ELIZABETH SARAH (“SALLY”) GERE, ESQ.
Oral History Project
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit

Oral History Project United States Courts
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
District of Columbia Circuit
ELIZABETH SARAH (“SALLY”) GERE, ESQ.
Interviews conducted by Barbara Kagan, Esquire
December 9, 2019
February 13, 2020
January 10, 2022
June 15, 2020
July 1, 2020
August 11, 2020
September 16, 2020

Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah Gere
Table of Contents
Preface. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. i
Oral History Agreements
Sally Gere, Esquire ………………………………………………………………………………………. iii
Barbara Kagan, Esquire ……………………………………………………………………………….. vi
Oral History Transcripts of Interviews
December 9, 2019 ………………………………………………………………………………………….1
February 13, 2020 ………………………………………………………………………………………..43
January 10, 2022 ………………………………………………………………………………………….89
June 15, 2020 …………………………………………………………………………………………….127
July 1, 2020 ……………………………………………………………………………………………….156
August 11, 2020 …………………………………………………………………………………………180
September 16, 2020 ……………………………………………………………………………………222
Index …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. A-1
Table of Cases and Statutes …………………………………………………………………………………B-1
Biographical Sketches
Sally Gere, Esquire …………………………………………………………………………………..C-1
Barbara Kagan, Esquire ………………………………………………………………………….. D-1
NOTE
The following pages record interviews conducted on the dates indicated. The interviews were
recorded digitally or on cassette tape, and the interviewee and the interviewer have been afforded
an opportunity to review and edit the transcript.
The contents hereof and all literary rights pertaining hereto are governed by, and are subject to,
the Oral History Agreements included herewith.
© 2022 Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit.
All rights reserved.
PREFACE
The goal of the Oral History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia
Circuit is to preserve the recollections of the judges of the Courts of the District of Columbia
Circuit and lawyers, court staff, and others who played important roles in the history of the
Circuit. The Project began in 1991. Oral history interviews are conducted by volunteer
attorneys who are trained by the Society. Before donating the oral history to the Society, both
the subject of the history and the interviewer have had an opportunity to review and edit the
transcripts.
Indexed transcripts of the oral histories and related documents are available in the
Judges’ Library in the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue,
N.W., Washington, D.C., the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, and the library of
the Historical Society of the District of Columbia
With the permission of the person being interviewed, oral histories are also available on
the Internet through the Society’s Web site, www.dcchs.org. Audio recordings of most
interviews, as well as electronic versions of the transcripts, are in the custody of the Society.
i

 

 

Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place on Monday, December 9, 2019.
This is the first interview.
MS. KAGAN: Good afternoon.
MS. GERE: Good afternoon, Barbara.
MS. KAGAN: My first question is how would you like to be addressed?
MS. GERE: Sally.
MS. KAGAN: Okay. So that begs the question, why Sally?
MS. GERE: Good question. That’s a good starting point. My official name is Elizabeth
Sarah. I am named after my mother, but I had an aunt whose name was
Sarah, and she was known as Sally, so in order to avoid any confusion
between me and my mom, who was known as Bettie – now there’s a lot of
confusion – I was dubbed Sally. I have spent pretty much the rest of my life
trying to escape Sally, for she never sounded very professional to me, but it
stuck, and so I think of myself, I guess, as Sally, although when I was in
practice, I always used my full name, Elizabeth Sarah, on any legal
pleadings, simply because it sounds more lawyer-like.
MS. KAGAN: I have a cousin whose parents named her Merry, and she grew up to be a
lawyer and changed her name to Meredith.
MS. GERE: I feel her. I am and have been for many years called Sarah by my three
younger sisters, not affectionately, but rather as a way of saying, okay big
sister, you think you know it all. We’re going to call you Sarah, like that’s
some form of dig.
– 2 –
MS. KAGAN: So would people in a business-type setting call you Elizabeth Sarah?
MS. GERE: No. Usually they just call me Sally. After a while I would forget to answer
to Elizabeth, and they’d wonder how many names do you have?
MS. KAGAN: So it would just be in court and on briefs?
MS. GERE: Right.
MS. KAGAN: Where and when were you born?
MS. GERE: I was born on September 14, 1947, in Rochester, New York, and, as just
indicated, the eldest child. I have three younger sisters.
MS. KAGAN: Four of you? Four girls all together?
MS. GERE: Four girls, and not for lack of trying on my father’s part. But anyway, I have
three younger sisters. My dad worked for an insurance agency in Rochester,
but his own father passed away, and he had an insurance agency in Syracuse,
and when he passed away, my dad was asked to come back and run the
insurance agency. So I moved from Rochester to Syracuse when I was
probably about two years old.
MS. KAGAN: So you probably don’t remember Rochester.
MS. GERE: I don’t have much memory at all.
MS. KAGAN: For your folks, was it a happy move?
MS. GERE: That’s an interesting question. I think probably for my mom. I don’t think
my father really looked forward to kind of picking up the family business. I
think he was interested in being more independent, but his own mother still
was alive, and he came back to run the business so that he would be able to
take care of her as well as his own family.
– 3 –
MS. KAGAN: Right. And that’s what I was wondering. If he was in the same business,
then why not start it out as Gere and Son?
MS. GERE: Right, but I think he wanted to make his own name in his own way in a
different place, but that didn’t work out, but it seemed to work out just fine.
MS. KAGAN: Did he grow up in Syracuse?
MS. GERE: Yes. He grew up in Syracuse and had sisters and brothers. He had two
sisters and a brother. His mom was a homemaker, and his dad ran the
insurance agency. And there had been Geres in Syracuse for probably
centuries, and there’s actually a Gere’s Lock that is part of the Erie Canal.
So for my dad, obviously, coming back to Syracuse was really coming home.
I went to the same high school that my dad graduated from, and my mom
was born in Schenectady, New York. She lost her father at a very young age,
and she and her brother and sisters moved to Ithaca, New York.
MS. KAGAN: Why Ithaca?
MS. GERE: My grandmother, her mother, was from that area and she taught school there
and raised four children by herself. Anyway, so we’re definitely Central
New York people.
MS. KAGAN: You have roots there.
MS. GERE: Right.
MS. KAGAN: So you grew up in Syracuse, and is the area where you grew up urban,
suburban, somewhere in between?
– 4 –
MS. GERE: At the time I lived there, it probably would be described as urban. My grade
school, middle school, was a few blocks walking distance, and then my high
school was right truly downtown and drew from most of the city.
MS. KAGAN: I neglected to ask your parent’s names.
MS. GERE: My dad’s name was David, and my mother’s name was Elizabeth Sarah.
MS. KAGAN: And your sisters?
MS. GERE: My sister who is next closest to me in age is named Laura Ruth. My two
youngest sisters are identical twins, Margaret Prescott and Marsha Dodge
Gere. Very close. My mom had four of us pretty much all the same time, we
were growing up together.
MS. KAGAN: So would you describe your family as sort of middle class, upper-middle
class?
MS. GERE: I would say aspiring to be middle class would be the best way.
MS. KAGAN: But you didn’t want for necessities?
MS. GERE: No, but it wasn’t much beyond that.
MS. KAGAN: You say your sisters are all close in age, like a year apart?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: Wow. So not much of a break. Do you think they were hoping for a boy?
MS. GERE: Yes. My mom, actually. It’s probably too much information, but my mother
had other births that were not successful.
MS. KAGAN: Well she had a great spate of luck then.
MS. GERE: Yes. She did.
– 5 –
MS. KAGAN: You had extended family in Syracuse on your father’s side, and any on your
mother’s side?
MS. GERE: Not in Syracuse, but in Ithaca where my mom’s mother was, and then I had
an aunt and an uncle who lived there and another aunt who lived there for a
while. And lots of cousins. So that’s really where her side of the family was.
MS. KAGAN: Right, and that’s just down, what is it, I-81?
MS. GERE: Yes. I lived there before there was an I-81. It’s like an hour and a half
between Syracuse and Ithaca.
MS. KAGAN: Yes. I’ve spent a lot of time up there. So would you say that your family
was close-knit?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: Cousins that you hung around with?
MS. GERE: Yes. On both sides of the family, and usually that would mean spending a
fair amount of each summer with cousins, whether my on my dad’s side or
on my mother’s side.
MS. KAGAN: Would you just go to their homes?
MS. GERE: One of my grandmothers, my dad’s mother, had, there was a family, it was
called a farm, although it was not a working farm that they worked at the
time, but that my grandmother would live there during the summer, and one
of my aunts and her children would spend the summer there. They were
from Long Island. So we would go, you know, basically every weekend and
do that during the summer, and in between my dad’s working. And then
most of all, I just remember a lot of Christmas holidays, Thanksgiving
– 6 –
holidays, with my mom’s family in Ithaca, and either we would go there, or
they would come to Syracuse.
I have three cousins that were close in age, and we are all very close. It
was a very nice way to grow up, and I probably benefited from having
cousins who were boys. I didn’t have any brothers of my own.
MS. KAGAN: I imagine you learned a couple things from them.
MS. GERE: I learned about train sets. I learned about a lot of things I’ve forgotten I’m
sure about sports and the things that little boys cared about.
MS. KAGAN: And being tough a little bit?
MS. GERE: I don’t know. We girls were pretty tough.
MS. KAGAN: You didn’t need any boy to teach you that.
MS. GERE: No.
MS. KAGAN: Were you particularly religious?
MS. GERE: My mother was very interested in being sure that we had a religious
education, enough to allow us as adults to make choices about our religion.
My dad had made his choice about religion, and it did not include going to
church. So my mother would take us to Sunday School, and did that for
years, to church and Sunday School.
MS. KAGAN: And probably instilled some values?
MS. GERE: Yes. I mean, in addition to understanding more about not only the religion
that I was practicing, but about other faiths as well.
MS. KAGAN: Were your sisters your primary playmates?
MS. GERE: Absolutely.
– 7 –
MS. KAGAN: Not that many kids from your elementary school?
MS. GERE: Interesting. We lived in a neighborhood that was one block from the local
Catholic Church, and so almost all of the families in the neighborhood were
Catholic, and I had three sisters, so there were four kids, but most everybody
else had five, six, seven, eight children, and so we had lots and lots of kids
down the street, across the street, behind the house.
MS. KAGAN: Was it the kind of thing where you’d come home, change clothes, go out, and
come home when your mother yelled for you?
MS. GERE: Yes. We had, at the time I was growing up, a yard, or the plot next to our
house was empty, and so it was a good place for kids to congregate, play
games and hopscotch or whatever.
MS. KAGAN: So you played hopscotch. Other games as well?
MS. GERE: A lot of roller skating. Just whatever kids do.
MS. KAGAN: Did you dress up, play dolls?
MS. GERE: Yes. I can remember my sister Laura, who’s next youngest to me, and I used
to have contests. We would each get one of our younger sisters to dress up,
and of course since they were identical twins, it all mattered what the outfit
was that we had selected. And so of course we would each dress up one of
our sisters and then force our mother to try and say who had the best-dressed
twin. My mother was far too adept at that. I don’t think I recall her ever
making a choice.
MS. KAGAN: Were you and Laura closer than either of you were to the twins, given twins’
special relationship?
– 8 –
MS. GERE: Yes, probably, and certainly that has existed to today, although I would say
all four of us are quite close. But identical twins have a very special bond
and a code that the rest of us can’t quite crack.
MS. KAGAN: Even a whole language.
MS. GERE: Yes. My two younger sisters developed their own language. My mom also
was an identical twin.
MS. KAGAN: I’ve heard, but I don’t know, that typically it skips a generation.
MS. GERE: Usually. I guess that’s what has happened, but it didn’t in her generation.
MS. KAGAN: Do the twins live near each other now?
MS. GERE: They do. They live about a mile apart, and they are getting close to 70 years
old and have never lived more than a mile apart from each other, despite
raising families, going to college, coming home, working.
MS. KAGAN: Did they go to college together?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: So they didn’t have a revolt against the twinness.
MS. GERE: Oh they had a revolt, and after a while they really rejected the ‘I’m not
wearing the same outfit as my sister,’ but they’re just extremely close.
MS. KAGAN: So would you say that you liked doing the girly stuff versus being a tomboy?
MS. GERE: If girly stuff includes reading and studying and loving school, that’s what I
was. I was not at all athletic, and when I was growing up, girls weren’t
encouraged to be athletic.
MS. KAGAN: And that’s why they were called tomboys if they played with the boys.
MS. GERE: Right. My sisters were more athletic than I was, or am.
– 9 –
MS. KAGAN: Would you say you were you an outgoing child?
MS. GERE: I wasn’t shy, but I wasn’t outgoing. I was comfortable with who I was. I
was not an extrovert or an introvert.
MS. KAGAN: You said you loved school, and I take it you did really well in school.
MS. GERE: I did well in school.
MS. KAGAN: Was the goal to do well in school? Was it that kind of achievement,
something you were striving for?
MS. GERE: Yes, and both of my parents were voracious readers, and so that was just
what I observed and what I enjoyed and a consequence of reading and
studying and thinking about things led to doing well in school.
MS. KAGAN: So the school was a neighborhood school?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: How would you describe its composition?
MS. GERE: It was very much the intimate neighborhood, so a lot of the kids in the
neighborhood went to the local Catholic school, but a number of them still
went to our grade school, and it was, I would say, a socioeconomic mix of
people given where the school drew from.
MS. KAGAN: Was it racially mixed?
MS. GERE: Not so much my grade school, and it went to 8th grade. My high school,
definitely was. In my middle school, I would say that there were a lot of
first-generation children, but they were primarily Italian, Irish, and some
Eastern European.
MS. KAGAN: So a lot of immigrant communities.
– 10 –
MS. GERE: Yes. I mean the families that had come to Syracuse to try and make a life.
MS. KAGAN: Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, times were very different, and there was
oftentimes a stigma associated with being in a lower socioeconomic class or
someone that was new to the country. Did you get that sense of people being
seen that way?
MS. GERE: Yes. Definitely.
MS. KAGAN: In school, did kids mostly play with those like them?
MS. GERE: You know, that’s an interesting question because I don’t recall that. I don’t
know whether we were, for the most part very young and kind of growing up
together and more accepting of each other. There were, I’m sure there were
cliques of kids, but at least at that point in my life in that school, that was not
my overwhelming sense.
