Joyce Hens Green Text of Interview: October 6, 1999Catherine Nugent2022-04-19T11:44:07-04:00
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ORAL HISTORY OF
HONORABLE JOYCE HENS GREEN
Third Interview – October 6, 1999
(TAPE 4 A)
MS. PORTER: This interview is being conducted on behalf of the oral history
project of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is Judge Joyce Hens Green. The
interviewer is Jennifer Porter. The interview is taking place at the judge’s home on October 6,
1999. Joyce, in our previous interviews we jumped around a little bit. What I’d like to do is try
and give us a little chronology, so can you talk about after you graduated from law school, talk
about where you practiced and who you practiced with.
JUDGE GREEN: As earlier said, I graduated from law school in November 1951
and very shortly thereafter, within weeks, I hung out a shingle, initially from my home. I was
needed there for the first few months, my mother was dying of cancer, and did die a few weeks
after I graduated from law school; it was necessary that I combine home activities and take care of
my father and brother, as well as begin a small law practice.
MS. PORTER: Where was home at that time?
JUDGE GREEN: Home was in northwest Washington on Calvert Street. It was
a large townhouse with many rooms and sufficient space in which I could designate office area in
order to confer with clients. That arrangement worked for some time until I commenced sharing
offices with another woman attorney, met through the Women’s Bar Association, a bit older than
I. Our arrangement was sharing office space only, but it quickly became exceptionally awkward
because her office was very small and it was necessary to work out timing so that she would not
be there when my clients came in and I was there. This didn’t always occur in sync; however, we
managed to go along with this arrangement until finally she left and I maintained it alone for
perhaps two years thereafter. Then, at her invitation, I joined offices with June Green in 1960.
(Note: Judge June L. Green, after an extraordinary 33 years on the federal court, took inactive
status on January 1, 2001, and died February 2, 2001.)
MS. PORTER: And did you have a secretary, a library – how did you manage
those sort of things?
JUDGE GREEN: In the beginning, I was everything to the office. I did my own
typing, my own legwork; I was the messenger; I answered the phone, except when the answering
service performed that function for me in my absence. There was no one else. But after the first
year, and during the second year, I was able to afford a part-time secretary. As I put it, I was able
to afford half a carpet, then things improved substantially, and thereafter I was able to afford a
secretary and other support services. When I joined forces with June Green, she had two offices,
one for each of us, a common waiting room, and a secretary. We shared the cost and operation of
the office and the secretary right down the middle and that worked remarkably well.
MS. PORTER: How about legal research?
JUDGE GREEN: Each of us bought as many books and supplies as we could
afford. It’s amazing to think back to the day when there was no computer, there was no
LexisNexis, no Internet; we did not have research assistants, you did the research yourself, and
that meant going down to the bar association library, available to members only, and spending a
great deal of time there (located on the third floor of the U.S. Courthouse), and doing whatever
research was necessary. There were typewriters in the back of the library’s large room, accessible
for people who had need for them, which I used over and again. There was also, interestingly, an
assistant in the library by the name of Warren Juggins, who is, incidentally, still with the
courthouse after all of these years, and he assisted me greatly in making photocopies so that I
could take those documents home with me, those slip opinions and those cases, and then plot out
whatever it was that I had to do to become versed in a matter sufficiently to properly advise my
MS. PORTER: Now we talked, this was before we got on tape, we talked
about many humorous aspects of practicing law. Joyce, what sort of clothes did you wear to go to
court in those days?
JUDGE GREEN: I might have known that a woman would ask me a question
like that. In those days we were demure, that’s the word that comes readily to mind. Wore
business suits and simple blouses only, never the turtleneck sweater or the chic little collar or
gloriously vibrant blouse or the tailored pants suit you will see today. High heeled shoes, hose,
small white gloves, and very often a little hat. You seem stunned. (laughter)
MS. PORTER: It’s the hat and the white gloves that did it for me. I wanted to
have you on tape owning up to that.
JUDGE GREEN: You have to remember. This is 1950. It is a time in our
history when we are just recovering from the war. In 1960 you had Jackie Kennedy with her little
pillbox she was famous for, and her white gloves with a ballgown as she went to dinner. This was
the period when we didn’t know about DNA or Medicare, or the Heimlich Maneuver, or test tube
babies, or recognition of extraordinary illnesses, like AIDS.
MS. PORTER: Well, it seems to me that there weren’t many women in the
work force, where you didn’t really have a model to choose, so maybe the hat and gloves was what
everyone else was wearing, so you’d just blend into the workplace.
JUDGE GREEN: Must have been quite a sight the first time I went and visited
the cellblock for a court appointment. The Marshals were astonished and chortled and yelled to
my defendant, “Here comes your lady lawyer!”
MS. PORTER: Well, let’s leave the riveting topic of attire and go back; I’d like
to get a sense of what your practice was like. We talked last time about your first jury trial.
JUDGE GREEN: The United States District Court for the District of Columbia
and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia were really the only courts of
record in those days. The local courts were the municipal court, which had severely limited
jurisdiction, and the municipal court of appeals. The primary local jurisdiction vested in our
federal court, the only federal court in the United States that had this dual activity. The kinds of
cases that would wind up in the municipal court would be the drunk driving and traffic problems,
local landlord/tenant, evictions, small claims court, misdemeanors, civil cases affording limited
compensation, but most controversies were determined in federal court: domestic relations,
divorces, adoptions, custody, support, probate and estate, all done in the federal court, and any
cases, over whatever was the jurisdictional limit of the municipal court at that time, perhaps in the
$2,000 to $3,000 range. Anything more demanding than that would come over to our federal
court to be tried. And then, of course, you had the customary things that happen in federal court,
as today: diversity actions, felonies. In short, the greater bulk of anyone’s practice back in the 050s
and the 060s, and until the early 070s, would be in federal court. Astonishing to people when they
think of the jurisdiction as it is now. So this is the court where I really cut my eyeteeth, where I
did the vast majority of my practice, where I spent easily 95 percent of my time in litigation of
MS. PORTER: So your first case – we talked about your first jury case. Can
you remember what was absolutely your first case?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes, it was a domestic assault case. My client was a woman
who had heard about me from a friend of hers. She came to my office detailing how her husband
had assaulted her and that they had been summoned to appear at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In
those days we called it “over the counter”; the U.S. Attorney would be on one side of the counter,
and he (then it almost always was a he) would discuss the matter informally with the victim and
defendant, often lawyerless.
MS. PORTER: Over the counter?
JUDGE GREEN: Over the counter. Literally a counter separated the two.
MS. PORTER: Sounds like a private experience.
JUDGE GREEN: Everybody stood and it wasn’t very private.
MS. PORTER: Were there other people in the room? Was there a long
JUDGE GREEN: Long.
