January 11, 1998
MS. GERE: Good afternoon, Judge Green. How are you?
JUDGE GREEN: Fine, thanks, Sally. How are you?
MS. GERE: I’m fine. We are here today on January 11 of the new year, 1998, to
continue your oral history. In looking over when we last spoke, you had begun to talk about a
meeting that you had had with the Chief Judge of the—
JUDGE GREEN: —of the United States District Court.
MS. GERE: Of the United States District Court. You were at that time chair of a
committee of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia that was devoted to relations with
JUDGE GREEN: Right.
MS. GERE: If you could finish up about your meeting with the Chief Judge and
one of the very apparently practical outcomes of that meeting.
JUDGE GREEN: The two male lawyers of our committee joined me. They tried
to stay as far back as possible when we entered the judge’s chambers. They left me to bell the
cat. When the Chief Judge found out the purpose of the meeting, he was so irate that my
colleagues were nearly ready to withdraw. He demanded to know how we had the temerity to
question the delays in the court. We explained that it was taking five years to get to civil trials,
after they were ready. Sometimes longer. The criminal cases–we had no speedy trial act at that
MS. GERE: How long were those cases taking, without speedy trial? Too long, I
JUDGE GREEN: Too long. Anything was too long when you had people who
were in jail without being tried. We were asking that the court might consider not taking all
MS. GERE: So the judges did not sit during the summer months?
JUDGE GREEN: No, at that time they were taking off the summer–both the
District and the United States Court of Appeals. They would all be off all summer and not have
any hearings at all during that period.
MS. GERE: But by then the court was sitting in a building that was at least air
conditioned, wasn’t it?
JUDGE GREEN: It was indeed.
MS. GERE: I’ve always heard the story that, given Washington’s weather, and
before air conditioning, the judges were not too anxious to sit in their robes in a building in the
JUDGE GREEN: I believe that at the time that I was talking about, our courthouse
was built–in fact I still have the invitation for when the cornerstone was laid—
MS. GERE: That was in the 1950s?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes, it was. President Truman laid it. It was a boiling hot day, I
remember. We all sat on metal seats outside. It was a brand new building, and it certainly had
air conditioning. There are times, even now, when it may not work very well, but it’s there.
I really thought that I was going to be bodily thrown out of the chambers. I had to
apologize profusely for bearing that message, but we didn’t know what else to suggest.
MS. GERE: What time period was this, Judge, approximately? What year?
JUDGE GREEN: It was–I really don’t remember when I was chairman of this
committee, but I could find out, I’m sure. If it’s important, which I think it isn’t, terribly.
MS. GERE: In the ’60s, are we talking?
JUDGE GREEN: I think so. I think it may have been ’59 or ’60 or so. In any case,
finally–and I don’t remember how soon it was that they did change–but the court did change and
sit all during the summer. But with less of their people. Many of them were taking their
vacations. Everyone was limited to the time that they were on vacation. The court still, to this
day, is open for trials, and we are in reasonably good condition for people who are short of
judges again. Two vacancies remain.
MS. GERE: Just to finish the story, the District Court concluded that it should
begin sitting during the summer. Did the D.C. Circuit reach the same conclusion at the same
JUDGE GREEN: I can’t remember. I was not on the committee regarding
MS. GERE: You didn’t have to go ask them if they would sit all summer.
JUDGE GREEN: They do sit whenever there’s an important case, and they are
keeping it contained in the Court of Appeals by having, they try not to have, I believe, new cases
heard if they’re in good shape—
MS. GERE: With their calendar.
JUDGE GREEN: I think that it’s within reason. But in any case, I felt that once I
was appointed to the bench, I got my just desserts, perhaps. Because I would have to—
MS. GERE: You would have been the beneficiary of the no work during the
JUDGE GREEN: I certainly would.
MS. GERE: Did you ever have to appear before that judge again, after having met
JUDGE GREEN: Oh, yes.
MS. GERE: What kind of a reception did you receive thereafter?
JUDGE GREEN: Actually, polite.
MS. GERE: Good. As it should be. Since you were just the messenger.
JUDGE GREEN: Right.
MS. GERE: Well, Judge, I would like to turn if we could at this point, to the time
period and the events that led up to your appointment to the United States District Court for the
District of Columbia. I know that we have spoken in the past about your service on one
committee in particular that you saw both as a critical contribution that you made to the City and
the court, but also perhaps was important ultimately in your consideration for appointment to the
bench. That’s what has been referred to, at least as I have heard it, as the Gesell Committee.
Could you tell us a little bit about the committee and your service on it?
JUDGE GREEN: Well, I was working in the office late, as was my custom, and I
had a phone call from the then-Chief Judge, a different one, indeed, from the United States
District Court, who said that there had been a meeting of the Judicial Council and that they had
voted unanimously to appoint me to a new committee that they were selecting. It was a study of
all of the courts in the District of Columbia with recommendations for how they could be
MS. GERE: So I take it at this time there had been a recognition that the D.C.
courts were in need of some improvement, is that right?
JUDGE GREEN: Oh, yes. I think that in many ways they needed lots of help.
They needed more judges. They needed more everything. Space. But particularly for the D.C.