MS. KAGAN: Were you identified in elementary school as oh she’s one of the smart kids?
There was a coterie of smart kids?
MS. GERE: Yes. It was usually said in a pejorative or mocking way, and particularly to
be a girl and be smart was not how you wanted to be viewed.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have some comrades in that precarious situation?
MS. GERE: I don’t really remember any, sad to say.
MS. KAGAN: Lonely at the top.
MS. GERE: I definitely wasn’t at the top, but I think the other kids who were focused on
doing well in class were probably boys whose families had told them that this
was why they had come to the United States, and this was important for them
to do well.
– 11 –
MS. KAGAN: That’s interesting. Did any of them come from monolingual, non-Englishspeaking
families?
MS. GERE: I assume that they did, but the only thing I recall at this point in my life is,
you know, some kids that had more accented speech.
MS. KAGAN: So your school reflected the neighborhood that you lived in pretty much. Did
you have any notion of what you wanted to be when you grew up while you
were in elementary school?
MS. GERE: While I was in elementary school, probably not. I probably thought, if I
thought about it at all, that I would be a teacher, simply because girls were
either teachers or they were nurses. I knew at a quite early age I was not cut
out to be a nurse. The sight of blood was not going to be part of my chosen
profession.
MS. KAGAN: Were there any teachers that you had that you would say had a particular
influence on you?
MS. GERE: Certainly by the time I got to high school.
MS. KAGAN: But not in elementary?
MS. GERE: Not in elementary school. I just remember having really dedicated,
conscientious teachers who tried very hard to teach the kids what they needed
to know. I can think of one that I do not recall fondly, but the rest of them.
MS. KAGAN: Were a happy blend.
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: Do you have any family members who you considered a mentor in some way
as having a significant influence on you?
– 12 –
MS. GERE: Well, I knew enough I think at an early stage to recognize that both my
grandmothers had graduated from college and that that was quite unusual,
and that my one grandmother, my mother’s mother, basically raised four
children on her own. She was a teacher. My grandmother – and my dad’s
father died when I was quite young, before I even had any memory of him –
and she was a very strong person, so I had two grandmothers that were
educated and able to be very capable of taking care of themselves and their
families.
MS. KAGAN: Did your mom use her education in any professional way?
MS. GERE: Well my mom did not finish college.
MS. KAGAN: Right. This was your father’s mother.
MS. GERE: My father’s mother did not work outside the home, although she was very
smart. I don’t know what more to say about that.
MS. KAGAN: Why did your mother not finish college?
MS. GERE: Because of the Depression. My widowed grandmother was able, pretty
astonishingly, to put her son, who was the eldest, through Cornell University.
She put her next daughter through Cornell as well, and then came the two
twins, and there wasn’t enough money left. Both my mom and her twin, my
aunt, had gotten maybe two years of college and then dropped out.
MS. KAGAN: Not a lot of financial aid back then.
MS. GERE: My mom went on to become a dental hygienist, and her sister raised her
children. My mom was a dental hygienist before she got married and had us
children. My aunt married sooner than my mom and had her life devoted to
– 13 –
raising her children. After her children grew up, my aunt worked, but not
until then.
MS. KAGAN: So were your mom and her twin very close?
MS. GERE: Very.
MS. KAGAN: Are they still?
MS. GERE: They both passed away, but they were, just as my two younger sisters are,
inseparable. Growing up as a little kid, when I would look up, I would not be
able to distinguish between my mom and my aunt, and to this day, if I call
one of my younger sisters on the phone, I really have to listen carefully to
figure out which one I’m speaking with. With cell phones it is easier, but I
used to call one sister’s house and the other sister would be visiting. I’d be
thinking I was talking to one sister, and it would be the other. Anyway, they
sound very much alike as well as looking alike.
MS. KAGAN: And so did your mom and her twin live near each other?
MS. GERE: My aunt lived in Ithaca and my mom lived in Syracuse.
MS. KAGAN: How recently did your mom pass away?
MS. GERE: She passed away in 1992.
MS. KAGAN: So you were on your own then?
MS. GERE: Yes. I was extremely close to my mom. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the
book that Deborah Tannen, who is a linguistics professor at Georgetown,
wrote about sisters. It’s called You Were Always Mom’s Favorite!: Sisters in
Conversation Throughout Their Lives. Ms. Tannen interviewed my sisters
and me, and we ended up in the book. One of the things that she asked us
– 14 –
was who was mom’s favorite. We all confided in her that we were mom’s
favorite. I thought that was just a terrific testament to my mom, that we all
thought that we were her favorite.
MS. KAGAN: But now in hindsight were you really her favorite?
MS. GERE: Well it depends on who you ask. If you asked me, I would say of course, but
I think my sisters would have the same of course that they were her favorite.
MS. KAGAN: Was her death unexpected?
MS. GERE: No. She had had breast cancer, and it recurred. She had a number of years in
between and then it metastasized and came back, and she passed away rather
quickly.
MS. KAGAN: How old was she?
MS. GERE: She was 76, so pretty young. And she had been in terrific health and was
hard to keep up with.
MS. KAGAN: Back in that day, though, even having a few years was really amazing. So
your dad carried on?
MS. GERE: No. My dad actually died twelve years before my mom, in 1980. He had
just retired, so was 65, and was out jogging on the beach down in Florida and
had a massive heart attack and died. Which I’m sure if anybody had ever
said, Dad, how would you like to go, he would say I’d like to be on the beach
jogging. So in some ways I very much regret the loss of my parents at what I
view as a young age for myself and for them. I think each of them would not
have been good old people. I think things happen for a reason and that those
two deaths at those times are probably part of it.
– 15 –
MS. KAGAN: Were the twins still at home when your dad died?
MS. GERE: No. We had all grown up by then.
MS. KAGAN: That helps.
MS. GERE: Yes. My dad was very much of the era that women should be married and
have children, and that included his own wife, and so my mom had no
financial input, made no decisions. Everything was decided by my dad.
MS. KAGAN: Was that evident to you when you were small?
MS. GERE: Very evident to me.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a source of tension between them?
MS. GERE: Between them? I think my mom tried to play that down just to avoid the
tension. It was definitely a source of tension between me and my dad.
MS. KAGAN: Was that from a young age?
MS. GERE: Yes, and being the eldest, I kind of assumed the role of being the
spokesperson for my sisters as well as for myself. I think that’s one of the
reasons that I decided I should become a lawyer. I had spent a lot of years
arguing with my father and presenting a case for one of my sisters, whether it
was to go away to college or do something. It kind of fell to me to make the
case.
MS. KAGAN: And so you were playing that role from as far back as you can remember?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: Would he actively talk to you about his vision of what you should grow up to
be?
– 16 –
MS. GERE: Yes. For example, in high school I was told that if I wanted to go to college,
I would first have to take typing and shorthand so that I would be able to take
care of myself in case I didn’t find a husband when I went to college.
MS. KAGAN: How’d that sit with you?
MS. GERE: Not well. Not well. But I did learn, sort of, to type, and I definitely learned
shorthand.
MS. KAGAN: Really?
MS. GERE: Under protest.
MS. KAGAN: Well it’s a good skill once you’re in college.
MS. GERE: Yes. It was good for taking notes. The typing, I never did quite master, so I
always looked for boys to date who could type. I figured if it worked for
boys, it could work for me too.
MS. KAGAN: Did you feel your dad was sort of demeaning when you were growing up?
MS. GERE: I think he had definite expectations for what we could and should do as girls.
MS. KAGAN: Which was?
MS. GERE: Get married and have a family.
MS. KAGAN: Did that create tension between you and your dad?
MS. GERE: Yes, but that probably is just, again, further training for marshalling facts and
evidence and making a case in front of a judge that you knew was not
disposed to see things your way.
MS. KAGAN: So what was your plan?
MS. GERE: Well, I got myself away from home to college. My sisters behind me also
went away from home to college.
– 17 –
MS. KAGAN: You went away to college?
MS. GERE: I went away to college. That, I think, was probably the big success, in terms
of victories. I think the other thing is, as I say, the training of how to identify
a position for someone who needed a spokesperson and then to marshal facts
and present your case. Sometimes it was beating your head against the wall,
but occasionally there would be a ray of sunshine.
MS. KAGAN: So other than the big college move, what were some of the battles that you
had with your father over what girls can do and can’t do?
MS. GERE: Well, I kind of went along and did, for example, in high school what I
wanted to do even if it wasn’t something that a girl usually did. It wasn’t that
he said oh you shouldn’t do that or that’s not a good idea. It was more I kind
of had to figure it out on my own, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.
I was an exchange student when I was a junior in high school. In retrospect
looking back on it, I can’t remember arguing with my father about it. I look
back and wonder how he allowed me to do that, but that was really a real
chance for me to step out of my family at a young age and travel abroad,
which I’d never done, speak a language I didn’t know.
MS. KAGAN: Reading your bio, I was really struck that you were an exchange student at a
relatively young age, especially back then. Now there’s study abroad all the
time and gap year travel, so that was unusual. Was that a program that was
run through your school?
MS. GERE: Yes. It was the American Field Service. Our high school historically had a
family that hosted a student to come for the year to the United States and
– 18 –
that, as I recall, was one of the prerequisites for our school being able to
nominate somebody to go on this program. Because we had hosted someone,
I was able to go. Not my family personally hosted, but the school had hosted
someone. It was a wonderful experience, but it made me grow up.
MS. KAGAN: Was it hard? Were you frightened?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: But you wanted to do it nonetheless.
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: And you don’t recall what your father had to say about it?
MS. GERE: No, other than good luck.
MS. KAGAN: Was your father proud of your academic achievement even though he
thought it would be for naught?
MS. GERE: Yes. I’m sure he was, but I never got the sense that he was proud of it as
anything other than a means to the end of getting married and having
children.
MS. KAGAN: It must have been tough to be selected to go abroad and study.
MS. GERE: It was. As I recall, it was quite competitive, and it did mean being away
from your family. I was so fortunate to live with a wonderful family, the
Peyrauds, in the South of France that made wine. That was what the family
business was, growing grapes and making wine. To this day, their wine is
among the best in the world. The winery is called Domaine A. Tempier and
is located in Bandol France.
MS. KAGAN: And so were you drinking wine with dinner regularly?
– 19 –
MS. GERE: Yes. I had a younger French sister, Veronique. They would water the wine
down for the children, but everybody drank wine for lunch and for dinner. I
had never tasted wine in my life, or a lot of the foods that they served either,
but it was an adventure.
MS. KAGAN: What did you have to do to get selected?
MS. GERE: I don’t even remember. I’m sure I had to be interviewed by somebody.
MS. KAGAN: And advocate on your behalf?
MS. GERE: Yes. I’m sure. To say why I thought I should be the person selected and
what I would contribute to the program and whether I had the language skill
or the ability to learn the language and whether I would fall apart being away
from home for whatever it was, several months’ time.
MS. KAGAN: So had you had French training before?
MS. GERE: I had French in high school. I’d had a couple of years by the time I went, so
it was very rudimentary. But the way they also operated the program is that
they had a ship that transported all of the students going on this program to
wherever they were going. They were going all across the world, but they
congregated people in New York, and we got on a big ship, and then we
sailed initially to Europe.
MS. KAGAN: And you got off there?
MS. GERE: And I got off there, and other people got off and went to different places, but
it took, my recollection is, we were on this ship for at least a week.
MS. KAGAN: Was it fun?
– 20 –
MS. GERE: It was fun, but we had classes all day long, so it was immersive for me,
immersive French. Others, you know, had other kinds of classes that they
studied.
MS. KAGAN: So when you got to France, you got off the boat, and did you know what to
do?
MS. GERE: They had someone meet us. We spent a day or two in Paris, and then they
transported us, and you know, this is funny. I can’t remember. I probably
took a train. The little town where I stayed is called Bandol, and it’s partway
between Marseille and Toulon, on the French Riviera, so I don’t have a lot of
recollection about precisely how I got to the house, but I did.
MS. KAGAN: Were there other students going to France?
MS. GERE: Yes, but none in the immediate area where I was.
MS. KAGAN: Was it small, sort of like a village?
MS. GERE: Yes, but the home was very much almost like its own village because there
was a mother, Lulu, and father, Lucien, and many kids (Francois, Jean-
Pierre, Marion, Fleurine, Colette, Laurence and Veronique), some of whom
worked in the family business. There were people who came in, merchants
to buy wine, people to taste wine. It was a very active place, and the parents
of the family with whom I lived, were extremely active in the community, in
the Rotary Club, and all that sort of thing. So it was really I joined a family
that had a lot of deep roots in the area.
MS. KAGAN: Are you still in contact with them?
– 21 –
MS. GERE: I have not been in contact with them for some time. I did go back and visit
them many years after I had left, and my French mother was adamant that I
speak to her only in French, even though she spoke English. I hadn’t spoken
French in a long time. But that was just the way she was when I lived with
them because, in her view, she was asking someone to come and live with
her family as a way of not only broadening her children’s education, but
mine to learn a new language, to learn a different culture, to see my own
country through different eyes. She is a remarkable woman, who now is over
100 years old.
MS. KAGAN: Did any of the children speak English?
MS. GERE: One, and she went to England for the summer to improve her English, so she
was not there.
MS. KAGAN: Did the kids want you to teach them some English?
MS. GERE: Oh, I think we figured out ways to communicate, kind of both ways. And
they had listened to American music, so they knew some English.
MS. KAGAN: Culturally, they were more familiar.
MS. GERE: Right.
MS. KAGAN: Where did you go to school while you were there?
MS. GERE: No. I did not go to school. I went for the summer.
MS. KAGAN: Oh, just for the summer.
MS. GERE: Yes, for the summer semester or whatever you call that.
MS. KAGAN: So it was about three months?
MS. GERE: Yes., three or four months.
– 22 –
MS. KAGAN: How was your French when you were there?
MS. GERE: It was good, but when I returned and applied for college and was admitted, I
took a placement test and got some number of extra credits in French because
I was proficient enough.
MS. KAGAN: So we should go back perhaps to middle school, and high school to talk some
more about that experience. Were you involved in a lot of activities?
MS. GERE: In high school, well, in grade school, I did once run for Student Council
President in like 6th grade, and I did not win. So very disappointing. In any
event, that’s about the one thing that I can recall from grade school.