MS. PORTER: With several people having conversations all the way along
JUDGE GREEN: Exactly. And there was a bit of counseling that took part in
this process to decide whether or not there would be a prosecution. People were entitled to bring
attorneys if they wished, most appeared without counsel. So this is where I was the first time. My
victim client asked if I would assist her; she was afraid of her husband; she didn’t know what was
going to happen at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The fact is, I didn’t know what was going to
happen at the U.S. Attorney’s Office since this was my very first case. But, we went there, the
matter did get resolved, they decided to stay in separate abodes for a few weeks and then they
started dating again in the hope their lives could be happily resolved. It did work out – a very
modest case and I remember an alarmingly modest fee ($25.00) that I set for my activity there.
But after that, there would be other kinds of cases that would propel me into court. As example,
there was a gentleman whose home was being razed on New Jersey Avenue, NW, because he had
contracted to repair and remodel the home, and, in particular, to have 12 steps with treads in the
house. It had been required by the D.C. licensing officials, otherwise the house would be razed.
My client was a man who worked very long hours at the United States Post Office, he had gotten
my name from another client, telephoned me; I was the third or fourth lawyer he had had. Signals
go off, even for the novice I was at that time, that when one has had three or four lawyers, it may
not be wise to be the fifth. In any event, he talked about his problems and I agreed to see him.
When he told me that his third lawyer had actually committed fraud I worried a bit more, but
continued with the case. It turned out that he was correct about his third lawyer, who had taken
his money; the contractor had taken his money; and nobody had done any work for him; and now
he was about to lose the property in which he and his mother lived. He was a very decent person,
but not very savvy, and so my greatest work for him was going down to the court frequently,
perhaps every two weeks, to advise of the progress we were making.
MS. PORTER: On repairing the stairs?
JUDGE GREEN: That’s right. That is, 12 treads were put on those 12 stairs and
other repairs were effectuated to stop D.C. from the final eviction and razing of this home. This
man was truly a special client, one of the best I ever had. Totally devoted, he did everything I
asked him to do. We did get his matter solved – never got his money back because they never
found the people who had taken his money – but we got the house rebuilt to the point that it
satisfied the licensing personnel. In fact, this man was so earnest and likeable that the licensing
personnel began to testify on his behalf, urging delay until he could afford all the repairs. I was
proud of this result. It wasn’t difficult for the judge to give us another stay and we could leave the
court. A great experience. He paid my fee and I asked for one last promise: If you ever, ever
think about entering into any contract again, please call me or call another lawyer, but call
someone. Don’t rely on your own judgment.
MS. PORTER: I assume you mean call beforehand.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. And, indeed, he called several months later while I was
on vacation; when I checked in with my office, I was told it was an emergency, so I called my
former client who confessed to signing a contract an hour or two earlier. He thought then he was
in trouble. Standing in a phone booth on the beach, I immediately called the other party,
explained why my client should not have signed the “contract,” and claimed we were going to take
action immediately. I suggested that the swiftest and best way to dispose of this was to tear up the
contract and give his client half of the torn one and give the other half to my client. Much to my
amazement my protestation and suggestion was accepted.
MS. PORTER: Do you remember what the contract was about?
JUDGE GREEN: Not at all. I then called back my client and said he would
never be my client again if he disregarded my advice in the future. He agreed he would never do
that again. In short, these were small cases in the beginning, domestic cases, personal injury
cases, cases contractual, such as I have just mentioned, but the fact is the satisfied clients referred
one to others and, in turn, became devoted friends for the rest of my career.
MS. PORTER: Well, do you have any other cases that you remember from
that time period that you would like to share?
JUDGE GREEN: During some of the time I practiced in the state of Virginia,
having become a member of the Virginia bar in January 1956, and set up a home office there since
we had moved our home from Washington, D.C. to Virginia, at approximately that period of time,
1955 or 1956. I had became eligible to become a member of the Virginia bar and I applied for
permission to join that bar, which then required a commitment to devote over 50 percent of your
practice in the state of Virginia. I could make that promise. I then had to go down to Richmond
to be formally admitted to the Virginia bar. In between, I responded to a subsequent questionnaire
asking how I expected to do 50 percent in the State of Virginia, since I practiced law in the
District of Columbia. I explained that I could not do so the first few months after Virginia
admission, because I had to earn a living, but I was a resident there, I fully intended to do practice
50 percent or more in Virginia, I had cases that I had been trying with other lawyers who were
members of the Virginia bar, I had appeared in court on many occasions in Arlington County and
Fairfax County, and I was ready to do this and continue towards the 50 percent requirement.
Thereafter, I went with Virginia counsel, on a snowy day in January 1956, to the Virginia Supreme
Court, in Richmond, for formal admission. I was required to bring a member of the bar with me
to move my admission before the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia. After I was admitted,
the bailiff approached to tell me that the Chief Justice wanted to speak to me. Of course, I was
terrified, I thought what could I have done wrong already? The Chief Justice asked if I would be
willing to become his law clerk. At this point I had been practicing law for several years, five or
six years, and I can only imagine it was the correspondence back and forth from the time that I
applied to be admitted to the Virginia bar that had inspired this offer. Or possibly it was because I
was a woman and there were only a few women lawyers. I turned down the offer as gracefully as
MS. PORTER: Do you remember his name?
JUDGE GREEN: I have been referring to Chief Justice Edward W. Hudgins.
MS. PORTER: So what happened? Was he just sitting there on the bench and
like a bolt out of the blue says would you come and work for me?
JUDGE GREEN: No, he wasn’t on the bench. He asked me to come back to his
chambers, but it was within minutes after I had been admitted, before I left that courtroom. The
Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, Howard Turner, who had been a longtime
clerk of that court, was present at that time.
MS. PORTER: Now Joyce, lets go back – you’ve been admitted in Virginia
and what sort of cases did you have?
JUDGE GREEN: My practice, essentially, was a civil litigation practice. I did a
good deal of domestic relations work, probate, estate work, personal injury work, and only on rare
occasions did I do criminal work. Primarily those latter cases resulted from court appointments.
As example of some of the cases that went to litigation, I recall representation of intervening
petitioners, the grandparents, in a most acrimonious five-day divorce trial involving custody of
two minor grandchildren. Representation of a mother who sought support from her deserting
husband, who years later became the famous country musician, Roy Clark, television personality
of “Hee Haw.” I mention his name only because this was a public case, publicly reported; his wife
sought support on behalf of the minor child, incapacitated by infantile paralysis. The Clarks also
had a two-year-old son when Roy left the family and her with all of their obligations. This was at
the very beginning of his career and right after he had won the prize on the Arthur Godfrey show,
very famous in those days. I represented a mother-in-law who was sued by her daughter-in-law
under the Virginia’s quaint “insulting words” statute.
MS. PORTER: Do you remember what the insulting words at issue were?