Court of General Sessions and the Juvenile Court. So I said to the Chief Judge that I was—
MS. GERE: And who was the Chief Judge at this point? Who had made the call
JUDGE GREEN: This was Chief Judge Bazelon, and I said that I was so busy
with case trials, day after day all over Maryland as well as the District, that I just didn’t think I
could take on any more work of that sort. And he said, “I’m not accepting no for an answer.
You’ve been unanimously chosen, and you’re the one we want.” So I said, “Yes, sir. I guess I’ll
have to do it.” He said, “Thank you very much. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the rest of the people.”
Gerhard Gesell will be the chair of the committee.
MS. GERE: At that time, was Judge Gesell–Gerhard Gesell–at Covington &
JUDGE GREEN: Covington & Burling. He was a long-time partner. Long-time
senior partner. He specialized in anti-trust cases and represented DuPont and a number of
corporations. We didn’t run in the same league, so I did not know him, and he didn’t know me.
I did know everybody who was appointed to the committee.
MS. GERE: The other people on the committee were—?
JUDGE GREEN: George E.C. Hayes was the vice-chairman. And John Pickering
was there, John Pratt, James F. Riley, Dan Rezneck, Samuel Spencer, Edward Bennett Williams,
and all of these people, besides Gerhard Gesell, but all the rest of them, I had known for years. I
had had cases with them and against them.
MS. GERE: They were all lawyers that you viewed as, I take it, very competent,
and people who would, at least in your view and expectation, contribute to the work of this
JUDGE GREEN: Right. Many people. I think Judge Gesell found that it was
necessary, since we had so much work cut out for us ourselves, that many sub-committees were
formed, and there were lots of well-known attorneys on the sub-committees. One notable one
was Patricia Wald. She had been working on criminal law at the Department of Justice, with the
Congress, working on trying to set up a law that was changing the legal basis for many of the
criminal cases. So she was very well experienced with what our role was.
MS. GERE: She now, of course, is on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
JUDGE GREEN: Having served as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
MS. GERE: Who else were among the notable lawyers on the various
subcommittees, that you can recall?
JUDGE GREEN: Barrington Parker. I believe that Tom Flannery was also on one
of the sub-committees.
MS. GERE: They both went on to become U.S. District Court judges.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. Tom Flannery has served as a United States Attorney for
the District of Columbia for some time.
MS. GERE: And what was Judge Parker’s background at the time?
JUDGE GREEN: He was a trial lawyer. I didn’t know him very well. I had not
run across him too often. And–I cannot think of the fellow’s name, who was in Judge Gesell’s
office–he went to the Superior Court, afterwards. I think he probably was on a sub-committee.
MS. GERE: So this committee was appointed, then, in early 1966? Is that about
JUDGE GREEN: I think so. I think that the report that we made was made at the
District Judicial Council. They had proposed these changes as a result of our decisions that had
been made available to them. We had made forty-six recommendations. These were made
public on May 8, 1967.
MS. GERE: So you served on the committee for–the work would have been at
least a year’s worth. Is that right? Or seemed like a lot more?
JUDGE GREEN: Indeed it did. I’m sure that somewhere I have available the
information regarding when we were appointed. But at this point, I really don’t remember very
well. I didn’t really feel that I could take it on.
MS. GERE: You didn’t feel you could say no, either, I guess.
JUDGE GREEN: That’s right.
MS. GERE: So what were the meetings like, and how did this committee set about
meeting the goals that the court had identified?
JUDGE GREEN: I’m not going into that particular. We worked very hard.
MS. GERE: Did you meet on a weekly basis?
JUDGE GREEN: Sometimes it was several times a week. But mostly it was at
least once a week. We had much work to be done to get the things done that we’d laid out for
ourselves. I don’t know how many people eventually were tied in with all of the sub-committees.
I do know that the Congress was being worked with, with Senator Tydings. Joseph Tydings.
MS. GERE: Because he was—
JUDGE GREEN: He was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at that time.
He made available his staff to work with all of the proposals that had been worked on and
worded and so on, to set up the new court.
MS. GERE: So this was the legislation to establish the Superior Court? Is that
JUDGE GREEN: Right.
MS. GERE: And to transfer some of the jurisdiction from the U.S. District Court
to the Superior Court.
JUDGE GREEN: Right. Because until this was actually adopted, we still had
probate in our court. The D.C. probate. We had D.C. felonies. We had all the D.C. felonies.
And we had many things that you just–marriage licenses, all sorts of things that were purely of
MS. GERE: Or should have been.
JUDGE GREEN: Should have been.
MS. GERE: And that’s what the proposals were designed to effectuate.
JUDGE GREEN: Some of the things that we had recommended did not get
accepted. But one thing that we did–we did not transfer to the Superior Court any cases that we
had on backlog in our own. We kept all of the criminal cases and disposed of them ourselves.
We kept all of the civil cases, I believe, as well, and allowed them only to start from scratch in
the Superior Court.
MS. GERE: So on a going-forward basis.
JUDGE GREEN: Of course, they already were behind very much. They were
having great difficulty in finding space enough while our building was being built, but they did
utilize everything that was available under their Chief Judge, Harold Greene.