Moving on to high school, yes, I was active in a lot of things. Probably
the one that is the most, I think that had the most effect on me, was being the
editor in chief of the yearbook, which meant overseeing a staff and figuring
out how the book was going to be put together, how it was going to be
printed, and who the vendors were. Obviously, we had a teacher who was
the advisor, and the teacher who was the advisor was our English teacher,
Mrs. Muriel Ketchum, and she was fabulous. She was just wonderful. She
was such an inspiration to so many of us that I really was pleased to be
selected so that I could get to work with her.
MS. KAGAN: Was she a mentor of sorts?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: In ways of life beyond just working on the yearbook?
MS. GERE: Yes. How to lead a group, the importance of being organized, the
importance of doing things on time, the importance of keeping your word.
– 23 –
All the basic things that one needs to be a successful adult and to assume a
leadership role. But she also drilled the English language and its proper use
into all of us, for which I am forever grateful.
MS. KAGAN: Grammar, punctuation.
MS. GERE: How to deconstruct a sentence.
MS. KAGAN: So I take it you were a high achiever academically as well in high school?
MS. GERE: I did well in my French classes, in Latin. The bane of my existence,
however, was math. Math was not something that I excelled at. It was
something that I struggled with.
MS. KAGAN: Were you always bad at math or is it the phenomenon that so many females
face that once they got into high school, they thought they couldn’t do math.
MS. GERE: I think it was that, just really I never felt comfortable with it, and certainly it
was not something that at home I saw my mother doing or my father or
learning any real application. I just didn’t find it as fun as reading a good
book.
MS. KAGAN: In high school, there tend to be cliques, in-crowds, out-crowds, various other
crowds. I imagine you would have to balance that in constructing the
yearbook.
MS. GERE: Yes. And my high school was very diverse. It was located in the inner-city,
right downtown. It was built in 1900 and now is on the National Register of
Historic Places but no longer is a school. When I attended, there were kids
who were wealthy. There were kids who were poor. There were kids who
were black. There were kids who were white. There were the first-
24 –
generation kids that I’d gone to middle school with and others with long
Syracuse histories. It was a very large school.
MS. KAGAN: How many students were there?
MS. GERE: Gosh, I can’t even remember. Probably, I would be totally guessing, I don’t
know whether we got to a thousand. I think it would kind of depend on how
you counted because there was an academic part of the school, and there was
a vocational part. It was all sort of under the same roof, but it was a big
extended facility.
MS. KAGAN: What was the name of the school?
MS. GERE: It was called Syracuse Central Technical High School.
MS. KAGAN: Were kids programmed to go in one of the two tracks?
MS. GERE: No. It was not as we think of today’s magnet schools. It wasn’t as though
you applied or demonstrated some particular proficiency or interest. It was,
as I recall, strictly by interest. You could be in the academic portion, or, as
my younger sister Laura chose, she went to the vocational school because she
knew from the same young age that I knew I did not want to be a nurse, that
was what she wanted to be. So she chose to go to the vocational part of the
high school. When she graduated from high school, she was an LPN, and so
then when she went to college, she got her RN. There were programs for
auto mechanics, for carpentry, for engineering, for chemical engineering in
the vocational school. And then the academic part of the high school was
just like regular high school.
– 25 –
MS. KAGAN: That’s interesting because it’s thought of as a vocational program, but yet it
wasn’t just for kids that didn’t have what it took to go to college. There were
courses such as pre-engineering in high school that help prepare students for
college.
MS. GERE: Yes. As I recall, there were no girls in any of the engineering programs, but
all the boys who had the best math grades, that’s where they gravitated.
MS. KAGAN: There were, I imagine, certain core curriculum courses that were imposed,
and so, for example, everybody had to take some English, some history,
things like that. Were the two parts of the school integrated for such
courses?
MS. GERE: As I recall, yes. I think my sister Laura probably had some of the same
teachers I did on the academic side. Boy, you’re asking a lot of questions
that I have to think back to [laughter].
MS. KAGAN: It’s interesting, though, when you think about it. Were the kids that went
into the auto mechanic and those kinds of fields steered toward that?
MS. GERE: I don’t think they were steered to it so much as well that’s what either
somebody in their family had done, or they’d seen somebody who did that,
and they didn’t have any interest in going to college.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a socioeconomic question among some?
MS. GERE: It probably was. I suspect so.
MS. KAGAN: So what year was it that you started high school?
MS. GERE: I started at Syracuse Central Tech in 1963, and I graduated in 1965. I was
there for three years.
– 26 –
MS. GERE: Did you graduate early?
MS. GERE: No.
MS. KAGAN: Oh, was it 10, 11, 12?
MS. GERE: Yes. It was 10, 11, 12. No, that can’t be right. It must have been 9, 10, 11,
12. Yes, because our grade school went to 8th grade, so I must have started
in 1962. That makes more sense, 1962 to 1965.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have a group of friends?
MS. GERE: Oddly, the high school had sororities and fraternities then. Don’t ask me
why in high school you had such things, but back in the day, that’s what they
did, and so I was in one of the sororities. I also had friends, girlfriends, who
were not in the sorority. I don’t recall them being members. I had a couple
of girlfriends I guess that I was sort of close with, but mostly not. I was
much closer with the people who worked on the yearbook or in the Honor
Society or were in the French Club or who wanted to be exchange students. I
did not view my social existence solely through the lens of this sorority.
MS. KAGAN: Was it difficult to get accepted into the sorority?
MS. GERE: I don’t even remember. Probably, which, had I thought about it or known,
would have made me uncomfortable.
MS. KAGAN: So, did you consider yourself, looking back, as a competitive kid?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: Where do you think that comes from?
MS. GERE: My father. I guess internally wanting to prove that I could be a successful
person separate and apart from being a married mother.
– 27 –
MS. KAGAN Right, so in some respects, were you trying to show that you were as good as
any boy?
MS. GERE: Yes. So probably. I was just going to say probably that, that I was trying to
be the son that he didn’t have, intellectually, even if not physically, which, of
course, is a terrible presumption because that assumes that a boy would have
been smarter or more academically gifted.
MS. KAGAN: Or at least had expectations in that area of him. Was it something that was
spoken about, that your parents or your father wanted to have a boy?
MS. GERE: Yes. That was pretty clear.
MS. KAGAN: For your mother and your father?
MS. GERE: Yes. I think my dad was always, I think there was a tinge of disappointment.
I think it would have been somewhat ameliorated if it had been 20 or 30
years later when girls were encouraged to be athletically competitive. That
just wasn’t the era, so there was not that outlet for sharing.
MS. KAGAN: Right. He couldn’t come watch a game on Friday night kind of thing.
MS. GERE: Right or have the vocabulary to sit and watch football because my dad loved
it – it’s hard to live in Syracuse and not pay attention to the Syracuse football
team, or at least back then it certainly was – but none of us had had the
vocabulary. My dad was an excellent golfer but we never golfed.
MS. KAGAN: He didn’t introduce you to golfing?
MS. GERE: Very briefly. It was too expensive.
MS. KAGAN: Did your dad go to Syracuse?
MS. GERE: Yes. He did.
– 28 –
MS. KAGAN: And his dad?
MS. GERE: And his dad went to Syracuse, and his mother went to Syracuse.
MS. KAGAN: So definitely a family loyalty there.
MS. GERE: Right.
MS. KAGAN: Did the youngest two girls, the twins, sort of feel like they were the big
disappointment? Not only were they not a boy, they were two not boys.
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: Were there comments made?
MS. GERE: Yes. Unfortunately, by the time it got down to them, I think there was a
feeling of disappointment.
MS. KAGAN: Was it the kind of thing that was brought up when they might misbehave?
MS. GERE: No. Oh my goodness, none of us misbehaved. My father was a very strict
disciplinarian. We did not misbehave. If we did, it only happened once.
MS. KAGAN: And so you were lashing out, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but
asserting yourself came through, not staying out beyond curfew or things like
that, but came through your academic ability and your ability to challenge
him orally.
MS. GERE: Right, and to excel at whatever I took up that was not athletics or
mathematics, either one of those.
MS. KAGAN: Did your father end up having any boy grandchildren?
MS. GERE: No. None of them had been born by then. I’m trying to think. I might have
spoken too quickly. My sister Laura had a daughter and her first son before
my father died. Zac was just a little baby so was never really part of my
– 29 –
father’s life because by then my sister and her family were living in
Kentucky.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a big disappointment to your mom not to have a boy?
MS. GERE: No, because she loved us girls.
MS. KAGAN: Whoever showed up.
MS. GERE: Yes, whoever showed up and was in good health.
MS. KAGAN: So, when you went to high school, that was before the days where political
activism was infused in high schools and things like that, so was it what you
would picture as a 1950s kind of atmosphere?
MS. GERE: Yes. Very much so. Very much so. My dad was sort of, but not very,
involved in local politics. I remember somebody trying to get him to run for
some office. My parents were very engaged citizens, always voted, always
studied who was running for office, and I think instilled in us the importance
of being good citizens and being informed voters from a very young age.
But in terms of being active politically, I don’t think so. My high school
days were just on the cusp of world events exposing all of us to a lot.
MS. KAGAN: Did you go to dances?
MS. GERE: Yes. I went to dances when I was invited. I had met through church a boy
who became my boyfriend in high school. He went to a different high
school. He went to the high school where the much upper-middle class,
upper-class kids in Syracuse went to school.
MS. KAGAN: So he didn’t live in your area?
– 30 –
MS. GERE: Not in my neighborhood area, but I would see him at church, and we dated.
He was, still is, a wonderful person, who went on, ironically, to Cornell of all
places, and so I would spend some more time in Ithaca after he went there.
He and I are the same age. I did go back for some college parties a couple of
different times to Cornell. So that too was kind of another eye opener for me
was to go to his high school dances and to meet his friends. To see their lives
and what they could afford and what was going to be expected of them was
far, far different from my high school friends.
MS. KAGAN: Do you know whether the girls were treated differently than the girls in your
high school?
MS. GERE: I don’t, although again sort of ironically, I ended up in college living with a
girl who had gone to high school with him. She was brilliant. She still is.
MS. KAGAN: When you were in high school, did you know what you wanted to be when
you grew up?
MS. GERE: No. Again, I knew that my assignment was to go to college and find a
husband and get married and have children.
MS. KAGAN: So that did stick with you?
MS. GERE: Oh yes. Absolutely.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a concern that you wouldn’t find a husband?
MS. GERE: There definitely was a concern, and I didn’t find someone until just before I
graduated from college. He was not somebody that my father approved of.
MS. KAGAN: Oh? Were they kind of pushing you to get a boyfriend?
– 31 –
MS. GERE: My father assumed that if I went to this college, which was Denison
University, most people there would be well-to-do. He didn’t care which
one, just get married to him. I certainly dated in college, but the person that I
ended up deciding to marry just before I graduated was probably one of two
people that was at the college on scholarship, so it didn’t exactly turn out the
way my father had planned.
MS. KAGAN: What happened to the high school boyfriend who went to Cornell.
MS. GERE: We both decided that, he was studying to be an architect, and that was a fiveyear
course. We both decided that after our first year of college, we really
needed to date other people and see what the world was like. It was a good
decision for us, and to this day, I stay in touch with him.
MS. KAGAN It sounds like there wasn’t any heartbreak associated with it.
MS. GERE: Not on my side. I don’t think on his. I think we both eventually came to the
same conclusion.
MS. KAGAN: How did you decide where you wanted to go to college?
MS. GERE: The summer that I was an exchange student, my parents knew that my sisters
were going to be disappointed to not be doing something exciting
themselves. My parents rented a cottage up on the Saint Lawrence Seaway
for the summer so that my sisters would have something exciting and
different to do. As a result of living in this cottage for the summer, it
happened to be next door to the cottage of the man who was president of
Denison University. My father obviously listened to him all summer long,
and when I came home from France, my father said, you can either go to
– 32 –
Syracuse University and live at home, or you can go to this place called
Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and no, we don’t have money for you
to go and look at it. Take your choice.
MS. KAGAN: Was the French trip between your junior and senior years?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: So you came back, and it was time to think about college. Had you been
thinking about college?
MS. GERE: I had, and I had decided at some point that I wanted to go to what was then
called the Seven Sisters schools, Vassar or Smith or whatever, and so I had
taken Latin because at the time, to be admitted, one had to have had three
years of Latin, so I dutifully took Latin, for which I’m also eternally grateful
that I did. But my father was, I don’t know, the other schools must have cost
too much or maybe my grades weren’t right. I don’t know, but by the time it
came down to it, it pretty much was, and I think I also thought about Duke,
and I don’t know why. I’d never been there, didn’t know anybody who was
there.
MS. KAGAN: Did you apply to all three?
MS. GERE: No. I recall that I applied to Denison. I don’t know whether I applied to
Duke or not, and I don’t think I applied to any of the Seven Sister schools.
MS. KAGAN: Did you apply to Syracuse?
MS. GERE: I did, as I recall, but I was accepted at Denison, and I was thrilled to be going
there.
MS. KAGAN: But you knew almost nothing about it.
– 33 –
MS. GERE: Nothing about it.
MS. KAGAN: But you knew it wasn’t in Syracuse.
MS. GERE: It wasn’t in Syracuse. My father was not going to be close by, and the
brochures looked very nice.
MS. KAGAN: And there were boys there.
MS. GERE: There were boys there, somebody that I might find to get married to, and they
had plenty of classes in French, and so seemed like an okay place to me.
MS. KAGAN: Did you resent your father for kind of pushing you towards that?
MS. GERE: I probably did a bit at the time. But honestly, reading about Denison and
thinking I was so grateful to even be given that opportunity to go to college,
even if I had been somehow resentful at the beginning, I certainly wasn’t
after I got there or when I graduated.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a given that you would go to college?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: And what about your sisters?
MS. GERE: Yes, which I guess is, thinking back on it, I suppose that was fairly openminded
about my father that he thought that we all at least should get a
college education, but it was not necessarily for the right reason.
MS. KAGAN: So when you went away to college, did you feel like you got a separation
from your father?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: And did you feel like there was less that you had to prove?
– 34 –
MS. GERE: Oh no. No. Because I still had to figure out how to get good grades and, you
know, be in the right activities and find somebody to go out with, all that sort
of thing. I had to be a successful college student.
MS. KAGAN: What year did you enter?
MS. GERE: I started in 1965 and then graduated in 1969.