JUDGE GREEN: I really don’t remember the precise words, but this was a
daughter-in-law who despised her mother-in-law, and said so in no uncertain terms. I represented
infants and mental patients and as guardian ad litem in habeas corpus proceedings. I represented a
prisoner before the parole board and one of the cases that I remember most particularly was a
former banker indicted for embezzlement in Arlington, Virginia. He was an officer, a principal of
the then largest bank in the state of Virginia, Old Dominion Bank. I had met him on the occasion
of my responsibility as a lawyer for a doctor client; he asked me for my professional card,
laughing that maybe he might need me some day. A few years later, I did receive a phone call; he
reminded me of how we met and exclaimed that he was now in D.C. jail, about to be extradited to
Virginia. Could I help him? He had been arrested for embezzlement from that bank. I advised
that I was certainly not a criminal law expert, suggested he might do better if he hired someone
who was more experienced than I, but he insisted he wanted my services. I agreed to look into the
case and then make that determination. His family retained me. The matter focused on
handwriting and the embezzlement of a Danish bank client who had purportedly written a letter
asking that monies from his account be forwarded to him. The letter was in the bank files. Of
course, the Dane never received the monies. The complaint asserted my client had taken the
money. I attended the preliminary hearing and noting that there was no handwriting expert
present, asked one question of each of the witnesses, “Are you a handwriting expert?” The
answer, of course, was no. I moved for dismissal of the charges. No one was more astonished
than I when the judge granted the motion, but, of course, that was not to be the end of the case,
because the prosecutor can secure, as was done, a grand jury original. And, later, when I
recognized the name of one of the government’s witnesses as that of a handwriting expert, lights
went off and I knew we also had to have a handwriting expert. I secured the services of such an
expert who had been in the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnaping case. When he assured me this
was, indeed, the handwriting of my client, I advised my client that he should consider options.
When I had secured the handwriting document in order to utilize the services of our expert, I had a
long discussion with Bill Hassan, then the Arlington, Virginia, Commonwealth Attorney, who
advised that if the defendant pled he would make a reasonable recommendation for my client, but
if he insisted on trial, he would “throw the book at him” after conviction. The prosecutor had
discovered (as I had) that Old Dominion Bank had not checked the background of the defendant
before hiring him as an officer, and he knew – I did not – that the defendant had committed the
same type offense in Texas years earlier, receiving a governor’s pardon. I should note that when I
asked Bill Hassan for a copy of the original handwritten instrument, I had drawn up a detailed
motion and a proposed order for that. He took it, laughed, tore it up in my presence and said,
“You want the document, you have it, we shake hands on it.” I actually slept with the instrument
– I wouldn’t let it out of my sight. I brought it over personally to the expert; I stood by; I went in
the other room; I waited until he came to his decision. I felt absolutely bound to give this letter
intact to the one who had handed it to me so readily. The night before we went to trial, my client,
who had been insisting on his innocence (although I certainly had great doubts about it), called me
late that evening to admit his responsibility in the case and ask that I work out the best deal I
could for him. The next day we went to court to enter the plea of guilty. I have the greatest
respect for the hard-boiled Commonwealth Attorney. Instead of throwing the book at this client
of mine, who thoroughly deserved it, he stayed his hand, did not oppose my brash motion for
probation (having found two jobs for the defendant). The judge granted probation and then, lo
and behold, a few years later this incredible client called me again. No surprises: Once again, he
was in jail, in D.C., accused of embezzlement. He wanted me to represent him. It was easy to say
no. I said no.
MS. PORTER: Joyce, in this day and age, work obsessed, the number of hours
worked by lawyers, I can’t figure out how you managed to get more than 24 hours in a day. Just
for history’s sake, what sort of hours were you working?
JUDGE GREEN: It’s amazing the energy one has when in their twenties and
thirties and a bit beyond. It really is extraordinary to look back on it. I don’t know how many
hours I would work per day. There is no question I put in probably 10-12 hours a day on the
average, but to say that it began at a certain time and ended at a certain time would not be
accurate. Things just had to be done. I worked through lunchtime, would spend that time
working on a project, roll it into the evening, go to meetings, work on Saturdays. I would do
whatever was necessary in order to accomplish the task, whatever time it took.
MS. PORTER: Your 10- or 12-hour day, is that work, work, or work plus
JUDGE GREEN: I would spend 10 to 12 hours daily on work and then more
time beyond that for extra activities and very little time for sleep. But you don’t need much sleep
when you are young.
(TAPE 4 B)
MS. PORTER: This is a continuation of the interview being conducted on
behalf of the Oral History Project of the District of Columbia Circuit on October 6, 1999. Joyce,
we were talking about what sort of hours you worked. How much of your time would you say
was spent on litigation?
JUDGE GREEN: You had to spend time on investigation and research before
litigation; I was in court several times a week, very often in trial, other times presenting a motion;
it seemed to me then, and looking back in retrospect, it still seems to me that I spent a huge
amount of my time on litigation. There were, indeed, only five women who regularly appeared in
the court arena. To be sure, there were other women lawyers, but they were in fields that didn’t
lend themselves to court. Most of it was on paper: real estate and even probate and estates didn’t
require many court appearances.
MS. PORTER: I think we’ve been over it before, but who were the others?
JUDGE GREEN: The five included me. There was June Green, Kay Staley,
Dovey Roundtree and Jean Dwyer.
MS. PORTER: Jeanne Dobres?
JUDGE GREEN: No, Jeanne Dobres was not a litigator.
MS. PORTER: Through this time, Joyce, it seems to me that there are so few
women. What did it feel like or did you think about it? You would walk into a room and you
would stand out like a sore thumb. How did it feel to be one of such a select group?
JUDGE GREEN: Of course I thought about it, but I was already accustomed to
it. Going through college and going through law school I was always one of a distinct minority.
In college, as I have told you earlier, I was pre-med and the only woman in a number of my
classes; in other classes there were very few of us. In law school I was one of three in my first law
school and one of six in the law school to which I transferred.
MS. PORTER: The whole school, not just your class?
JUDGE GREEN: In the whole school. So it was no surprise to come out in the
real world and find the same situation. I was accustomed to it by now and I just knew that I had to
work harder and really do a good job, first for my clients and secondly because it was obvious that
I was probably going to be the only woman that any of the jurors would ever see in action, and
thirdly for self-respect. So it was a combination of matters that propelled me to work hard and
learn a great deal. I had help from the few women then in the profession who were active in
associations and activities that I too was active in, but, candidly, in the main it was the men who
were my mentors and assisted me because those were the great majority of people I dealt with.
They did help me, by and large.
MS. PORTER: Do you have any recollections at this point of how judges
responded to having a women attorney standing in front of them?
