and so forth. Hell! I have no use for the guy. Unless, now because it
took him so long, as smart as he was; he knew it was wrong.
Mr. Singer: Well, he said, at least according the reviews, he seems to deny that at the
time he knew he was going down the wrong road.
Judge Richey: Well, that isn’t the way I read the reviews.
Mr. Singer: Okay.
Judge Richey: Now, maybe I made a mistake. He said he knew it was wrong, but out of
loyalty to his patron and the President, he didn’t feel it appropriate for him
to voice his concern and his views.
Mr. Singer: But that comes toward sort of the end of it. The important years were ’65,
Judge Richey: Sure.
Mr. Singer: I think he was, at that point, fully committed and not suffering angst and
self-doubt. But, you were just chugging along at that point. You were
Judge Richey: I really didn’t pay much attention to the War.
Mr. Singer: Your kids were not old enough?
Judge Richey: No.
Mr. Singer: To have been immediately involved.
Judge Richey: No, they were too young. We had a, I think our kids are very happy, they
seem to love their father, admire his accomplishments.
Mr. Singer: Really.
Judge Richey: I’ve had a lovely, a wonderful marriage. I don’t have any complaints.
Mr. Singer: I remember reading with a kind of great feeling of human connection and
warmth the reminiscence of your clerks about the relationship between
them and Mardelle.
Judge Richey: Oh, they love her. Everybody loves Mardelle. She should be a
politician. She has no interest in it. But, that woman doesn’t have an
enemy in the world. She loves people. And she works at it.
Mr. Singer: Well, do you think you have enemies anywhere?
Judge Richey: Oh, God yes. I’ve got all kids of enemies.
Mr. Singer: We’ll back-up, not really the question I was gunning for. Getting back to,
oh, say 1970, the early days on the court or in that period ’65-’75 bracket.
Aside from what I will call for the moment, principled enemies, that is to
say people with whom you openly disagreed.
Judge Richey: I didn’t have too much of that until I became a judge. But once I got here
and became a totally free person. Oh my goodness gracious. And when
I started to do things that I objected to, as a lawyer, in this court — it created
an awful stir and was isolated in a lot of respects.
Mr. Singer: You are now talking about you immediate colleagues?
Judge Richey: Right. Oh, there still is to this day a lot of jealously, the statistics just
came out two or three days ago, since I’ve seen you. I have 43 cases on
my civil docket. Most of the judges are in the 150’s or on up to 250.
Mr. Singer: These are data involving cases that are pending, undecided?
Judge Richey: Or, terminated. Yes, yes.
Mr. Singer: That’s saying you work with a very modest backlog.
Judge Richey: I had, hell, at least a hundred less than any other judge — is closest to the
Mr. Singer: That doesn’t mean you’re working less; it means you’re working more.
Judge Richey: Probably, yes.
Mr. Singer: If I understand it the way…
Judge Richey: And hopefully more efficiently.
Mr. Singer: Right. There’s a story actually, is it in today’s or yesterday’s, New York
Judge Richey: Well, maybe. I don’t see the Times.
Mr. Singer: About a judge in New York who sits in the Eastern District of New York
who has, apparently keeps his criminal docket quite current, but his civil
docket is a legendary outrage. I forget his name. But, cases will sit
ready for decision for periods of time measured in years.
Judge Richey: We’ve got two or three here who do that too. As many as eight years.
Subjudice, tried. The Washington Post a few months ago, six months
ago, called for an investigation.
Mr. Singer: Who did?
Judge Richey: The Washington Post, a lead editorial. There will be some more stories.
Mr. Singer: With these data that are now coming out.
Judge Richey: Yes. We just, I have to file it tomorrow. One has zeros after it.
Mr. Singer: [Laughter.] It’s the first time you’ve been happy with all those zeros.
Judge Richey: Yes, that’s right.
Mr. Singer: Nobody else likes having zeros after his name.
Judge Richey: Well, but this is good because there are no motions pending for more than
60 days, no bench trials more than three years old.
Mr. Singer: Can we go back to the death penalty issue for just a moment?
Judge Richey: Oh, sure.
Mr. Singer: Because it’s obviously an issue that’s come alive again. It’s never really
gone very far away. It’s always been with us, but periodically the noise
level involving the death penalty seems to rise. There must have been a
point at which you said, you know, I really am dead set against it.
Judge Richey: That occurred in high school.
Mr. Singer: In high school?