MS. KAGAN: So life was getting political then?
MS. GERE: It was, but not so much at Denison. It was still a very, I mean it’s a small
school in pretty much rural Ohio. It was not anything like, had I gone to
Syracuse University, for example, it would have been far different from
Denison. So it was the beginnings, and there were some of the students,
particularly as I got closer to my senior year and started looking around and
thinking about the rest of the world and what I was going to do with my life,
realizing that it was not going to be insular as my college experience pretty
much had been. When I went to college, before the year I graduated, women
lived on one side of the campus, the men lived on the other. There were very
strict curfew rules. It was truly a different time.
MS. KAGAN: And things changed pretty rapidly.
MS. GERE: The year after I left, it changed dramatically.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have a general awareness about what was going on?
MS. GERE: Yes. General.
MS. KAGAN: But there really wasn’t anybody at Denison that kind of had a torch.
– 35 –
MS. GERE: There were people, I’m sure, but I was focused on getting my grades, and I
had a job so I could help pay for my education, and it was pretty much what I
focused on.
MS. KAGAN: What kind of job did you have?
MS. GERE: I, for several years, worked in the dining hall. Back then, you used to get a
tray, and you’d come through a line, people would serve you your food, and I
was one of the people in the hairnets serving the food.
And in my junior year, I was selected to be what we then called a junior
advisor. I lived in the freshman dorm. I had a roommate, and the two of us
were responsible for one wing, one floor, of the freshman dorm.
MS. KAGAN: Was it like an RA?
MS. GERE: Yes. It was like an RA, and that paid for my room and board, I believe. It
was very prestigious to get this position. It was very competitive, in part, I’m
sure, because of the financial piece of it. It also was a lot of work.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a tough position?
MS. GERE: It was tough because you saw the struggles of a lot of young women and,
fortunately, my time was before drugs, but certainly alcohol, what we now
know as depression, people really struggling academically, people who had
never been away from home, people whose parents had set expectations that
were just totally unrealistic.
MS. KAGAN: But you had the kind of temperament that was well-suited to people coming
and opening up to you.
MS. GERE: Yes. I was a listener.
– 36 –
MS. KAGAN: And how did that come about? Do you think you were a born listener?
MS. GERE: A born listener and somebody that having had my younger sisters around and
listening to them, I guess it kind of translated to being a listener in college.
MS. KAGAN: And compassionate.
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: It could have had the other effect because of your sisters, that you’re used to
being the boss and having little sympathy for immature behavior.
MS. GERE: Yes. Sometimes I think they thought I was the bossy big sister, but it was
one way for me, I mentioned earlier that I thought about teaching, but
helping my younger sisters with their homework made me realize I didn’t
have the patience to be a good teacher, so I pretty much knew that was not
going to be my vocation.
MS. KAGAN: What did you major in?
MS. GERE: I majored in history. At Denison, in order to graduate with honors, you had
to do a thesis. I wanted to write my thesis in French in the History
Department. The History Department did not have enough professors who
were fluent enough in French to read my thesis, so I said fine, I will switch
majors, and I will be a French major, and then I will write my thesis in
French. So that’s what I did.
MS. KAGAN: On a different topic?
MS. GERE: Yes. Totally different. I analyzed a novel, the Charterhouse of Parma by
Stendhal, for my thesis.
MS. KAGAN: A French novel?
– 37 –
MS. GERE: Yes. A French novel. We called them Honors projects back then.
MS. KAGAN: So there you were, going through college. You’re getting toward the end of
it. Had you found a husband?
MS. GERE: No. I had not. Probably at some point, probably in my senior year. Gosh,
I’d have to go back and reconstruct, but at some point, as I got closer to
graduation, there was someone that I was dating, and he was a very special
person, on scholarship. We decided that we should get married. I at that
point already had been accepted at Syracuse University Law School on a full
scholarship. He had been accepted at GW Law School on a scholarship. We
had decided we would get married at the end of our first semester of law
school, but then you really can’t transfer in the middle of the year, so we both
thought well, we’ll play out the year and then we’ll decide where we’re going
to finish up. There wasn’t much contest. I transferred to George Washington
University Law School.
MS. KAGAN: What made you decide you wanted to be a lawyer? When did you really
make the decision that’s what you wanted to do?
MS. GERE: Obviously, I had to decide, I guess I would have decided in my junior year
because I had to take LSATs. By that point, I hadn’t found anybody to
marry. All of my close college female friends were getting married, with one
exception, the woman that I lived with when I was a resident advisor. She
was going to medical school. I knew I would not be going to medical school
and looked around and said okay, all the other girls are getting married.
What are the guys doing? All the guys I knew well were taking LSATs, so I
– 38 –
thought I’ll do that, and that’s about the extent of it. I thought I don’t know
any lawyers though. I’ve never met a lawyer, but I know how to argue, and I
don’t have anything else to do, so I might as well go to law school. Maybe
there’ll be a husband there.
MS. KAGAN: A lawyer by default.
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: There are a lot of default lawyers around. Going back to your college days,
what kinds of activities were you involved in?
MS. GERE: I was in a lot of things. In addition to working, I was on what was called the
Judicial Council, for which certain students were designated and basically
you would hear things like student infractions, curfew infractions, and it was
at the time kind of a peer system for dealing with disciplinary issues,. That
probably also helped my interest in being a lawyer. I was in Phi Beta Kappa.
MS. KAGAN: Were there activities associated with that?
MS. GERE: I guess. I think we had dinners, but it was not a big-time commitment. I also
was active in a sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, until my senior year. I was
not comfortable with the rush process and withdrew. But by then, I really
had a very, to my mind, interesting circle of friends, most of whom, a lot of
whom, men, particularly, were not in fraternities. You know, guys that I
worked with in the dining hall that came from a different strata from most of
the students at Denison.
MS. KAGAN: Why did you go into a sorority in the first place?
– 39 –
MS. GERE: Because at the time that I started, something like 96% of freshmen were in
either sororities or fraternities. You did not live in the house at any point.
You always lived in a dorm. So it wasn’t quite as confining, I think, as other
sororities are. But it was just what you did. And I picked a sorority that one
of my mother’s sisters had been in and one of my father’s sisters had been in
it. So it’s like okay, it must be meant to be.
MS. KAGAN: Was there a dress code at that point?
MS. GERE: Oh yes. Definitely a dress code for going to classes, and I’ll never forget that
when my first husband and I finally got married and we moved in together,
one of his first questions was, where are all your clothes. I said all those
clothes belonged to my roommate who had a lot of clothes, and she was
lovely and lent me her clothes. I did not have money to invest in a wardrobe.
And then when I got married, I was very, very fortunate to have a mother-inlaw
who was spectacular and had never had a daughter. She was a fabulous
seamstress and made all my clothes, which was very nice.
MS. KAGAN: Did you do other activities, anything like a yearbook-type activity?
MS. GERE: I did not do anything like that. I think mostly being on the Judicial Council,
being a student advisor, the sorority, and working in the dining facility and
trying to get good grades and work on my Honors project.
MS. KAGAN: That sounds like quite a full plate. Did you go home on vacations or break
from school?
MS. GERE: Not frequently because that was pretty far to go.
MS. KAGAN: How far was it?
– 40 –
MS. GERE: It would have been, or was, at least an eight-hour drive, and I didn’t have the
money to fly, so it would mean I would come home at Christmastime pretty
much, and in the summer. I was lucky to have roommates along the way that
were more local. The woman, Chris Kreger, that I lived with who went on to
medical school was from Cincinnati. That was pretty close, and I did spend
some holidays with her family.
MS. KAGAN: That’s nice. So anything else about going to Denison? How would you say
it changed you?
MS. GERE: It gave me more confidence in myself. It exposed me to, probably ironically,
most people go to college and are exposed to people of a different
socioeconomic strata, and mine was the upper strata, to which I had not ever
been exposed, but it helped me see more of the world or more variations in
people. I had a wonderful education. I had terrific professors, people that
were really dedicated. I had wonderful friends. It was a very positive
experience.
MS. KAGAN: No adjustment problems?
MS. GERE: Oh I missed my sisters and my mother terribly, and that was back in the day
when you’d have to get a roll of quarters and go stand in line to get to the one
phone booth in the dorm. I wrote a lot of letters. I still have probably some
of them somewhere that my mom wrote to me.
MS. KAGAN: Did you communicate with your father often?
MS. GERE: He’d get on the phone occasionally, when I called, but his questions would
be how’s the weather or how’s school.
– 41 –
MS. KAGAN: It sounds like he was sort of a typical 1950s father, not very engaged.
MS. GERE: I would say that.
MS. KAGAN: You knew he loved you, but the relationship didn’t really go beyond that.
MS. GERE: Yes. It’s not demonstrative in other ways.
MS. KAGAN: And do you feel like he knew you as a person?
MS. GERE: I think so. And I think, truth be told, by the time I graduated from law school
and had some of my first cases, I think he was extremely proud of me, and I
think he saw in me things that, had he not had to come back and take over his
father’s business, he might have accomplished.
MS. KAGAN: Just a couple more questions about Denison. What was the composition of
the student body like?
MS. GERE: We had some minorities, but not a significant number.
MS. KAGAN: Did the minorities stick together?
MS. GERE: Yes. Unfortunately, which was reinforced by the sororities and fraternities
and the geographical isolation of Granville. People did not choose to go to
Denison to be exposed to the world. They picked Denison to go and
reinforce the world they came from, except for me and my husband-to-be.
MS. KAGAN: Did most of the students come from Ohio or Midwest area?
MS. GERE: Yes. A significant number of kids from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and
Chicago area.
MS. KAGAN: I imagine Syracuse wasn’t that different from a lot of midwestern cities at
that time.
MS. GERE: Probably not. Probably not.
– 42 –
MS. KAGAN: So you felt like you fit in?
MS. GERE: Except that everybody had a lot more money than I did and had had a lot
more exposure to the world than I had had.
MS. KAGAN: Was that an issue? Did it create a problem for you with your social life?
MS. GERE: No. I just realized that, as I say, there was a different strata in the world that
I hadn’t experienced.
MS. KAGAN: You weren’t aware of the way rich kids lived?
MS. GERE: No. I was not aware of people taking ski vacations or going to the Caribbean
for Spring break or having wardrobes that I didn’t have or having gone to a
private school or having parents who were lawyers and doctors and such.
MS. KAGAN: Did that trouble you?
MS. GERE: No. I don’t think it troubled me. I just knew that I didn’t quite fit, or at least
I didn’t feel like I quite fit.
This is probably a good place to stop.
MS. KAGAN: Okay.
– 43 –
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place on Thursday, February 13, 2020.
This is the second interview.
MS. GERE: Good afternoon, Barbara.
MS. KAGAN: Good afternoon, Sally.
When we last finished, which was a good while ago, we were coming to
the end of your college years, but we hadn’t fully wrapped that up. I know
that you had mentioned you were working in the college cafeteria. That was
important to you, and it kept you grounded with some of the kids there that
weren’t all from affluent backgrounds. So in addition to that, did you work
during high school?
MS. GERE: Yes. That’s one of the things after we talked, I realized that I had not given
proper emphasis to the importance that my family placed on working, in
significant measure as a way to learn the virtues of being on time, doing a
good job, learning how to work with people that you might not otherwise
know or come into contact with, so I started working at a pretty young age. I
think I mentioned in my neighborhood growing up, there were a lot of large
families which offered very fruitful opportunities for babysitting, which I did
frequently for the neighbors as soon as I was old enough to be a babysitter
instead of being the babysittee. And then when I was in high school, I had
jobs during the summer, even though I probably wasn’t even 16 years old,
that involved working for somebody who had a little concession booth in a
resort town in Alexandria Bay, N.Y. I had a regular schedule there.
– 44 –
MS. KAGAN: Daily, nine-to-five?
MS. GERE: Yes. I watched people put paint on cards and then spin them around and go
home with their artwork. They spun the cards around, not themselves. And
from there I graduated to being a waitress in a steak restaurant, which was,
for the area, quite upscale.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have to carry heavy trays?
MS. GERE: I carried heavy trays and had to learn all about the menu, learn how to deal
with getting between people and their food, which I learned is sometimes an
unpleasant place to be if they haven’t gotten what they think they wanted in
the amount of time they wanted it. So that was a very interesting and good
experience in terms of learning how to deal with people, including working
with, and at that time it was all women, and we did not wear anything like
scanty outfits, but that didn’t stop the people who came there from being
inappropriate. So I learned from an early age how to kind of navigate that as
well. Part of the time I worked at the same restaurant as a cocktail waitress.
That was even more of a challenge. I remember working in the bar while
watching the Apollo moon shot. It was extraordinary. I have good memories
of amazing things that Americans accomplished while I was at work in a bar.
MS. KAGAN: Did people get physically forward?
MS. GERE: Yes. There was and still is a military base nearby, and so a lot of times the
guys would come in in a group, and they were the ones who tended to be the
most rowdy.
MS. KAGAN: They were there for meat, so to speak.
– 45 –
MS. GERE: Right. I worked one summer at a different resort, and I’m trying to think
which came in what order. I think that one came first, where I had to serve
breakfast, which as a server notoriously is the worst. The amount of money
that gets charged is less, so the tip is less, but the amount of work you do in
exchange for that is more because there are more pieces, there are more
things that you have to remember to do, bring the coffee, the sugar, the toast,
the eggs, the cereal, the maple syrup. I can remember one day these guys
came in and decided it would be very funny if they left my tip in change in a
plate of maple syrup so that I had to wash every coin. And I couldn’t afford
not to, so I did. But that was the funny part. I guess funny. There were
other parts that weren’t quite so funny.
MS. KAGAN: And there’s not much you could say to the management to help you?
MS. GERE: No, because, at least in one of those places, the management was part of the
problem. So I learned from an early age about hard work and the importance
of doing a good job.
MS. KAGAN: And people skills.
MS. GERE: And people skills.
MS. KAGAN: I think that’s really important. I appreciate that myself. There’s not enough
of that, I think, these days.
MS. GERE: Certainly not with everybody on their device screens.
MS. KAGAN: We’re getting to the end of college, and you found a husband, and he
happened to be going to law school. I know you mentioned that you were
trying to figure out what to do, you didn’t have a husband, and all your male
– 46 –
friends were going to law school, so you thought about that. You took the
LSATs, and you were off to the races. Did you meet your husband in that
context?