JUDGE GREEN: It’s difficult to say because, of course, I didn’t know them as
well as some of my colleagues did. I didn’t play golf with them (and still don’t) but many of my
male colleagues did so. That would be apparent when we went to chambers to discuss whether or
not a case would settle because the judge would address the man by his first name and discuss the
golf game they had played the day before; it was clear that there was a greater rapport, but that
was understandable, or at least so I rationalized. Obviously they had done things together and had
known each other, and I was new and young at the bar, and there were very few women. When
the judges listened to an argument most seemed patient; what they were thinking is another
matter. I won most cases. I remember one really very nice judge, his name was F. Dickinson
Letts, a United States district judge; I had two motions to argue before him. He was a courtly,
white-haired gentleman, and he bent forward and rocked a little bit and nodded his head
affirmatively as I argued the issue. I thought oh, for sure, I have won this motion; then he denied
it and I thought, oh well. I argued the next motion, again he bent forward, nodding his head
affirmatively, and this time I thought I knew the result of this motion, but he granted it. So, it
would be very difficult for me to say that I was treated differently than the men, save for the fact
that there was more familiarity with the men. Most judges were courteous with all; some berated
all. Indeed, Judge Alexander Holtzoff, brilliant, but a tyrant, screamed at the other lawyers but
beamed at me. I have no idea why.
MS. PORTER: Well, how about the juries? Were you aware of having any
special impact on juries? Did they listen more attentively?
JUDGE GREEN: I like to think that they were listening more attentively. If I did
a good job as a lawyer and female (therefore someone to look at as a strange apparition), and if
persuasive and good enough, perhaps the jurors would not only listen, but appreciate the rationale,
reason and righteousness of my client’s case.
MS. PORTER: And did women serve on juries then?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes, although unlike the situation today. There were far more
men on the juries than women. You might know that we had, in the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia, but one woman judge, Burnita Shelton Matthews, who was the first
woman in the United States, in 1950, to have been appointed as a United States district judge, by
President Harry Truman.
MS. PORTER: She was one of a kind then?
JUDGE GREEN: Indeed one of a kind.
MS. PORTER: Did she have any special feeling for women who were
practicing before her? Did she give indications that she understood the difficulties you were
JUDGE GREEN: She did have a special feeling. She was a southern gentle lady,
as people have referred to her, right from Mississippi, delicate in her approach to matters, but
firm, always polite, always a lady, dressing accordingly and presenting herself accordingly. She
only hired women law clerks, unlike the men, none of whom hired women law clerks – none, and
she always seemed to accept my presentation with interest and appreciation. She was
professional. I never felt I was receiving a special favor because I was a woman, but I did feel that
I was being received with pleasure because of that fact.
MS. PORTER: Did you get to know her personally? Outside the courtroom?
JUDGE GREEN: I did. Not very well. I knew her law clerks far better. Sylvia
Bacon and Pat Frohman among those. Pat Frohman, for example, was her law clerk for six or
seven years and Sylvia Bacon for at least two years, perhaps longer. I got to know Judge
Matthews much better after I became a judge in the same court so many years later, when she was
close to her nineties.
MS. PORTER: Now you had given me a story before about the
Commonwealth Attorney in Virginia, who had given you an original document to go off with, and
it raised in my mind the question of trust and civility in the practice of law. Do you have any
sense about how things have changed between now and then? What was it like in the 050s? Do
you have a sense of it as a more gentle, polite, well-mannered time in the practice of law?
JUDGE GREEN: There was a stark difference between those days, Jenny, and
today. Civility was an accepted matter. People were decent to each other. People treated each
other with respect, with politeness, with civility; they didn’t stab you in the back; they didn’t go
before a judge and say he or she has done this and judge, please invoke Rule 11. We didn’t have
Rule 11 in those days. It was a matter of course that no matter how hard you fought in court (and
I want to say we did really fight hard for our clients), you always fought decently, ethically,
responsibly. In all my years of practice, and I was 17 years in practice, only once am I aware of a
time when a lawyer, to use the vernacular, attempted to “spin” me; that was resolved as soon as I
heard about it, the very next day. It was a situation where we each represented a client in a
domestic matter. I represented the wife, he the husband, and we worked out with the clients in a
four-way conference (the principals and the two lawyers) the division of the real property they
owned and division of their other assets. They had no children. It was agreed that there would be
a separation agreement drafted by that opposing lawyer the next day (since I was not going to be
available for a few days), and then the complaint would be filed and attached to it would be the
separation agreement, resulting in an uncontested proceeding. This was done customarily. I had
not told the lawyer I was going into the hospital for a minor operation the next day. And so I was
on my hospital bed when I received the news that this lawyer had filed the lawsuit and had
demanded, inexplicably, the very property that had been agreed to go to my client, making this a
contested matter. He never attached a separation agreement because, of course, he had not drafted
the agreed disposition for signature. I called from my hospital room and said in no uncertain
terms what I thought about his ethics and what I expected him to do immediately. He saw the
wisdom of that, blamed it on his secretary (not something that enchanted me), and withdrew the
pleadings from court that day. When I returned I drafted the agreement and it became an
uncontested divorce. Only one turncoat lawyer. You could shake hands civilly, you could break
bread with each other the next day (it’s probably hard for the clients to understand this), and you
could go out and fight again the following day if you had to. But recently – I wish that were the
situation today. We never had to write those protective letters to each other. If I broke my word I
would have been a pariah. Nobody, nobody would have worked with me. It just wasn’t done.
MS. PORTER: Joyce, I guess we’ve zigzagged around about some of your
JUDGE GREEN: Well there were so many of them.
MS. PORTER: I know. We only touched on the Women’s Bar Association
and I think also the bar association, when you talked about your radio program. Were there other
things that you did in the bar association? And let’s talk about other organizations that you were
JUDGE GREEN: There were many organizations, it’s hard to know where to
begin. Why don’t I talk briefly about the American Bar Association. I became a member in 1952
or 1953. At varying times I was the D.C. delegate in the mid-050s to the junior bar conference of
the ABA. For several years, about five, somewhere from the mid-050s to 1959, I was associate
editor of The Young Lawyer, a quarterly newspaper publication of the junior bar conference. I
should say, parenthetically, that those entities of the bar association’s “junior bar, junior bar
division, junior bar conference, junior bar section,” highlighted the lawyers under the age of 36.
Somehow that was the divining moment in a lawyer’s professional life. I also was a member in
the family law section and the insurance/negligence section of the ABA. I was active in the ABA,
attending their annual and semiannual meetings with regularity, particularly because the public
information committee in which we had produced the 350 programs over those years –
MS. PORTER: This is the public information committee of the Bar
Association of D.C.?
JUDGE GREEN: Exactly. Members of the D.C. Bar Association would go to
these ABA meetings with others of the junior bar section to present their activities. Annually, one
of these groups was singled out as the best junior bar section in the country. It made me very
proud indeed to say that the District of Columbia’s junior bar won the award primarily because of
the activities of my public information committee.
