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Newsletter # 44 – July 2020
Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit – www.dcchs.org
The novel coronavirus (or COVID
19) presented the Society with
challenges and opportunities
alike over the past three months.
An Unprecedented Board
The Society’s annual Board
meeting traditionally takes place
at the Courthouse. This year, that was not possible, but that did not stop the Society’s
meeting. On April 28, 2020, 46 current and future Society Board members, officers,
consultants, and staff logged on through their home computers and participated
remotely and actively in the Society’s first-ever virtual meeting. All items on the agenda
were covered in the 11/2 hour meeting, including election of new Board members,
reports from seven committees, a financial update, and reports from Society President
Jim Rocap and Chair Steve Pollak.
Intimate Oral History Interviews — from afar
When COVID 19 forced businesses to shut down, Sally Gere, former Deputy Attorney
General in the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, and her
interviewer, Barbara Kagan, former Public Service Counsel at Steptoe & Johnson,
were unable to meet in person to hold an oral history interview. Mike Terry, former
Circuit Mediator, and his interviewer Stephanie W. Wang, Steptoe Associate, faced the
same problem.
Each team decided to move forward so as not to “lose the thread.” Using ZOOM for
their third interview, Sally and Barbara had a successful two-hour session that “seemed
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personal.” They could see each other throughout the interview. According to Barbara, “I
felt almost as comfortable as I felt when we met in person.” Sally added, “If we hadn’t
held an earlier interview or two, this might have not worked as well, but I would
definitely endorse the approach when in-person sessions are not possible and long
delays between interviews would otherwise be the norm.”
Mike found the ZOOM session, their second, “convenient – we could each be at home.
It was the next best thing to being there.” Stephanie agreed, having found the virtual
meeting “a good substitute.”
Two Popular Annual Programs to
Be Rescheduled
For many years, the Society has
presented a special program in the
Ceremonial Courtroom on a notable case decision and its historical legacy. This year,
plans were fully in place for a June 2020 program on the 2001 U.S. v. Microsoft
antitrust decision when COVID hit, and it had to be postponed. For the same reason,
the annual Fall program for Law Clerks, featuring presentations by former law clerks,
has been postponed. The Society looks forward to presenting both programs as soon
as circumstances permit.
The Society’s Oral History Collection Expands with
the Addition of 19 Oral Histories of Trailblazing
Women in the Law
In its 30-year history, the Historical Society has taken
the oral histories of over 100 judges, attorneys, and
others who have served in, or who have been actively
involved with, the courts of the D.C. Circuit. Not
surprisingly, therefore, the Society is excited to be able
to highlight 19 additional oral histories — originally taken
by the Women Trailblazers Project of the American Bar
Association — of outstanding women judges and lawyers with deep ties to the District
of Columbia and the federal courts here. Their stories are an important part of the
history of the administration of justice in the independent federal courts of this circuit
and a welcome addition to the Society’s historical archive.
The American Bar Association has granted a license to the Society to publish these 19
histories and add them to its archive. The oral histories track the experiences and
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achievements of these remarkable women as well as the challenges they faced as
they entered the legal profession beginning in the 1940s.
Visit the Society’s website at www.dcchs.org in the coming months to read the oral
histories of Barbara Babcock, Nancy Duff Campbell, Sara-Ann Determan, Jamie
Gorelick, Marcia Greenberger, Zona Hostetler, Patricia King, Esther Lardent, Judith
Lichtman, Janet Reno, Florence Roisman, Lois Schiffer, Linda Singer, Judge Fern
Smith, Marna Tucker, Judith Winston, and Judge Rya Zobel.
The oral histories of Brooksley Born and Judge Gladys Kessler, also in the collection,
are temporarily under seal.
Newly Released Oral Histories
Dean Katherine Shelton Broderick
It would be hard to identify anyone with more hands-on
experience in founding, funding, staffing, building, and
operating a major law school than Katherine Shelton
(“Shelley”) Broderick. Her oral history describes her role
in establishing the University of the District of Columbia
David A. Clarke School of Law, where she also served
as Dean for twenty years. Previously, Dean Broderick
played a leadership role at both the Antioch Law School
and the District of Columbia School of Law. In her oral history, Dean Broderick talks
about representing indigent clients in the D.C. courts, and reflects on working with (and
against) a host of DC political luminaries. Robert N. Gross, himself an educator and
historian, conducted Dean Broderick’s oral history and prepared the attached
Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr.
The first African American in the nation to be named a
federal Magistrate Judge, Arthur Burnett helped to
initiate a number of criminal and civil reforms during his
14-year tenure. He also served as a judge on the D.C.
Superior Court. In his oral history, Judge Burnett
describes his experiences growing up in the segregated
South in a farmhouse without running water, how and
why the Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to pay his
tuition and living expenses at NYU Law School, and his
experiences in the Department of Justice’s Honors Program and with Attorney General
Robert Kennedy, and more, as noted in an article by William Marmon, Judge Burnett’s
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John Nields, Jr.
John Nields is best known for his televised role as chief
counsel to the congressional committee that
investigated Iran‑Contra. But even beyond that
experience, as he describes in his oral history, Nields
has played an outsized role as counsel in numerous
other matters of public attention, including the
Koreagate scandal, the prosecution of Mark Felt (of
“Deep Throat” fame), and the defense of Clinton aide
Webster Hubbell. Elizabeth A. Cavanagh, who conducted Nields’s oral history, has
prepared a summary of its many highlights.
Highlights from Oral Histories in the Society’s Archive
Probing articles about the lives of District Judge Louis Oberdorfer, John Pickering, and
Stanley Temko, written by attorneys conversant with their oral histories, reveal some
telling moments in their careers as well as anecdotes and reflections about the courts
and the practice of law in the District of Columbia.
The Society welcomed six new Board members at its annual meeting on April 28,
Jan Crawford – Chief Legal Correspondent, CBS News
Sara Kropf – Partner, Kropf Moseley
Jessie K. Liu – Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
William F. Marmon – Former Lawyer with Verizon/MCA and Journalist
Hon. Rudolph D. Moss – Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Steven A. Steinbach – History Department, Sidwell Friends School
The Society has updated its Membership
Brochure to reflect changes in
membership of the Board of Directors and
in the law firms supporting the Society.
The Brochure also includes thumbnail
descriptions of current programs and
activities. Take a look.
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Historical Society of the District of
Columbia Circuit
E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room 4714
Washington, DC 20001-2866
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