MS. GERE: Actually, I met him in college, right at the very end of college.
MS. KAGAN: He was planning to go to law school?
MS. GERE: He was already planning to go to law school. And then we both lived for the
summer before we got married in the resort town, Alexandria Bay, N.Y.,
because it was a good area to try and make some money. Then he started at
GW in the Fall, and I started at Syracuse.
MS. KAGAN: Was it just a coincidence that your husband-to-be was planning to go to law
school? It wasn’t like interest in the law brought you together or anything
like that?
MS. GERE: No. Probably early on, I would have considered him one of the guys who
was my friends who was taking this law-school route. I had another close
friend in college, Alex Curchin, who actually had applied for and decided to
go to Syracuse Law School. He lived with one of my parent’s friends who
happened to have a big house. She was getting on in age and was thrilled to
have somebody in the house with her. He too ended up transferring from
Syracuse after the first year, so he and I didn’t stay.
My first year of law school was challenging because as I think I mentioned
that there were, to my recollection, only two other women in my class. At
the time I was accepted, I was the only one.
MS. KAGAN: Out of how many?
– 47 –
MS. GERE: I don’t even know. I guess several hundred as far as I can recall. Law school
was a different learning experience, and as I mentioned, I didn’t know any
lawyers. I didn’t really know what would be expected of me as a law
student, let alone as a lawyer, but there I was as a law student and just figured
well, if I study hard enough, everything will work out. I still look back on
those times, and I’m not sure how or why, but my two closest friends in law
school were two other students, Richard George and John Laidlaw, who had
served in Vietnam and came back and started law school. They seemed to me
to be more grounded. They seemed to be more mature, and they had wicked
senses of humor, so that’s how I got through my first year of law school. It
was having some close friends because the professors were very skeptical of
having women in the class, but at least at Syracuse, I was more ignored than
picked on, I would say. I’m not sure which one ended up being better
because I had the other experience when I got to GW.
MS. KAGAN: Let’s back up a second. Did your husband have a particular goal in mind
when he decided that he was going to go to law school?
MS. GERE: Yes. He definitely was going to be a labor lawyer and represent labor
unions. His dad was a truck driver, a teamster, and Glenn (Whitaker), my
husband-to-be, felt very passionately that that was a segment that needed
good legal representation. So he had his eye on the prize early on.
I, on the other hand, was somewhat more, I don’t know, either a drifter,
ambivalent, and just wasn’t certain. Maybe it’s more of a reflection on me,
but I started out as a history major in college and ended up being a French
– 48 –
major because I wanted to write my college honors thesis in French. I had to
change majors to find sufficient faculty fluent in French to read and grade my
thesis. I’m not sure that’s an education plan one scopes out years in advance.
In some ways, I guess, law school was that way for me. I was searching for
why did I do this, and what am I going to do next. But going through my
first year of law school, I can’t say that anything stuck out for me as showing
me a path for where I wanted to go.
MS. KAGAN: None of the basic classes spoke to you?
MS. GERE: No, although I guess if I had to pick anything, I probably would say that
criminal law was more comprehensible to me and more meaningful, and
constitutional law, which I think law students love or think that they love.
But more critically for me was getting married in January 1970 at the end of
the first semester of law school and trying to figure out, all right, now I’ve
gotten married, I’ve got a husband who lives 500 or 600 miles away. How
are we going to navigate this. I also had taken a part-time job as a check-out
cashier at Loblaws, a local grocery store. More lessons about getting
between people and their food. More learning people skills.
My new husband quickly made it clear there was no way he was moving
to Syracuse. I’d never even been to Washington, D.C. and so I said well I’ll
at least come and look at it and see if there’s any way that I can transfer.
It was a very difficult process because that would have been in the spring
of 1970, which basically was the time that most college campuses were in the
throes of extreme distress, demonstrations, and disarray over the Vietnam
– 49 –
war. The National Guard killed four students at Kent State. There were
demonstrations at schools and in cities across the country. At most law
schools, final exams in the spring of 1970 were cancelled. People couldn’t
get to class, so law schools just didn’t give exams. Nonetheless, I had been
told by GW that there was no way that I could transfer unless I had taken
final exams for the second semester of my first year, even though GW didn’t
have final exams for its own students that year and Syracuse was not offering
final exams. And so this other fellow that I mentioned earlier, Alex, and I,
and I think there was one other person that I can recall very vaguely, had to
go to professors and get them to give us final exams so that we could
transfer. So there were three or four of us in the first-year class at Syracuse
who did took final exams.
MS. KAGAN: The professors were willing to do that?
MS. GERE: There were professors who were willing to do it. I can remember my father
driving me up to the SU campus and practically, he was not very happy about
the whole situation, and felt, I think, quite rightly, threatened. Even to drive
up onto campus through the demonstrators was quite an undertaking,
especially if you didn’t have your peace sign jacket on, which my father
clearly did not. He was somebody’s father driving his daughter to take
exams and you best get out of his way.
In any event, I got through exams and interviewed at GW. The then-Dean,
Wallace Kirkpatrick, was a very difficult man. During my interview, he said
I’ve looked at your husband’s record, and he’s done very well his first
– 50 –
semester here at GW, so I’m sure he’ll be able to help you through law
school. With that, I’m willing to recommend your acceptance. Mind you,
my husband and I had basically the same GPA graduating from college and
probably about the same LSAT scores too. My husband was very bright, but
he was going to get himself through law school. He wasn’t getting me
through law school. I’ll never forget that. Of course then I set about making
it my business that I did a good job and never looked back. I did well at GW.
I graduated with honors, as did my husband.
Then that interest in criminal law started to speak to me because some of
the professors were so interesting. Ironically my ex and I, it’s not ironic, but
we were poor. We concluded the one way we could finance our way through
law school was to take the same classes and buy just one set of books. If one
of us had to work, then the other could go to class, and we would tag team so
we wouldn’t miss anything. I took a lot of labor law, and he took a lot of
criminal law, which was okay. It was all right for both of us.
MS. KAGAN: How political were things at the law school?
MS. GERE: By the time I got there, we could have gone to a march every weekend had
we wanted, and we did, and I, going fast-forward, thought afterwards, now
how am I ever going to get a job with the Justice Department because I’m
sure I’m on somebody’s photo feed marching down Pennsylvania Avenue.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Getting to my second year of law school, being a transfer student, being
newly married, was kind of isolated in a way. The people who had started
– 51 –
together had formed their cliques and study groups of which I was not a part.
Shortly after I got to GW, I found a job and so was working a fair amount.
MS. KAGAN: What were you doing?
MS. GERE: I worked for what was then, and this will come full circle, I worked as a law
clerk for the D.C. Corporation Counsel, now today’s D.C. Attorney
General’s Office. I worked on a project that was funded by the LEAA, Law
Enforcement Administration Association. We worked to prepare a jury trial
manual for use by the Corporation Counsel lawyers, so a lot of legal
research, a lot of it on criminal issues for local prosecutions for which they
were responsible.
MS. KAGAN: At that time it was traffic offenses and misdemeanors less than 180 days?
MS. GERE: Yes. I believe probably juvenile too. One of the very first bosses, well, the
very first boss I had as a lawyer, was a woman, which was pretty
extraordinary, I later came to find out in my naivete. Margaret Hines was a
very bright person, a very good manager. I think there were four of us who
were law clerks. She might have had a staff lawyer. I can’t remember. But
she kept us all very busy, and it was, again, a very good experience. A
learning experience. And, through that work, I met a GW classmate, John
Leonardo, who remains today my closest law school friend. He went on to
be a judge on the State Court bench in Arizona and later, the US Attorney
there.
MS. KAGAN: How many hours a week did you work?
MS. GERE: I think it was twenty. But I got paid.
– 52 –
MS. KAGAN: Was your husband working?
MS. GERE: He was working. His first job was with a government contracts law firm.
His second job was with the Teamsters Union. He got a job with the inhouse
General Counsel for the Teamsters, which was a dream job for him,
and he did very well at that.
MS. KAGAN: Were you working the summer after your first year?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: And was that in D.C.?
MS. GERE: No. That would have been the summer after my second year. After our first
year of law school, we lived in the resort area of Alexandria Bay in the
Thousand Islands on the US-Canada border. Glenn worked there too. I was a
waitress and he worked at the marina. We didn’t have legal jobs. We were
trying to make money so we could someday have legal jobs.
MS. KAGAN: Did you take night classes to help with your schedule?
MS. GERE: Yes. We both took night classes. I also liked them, not just because it was
good for my schedule, but I also found that the professors were more often
people who were engaged in the active practice of law. It also seemed that
the students in the class who were night students more mature and more
focused, kind of get in and get out, learn what I need to, and then I need to go
home and eat my dinner or whatever because they had already been working
all day.
MS. KAGAN: Right. Approach it like a job. Where did you live when you first moved to
D.C.?
– 53 –
MS. GERE: We lived in an efficiency apartment in Arlington, Virginia, which was right
across the street from Ft. Myer, so we could hear reveille in the morning, and
if we could get home in time, taps at night, but that was not that frequent.
We kept our bikes parked next to our dining room table. But it was fun. It
was a good place to live. It was near a laundromat. It was cheap. I think we
paid $80 a month.
MS. KAGAN: How did you get back and forth to law school?
MS. GERE: We either drove or we biked, depending on what was going to happen during
the day or which of us had to work or who needed to be where.
MS. KAGAN: Was there such a thing as a kind of a typical law school day?
MS. GERE: I can’t think of a typical one.
MS. KAGAN: Did you do most of your studying in the library?
MS. GERE: Yes. I remember thinking if I could buy a soft drink during the day, that was
living large. We packed lunch and never bought anything to eat at school.
MS. KAGAN: You didn’t get a scholarship at GW?
MS. GERE: I did, beginning my, I think I got it the second semester of my second year,
and then I had it my third year as well. We both had what were called
Trustee scholarships. I think it must have covered a goodly amount. We had
loans that we had taken out, but it certainly was a tremendous help.
MS. KAGAN: At what point did your father become proud of you for your path?
MS. GERE: Not until I got a job at the Justice Department, which would have been after
my clerkship. I was there for a while and was assigned to a case to represent
former President Nixon.
– 54 –
MS. KAGAN: Okay. We’ll get to that later.
MS. GERE: So that’s down the road. It takes a while.
MS. KAGAN: He wasn’t thrilled with your choice of spouse because he wasn’t able to
support you?
MS. GERE: More I think it was his political persuasion that my father did not share.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have a large wedding?
MS. GERE: No. We got married in January 1970 in Syracuse, New York.
MS. KAGAN: Where was his family?
MS. GERE: In Cincinnati, Ohio. There was one of those blockbuster blizzards that
weekend. We weren’t going to have a big wedding anyway. We got married
in a church, and the reception was downstairs in the church hall with a
champagne cocktail, so it was not anything extravagant. But we, I thought,
had a very lovely wedding. So that part started off fine.
MS. KAGAN: Given that there was so much pressure, social and familial, to get married, to
be married, did you feel any different after you had gotten married?
MS. GERE: I thought now I can get that off my checklist of things that I don’t need to
worry about now. Getting married was one of them. My parents were
pleased that I got married. I think they were then concerned, how was I
going to be married and be starting off on this career that was just not what
women did. How was I going to be able to do that. Which I also asked
myself.
MS. KAGAN: And the pressure to have kids.
MS. GERE: Yes. That quickly became the next box to check.
– 55 –
MS. KAGAN: Right. Okay, so now you’re sort of humming along, on low octane, in law
school. And then after your second year, did you keep the job with the
Corporation Counsel?
MS. GERE: Yes. It seemed like a good job. I worked with one of the other interns who
also was from GW, and to the extent that I made any friends during law
school, it was because of that internship or clerkship, whatever you want to
call it. As I mentioned earlier, his name is John Leonardo. He and I became
very good friends. We remain good friends.
MS. KAGAN: Is he still in D.C.?
MS. GERE: He is in Tucson, Arizona. He was an AUSA. He then went on to become a
judge on the State Court in Arizona. He then became the U.S. Attorney in
Arizona, and within the last few months, has just returned from living in
Albania for several years under the auspices of the Department of Justice to
train Albanian lawyers on legal systems because Albania wants to become
part of the EU, and in order to do that, there are certain markers that they
have to meet. Anyway, John had a very illustrious career and has just retired.
So I stay in good touch with him. His daughter lives here in D.C., so we’re
lucky to keep in touch with him when he visits, and we usually vacation once
a year in Tucson, so it works out to see each other regularly despite the
distance.
MS. KAGAN: So while in law school, were the criminal classes still the ones that you
enjoyed the most?
– 56 –
MS. GERE: Between the two of us, I found actually that I liked a lot of the labor classes,
and then my husband, I’m not sure why, got interested in government
contracts because GW has a really outstanding government contracts
program. So we dabbled, but here and there. My husband during his first
year of law school tried out for a place on law review, which he was
successful in achieving. I, of course, missed the mark because I wasn’t there
at the law school. But I had half a law review experience because he was too
busy to do most of what he was supposed to do so a lot of it he handed off to
me. I was on another journal, the Journal of International Law and
Economics. I don’t recall it taking a great deal of my time and attention.
MS. KAGAN: Any professors stand out in your memory?
MS. GERE: John Banzhaf, who taught, I can’t remember what I took, something that was
a little bit off the beaten path. It must have been consumer law or something
like that. Professor Banzhaf went on to take on the tobacco industry and had
a lot of major impact lawsuits that he brought using GW law students. He
was very engaging.
There was another professor, James Starr, who taught a number of
criminal courses that I took, and he too developed somewhat of a reputation
for some kind of cutting edge, some people might not think it was quite
cutting edge, they might have thought it was over the edge, analysis of
identification of criminal remains, forensics theories. That developed after
my graduation, but as he was building up his resume, I took a couple of
classes from him. He was a very interesting professor.
– 57 –
I was busy working. I was busy being a newly married person. I was
busy trying to make sure I was succeeding in law school, at least
academically. But again, I don’t know what comes next. I don’t have this
burning desire I’m going to be a tax lawyer, a criminal lawyer, a
constitutional lawyer. Again, looking around a bit at people in law school,
not that I had —
MS. KAGAN: How many women were there?