MS. PORTER: Were you the chair?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes.
MS. PORTER: You mentioned that you were the editor of their quarterly
newspaper. What was involved in being the editor? Did you have to write this or were you
JUDGE GREEN: I was associate editor. We edited contributions from others
discussing ABA activities, and collating that information that came in from various members and
delegates of each state to the junior bar conference to assimilate the news we thought most
beneficial professionally to the other younger members of the American Bar Association. It was a
quarterly, relatively slick document for those days. Slick, I say in a good sense.
MS. PORTER: Joyce, in your 30-hour days, what other things were you
JUDGE GREEN: I was a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial
Lawyers from the day of its founding in 1966 until I went on the bench. I also was a founding
member of the National Lawyers Club, and was one of two women on its original honorary
advisory board. This was a wonderful club with meals and sleeping accommodations for the
lawyers, always filled with lawyers, friends and clients. Business talk was evident. For me, a solo
practitioner and a woman to boot, it was really important that I have a place (other than my office)
to which I could take my clients (I’m not a country club kind of person), a place where I could
graciously pay the bill, because male clients always wanted to pay the bill. It got awkward. All I
had to do at the club was sign my name. We didn’t have credit cards in those days. It was
comforting to sit in a lounge, talk to a client or another lawyer, and have a meal together. I was
honored to be asked to be on the founding and advisory committee. As I told you earlier, I
practiced in both the District of Columbia and Virginia, shuttling back and forth with offices in
both jurisdictions. In the District of Columbia as another extracurricular activity, I participated in
the American Cancer Society, the D.C. division, became an officer for several years in the 1960s
and throughout most of that decade, and eventually a trustee of the American Cancer Society,
serving on its Executive Board. This was very important to me and I was active in it for personal
reasons (my mother was a cancer victim), as well as the desire to work with a worthy charitable
organization. As far as Virginia was concerned, for about 18 months I was a member of the
Soroptimist Club of Virginia. How did that happen? I was dragooned into membership by the
Deputy Clerk of the Arlington County Court, a woman.
MS. PORTER: You mean you were frightened not to join?
JUDGE GREEN: Exactly. She was the most prominent woman in Arlington
County politics and courts. It’s important to understand the dynamics in Virginia at that time.
When you think of a Clerk of the Court or a Deputy Clerk of the Court, your mind doesn’t
necessarily consider politics, but in Virginia it was the Clerk of the Arlington County Court that
gave, at his home, the kickoff ceremony for the gubernatorial election. And, in this instance, the
Deputy Clerk’s husband was the Clerk of the Court. She, more than he, was a serious politician.
Nothing was more important to her than to recruit young lawyers for work and politics. When she
found a young woman professional to associate with an organization that she was active in, that
enhanced her prominence. I was told I was going to be a Soroptimist and represent all women
lawyers (each Soroptimist represented an occupation, a banker, realtor, something of that nature).
I really had no choice. I wanted to have my pleadings promptly processed. So I joined. This club
was dedicated to charitable causes and doing good. The difficulty was that whatever we were
asked to do involved money. You had to sell tickets, you had to go to a raffle, you had to do an
auction, you had to participate two or three times a week in getting people to buy things. I have
never been able to lobby. As a girl scout I could never sell the cookies, so I bought them and ate
them all myself.
MS. PORTER: Well that’s okay. Eating is alright.
JUDGE GREEN: And I was the one who now had to raise money for laudable
purposes: scholarships, charitable contributions, etc. It lasted 18 months because I was rapidly
becoming impoverished, since I bought the tickets. I had no time for other, more important
causes. I finally had to say my practice was booming and my other activities were many, and,
therefore, I resigned to make a place for another woman lawyer. The deputy and I remained very
good friends, nonetheless; she was the one who insisted on personally issuing my wedding
license; she and her husband demanded to be invited. They were.
MS. PORTER: That’s sometime later?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes, sometime later.
MS. PORTER: Have we finished with your extracurricular activities?
JUDGE GREEN: No, but I’ve said enough, other than to add that I chaired the
younger lawyers of the National Association of Women Lawyers, around 1959 or 1960.
MS. PORTER: Can you explain what that organization was?
JUDGE GREEN: As its name suggests, women lawyers from all over America
had the right to join this organization, which represented the cause of women in general and
women lawyers specifically. It really did commendable work, as best it could with a relatively
small membership; since I was indeed one of the younger lawyers, I inherited that mantel rather
MS. PORTER: Now Joyce, you mentioned that right around 1960 you started
to share offices with June Green. Was June at that time a good friend of yours or did you become
good friends as a result of sharing an office?
JUDGE GREEN: At the time June Green asked me to join her in her suite of
offices in the Washington Building in D.C., she was the most prominent woman attorney both in
Maryland and in the District of Columbia, and had been a recent president of the Women’s Bar
Association. I did not really know her that well. I had seen her in action in the WBA and in her
activities with the D.C. Bar; I had watched her in court and admired her greatly, but I didn’t really
know her very well as a person. I accepted her offer with pleasure and we had, as I indicated
before, two offices, a common waiting room and a secretary, and equally shared the expenses. I
brought to this arrangement my copying machine, which in those days used the fluid, and energy;
she brought her coffee pot, her good nature and her wisdom. We became the very best of friends,
truly sisters (June treated me as her younger sister, but as an equal member of this association).
We were not partners, we never did become partners, but we were together for six years, five
before my marriage and one after my marriage. A wonderful, wonderful human being. She
would sew me up in order to go to court. Literally whip out her thread and needle as my hem
dragged a bit, apply a few stitches and send me out the door. I would send her out the door early
enough so she would be on time for her husband, John, or wouldn’t be held in contempt of court
for being late. We would do things for each other in many respects, personal things, consult about
cases, and how we would apply our respective talents. She mentored and taught me all along the
way, but, on occasion, much to my joy, she would also ask for my advice. We ate lunch together
almost daily. It was a very wonderful time in my life. A time of growth, a time of personal
pleasure in this really great friendship, a time of increasing devotion to the law, respect for the
other judges and lawyers that she knew, and I came to know. During this time she became a bar
examiner in the District of Columbia (there had been but one other woman who received that
prestigious position). I can still remember the sound of mounds of bar examinations landing at
our door days after the examination that she would now have to grade. These were inspiring
times. I met many people through her and John. They were steady rocks in my life. It was a time
I will cherish forever.
MS. PORTER: Who were some of the more memorable people that you
remember from this time?
JUDGE GREEN: So many. Let me just cite a few. Much of my life revolved
around the bar association and my activities therein, the people I met there, the monthly meetings,
so when I cite people I met there, some were co-counsel and some were opponents in court. I’ll
mention John Pratt, who was at one time president of the bar association as was Oliver Gasch;
both became colleagues of mine on the federal district court years later. They were there a long
time before I was. There was Charlie Rhyne, not only the president of the District of Columbia
Bar Association, who became the president of the American Bar Association and established the
World Peace Through Law group; I joined the division that concerned judges and world peace.