Judge Richey: You see, I was a debater in high school and in college. I taught debates,
speech and debate at American University in the early-’50’s.
One of the questions was the death penalty when I was in high school.
Mr. Singer: Is it a national debate group?
Judge Richey: Yes, national debate questions. I became utterly convinced it was just
dead wrong. I still adhere to that view today. But, my view, I think
today, is more informed than it was, Dan, as a youngster. Both of my
parents I remember were against it. But, you see experience all
throughout the United States where they do not have it. One with the
death penalty and one without. It was still the same. Now, though with
54 new death penalties in the last Congress imposed on the federal courts;
it’s just egregiously wrong. There are not enough strong words in the
English lexicon to describe it. The public doesn’t understand it. I bet
even you as a brilliant lawyer don’t understand it. You see, you have to
go through a process called voir dire. And in the confines of what is it, a
ten mile radius of the District of Columbia? How are you going to find a
jury to impanel that can render a fair and impartial verdict without regard
to their prejudices or strong feelings for or against the death penalty?
Does anybody ever think of the cost of that? Obviously, no. We can’t
change venue from Washington, D.C. to someplace in western Maryland
or North Carolina or Philadelphia. Gerry Gessell tried a case against a
local official named Joe Yeldell in some parking manager. In
Philadelphia, since I’ve been here. But, that was done by consent.
Unless you’ve got the consent you’re not going to be able to lead. And
they’re talking about in this “Contract with America” or whatever it is —
making more death penalty cases. If you just want to put in practical,
pragmatic terms, it’s not going to work. I’m telling you it’s not going to
Mr. Singer: I don’t have to be persuaded on that.
Judge Richey: Excuse me, I just feel very strongly about it.
Mr. Singer: Right, and I understand it. What I really would like to hear you describe
is whether there were events, or particular matters in the public domain, the
public press, involving the death penalty, that you may have read about or
had an impact on you that led you to the conclusion, outside of almost
independently, that the fact that there was a debate question pending on the
national high school debates — that, gee, this is just wrong.
Judge Richey: Well, I always thought it was wrong morally and wrong as a matter of
public policy. I made a deep, deep personal conviction about it. I still
have that view. I don’t know how else to describe it to you.
Mr. Singer: All right, I find that pretty persuasive.
Judge Richey: You know Bill Bryant, when I first came here.
Mr. Singer: [Unclear]
Judge Richey: Oh yes. Yes, he was appointed by Lyndon Johnson. He was a dear, dear
friend of mine. And we have an awful lot in common. Because we kind
of came up the same way.
Mr. Singer: He argued the Mallory case.
Judge Richey: That’s right.
Mr. Singer: One of the great…..
Judge Richey: Great victory. And really, a correct decision, too, Frankfurter
Mr. Singer: We certainly all thought so. “We” being the people who are what I’ll call
my side of the U.S. Court of Appeals in those days.
Judge Richey: I was on your side. I could tell you a lot of stories about the Mallory case
too. What were you asking me? I’m sorry.
Mr. Singer: We were talking about the death penalty.
Judge Richey: The Mallory case. I was head of the Citizens Association in Burleith and
there was a big hue and push to get that decision repealed in the Congress.
It involved Rule 5(a) of the old Federal Criminal Rules. And I decided
that I was going to have New England style public debate. I was the
president of the Association and we lived on 35th Street across from the
Western High School. Now the Duke Ellington School of Art.
Mr. Singer: Now, at this point you’re living in the District.
Judge Richey: Yeah, I spent most of my life in the District of Columbia. In any event, I
decided that this was so right and that what was happening was the police
chief and his deputies were going all over the city to these Citizens
Association Groups and getting them to pass resolutions asking the
Congress to repeal the Supreme Court decision. And the people were just
doing it because they were asked to do it and they weren’t informed. So I
took the case. There were four arguments for it and there were four
arguments against it. I typed it out and had it stenciled and put it on
yellow paper. And then I called a town meeting at Gordon Junior High
School, where I had Myron Ehrlich and this principal police officer, a
lieutenant that was doing all the dirty work going around the city
advocating a repeal of the decision.
Mr. Singer: What was the date of this?
Judge Richey: In the ’50’s.
Mr. Singer: In the 50’s.
Judge Richey: And of course, I presided. And there is a lot of power in the chair, as you
Mr. Singer: Always.