MS. GERE: I later learned that there were, I think, our class had maybe 6% women, so
maybe a dozen, fifteen, twenty. But again, because by the time I transferred,
people were in their places, their cliques. It wasn’t as though you were in
your first-year classes where you’re divided up alphabetically, so a lot of
people I didn’t really even know. I didn’t have time to hang out at school
and socialize.
MS. KAGAN: Was there a dorm for first-year students?
MS. GERE: My husband lived in a dorm for first-year students during his first year at
GW.
MS. KAGAN: That’s what kind of cements the first-year experience.
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: How was the domestic life going? Were there expectations you or he had for
yourself that weren’t the same for him?
MS. GERE: I would say it was pretty good. There were certain things that I did and
certain things that he did, but I don’t remember feeling as though he said
okay, these are your duties, and these are mine. To his credit, or maybe his
– 58 –
good luck, his mother worked most of her life as a secretary/special assistant
to an executive in a chemical company, so from an early age he had a vision
of women going to work.
MS. KAGAN: Which was unusual to have a working mother back then.
MS. GERE: Which was unusual. His mother was also quite impressive in terms of what
she might have achieved in another day and age. She did graduate from high
school; she was bright. She clearly would have had much more of a career.
That is one of the things that likely endeared me to her. She looked
vicariously at my life and said this is good for a woman.
MS. KAGAN: Did she have daughters?
MS. GERE: No. My husband was an only child.
MS. KAGAN: So you had to pass muster.
MS. GERE: Which I did. His parents were wonderful people. Very much regular people,
very hard-working.
MS. KAGAN: His dad was a union guy?
MS. GERE: His dad was a union guy. His dad was a prisoner of war in World War II and
barely survived.
MS. KAGAN: Oh wow. Where was he?
MS. GERE: He was captured in North Africa. He was moved to Germany for at least
some part of his captivity, but he came back to this country weighing less
than a hundred pounds and had been severely mistreated. But he muscled on.
He was really quite remarkable. It was a different age, a different generation.
– 59 –
So I’m getting toward the end of law school and thinking okay, now what.
Again, looking around, lots of people had identified their prize, had their eye
on it, and they were going for it. I looked around and thought I need another
year to figure this out, so people said well, there are these things called law
clerks to judges, and maybe you should think of that as kind of an extension
of law school.
MS. KAGAN: Were there professional career counselors at school?
MS. GERE: Not that I recall. As a matter of fact, GW had a formal clerkship committee
through which one had to go to secure a clerkship, and I can’t remember why
or what happened, but I think my husband got crosswise with them for some
reason and said the heck with that, I’ll just go apply for a clerkship by
myself. Why do I need these people. So I thought, why do I need these
people. We decided between the two of us that there was going to be enough
competition as it was. I was very interested in getting a clerkship with a
woman. Of course I had no idea how few women in 1972 were on the bench.
Very few. My husband did not have necessarily the same goal. He just
wanted a clerkship. We both decided a federal clerkship would be nice, so he
said alright, I tell you what. I’ll apply to judges in Baltimore, and you apply
in D.C. because you’re going to have more women judges to apply to. They
might not be federal, but at least they’re women. And so that was the extent
of our preparation for a clerkship.
He interviewed with a number of federal judges up in Baltimore, got two
offers, and took one with Judge James R. Miller on the District Court for
– 60 –
Maryland. I identified the, maybe there were three women judges in D.C.
One on Superior Court, one on the D.C. Court of Appeals and one on the
federal bench.
MS. KAGAN: And you only applied to women judges?
MS. GERE: I definitely heard that I should save my paper and my energy because there
was no way that I was even going to get an interview let alone a job with any
of the male judges. Some people whose reputations to this day are how open
and progressive they were not, but in the early 1970s, they weren’t. I
obviously saw that in the treatment of the judge for whom I did clerk.
Anyway, so going back to that, I had an interview as I recall with Judge
Sylvia Bacon who was one of the early judges on Superior Court. I also had
an interview with Catherine Kelly who was on the D.C. Court of Appeals,
and I had an interview with June Green who was the only active female judge
on the federal court in the District of Columbia and the fourth woman to be
appointed to the federal trial bench. She had been appointed by President
Lyndon Johnson. I had an interview with her that included being interviewed
by her secretary and her current law clerks because, from her perspective, it
was a very small and close-knit setting, and if there was someone who was
not going to get along, then the judge wanted to suss that out before going
too far. I doubt that too many other judges thought that way. I thought it
was a terrific idea, particularly in those days because judges’ secretaries
pretty much ruled the roost. Law clerks came and went. Secretaries did not,
and the secretaries were an integral part of the judge’s work, everything from
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the various dictation, typing, to just okay, judge, you want a real-world view,
here’s my two cents. So I passed muster apparently. As a matter of fact, the
judge and the judge’s secretary told me after my interview that I must have
walked out of the courthouse very quickly because the judge sent her
secretary to catch me to make me an offer on the spot but missed me. The
Judge called me the next day to offer me a clerkship with her.
MS. KAGAN: Oh wow. Oh my goodness.
MS. GERE: And so it didn’t take long for me to get an offer. I was thrilled to have it.
That was one of the best parts of my legal career. And it was totally, I don’t
want to say dumb luck, but I had set a goal to clerk for a woman judge that I
did not even realize how hard it would be to meet that goal. I learned a
phenomenal amount from the judge, not just about the law and not just about
how to be a good lawyer, but how to be a good person, which were all
valuable lessons.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have any idea what to expect when you were going into the
clerkship?
MS. GERE: Gosh no. I had very little idea. As a matter of fact, I remember the second or
third day that I was there, the judge, I don’t know, somebody called
chambers and had a question, so I went in to ask the judge, lawyer x called
and wanted to know should he do xyz, and the judge looked at me and said
just tell him to file a praecipe, and I turned around and walked out. Oh my
gosh, what’s a praecipe. Nobody told me in law school what that was. So I
had a number of moments like that, but the positive management by Judge
– 62 –
Green of her chambers was that she required a two-year commitment from
her law clerks and then staggered their start dates, so she always had
somebody who was slightly more in the know. But Eleanore Soltanoff, her
secretary, could have told me, she could have filled out a praecipe by herself.
So I had a lot of times like that where I did a lot of learning very quickly.
MS. KAGAN: Did you read up on her opinions before you went to the interview?
MS. GERE: I did. There was no internet. There was not a lot of way to find out about
people, but I learned that she had been a trial attorney, had been a very
successful trial lawyer, in spite of the era and in spite of her gender. I learned
that on kind of a spectrum of things, she probably was considered to be
liberal, in some respects probably more on the criminal side, but also a
person of real empathy and somebody who listened well. From a lawyer
practicing before her, I know a lot of lawyers used to say she’ll just let you
try your own case because she’s been on the other side of the bench, and she
knows there are times that judges need to step back. Yes, it’s their
courtroom, but it’s not their case to try. But I watched a lot of men come in
and think this is just a woman.
MS. KAGAN: They underestimated her?
MS. GERE: Oh yes. Underestimated her and overestimated themselves, as if I’m a man
therefore I’m going to know how to do this better, I’m going to be better, I’m
going to be more successful. To my shock and amazement, the men would
be very blatant about it and be very dismissive of the judge.
MS. KAGAN: How did she handle that?
– 63 –
MS. GERE: With great equanimity. She’d had plenty of that kind of treatment in her
private career. She was always one to say you have to be prepared. You
can’t rely on your gender. Either man or woman, you’ve got to do your
homework. But I think she also thought particularly in jury trials, she had a
great deal of faith in jurors. If a juror observed a lawyer being dismissive of
the judge or seeming to talk down to a woman as a witness or, later on, to
women lawyers, jurors would see it, and the judge said they’ll get it.
MS. KAGAN: Did you and the judge discuss those kinds of issues?
MS. GERE: Yes. Because I would ask. I would say, so how on earth did you do this.
How did you get here. How did you succeed.
MS. KAGAN: After a day in the courtroom when you saw the disrespect that she had faced?
MS. GERE: Yes. She was very much of the view you have to be better than everybody
else. You’ve got to be more prepared. You’ve got to be stronger. You’ve
got to stand tall.
MS. KAGAN: How was she treated by her fellow judges?
MS. GERE: It depends on which ones you look at. Not surprisingly, Judge Aubrey
Robinson and she were quite close. I say not surprisingly because he was
African American, so they were sort of out of the mainstream. She had a
very good relationship with Judge Joseph Waddy, who also was an African
American. She had a good relationship with Judge John Sirica whose
chambers were down the hall. She had, I don’t know what adjective I’d give
it, but her chambers were right next to Judge Gesell, and he was a very strong
presence on the court. They got along fine. In her time on the bench, and
– 64 –
this is a tradition that the current judges on the trial bench at least have
carried on, the judges always had lunch together in the judges’ dining room.
I think that was a way that many of the judges got to know Judge Green
personally, and it gave her an opportunity to demonstrate I don’t have three
heads and can understand the law as well as you men. I always thought that
was a good thing. She cared very much about, I don’t want to say she cared
about the opinions of the other judges of her, but she cared about being part
of a group of judges that really set the tone for civility for the court, for the
work that they did, for the community.
MS. KAGAN: Was there a clubiness among the clerks?
MS. GERE: Oh yes. There definitely was. That may have changed by now, but there was
no way that any of us who were trial judge law clerks would eat lunch with
the Court of Appeals’ law clerks because they viewed themselves as
academically above us.
MS. KAGAN: And the District Court as well as the Court of Appeals judges, would all of
them eat lunch together?
MS. GERE: Yes. They were more open and inviting. I just remember the trial judge law
clerks, the District Court judges’ law clerks tended to eat more together. But
because we would talk at lunch time, your judge would be in the middle of
trial, and you’d be up there saying okay, the judge wants me to research
XYZ, has anybody ever looked at this. We were forever, in obviously days
before computers or anything like that, we would always trade draft jury
– 65 –
instructions. I’ll trade you one of these for one of these. That was a lot of
how information circulated around the courthouse to the good.
MS. KAGAN: How many women law clerks were there?
MS. GERE: During my tenure, I don’t recall any on the District Court. Judge Green had
had a woman as her first law clerk. She tried to have a man and a woman
law clerk together, and sometimes it didn’t quite work out timing-wise.
Toward the end when more women were given opportunities for clerkships,
she ended up with her last several law clerks being women because they were
available and there were other opportunities for them after clerking.
MS. KAGAN: Did you get a sense of how she juggled her professional life and her personal
life? Was that problematic for her?
MS. GERE: I don’t think it was problematic. Her husband also was a lawyer. He had a
number of very important, significant government positions, but the law was
not the reason he lived. Frankly, I think he lived for her, and in many
respects, she for him. They had a very close relationship. He probably made
more adjustments to his life for her career than the other way around. I don’t
think he regretted or minded. I think he was one of her biggest cheerleaders.
MS. KAGAN: Did she discuss any of that with you?
MS. GERE: Yes, but a lot of it was just plain observation. Because the judge and
Mr. Green were very close to her law clerks, we all became part of that
network, and every year we would be invited, we’d have a cookout at her
home in Annapolis, and she just made a point of keeping up with all of us
and making sure we were doing alright. So you could see that. I became
– 66 –
particularly close to Mr. Green just, I don’t know, partly when I was going
through my divorce of all things, he seemed to be a good, steady sounding
board.
MS. KAGAN: That happened during your clerkship?
MS. GERE: No. This was years afterward. I’m just saying it was kind of the genesis of a
long friendship, one that I kept up long after Judge Green passed away.
MS. KAGAN: Were many of the clerks married, male or female?
MS. GERE: During the time that I was there, none of my co-clerks was married. An
interesting thought. I clerked with three different men. My successor was a
woman, and she was not married. But the judge later on then had more
clerks who were married. The closeness of the judges’ judicial law clerk
family ended up with two of her clerks getting married to each other.
MS. KAGAN: They overlapped?
MS. GERE: Yes. I can’t remember if they knew each other somehow before.
MS. KAGAN: That must have pleased her.
MS. GERE: Oh yes. Every law clerk was her favorite for some reason. It’s kind of like
being a parent and not wanting to show too much favoritism.
MS. KAGAN: So during the time of your clerkship, you didn’t have any problem with
divisions of domestic labor?
MS. GERE: No, and we had very different clerkship experiences. Glenn’s clerkship was
for one year. His judge was very, very bright and had very definite ideas
about what he wanted his law clerks to do. I don’t think my husband got to
spend as much time in the courtroom, for example, as I did. Some judges are
– 67 –
interested in having their clerks there all the time. Of course nowadays you
can sit back in the chambers and flip a switch and hear what’s going on in the
courtroom, but back in the day, that wasn’t the way it was. And Judge Green
encouraged us to be in the courtroom because her thought was if you’re a law
clerk for a trial judge, it’s probably because you want to be a trial lawyer, and
the best way to learn is to watch how other people do it. How to be debriefed
on, okay, this is what worked, this didn’t, this is something you should think
about. Everybody has to find their own rhythm, their own way. So I got to
spend a lot of time in the courtroom.
MS. KAGAN: Right. You probably saw a whole spectrum of lawyers. Were you still living
in Arlington?
MS. GERE: Yes. And then partway through, because I started my clerkship before I
graduated from law school because the prior clerk had to leave early. He had
a take it or leave it offer from the US Attorney’s Office and the judge said
I’m not going to hold you up, you should go. Anyway, Glenn and I then
moved from Arlington to Greenbelt, Maryland, because with him going to
Baltimore and me coming to D.C. and we had one car that went in alternate
weeks to alternate places. We each found people to carpool with on alternate
weeks.
MS. KAGAN: Were you both working long hours?
MS. GERE: Yes, but not, I don’t recall it being as bad as being in private practice or
being at the Justice Department or the Office of the Attorney General.
MS. KAGAN: How did it compare to being in law school?
– 68 –
MS. GERE: It was more than law school. The judge was solicitous of people’s health and
their personal lives to the extent that she could be. At that time, it was just
not as much a thing to grind through law clerks as I understand it is now.
MS. KAGAN: So you spent two years there. Your husband was in Baltimore for one year.
MS. GERE: Yes. And then he got a job in D.C. at a small boutique labor union law firm,
O’Donoghue & O’Donoghue, doing just what he wanted to do or what he
thought he wanted to do. He did very well, but having been a law clerk in a
trial judge’s chambers, he was bitten by the courtroom bug. There was a fair
amount of arbitration work at his firm, but he didn’t see a lot of actual
courtroom work. I’m trying to think, it’s hard to keep all these dates straight.