MS. PORTER: You say it dealt with judges. What did it do to judges?
JUDGE GREEN: The membership included judges worldwide who compared
their responsibilities in their cultures and politics; they tried to find ways in which judges, through
the law, could help assist the cause of world peace. A little difficult to fashion into words, but the
idea was laudable and World Peace Through Law was appreciated for many years as a stable
organization. There was also Donald Duvall, who has recently died, a fine gentleman who
worked in leadership posts at the State Department and was very active in the bar association.
There were wonderful women, Nancy Thompson for one, a very dear friend who had been active
in the bar before I came to the bar, as was Charlotte Murphy. Charlotte Murphy eventually
became a Court of Claims judge. Nancy Thompson was a very important figure in the
Department of Justice for many years during the time of civil rights, and subsequently during the
050s and 060s and 070s, and later as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General and legislative liaison to
Congress. There was, of course, Chief Judge Bolitha Laws of the United States District Court for
the District of Columbia. An amazing gentleman who treated me – you asked me how the judges
treated me, I should have mentioned him at the outset – with the greatest courtesy and
appreciation. And, of course, wonderful Ed Campbell. Ed Campbell, a noble gentleman of the
south, married to a remarkable woman, Elizabeth Campbell, who originated and developed
WETA, the public broadcasting station.
(TAPE 5 A)
MS. PORTER: This is a continuation of the interview being conducted on
behalf of the Oral History Project of the District of Columbia Circuit on October 6, 1999. Joyce,
before we had to start a new tape here, you started to talk about Ed Campbell as one of the
memorable people that you encountered during your activities. How did you meet Mr. Campbell?
JUDGE GREEN: I met Ed through my association with the bar association. He
had been an officer at the time I was chairing the public information committee and, when
president of the bar association he called and asked if I would accept the association’s
recommendation for nomination to the President of the United States for my appointment to one
of the two newly authorized judgeships in the D.C. Juvenile Court. I was astonished. While I
had followed that matter with interest since I had done some juvenile court work, among other
domestic relations work, I had never wanted to be a judge. I asked for a few days to think about
whether I would accept the designation by the District of Columbia Bar, which surprised Ed no
end; he persisted until I called to say I would. Then he told me what I had to do to secure this
appointment. He was very savvy politically; I was absolutely a novice. I was told to begin with
my precinct chair (I didn’t even know who that was) and move my way up to the 10 county th
level, which included Arlington County, where I lived and practiced, and the surrounding area,
and to get the endorsement of those leaders. Of course I did not know them. In turn, these
sponsors would encourage others to sponsor me. There were multiple stages in the political
process. Then I would have to contact my United States Senators. This was scary. All the
shyness that I had suppressed returned. It was really difficult to do this and I wanted to say no,
forget the whole thing, but I couldn’t since good people had reached out with faith in me; I also
felt I owed this to the women to follow. I went, reluctantly, from place to place. If Ed had only
admitted that he had paved the way for me in every instance, because at the end of each
conversation the person would say I was just as Ed had said I would be, etc., reflecting that he had
intervened. But I didn’t know that, and I couldn’t count on that, so to each I went with trepidation.
But, people were wonderful. Everyone wrote a glowing letter, even though I had just met them.
Mary Marshall, then chair of the 10 county (later, a state senator), herself typed a letter, in her th
home, while I waited, telling the world how wonderful I was and how I deserved this judgeship.
Senator Fenwick, our state senator, also sponsored me and he contacted William Battle. Bill
Battle, of the established Virginia law firm, Battle, Neal, Harris, Minor and Williams, in
Charlottesville, and son of a former Governor of Virginia, wrote a strong letter asking for my
appointment, to the U.S. Attorney General. He was special, a person who was on the PT boat
with John F. Kennedy during the war; John Kennedy was the President of the United States at
this time, so this obviously was a most important endorsement. I secured the endorsement of
Harry Byrd, Sr., the senior Senator of Virginia. Three men and I were nominated for this position:
Hubert Pair, then Assistant Corporation Counsel in charge of appeals (subsequently a judge of the
D.C. Court of Appeals); Barrington D. Parker, who later became a colleague of mine on the
district court; and Edmond T. Daly (later a judge of the Court of General Sessions, predecessor of
the Superior Court of the District of Columbia), then an assistant United States attorney. What
happened at the end is that —
MS. PORTER: None of you got the job?
JUDGE GREEN: None of us got the job, that’s exactly right. The positions went
to Morris Miller and Marjorie Lawson. Marjorie Lawson had been one of the handful of people
who consulted with President Kennedy in Hyannis, Massachusetts, prior to his nomination for the
Presidency; it was well known that should she want the juvenile court position she had it. But,
what she wanted was to be the Director of the Mint, and if she got that I would become the
juvenile court judge. As it turned out, she did not become Director of the Mint, she became the
juvenile court judge, I didn’t. End of story. It taught a remarkable lesson, which was, never, ever
would I allow myself to do again what I did to try to secure this appointment. I could not go with
hat in hand to ask for personal endorsements. It just wasn’t me; I can’t do that sort of thing. I was
enormously concerned about it and I detested the entire process. I felt very uncomfortable that
people wrote such laudable things about me, however nice, when they didn’t even know me. It
just seemed so artificial. Incidentally, Jenny, as an Australian, you should know that Bill Battle
was appointed by President Kennedy as Ambassador to Australia.
MS. PORTER: I don’t remember him.
JUDGE GREEN: Well, you’re too young. This was an interesting period in my
life – that was in 1962.
MS. PORTER: Okay. Well we were talking about people you had met during
that time. Now, in our conversations off the record, one of the topics that you mentioned as
arising during this period was your marriage, and now might be a good time to tell us about how
you met your husband and how it all panned out.
JUDGE GREEN: Another illustration of the importance of the bar association
and its activities. I met my husband, Sam Green, through bar association activities. Indeed, he
was a member of my public information committee. We had similar interests. He was one of
many special people, a person that I had opposed in several cases. We had also been co-counsel
in trials. I admired him professionally, and enjoyed the little bit we would see of each other
socially at the bar association activities. He was brilliant, worthy, ethical, funny and serious, great
to work with and to be around, a gentleman. He worshiped the law and had the full respect and
affection of the bar. It was, however, a matter of vast astonishment when he asked me out, saying
he was going to court me. I accepted the date and eight weeks later we were engaged.
MS. PORTER: What year was that, Joyce?