Judge Richey: And they gave us a large classroom for those meetings in those days. I
took that around and delivered it myself door-to-door. Crazy nut, but, I
did in my station wagon. It snowed like the devil that night, but so many
people turned out that they had to go in the auditorium. And when the
meeting was over, the old Washington Star always sent a reporter for every
one of those Citizens Association meetings. Guess what happened? It
was a unanimous vote without dissent in favor of the decision of the Court.
And that stopped the effort to repeal that thing in Congress. I had asked
Billy Bryant to come and speak for it. I wanted to talk about ethics. Bill
Bryant said he didn’t think it would be appropriate for him having argued
Mr. Singer: At that point was he on the Court?
Judge Richey: No, he was just a private practitioner like myself.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: But, nevertheless.
Mr. Singer: Actually, when I was a law clerk he was had not yet been appointed.
Judge Richey: No, he wasn’t here for years. Sixties, Seventies, something like that.
Anyway, I got that started.
Mr. Singer: That’s a better win than a lot of them I bet.
Judge Richey: I got a big kick out of that. Then we went down town to the District
Building where the present City Council meets and guess who spoke for
the repeal of the legislation? Oliver Gasch right down the hall. Guess
who I got to speak against it? Against the legislation.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: Jiggs Donohue.
Mr. Singer: I didn’t know that.
Judge Richey: And guess what? We won there too.
Mr. Singer: There was no City Council then.
Judge Richey: We had a lot of…
Mr. Singer: Three commissioners still.
Judge Richey: Well, they didn’t have anything to do with it, but any how they gave us the
decision. I went there once a month for years. So I lived in the District
of Columbia from 1948 when I got here until 1964. And then we lived in
Maryland from 1964 until 1978. We moved back into the City until 1983
when we moved back to Maryland.
Mr. Singer: Where did you live the second time you came here?
Judge Richey: On 25th Street, the Plaza, a condo. It was right across the street from the
Mr. Singer: Oh sure.
Judge Richey: Lovely, lovely building.
Mr. Singer: Absolutely. We had our offices in the Watergate. You’re talking about
the Potomac Plaza Terraces? Is that the building?
Judge Richey: No, it’s called, there are three plazas: there’s Potomac Plaza, which is right
across the street; there’s the Plaza — where we lived, and, then there’s that
building called the Plaza something, where the EEOC used to be. Right
down the street. Big, big complex.
Mr. Singer: It was Columbia Plaza.
Judge Richey: Columbia Plaza. That’s it. That’s the big one. That is the one I was
trying to think of. EEOC was in there.
Mr. Singer: That’s right. It’s a mixed use.
Judge Richey: Right, right. But, that’s kind of a diversion, but Oliver’s forgiven me.
Mr. Singer: Well that’s very good of him.
Judge Richey: He’s a pretty big man. He’s forgiven me for that. He felt very strongly
about it and he thought I was terrible to lead the fight in favor of that.
That’s what brought me the attention of Bazelon.
Mr. Singer: That goes back to where we started today — the enemy of my enemy is my
Judge Richey: He knew I could be trusted and he liked me; and, he knew that I was a…
Mr. Singer: This is David?
Judge Richey: Yeah, David used to say my friend Chuck is issue-oriented and he’s also a
man of principle. He said, “I don’t give a damn if he is a Republican; he’s
issue-oriented and we think alike.” And we did.
Mr. Singer: You did.
Judge Richey: That’s right. Screw them, I don’t care.
Mr. Singer: One of the things you said today, which is I think is of tremendous interest,
and I think it’s something that suggests that the Founding Fathers had
insights that we never just appreciated fully. That you said and it is
almost in the context of the economic discussion that we had briefly — that
you felt free after your confirmation.
Judge Richey: I did.
Mr. Singer: And that’s…
Judge Richey: That is exactly right. I felt free at last. Kind of like Martin Luther King,
you know that speech.
Mr. Singer: But that free at last is a whole different thing.
Judge Richey: I know, but I did feel free to be able to do something for my country and
the system of justice, which means so much to me that I can’t really
describe adequately. There are so many things wrong with the buddy
system that I found in this Courthouse when I came here. Particularly, at
the trial court levels.
Mr. Singer: How did that…
Judge Richey: Well if you were a WASP. Didn’t come from a big firm. You didn’t
qualify. You were like an African-American.
Mr. Singer: Well, you certainly qualified as a WASP.
Judge Richey: Yes, but that was a minority you understand Dan.
Mr. Singer: Oh really?