MS. GERE: Now I’m probably not going to recall precisely the correct date–but
that transfer of jurisdiction did not ultimately occur until 1971 or so, I want to say. Because I
think it was in the middle of the time while I was clerking for you. That’s my recollection. That
when I first started, the District Court still was one of general local jurisdiction. The second year
I was with you was when there had been a transfer of jurisdiction. ’71? ’72?
JUDGE GREEN: What happened when we were appointed, enough of us to make
a difference, was that we voted to have an individual calendar system, instead of the situation
that had been in the courts before. To get the vote, to have it go to the individual calendar
system, we had fifteen judges at that time voting, and active members of the court. Seven of
them voted to keep the same old calendar method. Eight of us voted to change. We volunteered.
This was pretty much how we got the vote–we volunteered, the eight of us, to take all of the
criminal cases in the court and divide them up equally. They were assigned to us, and we were
assigned three Assistant U.S. Attorneys who worked for another judge and ourselves. In other
words, three Assistant U.S. Attorneys doing criminal work were working full-time for another
judge and me, or two judges, because they had to be preparing the cases that were coming up one
after the other. So they needed to have at least the three. My recollection is that these were Bob
Higgins, John Aldock and–who was the third one?
MS. GERE: Was it Chuck Roistacher? Or he came later?
JUDGE GREEN: He came later.
MS. GERE: And Roger Adelman came later?
JUDGE GREEN: Adelman came later.
MS. GERE: These must have been people from before I was there. Except for
Bob, I remember. I don’t know who the third one was.
JUDGE GREEN: John Aldock has been on the Rules Committee for a long time.
MS. GERE: Forever, yes. Right.
JUDGE GREEN: All of the fraud cases were–I think he tried all the fraud cases.
He’s still around. I see him every now and then.
MS. GERE: It will come to you. But were these criminal cases new cases, or were
these ones that you had agreed to take to clean up a backlog? Or both?
JUDGE GREEN: Both. We took them as soon as they were assigned, as well.
We divided all the backlog, so we often sat on two cases a day. I remember being on a case,
criminal cases, until 8:30 at night.
MS. GERE: And you could get sufficient jurors?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. In those days, it was a different situation. Nobody had
ever told them of one day, one case. And of course, we don’t subscribe to that anyway in our
court, because it’s impossible, really, to work out.
MS. GERE: We jumped ahead a little bit. We’ve already gotten you on the bench.
I want to get back to the Gesell Committee. I take it that one of the recommendations that your
committee made was to create more judgeships. Is that right?
JUDGE GREEN: Not to our court. To the Superior Court that was going to
envelop the Court of General Sessions. They did not recommend additional judges for the
Juvenile Court. They felt that they would be able to be part of the Superior Court.
MS. GERE: So before that, there was the Court of General Sessions, and then
there was a separate court that was the Juvenile Court?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes.
MS. GERE: So as part of the recommendation, it was a merging of all of those
responsibilities in one court. I see. Were there other recommendations that your committee
made that you recall as being particularly either important or controversial?
JUDGE GREEN: Actually, I think that it was amazingly–well, I think that the
practitioners were so thankful to get something done, so that they would not live in this limbo.
Because what I found so onerous, one of the things, as a practitioner in different jurisdictions,
was when I had cases coming to trial, ready for trial, in the United States District Court for the
District of Columbia–of course, this is not necessarily true of the one in Maryland, where I also
tried cases–but in the District of Columbia, their so-called “assignment office” would alert you to
the fact your case was going to be tried within the next two weeks.
MS. GERE: Not particularly helpful.
JUDGE GREEN: With the kind of cases, personal injuries, and that sort of
MS. GERE: Where you had to get witnesses and physicians—
JUDGE GREEN: It was a madhouse to figure out. I would be in trial in another
court, not in this courthouse. Maybe Rockville, Upper Marlboro, even as far as Leonardtown.
They would only excuse me for that morning. But I was in trial. On-going trial in Maryland, that
had already arranged it and was going to keep its schedule. I would telephone the Assignment
Office and say, “What is the situation about my case at this time?” “Well, we don’t have a judge,
so I think you’re going to be free until tomorrow.” Well, this is how to get an ulcer.
MS. GERE: I’ll say.
JUDGE GREEN: I made up my mind, if I ever were on a bench–I never really
expected to be on federal bench, but if I were ever on any of them–I wouldn’t do this sort of thing
to people. One of the first things we did was to abolish the Assignment Commission, and have
each judge responsible for their calendar. So if too many cases are scheduled, because we don’t
want to load the way we had to clear up all of the backlog, the health wouldn’t stand it, among
other things. Hard on the lawyers, too. But at least they saw an end to it. Now, cases are
scheduled by most of us with the assistance of the lawyers and their clients as to when this would
be convenient, that would mesh with—
MS. GERE: Everybody’s schedules.
JUDGE GREEN: Insofar as we are able to do that, we do it. We don’t have any
such imposition on counsel and litigants, we hope. Because we do try very hard not to interrupt
cases, although we need to have status call for ongoing things, and so we simply interrupt our
lunch and have the status calls, insofar as we can, during lunch time. When we have ongoing
trials, whether they be jury or to the court.