JUDGE GREEN: This was 1965. Our first date was in March. We became
engaged on May 7 , same year, then we waited four months, until September 25 , our wedding th th
date, while we made arrangements for our personal and our professional lives, continuing to
practice law and planning the wedding and life thereafter. There was much to do. Sam had been
married before and I wanted to know better his three children. His son, Phil, was heading for
medical school that September; his daughters, Leslie and Kathy, were 14 and 8. Sam was an
amazing man, self-made. He volunteered into the Army as a private days after Pearl Harbor, was
a “90-day wonder,” battlefield honored, commissioned as a captain, and returned to college/law
school on the G.I. Bill of Rights, ever grateful for the education he never would have otherwise
afforded. He was strong, he was sensitive, and a hugely decent person, modest about his
remarkable accomplishments, totally unselfish and only determined to advance me. A man
beyond description who was my universe, and a loving, dedicated father to our children, without
whom I would not be giving this oral history today. He died 17 years ago, in 1983. I miss him
every day of my life. We were blessed to have such an incredible marriage.
MS. PORTER: You married in September?
JUDGE GREEN: We married in September. We had a formal church ceremony
(June Green was matron of honor) and honeymooned in the U.S. Virgin Islands at Caneel Bay, on
St. John, then on to the New York World’s Fair and also a few days in Williamsburg (typical of
Sam to squeeze in all these places; his zest for life was fabulous). We established our home life in
MS. PORTER: And you were, at that time, still sharing offices with June
JUDGE GREEN: I was.
MS. PORTER: What happened after that?
JUDGE GREEN: Sam had asked me if I would join in partnership with him at
the time we married. I elected not to do so then, even though it meant double expenses for
offices, double secretaries, double rents, double books, and a lot of wasted time because we spent
so much time during the day talking to each other, being with each other, lunching with each
other, driving in and driving out together, and so on. It was such a great marriage that I thought
maybe 24 hours a day might be a bit much and lead to disagreements about approaches in the law.
I had read too many stories suggesting this total togetherness to be a mistake. As it turned out, in
1966, now really knowing Sam and how it would be, and how great it was to be together all the
time, Sam and I established the partnership of Green and Green. I left the office to June Green.
At this time I changed my name from Ruth Joyce Hens, my professional and social name, to Joyce
Hens Green, having to get special permission from various courts in order to do this little act. As
the Clerk of the Court of the State of Virginia drawled, “Why, gal, nobody has ever done that in
our history, but I’ll see that you get your way.” We had established the firm of Green and Green
and shortly thereafter, my husband would say I simply refused to work. I became pregnant and
gave birth to our first child. When I was put on the bench the partnership ended.
MS. PORTER: I think you skipped over something now Joyce.
JUDGE GREEN: Did I skip something there? (laughter)
MS. PORTER: When was Jimmy born?
JUDGE GREEN: Jim was born on June 18, 1967, just short of two years after
we were married. It was a difficult pregnancy, but only in the sense of keeping the pregnancy
going, so I was required to retire from the practice of law as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I
had had two miscarriages before his birth and one afterwards. From one day to the next I did two
things, I stopped practicing law and I stopped smoking.
MS. PORTER: Which one was easiest?
JUDGE GREEN: I never thought of it that way. (laughter) Neither was difficult
because the goal was so important. We could not have been happier. I was required to stay at
home and do a great deal of resting to keep this a viable pregnancy. Jim arrived unexpectedly a
month early, on Father’s Day, because that’s the day I had proclaimed I really wanted to have him.
Like so many matters which have worked so beautifully in my life, Jim was wonderful and
healthy and sturdy. We were delighted to have this little son.
MS. PORTER: Now, Jim is just one of three children.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes, he is very much one of three children. When Jim was
three years old, it seemed obvious I was not going to have another successful pregnancy. We
applied for adoption and our two other children, who are brother and sister, came to us four
months later. Our oldest son, then, was four and a half years of age, his sister, three.
MS. PORTER: This is Michael.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes, Michael Timothy. He’s a year and five months older than
Jim and June, because June is only five days older than Jim.
MS. PORTER: And is June named for the June Green?
JUDGE GREEN: Oh, you have it absolutely right but, of course, you knew that,
MS. PORTER: So how did having three children change your life?
JUDGE GREEN: It was wild and wooly and clamorous and wonderful. I can’t
imagine life without them. Crisis upon crisis, challenging, loving, endless work, endless joy.
Because of the closeness of age, it was indeed like having triplets, each going in a different
direction, each a different personality, each with different interests, different talents, different
friends. My husband and I spent an enormous amount of time on soccer and football fields, at
chorus, at PTAs, watching our youngsters engage in their interests, play their sports, develop their
beings, knowing their friends, involving ourselves in their lives and with those friends and those
friends’ parents. This was the staple for years and years; an enormous enhancement to life. It was
extremely busy, a full life, a challenging life, because during this period of time, Sam actively
practiced law and wrote for law journals and continued bar activities. I had been on the bench
only a few years when Mike and June became our son and daughter.
MS. PORTER: What year did that happen?
JUDGE GREEN: I became a Superior Court judge in March 1968, having been
interviewed in December 1967.
MS. PORTER: So this was when Jim was about a year old?
JUDGE GREEN: No, Jim was six months old when I received a call at home. I
was then retired from my 17-year practice of law and a full-time wife and mother at home. The
call was from Dan Freed, Director of the Office of Criminal Justice at the Department of Justice,
who had been a colleague in the practice of law and also very active in the bar association. In
later years, Dan became a law professor at Yale, referring law clerks to me. We had served on
committees (once again you can see the huge impact the bar had in so many respects). Dan asked
me to come to the Department of Justice to talk to the Deputy Attorney General about a long
existing vacancy on the then Court of General Sessions of the District of Columbia, the
predecessor of Superior Court. An astonishing phone call in which I laughingly asked, “Where
have you been for my 17 years of practice,” promptly turned him down, expressed my joy with life
at home, my husband and our child, and the completeness of my life, but thanked him for thinking
of me. And then I called my husband and told him what had just happened. He told me to
immediately call Dan, whom he also knew, and say that I would at least come in for this meeting
with Warren Christopher, the Deputy Attorney General in President Lyndon Johnson’s
administration, and recently was the Secretary of State in President Clinton’s administration.
MS. PORTER: And you went for the interview?
JUDGE GREEN: As a dutiful wife, albeit protesting all the way. I reluctantly
called Dan, told him I was doing this only because Sam wanted me to, that I didn’t really want the
position, and certainly did not expect to get this very political appointment, but that I would come
in the next day and see the Deputy Attorney General. It was very close to Christmastime.