After I finished my clerkship, I started at the Justice Department and was in
court a whole lot more than my husband was.
MS. KAGAN: Just to nail down some dates. The date you graduated from law school.
MS. GERE: I graduated from law school in 1972.
MS. KAGAN: And then you clerked.
MS. GERE: I clerked for two-and-a-half years, until January of 1975. And I started at
Main Justice in the Criminal Division in January of 1975.
MS. KAGAN: Was it unusual to switch in January?
MS. GERE: In part, as I said, I took the place, I started way early because this person had
been offered, and he had already been with the judge a year-and-a-half, and
she didn’t want to hold him up. I don’t remember what the timing was or
why, whether it was just there happened then to be an opening at DOJ. I
remember doing interviews and so forth while I was still clerking. But the
– 69 –
Judge did push me out the door. Actually, she pushed me out the door. I
wanted to stay there forever. It was a lot of interesting, good work.
MS. KAGAN: So how did you decide then that you wanted to go to DOJ? Let me back up.
Maybe the better question is what roads did you see available to you as a
result of the clerkship?
MS. GERE: As a result of the clerkship, to the extent I had seen myself as a criminal
defense lawyer, I quite quickly saw myself as something else. I believe it
was a combination of the weight of the work of being a criminal defense
lawyer and the people who were good at it were the people who were very
quick-witted and rolled with the punches. This is the days before Brady was
given significant emphasis, so it was very much a you’ve got to be on your
toes. I fairly quickly saw that my strength would be in the puzzle piece
moving of civil litigation. When do you ask this interrogatory or when do
you take that deposition, how do you lock them in with a request for
admission. The strategy before you get in the courtroom, not as you’re
standing up there in front of a jury going now what do I do.
So part of the education that I got as a law clerk was seeing where young
lawyers seemed to be doing really interesting meaningful work at a stage in
their career that I didn’t see other people doing it. I also had been bitten by
that I want to be in the courtroom bug. I had seen lawyers in the courtroom.
I thought I can do better than that. It kind of boosted my confidence and my
interest in what I thought I might be good at. Particularly impressive to me
– 70 –
were a couple of very young lawyers at the Department of Justice and I
thought, that looks like that would be an interesting place to go.
MS. KAGAN: Did you find that they had greater roles to play than their counterparts in
private practice?
MS. GERE: Yes. And you would look and see decades of difference in age. I also
interviewed at a couple of firms. At Williams and Connolly, I’m trying to
think whether it was Steve Umin or David Webster, one of the giants at
Williams and Connolly, who, after my interview, learned I had gotten an
offer from Justice, and they said, oh you should take that. The firm will be
here. Go get some experience.
So the other part of it was there were still very few women in private
practice even here in D.C., even fewer in anything that might be described as
trial work or litigation. The Justice Department, that was one of the selling
points, the Honors Program. The Department was open to all comers
regardless of gender, racial identity, anything else. So I thought well that
would be a good place for me to look.
I also had heard that there was a section in the Criminal Division at Justice
where there already were a couple of women who had taken time off to have
children, which was pretty much unheard of, and I thought I’m going to aim
for that, and if I have a long-range plan, that’s perfect. So I applied. It was
the Criminal Division Appellate Section. I applied, and the next thing that I
can recall is somebody from a brand-new part of the Criminal Division that
had just been set up called me and invited me to come in for an interview. It
– 71 –
was called the Special Litigation Section. So I thought I’ll go see what this is
about. I very much enjoyed the interview with a man who then pretty
quickly became the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal
Division. He was a very nice guy, a good lawyer, and they made me an
offer, and I accepted. I found out that Special Litigation basically meant that
we were set up to represent federal officials who had been sued civilly for
actions that they had taken in the context of a criminal prosecution. So
essentially Bivens cases where people could file lawsuits against individual
government employees. That meant a lot of our clients were Assistant U.S.
Attorneys, FBI agents, ATF agents, Presidents of the United States,
Attorneys General, and even a Secretary of State. It was a very exciting
place to be. It was a brand-new part of the Division given very high-profile
responsibility, and I felt like I got in a great office on the ground level.
MS. KAGAN: Why was it established?
MS. GERE: Because they were finding, apparently, an increase in cases against federal
employees following the decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents.
People saw such cases as a way, a two-fold way to litigate. One, to get a
monetary recovery, but the second, it was used strategically by people
improperly, I think. For example, ATF agents in the middle of an
investigation would be sued and because once they were the subject of a
lawsuit, they no longer could be a lead investigator or involved. So it was a
way of getting rid of people that were giving you a hard time. There was a
recognition that people in the Criminal Division were outstanding lawyers in
– 72 –
criminal defense matters, but they weren’t experts in civil litigation, and so
this was a Section that was established to know how to handle these matters
from a civil perspective.
MS. KAGAN: How large was the unit when it was established?
MS. GERE: I think we had about a dozen lawyers.
MS. KAGAN: And you come in on the ground floor?
MS. GERE: Yes. I was one of the first lawyers hired in that Section.
MS. KAGAN: Did they all come from outside of Justice pretty much?
MS. GERE: Yes. I don’t recall exactly but young law clerks. One of the lawyers had
clerked for one of the District Court judges in D.C. One of them I think had
been a law clerk for I want to say a judge in Kentucky or somewhere in the
Midwest.
MS. KAGAN: Anyone with a lot of actual experience?
MS. GERE: No. The supervisory attorneys, we had a supervisory chain, and they had
more experience, but this was a group of young lawyers that was itching to
learn, itching to get out there and do it. There couldn’t be a lot of people
who had experience because this was a whole new area of the law that was
just developing.
MS. KAGAN: But just as civil litigators, generally.
MS. GERE: Right. Just as civil litigators generally.
MS. KAGAN: Many women in the group?
MS. GERE: No, except as secretaries.
MS. KAGAN: So you have a pattern of being pretty much the only woman.
– 73 –
MS. GERE: There were no other women in that section when I was hired. Another
woman was hired some time later.
MS. KAGAN: So you got pretty much used to that?
MS. GERE: Yes. And at one point we did have a supervisor who, summing things up
said, Sally, we have to move offices, so I’m going to put you in charge of the
decoration committee for the conference room because girls know stuff like
that. In any event, I can’t say that he didn’t give me a fair shot at cases. He
was just very difficult.
MS. KAGAN: Oh, so he didn’t?
MS. GERE: He did. But there was just too much work not to assign some of it to me.
Had it been any other way, I might not have fared so well. After some time,
probably at least a year, it might have been a little more, there was a change
in administrations. Edward Levi became the Attorney General. He set about
reorganizing the Justice Department.
MS. KAGAN: That would have been around 1975?
MS. GERE: Yes. 1976-ish. He looked at this group of civil litigators housed in the
Criminal Division and said what on earth are these people doing there. They
should be in the Civil Division where other people are doing civil litigation.
So our Section wholesale got picked up and put into the Civil Division. We
being my whole group.
MS. KAGAN: How many of you were there by then?
MS. GERE: I don’t think we had grown significantly. It probably would have been
somewhere around the same, a dozen.
– 74 –
MS. KAGAN: Including the supervisors?
MS. GERE: The supervisors, at that point, the supervisor who was the next up in the
supervisory chain left somewhere along line to become either general counsel
or deputy general counsel of the TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority. A
terrific job for him, but a loss for the Department. Ed Christenbury was a
very fine lawyer and good human being.
So I found myself in a new home where, probably weeks before, my thenhusband
had just accepted a position in the Civil Division of the Department
of Justice in the Federal Programs Branch, which is where I was transferred
to. So there was again something new to navigate.
MS. KAGAN: You were still with a different subset.
MS. GERE: Yes, although we basically we got folded into the Federal Programs Branch,
and most of us stayed with a national security, Bivens “major.” The Branch
did a broader array of civil litigation defending federal programs that were
challenged.
MS. KAGAN: Like government contracts?
MS. GERE: Government contracts were handled in a different Branch of the Civil
Division, but Federal Programs handled constitutional challenges to any kind
of a federal program that you could think of. We also did challenges to
housing issues. There were a lot of class action employment cases that we
worked on, and I kind of got pulled in some of those directions, but stayed
mostly on national security litigation.
MS. KAGAN: How large was that group of attorneys?
– 75 –
MS. GERE: That was much larger. Probably thirty to forty-ish I would say by the time I
left. A goodly number of people. The supervisors in the Branch and the
Division were outstanding. I learned so much from Dave Anderson, Irwin
Goldbloom, and Denny Linder. They were great teachers and examples of
outstanding and devoted public service lawyers.
MS. KAGAN: So you started there in the spring?
MS. GERE: The spring of 1977 I would say and then I had to figure out the issues about
nepotism. My then-husband and I weren’t working for each other or one
supervising the other.
MS. KAGAN: Were you at the same level?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: That didn’t create problems initially?
MS. GERE: No. Because we each had our own cases. We had, I would say, a common
set of friends that we worked with in the office, and we all just hung out
together. We went to lunch together. We’d go have drinks together. We’d
all talk incessantly about work and trade ideas and theories.
MS. KAGAN: So they were pretty heady times.
MS. GERE: It definitely was heady times.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a surprise to the group there that suddenly this couple shows up
together.
MS. GERE: Yes. People were not sure how to handle that, but it became really a nonissue.
We did not, it seems to be a pattern that I have, because I ended up
working with my second husband at the D.C. Attorney General’s Office, but
– 76 –
that’s another story too. But we were very professional in the office. We
commuted in and out together.
MS. KAGAN: Still from Greenbelt?
MS. GERE: No. By then we moved to Georgetown and lived there maybe a year or yearand-
a-half, and then we bought a house in Arlington, before I-66, before
Metro. It was back in the day when one could afford as two young
government lawyers to buy a house.
MS. KAGAN: You still had a good domestic division of labor? No problems because you
were actually then really working in the same situation.
MS. GERE: Yes. We both understood the pressures of, because back then at Justice,
there was a lot of travel and there were some ships passing in the night and
knowing that somebody’s got to pick up whatever loose ends there are at
home.
MS. KAGAN: Were there women in the larger division?
MS. GERE: Yes. There were. One of the more memorable Assistant Attorneys General
for whom I worked was Barbara Babcock. She ran the Civil Division. She
later became the first woman faculty member at Stanford Law School. She
was a dynamo. She had been a trial lawyer here in D.C. and had an
outstanding reputation. Again, it was exciting to have a woman in charge, to
see a woman could rise to those levels. Of course she was a political
appointee, but nonetheless, extremely impressive. She was appointed by
President Carter. She was the supervisor, if you will, on one of the early
cases that I did at Justice.
– 77 –
MS. KAGAN: Were there any very noteworthy cases that you dealt with when you were a
clerk?
MS. GERE: Yes. One involved a Voting Rights Act issue. I remember there was a threejudge
panel, and my judge was on it, and it ended up going to the United
States Supreme Court which was interesting. I remember going to watch the
argument in the Court. But there were a lot of cases that the judge had that
were very high visibility at the time. In some respects because when I first
started as her law clerk, the federal court was still the court of general
jurisdiction. It was before the Home Rule Act, so the judges in federal court,
had all kinds of cases including pickpocketing and prostitution cases. It ran
the gamut. The federal court used to be much more bustling. You would go
into the federal court, which now when you go in, it’s like a tomb, but it used
to be like walking into Superior Court back in the day when the court had
much broader jurisdiction. There would be all kinds of people in the
courthouse. That was an interesting time.
MS. KAGAN: Would you draft opinions for the judge?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: How much would you discuss the case before you set off on a draft?
MS. GERE: A fair amount. I would have a sense of where the judge thought she wanted
to go, and then it would be doing research to see how to frame it or was it
just going to be something that she might have thought was a good idea, but
the law didn’t bear it out.
MS. KAGAN: Did you find yourself disagreeing with her viewpoints much?
– 78 –
MS. GERE: From time to time. She would always listen if you had a rational argument
and case law to back it up, a proposal of how to improve what route she
wanted to take, she certainly was open to that.
MS. KAGAN: So she would change her mind?
MS. GERE: I did change it a few times. I can’t tell you a specific case, but I can
remember turning in drafts after having discussion and having her come back
and say things like yes, you were right, or yes, it’s better that way, or that
makes more sense or that case fits better. There were lots of good lessons on
how to write.
MS. KAGAN: Did she help you with your writing stylistically as well as legal content?
MS. GERE: Yes, as well as the substantive, she would have no qualms about correcting
your grammar, even if you were talking to her, or especially if you were
talking to her. We law clerks laughed. Somebody among the Judge’s former
clerks actually not too long ago put together a list that we kind of got going
round robin about what we considered to be Judge Green-isms, and half of
them have to do with grammatical errors that we were perpetually being
enlightened on.
MS. KAGAN: And those lessons stuck.
MS. GERE: Yes indeed. They did.
MS. KAGAN: Did you find that you were a little ahead of the curve compared with your
similar level colleagues in your writing ability?
MS. GERE: Yes. And in my comfort in what went on in the courtroom or what a
pleading should look like or how to frame issues, how to remember
– 79 –
important lessons like a judge gets a lot of paper. If you want to grab the
judge’s attention, you need to focus on that first paragraph, and you need to
keep it short. Not the first paragraph only, but all your documents. Brevity
is a virtue, and a very difficult thing to do.
MS. KAGAN: So did you mentor some of your colleagues along those lines.
MS. GERE: Certainly as time went on. For all of us who had been law clerks, I think we
were sources of reference for lawyers in the Branch that had not had similar
experience.
MS. KAGAN: How long were you there before your first case went to trial?
MS. GERE: Let’s see. My first case that went to trial was after I had transferred to the
Federal Programs Branch in the Civil Division. The case was filed in 1978
in the Eastern District of Virginia before Judge Oren Lewis, “Roarin Oren”
to lawyers who appeared before him. He was a legend both in his own mind
and in the courthouse, in addition to being part of the rocket docket, which
required that anybody that litigated there better be prepared from day one to
go to trial, and if you weren’t prepared, it didn’t matter to him. You were
going to move your case. He didn’t really believe in extensions of time or
rescheduling trials or anything like that. The case that I had at the
Department that went to trial was a suit that, unusually for my part of the
Department, was a plaintiff’s lawsuit, the United States was acting as the
plaintiff in this lawsuit. The lawsuit involved a man who had worked at the
CIA who wrote a book about his work with the Agency and its withdrawal
– 80 –
from Vietnam when Saigon fell. He published his book without obtaining
required Agency review and approval.