Judge Richey: This Courthouse was controlled lock stock and barrel by the Irish Mafia.
Starting with James A. Farley. Who stacked this court? I can show you
the one’s right over there on that picture.
Mr. Singer: I would be interested to know who they are.
Judge Richey: You didn’t know that?
Mr. Singer: Well, I knew that there were…
Judge Richey: Come on.
Mr. Singer: Luther Youngdahl didn’t fit that description. Luther Youngdahl was like
you. He didn’t fit that description.
Judge Richey: The hell he didn’t.
Mr. Singer: I know he wasn’t but he used to go to their goddam retreats. He fell in
with them lock stock and barrel.
Judge Richey: Now, George Hart.
Mr. Singer: One hundred percent. John Lewis Smith, Pratt. He’s as conservative as
Pat Buchanan. Don’t tell me he’s not.
Judge Richey: No, I certainly will not tell you he wasn’t.
Mr. Singer: Big Ben and Oliver Gasch.
Judge Richey: Right.
Judge Richey: At least a decent conservative.
Mr. Singer: Right.
Judge Richey: But a very right-wing person. Stanley Harris, I’m talking about the
Mr. Singer: Yeah.
Judge Richey: Is a very right-wing conservative. Who else is on this floor? We got
Rick Urbina, thank God. He’s going to be a marvelous judge.
But you see here you had McGuire, Curran, McLaughlin. And they had
their people in the clerk’s office. You remember Marsha Hummer?
Mr. Singer: No, because I didn’t clerk in your court.
Judge Richey: Well, you didn’t file any motions in the trial court. You had to go to her
before you were allowed to file it. And she would read it. Made me
take a pleading back, a motion back to my office because it had a
semicolon instead of a period. And I said Miss Hummer, can’t I just put it
in there with my pen like that. Nobody will pay any attention to it.
Nope, you have to do it over again. Well 15-20 years later, or however
long it was, I came here as a judge and the first week they made me
motions judge and register rules judge. And every day I have to see her
with a pile of orders like this and they had blanks in there to appoint
lawyers. So, I started appointing my Jewish friends, and my minority
friends, and some women. That had never happened before. And after a
few weeks, she couldn’t stand it any longer. So, she said “Judge I have
something to say to you.” “What’s that, Miss Hummer?” “You’re not
appointing the same people we’ve always appointed?” And these are
quite lucrative appointments. And I said, “Yes.”
Mr. Singer: She had it right the first time.
Judge Richey: And she said “What do you mean?” And she pulled out of her purse a list
and handed it to me and it was so old Dan it was yellow the paper. And I
should have kept it but I got mad and threw it back like that. And said
“There is a new day in this courthouse Miss Hummer. As long as I am
alive those people are never going to be appointed because it has been their
way too long.” And six weeks later she resigned.
Mr. Singer: That’s right.
Judge Richey: Six weeks later she resigned.
Mr. Singer: How did the other judges allow you to do this?
Judge Richey: I just did it.
Mr. Singer: But this is…
Judge Richey: Oh, they were trying to kill me in the beginning.
Mr. Singer: Kill you by overworking you?
Judge Richey: Yes. Hell, they gave me two judges’ calendars. The new judges come
on here they get 140 cases. Christ, I had 550 civil cases, about 400
criminal cases, plus all this other work right in the beginning. I wasn’t
supposed to be here. I didn’t come from the big firms. I didn’t come
from the establishment. No.
Mr. Singer: Well you came from the establishment. Good grief.
Judge Richey: No I really wasn’t the kind of establishment that you normally think of.
Like George Hart who had been.
Mr. Singer: Whiteford, Hart, Carmody and Wilson is a firm we all knew.
Judge Richey: But that wasn’t George Hart. George Hart was state chairman in the days
when it meant something to be state chairman. Like Joe McGarraghy was
at Wilkes & Artis firm. Youngdahl had been governor of Minnesota.
Christ almighty. McLaughlin, Congressman. McGuire, Jackson’s
assistant. Number one assistant in…
Mr. Singer: The Justice Department.
Judge Richey: Yeah, hell I wasn’t a part of that.
Mr. Singer: But, you came out of certainly what many people, maybe incorrectly,
thought was at least part of the local Washington establishment.
Judge Richey: Well in a sense.
Mr. Singer: The Washington, Montgomery County, Maryland Statehouse type of
Judge Richey: Right. Well sure, sure. But not their kind of people. Not their kind of
Mr. Singer: How did the President make such a mistake?