MS. GERE: So it does sound as though the recommendations of this committee
that ultimately were adopted really changed the state of the court system in the District of
JUDGE GREEN: I really believe so. Of course, we worked so hard with it. After
Judge Gesell was the first one appointed to the bench–he was appointed, I believe, in December
of ’67–the committee went on, because it was—
MS. GERE: Still work to be done.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. And Newell Ellison succeeded Judge Gesell. I served
with him from the time Judge Gesell was on there, until I was on the bench myself. Which, as I
say, I never expected to be.
MS. GERE: How did you come to be on the bench? At least as far as you know
from your side of the equation?
JUDGE GREEN: I really didn’t know at all, because I had been recommended by
the bar, both Women’s and Bar Association of the District of Columbia, several times for
vacancies on the Municipal Court, even, which was the forerunner of the General Sessions. I had
been active in those courts, and finally they had sent in their recommendations for me, and I
thought maybe I was going to be appointed, and the bar group called me in the country, at my
MS. GERE: Here in Annapolis?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. And they said, “How about the new requirement that all
the people go to”–this was General Sessions by this time–that the General Sessions Court had a
requirement that you had to be a resident of the District of Columbia to be appointed. But there
was one exception. It said, with exception of one place. And I had always checked, when they
had asked me if I wanted to be considered, and I had checked to find out whether that one place
had been used.
MS. GERE: So you mean one seat was allowed to be from outside the District?
JUDGE GREEN: No doubt, this was with somebody in mind. In any case, I had
checked and they called me this night and said, “We are about to really send your name up to the
President asking if he would appoint you. But what about the fact that you’re required to be—?”
And I said, “There still is the one exception.” And they said, “No, that one has been changed just
recently, by legislation. But you were always visiting your mother-in-law, and you can use her
address.” I said, “Withdraw my name, thank you. I have never tried to sail false colors, and not
now. It just wouldn’t be thought of. I just am not eligible. This is where I vote, this is where I
pay taxes, this is where I live. So thank you very much.”
MS. GERE: Were you disappointed at that point? Or probably more surprised?
JUDGE GREEN: I was surprised. But no, I was too busy, and I liked what I was
doing very much. I enjoyed the life. In fact, this was about the time that John retired again from
the practice, and I finagled him into coming in with me. He’d been there about a year.
MS. GERE: So he was then, you mean, practicing in your law office with you.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. He wasn’t doing my kind of practice, but I didn’t think
that it was something that he wanted. He had been very successful in his own right. He didn’t
really need to start at the bottom of the barrel with me. So I suggested that since we couldn’t be
Green & Green, since Joyce and Sam Green had opened their partnership—
MS. GERE: Oh, they’d already taken the Green & Green?
JUDGE GREEN: They had taken the Green & Green. So John was of counsel.
He had a number of retainers. Something I never had. I had plenty of work, and paid work, but I
didn’t have them as retainers.
MS. GERE: On retainer. I see. So, was Mr. Green’s work at that time related to
JUDGE GREEN: Sometimes. One of his first ones was with the George
Washington Patent Foundation. They wanted him to work with them on some things that they
were preparing. I know that he had an office over there as well as with me. Then he had been
working with people on standards, and a number of standards people sought his efforts.
MS. GERE: This is the National Bureau of Standards.
JUDGE GREEN: Well, what had happened was, while John was with the
Department of Commerce, he was selected to serve on a National Academy of Sciences
Committee to study the Bureau of Standards and see what changes it needed to have, if any. He
spent quite a little while doing that. He had known these different people–the American Society
for Testing and Materials and the Underwriters Laboratories, all these different outfits. He had
made this report years back. He was a very good friend of Allen Astin’s. They had been around
together a long time, and the investigation that they had made cleared Allen, because it was one
of those things that never should have been necessary. The Secretary of Commerce got into the
act and wanted to order him to ok things, an outfit that was not right. Then John was appointed
to look into it and see. But he can tell you much better than I.
MS. GERE: If we could get his oral history, we’d be really making head way.
JUDGE GREEN: I’d love it. Anyway, right after I had been called, the next day,
we had lunch together. One of very few times that I could do that. We were walking up the
street together and I said to him, “You know, this is a really good thing, to not want anything.
I’m very happy trying cases. I love it. I think it’s just the rat race of too much that I’m doing,
and I think what we should do what all the lawyers in Annapolis do.” That kind of
practice–which drove me crazy when I would be down there. Because I would always go and try
to force the people to be on my schedule of depositions and things like that, especially if they’d
agree to them, instead of having them going hunting or fishing or sailing or whatever.
MS. GERE: Whatever appealed to them at the moment other than work.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. So I said, “I think what we should do is give up the
Washington office, and I would have a bigger office in Annapolis,” because the other one was
just an outpost, I might say, that I still hear from the secretary I had down there in that office.
Every Christmas, because she lives in Florida now. I had represented her when she was having
problems of divorce and custody. I got her custody of all of her children, which was a little hard
to do, considering that she was living with somebody else. In those days, it was—
MS. GERE: Not acceptable.