Mr. Christopher and I had a long conversation; he gave me well over 1 ½ hours of total
concentration; advised me that 500 people (astonishing!) had applied for this position. I reminded
him I had never applied, but he knew, and was very much aware of my career. I didn’t know then,
and to this day I don’t know, how my name came to his attention. He asked me many questions. I
told him very honestly that I did not want the position. I was there because my husband said I
owed it to women to be there, and that while it was probable that I would not get it, I should still
go for this appointment and that he, my husband, had said he did not want to hear from me 30
years later, “Just think what I could have been.” Mr. Christopher was fabulous. He laughed about
Sam’s statements and the more I backtracked from this position, the more he moved forward,
reminding me that his law schoolmate at Stanford had been Shirley Hufstedler, who was an idol
of mine on the Ninth Circuit and a remarkable jurist. She was married and had a son, and if she
could do it, I could do it. Those, literally, were his words. It was an absolutely astounding
interview. Of course I had no experience to know that not all interviews for judgeships went this
way, but I suspected that was the situation. At the end of this conversation he told me that he
would recommend me to President Johnson, but that did not mean I would receive the position.
He also told me not to have anyone write or call on my behalf, not to tell anyone about it, expect
my husband, since Lyndon Johnson, once he felt pressured to do something, did just the opposite.
And so I left, not expecting anything, and shortly thereafter the FBI knocked on the door and
wanted information. There were long discussions, but I knew other people were being considered,
too. My name began appearing in various legal publications and newspapers, reporting that I was
one prominently being discussed for this position. I never believed it would happen. However,
on occasion I did put on my best pair of shoes and go to the office just in case something magic
would occur, which did, on February 22, 1968, George Washington’s real birth date. I had been
with my husband and Jim, then about eight months old, in northeast Washington, attempting to
sell the house of a mental health patient, my responsibility as the guardian. I went back to my
husband’s office, talked to him for a few minutes outside in the car, fed the baby and then drove to
our apartment. As I was parking, Sam drove up next to me and told me to get to the White House.
When he had returned to his office, he was told they had been looking for us all morning long and
that I had to be at the White House immediately for important news.
MS. PORTER: And at that point, how did you feel about being offered this
JUDGE GREEN: My first thought was what am I going to do with the baby?
There was a woman in our building who had occasionally babysat with him. I just gave her Jim
and his bag of essentials and said I’d be back soon. When I telephoned the White House to say I’d
be there shortly, after I changed clothes, I was told not to take even ten minutes to change. I was
so naive that I believed them and I didn’t change. Subsequently we took a picture to memorialize
that I had a red sweater on and a skirt and the baby had just broken my pearl necklace that
morning. On the way to the White House I was so nervous I could not find my lipstick (although
it was there) and insisted we stop to get one, even though Sam reminded me that the President had
just had the Pueblo incident and I was keeping him waiting. Four of us were at the White House:
Austin Fickling, then a general sessions judge who was being elevated to the Court of Appeals;
Jim Belson and Bill Pryor. We were told that we were being nominated to be judges. Barefoot
Sanders (now a district judge, N.D. Texas, in senior status), assistant counsel to the President, was
the one who informed us all. He noted my incredible excitement, you asked how I reacted –
excited! After the others left he detained me and asked if I wanted to see the Oval Office and the
Rose Garden. I did. He showed them to me and I floated on a cloud. We were told not to say
anything to anyone until the President formally made the nominations. Very hard to do. But the
press called me the next day and told me my picture had just appeared on the front page of the
newspaper, and that it had been announced. That’s how I heard about it.
MS. PORTER: What happened after that? What was the procedure for being
sworn in? How did it go? After you read it in the paper, what happened next?
JUDGE GREEN: Immediately, papers were prepared for the United States
Senate. This went before the District of Columbia Committee of the United States Senate and I
had to go through a formal process there before the committee, give them a financial statement,
give them a total background and resume of all of my activities to date, appear for a pro forma
hearing. Then, the committee’s approval went to the Senate for action. Sam and I were in the
process of buying a house in Arlington, Virginia, literally on the grounds of that house, and had
just gone with the broker to sign the contract of sale. My husband telephoned his office and
returned to announce I had just been confirmed by the United States Senate. That was on March
MS. PORTER: From the moment Dan Freed called you to ask you if you
were interested, to the moment you were appointed, how much time elapsed?
JUDGE GREEN: This was from December to March. Fast.
MS. PORTER: That’s very quick.
JUDGE GREEN: Very quick. There had been a vacancy in the court for over
two years, almost three years, and in an area that I was expert in, the domestic relations field. Of
course, I was appointed to be a judge on the court, but initially to serve in the three judge
domestic relations branch. I would be the third judge. The process went so fast, I did something
I never should have done, and never would do again, but at that time, recognizing the great need
in the bar for prompt filling of this judgeship, I gave myself only 11 days, and had my investiture
ceremony on March 22, 1968.
MS. PORTER: You say you gave yourself 11 days.
JUDGE GREEN: Eleven days to try and find someone to take care of the baby,
11 days to try and put life in order, 11 days to do everything that you have to do to prepare
yourself for another life. Eleven days to just borrow a robe, because there were none ready for me
at that point and couldn’t be, I went on so quickly. The Chief Judge at the court, Harold Greene,
had told me there was a need for me to come on quickly. I have reminded him of that many
times since, that I galloped on and never should have done it so quickly. I could not find the
right babysitter for Jim in that short period of time and so the woman in our apartment building
took care of him initially. Each day I went to work and for the first few weeks, I interviewed
people by telephone in the early morning, and in person during my lunch hour, and then I’d go on
the bench, do my work, go home, take care of Jim. It was such a busy, enveloping time. In April
we found the perfect person for both our youngster and for us, and Katherine Naw, later Ahmed,
came to live with us. She stayed 17 years, with a brief interruption when she married, far longer
than needed for childcare. She didn’t do housekeeping (that was just really a term of art in her
case), but she did do childcare exceptionally well. One hundred percent reliable, 4’10”, 90
pounds, Burmese, a delightful, warm, loving human being. We stay in contact these days.
MS. PORTER: We need to have this all put in context. What was this court
that you were appointed to? Where was it in the structure of the courts in D.C. and what was its
JUDGE GREEN: It was the only local trial court in the District of Columbia.
The D.C. Court of Appeals was the first court of review then (today it is the highest court of
review); the next court of review was the United States Circuit Court for the District of
Columbia, and again, this odd mix of the local and the federal intervened. In fact, it was the U.S.
Appeals Court of the District of Columbia Circuit that appointed the D.C. School Board. Just a
total involvement of the federal in the local affairs because of the unique status of D.C. That
changed in 1970, 071, 072, 073, when the Court Reform Act, which had been in process for a long
time, came into being. The D.C. Juvenile Court was absorbed by the newly named Superior
Court of the District of Columbia, the jurisdiction was augmented, the tax court became part of
this court, probate, domestic relations, landlord tenant, traffic, were all in the local court, the
number of judges hugely increased, the responsibilities were much vaster; it became an entirely
different court system, with all local matters and all under one roof. Later, there were seven
roofs for this structure.