Judge Richey: Well, I have had that question asked and he has alleged to have said that
Charles Richey represents his worst appointment during his presidency and
that I am the Earl Warren and Bill Brennan of his administration. That’s
what Richard Nixon says about me. Sorry, but that was too bad. But
that’s the way it is. Most people say that’s a compliment.
Mr. Singer: You know, I don’t know if you remember back when Tom Clark was
appointed to the Supreme Court.
Judge Richey: I do remember.
Mr. Singer: The Washington Post, I guess it was the Times Herald at that point
editorialized saying this is the worst appointment Truman has ever made.
When Dave Bazelon was appointed, that same newspaper.
Judge Richey: Probably said the same thing.
Mr. Singer: Said no that they were wrong about Clark. It’s Bazelon that was the worst
appointment that Truman ever made because he had come out of Chicago
Judge Richey: Oh yeah. And what was the famous national committee man from
Mr. Singer: Jake.
Judge Richey: Jake Arvey.
Mr. Singer: Jake Arvey, right.
Judge Richey: He was Mickey’s friend you know that?
Mr. Singer: Yeah I know.
Judge Richey: It wasn’t David.
Mr. Singer: It wasn’t David. He always was very smart about who his friends were.
Judge Richey: Yeah.
Mr. Singer: And The Washington Post and Times Herald later on, must have been in
the ’60’s, apologized essentially editorially to David.
Judge Richey: Great!
Mr. Singer: It was kind of a great day.
Judge Richey: That’s marvelous.
Mr. Singer: That happened.
Judge Richey: Well I want to tell you something, David Bazelon took me in. I don’t
know why. As I say I first came to his attention in that Mallory fight
which again was a matter of principle with me.
Mr. Singer: You want to know something about how far Dave Bazelon came. His
own developments. It’s worth going back and looking at the case called
Coplon against the United States.
Judge Richey: Oh Coplon. It’s called Coplon.
Mr. Singer: Judy Coplon. David was really on the wrong side.
Judge Richey: Was he?
Mr. Singer: Oh yeah, because there they had intercepted conversations between Judy
Coplon and her lawyer.
Judge Richey: Jesus Christ!
Mr. Singer: My recollection is that David would have upheld it. He was in a minority
that dissented from Wilbur Miller who threw it out. I mean this role
reversal. In any event, we now have come almost to two hours that we
have been chatting and for me it has been an exciting and most enjoyable
Judge Richey: Well, you’re sweet.
Mr. Singer: But one thing we haven’t done and perhaps you rather I did it with your
clerk. I don’t want to stop this now, I think we are warming up to the
Judge Richey: Whatever you want.
Mr. Singer: I would like at least to schedule a few more such sessions if you are willing
to do this.
Judge Richey: Oh, absolutely, I am at your hands.
Mr. Singer: And it probably would be best in terms of not taking your time to look
through your calendar that I call up Jeff and try and set it up with him.
Judge Richey: I think we have another one, just let me look here. This is April.
Mr. Singer: We don’t have any more scheduled now. We had one scheduled last
Judge Richey: Right.
Mr. Singer: That had to be canceled. Well that’s show biz. That’s what happens.
Judge Richey: Wait just a minute. Today is the, we had one for the 13th.
Mr. Singer: Right, and that’s the one that got canceled. We are now at the 17th.
Judge Richey: Well, if you want to do it tomorrow.
Mr. Singer: No, what I would like to do if I may, is get these two sessions transcribed.
Judge Richey: All right.
Mr. Singer: Be able to reflect a little to make some notes about areas that we have
already been over that might be interesting to pursue or clues that might be
interesting to pursue during discussions of what happens to Judge Richey
over the course of 20+ years.
Judge Richey: Starting 25 next month.
Mr. Singer: That’s right and be able to…
Judge Richey: It’s incredible for me to realize. It is.
Mr. Singer: But it’s an incredible career.
Judge Richey: I have just been so blessed.
Mr. Singer: I want to talk some more about this sense of freedom. This internal
freeing that happens when someone is appointed — gets tenure of a very
special kind. In a very special kind of university if you will.