JUDGE GREEN: She was a very interesting woman. John thought she was
fascinating, because here’s a young woman who had left home to join the circus.
MS. GERE: Oh my gosh!
JUDGE GREEN: As an aerial trapezist.
MS. GERE: Wow!
[END OF SIDE A]
JUDGE GREEN: —heard from her every Christmas.
MS. GERE: So, since we just passed a Christmas, did you hear from her?
JUDGE GREEN: I did indeed. Oh, yes. I received the usual tangerines, grapefruit,
and oranges, and all of these things, and a little sweet note from her. We have actually caught up
with her at her house in St. Cloud. I believe they usually call it St. Cloud. She was doing real
estate work there, very successfully. John and I took her to lunch, and we had a nice visit. This
was probably about ten years ago. She had been from Annapolis, and she came up, at least until
her mother died. Now I hear from her, and she always wants to know when we’re coming back,
because she wants to entertain us.
MS. GERE: So she was your secretary here in your Annapolis office.
JUDGE GREEN: In the Annapolis office, yes.
MS. GERE: So what was Mr. Green’s reaction to your proposal?
JUDGE GREEN: I said, “I think this would be a great idea.” He said, “Yeah, I’d
have to take the Maryland bar. And I don’t want to take any more anythings.” I said, “Well, I
think you could probably waive it.” I found out he couldn’t have. He had to take at least their
MS. GERE: Attorney’s exam, or something.
JUDGE GREEN: I had just said this, that I think this is really great, and I got a
phone call the next day, I guess it was. I was preparing a case. That day, I was in my office. I
had this call from the Assistant Attorney General. He didn’t tell me that that was who he was.
He just gave his name, and assumed everybody would know that.
MS. GERE: And his name was?
JUDGE GREEN: Warren Christopher. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really figure
out who he was at that moment. He said, “Mrs. Green, I wonder if you would be willing to come
and visit with me? I know it’s sort of short notice, but would you be able to come today or
tomorrow?” I said, “Well, I’m in trial tomorrow, and I couldn’t do it then. But I am obviously in
the office today.” He said, “Could you make it by 1:30?” I said, “Oh, yes, certainly.” Then that
was when I found out where his office was, you see. That he was the principal honcho. I
stopped in John’s office, which was in the same suite, and I said, “Hey, the Deputy Attorney
General has just asked me to come, and wants to see me, on short notice.” John said, “Tell him
MS. GERE: Well, at this point, you didn’t know what it was he wanted to see you
JUDGE GREEN: He said, “He wants to give you another one of these damned
MS. GERE: To another committee.
JUDGE GREEN: To another committee. [John said], “You can’t spread yourself
any thinner. You just can’t do it. Tell him no, that you just can’t do it, no matter—”
MS. GERE: How persuasive he is.
JUDGE GREEN: He said, “Just bite the bullet. Stand on your own two feet.” So
I went there, and he met me with his hat and coat on. It was February.
MS. GERE: So you went over to the Justice Department. And he met you in his
JUDGE GREEN: In his office. He was standing there, and he said, “Oh, I’m so
apologetic. Really. I’m so sorry.” I didn’t have a problem, you know? He said, “I have just had
a call to appear before the Congress, from the Senate. They really want me right away. I must
apologize for bringing you here. But I’m awfully anxious to talk. Will you be willing to ride
with me in the car, so that we can talk [on the way] up to the Congress?” I thought, boy, that’s
not a very long distance.
MS. GERE: Yes, from Justice up to the Hill, in a car, would not take a very long
time, unless there was an awful lot of traffic,.
JUDGE GREEN: So I said, “Of course, that’s fine.” We got in the car, and he
said, “Do you ever try criminal cases?” I said, “Frankly, I’m a civil practitioner, but there are
always times when you’ve been in practice as long as I have that you have to represent a client,
maybe it’s drunk driving or some other things that you don’t want to do, but I do that. And I’ve
always felt that when the court appoints me, I just don’t have any feeling that I can say no, and
I’m appearing before the court regularly. I take whatever they are. They generally assign me
rape cases and murders. Things like that.”
MS. GERE: So by this time, were you thinking he needed help? He needed a
JUDGE GREEN: He said, “Oh, same with me. That’s just the way I feel about it.
That’s just what I’ve got to do. I don’t take them by choice.” Then we were driving very slowly,
and he said, “Have you ever been charged with malpractice?” I said, “No, I’m glad to say. I’ve
maintained my insurance policy just in case, but, thank God, I’ve never had to use it.” He said,
“Have you been held in contempt by anybody?” I said, “Oh yes, I have.” And I told him about
the fact that I had been two minutes late for court in Rockville one day, because I had a client, an
elderly widow, in a case that I was trying for her as a plaintiff. Her husband had principal
problems that had to do with his wanting to commit suicide. The possibility of committing
suicide. They had allowed him to sun himself up on the roof, unattended. And he jumped off.
MS. GERE: Where was he, in the hospital?
JUDGE GREEN: He was dead.
MS. GERE: No, no, but I mean, who let him up on the roof?
JUDGE GREEN: The hospital. My client had just come down from Pittsburgh the
day before, which was where she was living. I was picking her up, and when I got
there–early–she was standing with her daughter. The daughter said, “She can’t come out. She is
really sick. Sick to her stomach. She’s trying to get herself together, because she realizes this is
it.” I just had to wait, and dash out as fast as I could go. I was six minutes late, according to the
clock in the courtroom, but it was two minutes late, actually. But I didn’t think that would be an
MS. GERE: That was probably not going to be a persuasive argument. Who was
the judge? Do you remember?
JUDGE GREEN: Oh, do I remember!
MS. GERE: Vividly.
JUDGE GREEN: One I’d tried a case against before. He was reasonably new to
the bench. He’d been a member of the bar out there forever, but he decided that he was going to
fix me, because I had been successful. There were two defendants, at the time of his case. I was
defending one of them, and he was defending the other one. He hadn’t filed a cross-claim
against my client. So as it turned out, I settled mine, and he was stuck.
MS. GERE: And there he was.
JUDGE GREEN: And when he argued that they couldn’t let me out, I told him a
few things about the fact that he hadn’t filed a cross claim and therefore there was no basis for
his being in my settlement. So I don’t know whether he settled it, or whether he got stuck with it.
I think he was going to probably get stuck.
Their court was trying an experiment. If you can imagine, this particular time, they
decided they were going to choose the jury on the telephone.
MS. GERE: Goodness.
JUDGE GREEN: They didn’t allow you to conduct your voir dire anyway. So I
thought, what else? They had said they could tell me who they were, and where they lived, and
what their jobs were. Since when I picked jurors I always had been satisfied anyway, it didn’t
really make that much difference. I figured if I picked and chose, all of them would be mad. I
would take my chances. So I’d never laid eyes on this jury. But you see, they were in the box,
waiting for the opening of the case. So when we got there, I got my client helped up, because
Yasha was with me at that point, and I said, “Take the car and get rid of it, somehow, but let us
out at the door.” So he did. When we went in, the judge started. He was on bench. I did learn
one thing about it, and that is, since I am most always really on the dot—
MS. GERE: Extremely punctual, I think, would be the way I would describe it,
based on my personal observation.
JUDGE GREEN: At least nowadays, when the time has rolled round, and I go on
the bench, I don’t scream at anybody. I don’t hold them in contempt. But I think it has a salutary
effect when they see that you really are there.
MS. GERE: I agree with that. So what did this good judge do in Montgomery
County, then, when you came in?
JUDGE GREEN: He started screaming.
MS. GERE: With the jury all right there?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes, with the jury all right there. He wanted to make much of
the fact that I was a Washington lawyer. Which he knew damned good and well I was—
MS. GERE: A Maryland lawyer, as well.
JUDGE GREEN: He knew I commuted, as a matter of fact, most of the time.
Anyhow, he said, “You have insulted the court. You’re in contempt, and this jury has been—”
MS. GERE: Waiting for you.
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. And I said to myself, “This bastard, I think, is going to get
reversed.” Because he never should have done this in front of a jury. I also figured that he was
waiting for me to break down. I apologized profusely, not only to the court but also to the jury
and anyone else. I wished to God my client would say something, but I didn’t think it would be
very becoming for me to say that somebody else had caused it. I just wouldn’t do it. And she
was so scared.
MS. GERE: She never spoke up and said, “I was sick to my stomach,” or
JUDGE GREEN: She never did. She couldn’t get off the toilet, as a matter of fact.
I, of course, didn’t go into all this stuff. I said—
MS. GERE: We’re here, we’re ready to start.
JUDGE GREEN: When I said that, he said, “Well, I will tell you, you are in
contempt of this court. And I want you to pay twenty-five dollars.” I said, “Your Honor, I
certainly will, at the very first break.” “Now!” he said.
MS. GERE: So you were supposed to go in your purse right then and there, and go
hand him twenty-five dollars?
JUDGE GREEN: I had, at this point, a sheriff on each side. A sheriff and deputy
sheriff alongside me. He said, “Are you ready to proceed with this case?” I said, “Yes, Your
Honor. Immediately. If I may.” So he said, “Get on with it.” So I started to make my opening
statement to the jury. I said to myself, this bastard isn’t going to get me to cry. The place was
packed and jammed with members of the bar. They called and spoke to Eleanore and said, “This
is the rottenest thing I’ve ever seen done to—”
MS. GERE: Oh, Eleanore was your secretary, then? Eleanore Soltanoff?
JUDGE GREEN: It was quite a to-do. Yasha finally got in, and I wrote a note
which just read “All Hell Broke Loose.” He didn’t flinch. I mean, we were simpatico, and he
understood that something—
MS. GERE: Something had happened in his absence.
JUDGE GREEN: At the first break we had, I went to the clerk, and the fellows
came back to escort me.
MS. GERE: The sheriff and the deputy? Oh, Lord.
JUDGE GREEN: The Clerk’s Office was well known to me. All of them were my
friends. As I try to tell all my law clerks–in fact I told them again the other day, because we had
some interns there and I wanted to make sure they all got it–that the most important people you
can know in the court are the clerks. And don’t ever think they can’t really make your life hell, or
help. And you’d better make it the help, because if they don’t like you, they can really fix you.