Judge Richey: Well, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I don’t know whether I
can describe it but it is, except for the pay, it’s one of the most wholesome
things that can ever happen to a human being. And I am delighted to say
that the Article III Judiciary, I think, is probably the greatest group of
human beings that have ever been assembled. The Founding Fathers
really knew what they were doing when they talked about creating an
Mr. Singer: Well it has
Judge Richey: Well Dan let me tell you something. I heard George Mitchell say in a TV
interview before he retired as majority leader, just at the end of his term in
the Senate, that there will be term limits for members of Congress. And
he added as a former federal judge, there will be term limits for federal
judges. Let me tell you something. If there is any kind of a term limit
for federal judges, you can kiss this Republic good-bye. If you know
anything about history, as I know you do, but I’m not sure that the
American people do, Adolph Hitler when he came to power, what was the
very first act that he did. It was to fire and remove all the judges of the
nisi prius courts throughout Germany. That’s what’s going to happen to
America if George Mitchell’s prediction is correct.
Mr. Singer: I think federal judges…
Judge Richey: I’m serious.
Mr. Singer: …have a special kind of coming together.
Judge Richey: Well, that may be true and I hope so, but I’m telling you that is what’s
gonna happen to this Republic if it comes about. Mitchell is no fool, he’s
a pretty wise man.
Mr. Singer: He is a former federal judge also.
Judge Richey: Yes. For a year, year and a half, something like that.
Mr. Singer: He never fully got his feet wet.
Judge Richey: Let me tell you something about judging. It takes probably four or five
years to really learn how to be a judge. One of the unfortunate things
about our system of justice is we got a three-tiered system as you know.
The trouble with the intermediate circuit courts is unlike the old days in the
beginning of the Republic when even the Supreme Court rode circuit.
These people come generally from academia. Why, because they write
law review articles and the appointing authority, whether a Democrat or
Republican, feels secure in his or her views and therefore their long range
imprint on history will be more secure. They don’t generally appoint
people who have had experience in the arena of life, the trial courts, that’s
just the exception rather than the rule.
Mr. Singer: Don’t trial courts?
Judge Richey: Absolutely. All you have to do is look at the bios to prove it. It’s not
hard to prove.
Mr. Singer: No, no.
Judge Richey: You don’t see a Jack Weinstein on the Second Circuit.
Mr. Singer: Correct.
Judge Richey: You don’t see a Marvin Frankel on the Second Circuit. You didn’t see
Eddie Weinfeld on the Second Circuit. Now, those three I think are
among the greatest of your time or my time. You don’t see a Charles
Richey on the D.C. Circuit. Well there are some of us that just can’t pass
that litmus test. You understand.
Mr. Singer: Pat Wald.
Judge Richey: She is one of the greatest women I have ever known. But let me tell you
something. Dear Pat wasn’t a trial lawyer.
Mr. Singer: No, she was certainly not that.
Judge Richey: She worked for the Legal Aids Society, she worked for NRDC, she did all
Mr. Singer: She was also Assistant Attorney General.
Judge Richey: Well, Office Legal Policy or whatever it was. She is a person of great
principle. I just admire and love that woman beyond description. But,
she doesn’t know what goes on in the dynamics of putting a trial together
like I just went through with Duran. No idea. The same is true. Who
up there now does have that? My goodness gracious.
Mr. Singer: What’s the downside of having people like that up there?
Judge Richey: The downside is that they review our work and they don’t know what the
heck they are doing.
Mr. Singer: But are they…
Judge Richey: You see, there is something about knowing human being and the effect that
their decision may have on the quality of life. If you haven’t been down in
the pits working with others and managing the process how can you review
it and say this is wrong and that is wrong. Harold Greene and Lou
Oberdorfer are another two people that should have been on the appellate
courts. I’m dead right. Don’t kid me I know I am.
Mr. Singer: Harold has certainly been down in the pits. Oberdorfer was a lawyer in
practice here and has also been Assistant Attorney General of Tax.
Judge Richey: Exactly. And I know both wanted to be.
Mr. Singer: That’s a big list. Those who wanted to be. That’s a big list. Very good
Judge Richey: Well I’ve got to go to NYU to a conference that I promised Sam Strader
that I would go to this Friday and Saturday and then I’ve got to come back
here for a dinner Saturday night. Then next week I go to Florida to do a
Mr. Singer: When you go like that do you take Mardelle with you? Does she come
Judge Richey: Sometimes, but she’s gotten so in recent years she won’t go unless, if she’s
been there before she won’t go.
Mr. Singer: She only wants to go to new places with you.
Judge Richey: I don’t like that, but if you can figure out a way to change her mind I would
pay you for it.
Mr. Singer: I’m going to turn this off