I’ve seen it done to other people. I went there, and I wanted to give them a check. I didn’t carry
wads of money around there in those days. I do now. At least, I think they’re wads. Just in case
of any eventuality. The sheriff said they wouldn’t take a check, and these clerks said, “Let me
tell you something. Mrs. Green has been giving her check for ten, twenty years, and we’ve taken
them. And I’ve never seen anything so outrageous.” And they said to me, “He’s going to relent.
He’s charged John McInnerney twenty-five dollars, and he finally took it back. Decided that he
wasn’t going to have it on his record. Oh, he’ll take it back.” I said, “Want to bet?” He didn’t.
So I paid the money, and as it turned out, that was a day to be remembered. Yasha had not been
able to find any place to park the car. He parked in a restricted parking place that was only for
people that had authority therefor. He was glad that I had saved a little money. Anyway, as I say,
it was a bad day.
The law I knew was a clinker anyway, because at that point hospitals were not suable in
Maryland. I thought that I would be able to change the law. But this got to be such a mess, I
didn’t try. And my client didn’t want me to. She didn’t know what had hit her. Nobody had ever
offered a dime anyway, and they didn’t want to accept any responsibility. That was one, that
when I was talking to my friend, Fulton Lewis, Jr., Mrs. Lewis’s son–he’s now John Fulton,
because Fulton Lewis, Jr. was a very well known commentator who was also on radio when Mrs.
Lewis’s son was. I had not wished to have this go to my family, all the trouble I’d had that day.
So I had had lunch with Fulton, and I said, “That was a day to remember.” All these things had
happened. He thought it was going to make a lovely speech, and he broadcast it that night.
MS. GERE: On the radio?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes.
MS. GERE: Oh, gosh! So not only your family, but everybody else heard it then.
JUDGE GREEN: And I said, they knew perfectly well I was the only woman who
was doing this trial! And that I was his friend. What a friend this guy was. I didn’t need, of
course, to go into all of this with Warren Christopher. I simply said, “I was late for court.
Maximum six minutes. I thought it was two minutes according to all of the clerks, who said it
was only two minutes, because that clock is always fast.”
MS. GERE: So before we get back to Mr. Christopher, then, what did the
contempt citation— did you appeal it?
JUDGE GREEN: No.
MS. GERE: And he didn’t withdraw it.
JUDGE GREEN: I came to the conclusion that I would be trying cases before this
judge again on occasion. I had to straighten out things as well as possible. So I went out to visit
him in his chambers, and I said I would like to apologize again for the problem, and I just
wondered whether he would object to indicating that I had been late, and that that had resulted in
this, that I had paid the money, and that I had therefore cured the contempt. And would he care
to add that I had not in any other respect been found to be contemptuous at any time. And he
said, “Well, you word it to my secretary.” I mean, he wouldn’t even have the graciousness to do
this. So I did. I said just about that. He looked into it, he knew perfectly well, and of course
anybody at the bar that he would have asked—
MS. GERE: Would have been well aware of the whole story and the
JUDGE GREEN: So I said, “Oh, yes.” And by then Mr. Christopher and I had
arrived at the Capitol. He said, “I still have a few minutes before I’m required to be in there. So
can you just park here?” he asked his chauffeur. “I’ll pull over here a little while. Won’t be too
long.” So he pulled over, and we sat there, outside the Senate side. He’d already asked me all
kinds of things, but I was positive he knew the answers before he asked the questions. He always
did. He said, “I know about that one.”
So he said, finally, “Are you curious?” I said, “Oh, yes, I certainly am.” He said,
“Well, would you like to be a judge?” I said, “I’m not eligible.” He said, “I know that, too. I’m
not talking about a local court. Would you like to be a federal judge?” I said, “I’ve never given
it any contemplation, because I never thought that I would be asked.” He said, “Well, think
about it.” Of course, Judge Matthews had announced that she was taking senior status.
MS. GERE: This is Judge Burnita Shelton Matthews.
JUDGE GREEN: Burnita Shelton Matthews. The first woman District Court
judge in the United States. So this was for her position, that he was asking about. I said, “I don’t
have any political connections.” He said, “You don’t need them.” I told you that he said, “I
don’t know what’s going to be done at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, but I certainly
know what the recommendation is.”
MS. GERE: And sitting at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue was?
JUDGE GREEN: President Johnson.
MS. GERE: Had you ever had any contact with President Johnson?
JUDGE GREEN: I had not. I had never met him. I never had met him until I was
appointed. I didn’t know that I was ever going to be appointed, because–oh, to get back–after
having said this, Warren Christopher said, “You will receive these forms from the Department of
Justice which are really terrible to fill out. They’re forty pages, and ask you everything that
you’ve done in your life. Please fill them out and get them back to us as fast as possible. And
you’ll have a lot of your friends tell you that the FBI’s checking on you. And the ABA will be
checking on you. And you’re certainly not going to have any problem with those.” I said, “I
don’t know that I would.” So he said, “Well, fine, great, and thank you very much. And
wouldn’t you like to have my chauffeur drive you back to your office? I know that I’ve taken
you this length of time.” I was busy, he knew I was. So he went in, and I accepted the ride. And
I laughed myself all the way back. I said to myself, as he drove up to the Washington Building,
and I got out of his car, with the chauffeur, “I hope John’s looking out the window,” but he
wasn’t. So when I went up there he said, “What did he want?” I said, “He wanted to know if I
would like to be a federal judge.” And he said, “My God, that’s the worse thing, that’s
absolutely the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” And I said, “Well, I think it’s
very nice.” He said, “Look, how long have you been around this place? You are perfectly well
acquainted with how these judges get appointed. Most of them are retired or have lost out in the
Congress or something of the sort and need the job. And, in the District of Columbia, they
mostly come from any place, all over the United States.” I said, “Not necessarily.” He said,
“Well, it’s just rotten. It’s someone else they want to put in and they are going to simply flag you
and they’ll have it in the paper. And the next thing you know, somebody else will slide into the
place. I’ll tell you right now, don’t give it a thought. It won’t happen.”
MS. GERE: So Mr. Green thought you were basically a ringer. You were just kind
of a name so that they would have a name to put up with the person that they really wanted to
JUDGE GREEN: That’s right. That’s what he thought. So, when the papers that
he said would be delivered within the next day didn’t come–or the next day or the next day–John
said, “See? That was all just bull.” I said, “Guess so.” Meanwhile, Joyce [Hens Green] was on
the Superior Court, in the Family Division. And so she knew Christopher very well. I had called
her. In fact, when she was sworn in, I was there, and Catherine Kelly swore her. But Joyce was
steering clear of me because she said, “I don’t want anybody to think there’s any connection at
all.” Because I told her how much he had indicated. And she said that she knew the same thing,
that it wasn’t supposed to be announced and all that stuff, and kept quiet. So I didn’t hear
anything. It was some months after this, because this was February–I think it was April that they
finally sent me some papers.
MS. GERE: These were papers that were supposed to have come to you the next
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. And with a note that they had screwed up. The
Department of Justice had screwed up, and this was the man who had the job of shepherding
everybody through. Please get the clearance to him. They felt that I would have to have them by
the next morning, by 9:30.
MS. GERE: By the next morning?
JUDGE GREEN: Yes. This thing that was supposed to take weeks to do.
MS. GERE: I think I do remember hearing this story, because Eleanore was your
secretary then. I remember her talking about having to type this up.
JUDGE GREEN: And she delivered it, too.
MS. GERE: Did you basically have to, then, stay up all night to complete the
JUDGE GREEN: All three of us did. John and Eleanore. When they started to
ask me about my notable cases, I wondered what I’d done all my life. I couldn’t think of
anything. They were all notable to my clients. There were a lot of them that were notable to me.
MS. GERE: But in one night to go back through twenty years worth of cases to
come up with the cites. To come up with names and cites, and–oh, Lord.
JUDGE GREEN: I said to John, I must have lived a misbegotten life. He said,
“Well, what can I do to help you?” The previous secretary had been with me for seven years, but
she wasn’t available at that point, so I couldn’t get her, and Eleanore would have been hurt
anyway, because she had taken me on when she found out the other one was leaving. She
worked for Shinberg’s, on the same floor.
MS. GERE: I do remember.
JUDGE GREEN: John asked what he could do, and I said, “Well, I have a lot of
closed cases that are stored in boxes on the third floor in the country.”
MS. GERE: In the country, meaning back out here in Annapolis? Oh, no.
JUDGE GREEN: He said, “Well, I’ll go get them and bring them to you, and
meanwhile you see what else you can fill out.” So he would pick up a case and say so-and-so
versus so-and-so, and I remembered. I’d think, “Oh, yes, I remember that one.” One word or
two, and I’d know what it was. Then I thought, the only thing that I had had of note were zoning
cases. And indeed, that was still the law in the Court of Appeals.
MS. GERE: That you had established.
JUDGE GREEN: Those were cases that I had represented–the Severn River
Association, and a number of others. I had also been before the Congress, trying to have them
not take property from the Naval Academy. This one was one that was a very strange one for me,
because there were a lot of Naval officers there. I was testifying against them.
MS. GERE: I guess Mr. Green probably didn’t go with you for that.
JUDGE GREEN: No, he didn’t.
MS. GERE: Stayed in the background for that one.
JUDGE GREEN: Anyway, I was representing LeBroux, whose property they
wanted to take for a runway to have midshipmen train and get acquainted with airplanes. It’s
where Sandy Point is now. The Sandy Point Park. I found out–I think as a matter of fact that
Fulton, my friend, had checked into it and had found out that there were all of these plans in this
particular spot for an enlargement of their golf course. The Naval Academy’s. It’s not in the
Naval Academy grounds. So I knew more about it than most of the other people did, and I could
raise the questions. Of course, I had handled all of the workman’s comp for the Navy when I was
at Lumbermens and afterwards–when they were building Navy Patuxent Air Station, which was
the biggest one, and they had the runways, they had the biggest planes, in the military. I said I
felt that it was very important for the Naval Academy to have the very best, and what they were
offering him was certainly not the very best.