MS. KAGAN: What was the name of the case?
MS. GERE: It was United States v. Frank Snepp. He had written a book called Decent
Interval. He took great pains to have the book published in secret. He had it
published by Random House. There was a whole clandestine effort to
publish the book without getting the required CIA clearance.
MS. KAGAN: Was the pre-publication review process pretty well-established?
MS. GERE: This is the case that really established it. There was a part of the employment
contract that employees at the CIA and many other federal agencies that
handle classified information would have to sign which said before you can
disclose any information about your employment, you had to get clearance
from the agency for which you worked. The Department of Justice, once it
found out that the book was on the market, considered litigation at the
request of the CIA. The United States was in a very difficult position
because if we sued and said you disclosed classified information, that’s a
dagger to the heart because the whole point is you don’t want to confirm or
deny or give credence to classified information. So we spent time thinking
about how do we keep this from happening again without further damaging
the country.
MS. KAGAN: And the book was already out.
MS. GERE: The book was already out, so we filed a lawsuit for breach of contract, which
was a straightforward breach of contract action, and for unjust enrichment
– 81 –
seeking to impose a trust over any of the ill-gotten gains, i.e., profits, from
the sale of the book. So we didn’t say there’s classified information or there
isn’t classified information. We said we don’t have to prove classified
information. We just have to prove that there was a contract that required
pre-publication review, the contract was breached, and we are entitled to
appropriate damages and imposition of a trust.
MS. KAGAN: How long had you been there at the time?
MS. GERE: About a year or so. I had been in the Department a couple of years. I was a
pretty young lawyer, about 30 years old.
MS. KAGAN: Had you been in second chair in court before that?
MS. GERE: I had done a lot of motions, summary judgments, mediations, things like that,
but this was my first trial. Ironically, my co-counsel, Brook Hedge, was my
successor with Judge Green, who after she finished her clerkship, came and
worked in the same Department of Justice office where I was.
MS. KAGAN: Did you encourage her to do that?
MS. GERE: Yes. And so we were assigned to try this case together. We filed suit in the
Eastern District of Virginia. The ACLU was on the other side representing
Snepp. A lawyer by the name of Mark Lynch who later went to Covington
and Burling was lead counsel. He may be retired by now. I’ve seen him
from time to time over the years. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz
also was on the defense team.
MS. KAGAN: For the ACLU?
– 82 –
MS. GERE: Yes. They were out to make a point, and their point was this is a First
Amendment case. Government employees should be able to publish freely.
MS. KAGAN: Who was the author’s lawyer? The ACLU represented him?
MS. GERE: Yes. The ACLU represented him. Judge Lewis, I’ll never forget, when we
filed the complaint and we had a status conference four days later or
something, the judge said, well what’s your timetable for this case. I
remember saying we’re going to send out interrogatories and eventually we’ll
do depositions, the usual steps. And the judge looked at me and said, “You
don’t want to ask him any interrogatories. You’re just going to find out what
his lawyer thinks. You need to get him under oath. What are you doing on
Saturday?” What am I doing on Saturday? The judge was a terror. We may
have had some interrogatories somewhere along the way, but very quickly
we did depositions. Those were the days before you had a seven-hour limit,
so I believe we probably spent more than a day, probably a couple of days,
taking his deposition. Snepp also had appeared on the Today show and on 60
Minutes. He had been interviewed and was very proud of the fact that he had
done an end-run around the CIA, and no, he didn’t submit his book, didn’t
think he had to. He could decide for himself what was publishable.
MS. KAGAN: This is the first time it had happened?
MS. GERE: Yes. There may have been one matter that people considered suing over
earlier but it could have been after. I can’t remember, but this is the first one
where there was definitely public attention and an author-agent thumbing his
nose publicly, I’m going to show you all, and I’m going to open the flood
– 83 –
gates for anybody else who works in the government regarding whatever
kind of access they’d had. So the case very quickly went to trial.
MS. KAGAN: How quickly?
MS. GERE: Months later. The Complaint was filed in February 1978 and the trial was in
June 1978. We used Snepp’s TV appearance statements as part of a request
for admissions. I always used to tell my law students don’t take anything for
granted because you don’t know what the other side is going to do. People
would say things like requests for admissions, they’re a waste of time. We
sent out requests for admissions and attached the transcripts, which we had a
hard time getting, of the interviews on the Today show and 60 Minutes where
Snepp made all these admissions. So we sent out this request for admissions.
MS. KAGAN: Like he knew he was being a bad actor.
MS. GERE: Oh yes. He was quite proud of it. We sent out this request for admissions,
and he never responded. And you know what happens when you don’t
respond to requests for admissions? They’re deemed admitted, and
Judge Lewis was not interested in hearing about why they didn’t get
responded to in time or anything else, so we had a very good start with that.
Snepp made some very damaging admissions substantively during the course
of these interviews as well as in his deposition. So we went to trial.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a jury trial?
MS. GERE: On the morning of trial, Judge Lewis concluded that it was not going to be a
jury trial because, based on the pretrial stipulations, there were no issues of
fact for the jury to decide. We were seeking equitable relief, which the court
– 84 –
decided. We had drafted jury instructions and they were all ready to go. At
the last minute, we also decided we needed another lawyer to assist at trial,
and so our supervisors at Justice were looking around and saying this is a big
case, there’s a lot to learn. Who has the time? And then somebody said how
about Sally’s husband, Glenn. He knows all about the case because he’s had
to live with it. So he joined our trial team, which was interesting. He and
Brook Hedge were the other lawyers for the United States.
MS. KAGAN: You were lead counsel?
MS. GERE: Yes. I was lead counsel.
MS. KAGAN: Did that create tensions?
MS. GERE: No.
MS. KAGAN: It doesn’t sound like the two of you had been competitive at all.
MS. GERE: No. Not really. We were, maybe we were subconsciously, but it wasn’t
anything obvious. We both had enough of our own lanes that we didn’t
necessarily feel that. We had a very good trial team though for Snepp we
thought. One of the witnesses we called was the man who ran the office that
administered the paperwork at the CIA to get all the orientation forms signed
and to get the employment agreement that had the key language in it into
evidence. This poor man, I’ll never forget, was petrified about being on the
stand. It was very painful for him. The CIA was a very secretive place. I
spent a lot of time preparing him for trial. I remember they asked him during
his deposition, I don’t know what they thought they were going to get out of
him, but did you prepare for this deposition? Yes. Did you meet with a
– 85 –
lawyer? Yes. Did she give you instructions? I probably told him don’t tell
them what I told you, but I can remember him blurting out during the
deposition, “yes, and she told me to tell the truth and wear a blue suit.” But
he managed to get through his trial testimony very well.
We put on the stand, I’m trying to think, we didn’t have very many
witnesses because basically it was a contract with language that the Judge
could read. We put on Stansfield Turner, who was then the Director of the
Central Intelligence Agency. He was our star witness, if you will. Someone
who could talk about the importance of the pre-publication review process
and the risks to national security attendant to not having such a process in
place. He was, I don’t know if you ever recall him, but he was out of central
casting, just an immensely attractive man with piercing blue eyes and full of
patriotism and very persuasive in presenting the case for the United States.
MS. KAGAN: Was he able to discuss it without revealing the sensitive parts of the book.
MS. GERE: Yes, because this was more to show, Snepp signed the contract, here’s a
provision of the contract that he’s already admitted he ignored or flouted,
which basically kind of came in with the first witness, who was in charge of
security at the Agency but our concern was that part of Snepp’s defense was
that he had a First Amendment right to tell the American people what
happened in Vietnam, to tell the American people what the CIA did or didn’t
do. We knew that we would have to have a witness who could say without
going off the track about the First Amendment, that the reason for the
provision of the contract was to protect the national security through pre-
86 –
publication review of material learned during the course of employment to
assess what was classified and what could be disclosed. But no individual
employee could decide that; it had to be done by the Agency.
The defense called William Colby as a witness, and by then, the defense
team was joined by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. I was not
privy to their internal deliberations, but apparently with his advice, the
defense lawyers put William Colby on the stand without ever having talked
to him. Colby had at about this same time written a book himself. He had
submitted it for pre-publication review and was in the midst of a battle with
the Agency over what they were telling him he had to take out before
publication, and he had been quite vocal about the whole process. He was
upset that he had written this book and now somebody was going to be
telling him what he couldn’t put in it. So Snepp’s defense lawyers apparently
concluded that calling him as their witness was going to work just fine
because he’ll get up and tell Judge Lewis all the problems with prepublication
review. Instead, Colby got on the stand and basically testified as
well as or better than Director Turner about the importance of this whole
process and the significance of it to the national security and the operation of
the Agency. Yes, it was an aggravating thing to go through now that he was
an author, but he absolutely believed in the integrity of the process and the
importance of it. After that, people referred to Mr. Colby as the government’s
witness. I had to keep saying no, he’s a defense witness, not ours. But we
wholeheartedly agreed with what he said.
– 87 –
Snepp himself took the stand, and I cross examined him.
MS. KAGAN: So this is your first real cross examination?
MS. GERE: This is my first trial cross examination, except with Barbara Babcock, who
was then Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division, mooting me. The
defense lawyer kept objecting. When he objected to one of my questions, the
judge looked over at him and said something like counsel, this young lady
has not given your client as hard a time as she might have. She asked
appropriate questions. Whereupon the judge decided he was going to
conduct a further examination of Snepp.
MS. KAGAN: Before you were even finished?
MS. GERE: As I recall, I was finished. Because there was one of those “now, well, the
court has a few questions, and counsel basically I don’t want you to be
objecting to my questions” moments. I think at one point maybe, Mark
Lynch may have objected unsuccessfully to one of the Judge’s questions.
It wasn’t a long trial. It was covered by the national news media. It was
the subject of articles and editorials in the Times, the Post, the Star and
papers across the country. Herblock, the famed editorial cartoonist, even
drew a cartoon after the Supreme Court ruled on the case. At the end of the
trial, the judge ruled in our favor. The opinion was 10 pages long.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have to do closings?
MS. GERE: That’s a good question. I believe we had brief closings, but it was a bench
trial, so the Judge was not interested in hearing much more after the evidence
was in. The Judge said let me hear briefly what people have to say, but I
– 88 –
don’t need to hear the lawyers’ take on it because I can pretty much guess.
After I retired, I purged most of my work papers, but I did keep a copy of the
trial transcript.
So Judge Lewis ruled in our favor, both as to breach of contract and to the
imposition of a constructive trust, which, as a legal matter, was probably a bit
more of an argument, a bit more of a stretch. This wasn’t traditional contract
damages. Snepp appealed to the Fourth Circuit, and we had oral argument in
the Fourth Circuit. The Department at that time had, and still has, very
talented and gifted appellate lawyers whose job it is to step back, take a look,
and re-evaluate and decide on the merits of taking or defending an appeal.
Obviously, it didn’t have a choice in Snepp because the other side had
appealed.
MS. KAGAN: Would you have liked to have done the argument?
MS. GERE: Yes. I would have. But I knew that the Department was going to be having
the best and brightest on it, and it did. Bob Kopp, who was the head of Civil
Appellate did the argument. So we went to the Fourth Circuit. I recall sitting
at counsel table in the Fourth Circuit and shaking the judges’ hands after the
argument as is the Fourth Circuit practice. Maybe we should stop at this
point.
MS. KAGAN: Whatever’s good for you.
MS. GERE: Why don’t we, before I launch into the rest.
– 89 –
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place via Zoom on January 10, 2022.
This is a supplemental interview that should be read between the second and third interviews. It
is designated as session 2A.
MS. KAGAN: Good morning, Sally.
MS. GERE: Good morning, Barbara.
MS. KAGAN: We’re going to identify this session as interview 2A. When we finished with
session two, we had started to talk about the Snepp case, but then we got
ahead of ourselves because we hadn’t talked about some of the important
work that you handled before you transferred to the Civil Division. So why
don’t we take this opportunity to go back and talk about some of those really
important cases that you worked on while you were still in the Criminal
Division.
MS. GERE: That sounds great, Barbara. I would like to finish up on those cases, and the
more than two years that I was in the DOJ Criminal Division. There are four
cases that I want to highlight. Each one was fascinating, presented cuttingedge
legal issues, and together, they were the building blocks for my initial
education as a trial lawyer. I learned so much from the individuals with
whom I worked with at Justice, both my colleagues and my supervisors. I
want to remind us, and anyone who may read this in the future, that this time
period is the mid- to late 1970s. We must put ourselves back in that time
period when there was a lot of public social unrest, mostly related to the
Vietnam War. There were a lot of congressional investigations that were
– 90 –
going on into various government actions. A President of the United States
had resigned to avoid being impeached. It was a time of considerable
discord, and as happens now, a lot of issues ended up in the courts, and that’s
where some of my litigation arose. But I also want to note, thinking back
about this time period, what we didn’t have. We didn’t have social media.
We didn’t have email. At the beginning of my legal career, we didn’t have
faxes or Federal Express. We had regular first-class mail, and so everything
seemed, at least to me in retrospect, to move at a slower and I think perhaps a
more civil pace because there weren’t expectations whether from judges,
opposing counsel, supervisors, co-counsel, or clients that one had to react to
everything immediately. There was more time for reflection. And certainly,
as a young lawyer, I think I benefited from being raised in an era where
reflection was valued rather than being viewed as either a luxury or a waste
of time, depending on where you were sitting.
MS. KAGAN: And perhaps not being so stilted because there wasn’t the fear that one wrong
word choice could be taken out of context and change your intended
meaning.
MS. GERE: Right. That’s a very good point. The other thing about these cases that I
want to highlight for my oral history, particularly because this is a project of
the D.C. Circuit Historical Society, that three of the four cases that I want to
talk about are ones that were begun in the District Court here in D.C. and
went to the D.C. Circuit and then on to the Supreme Court, at least one of
them. The fourth case was one that was before Judge Damon Keith, who was
– 91 –
a civil rights icon on the federal bench, initially in Detroit where I first
encountered him, and then later on the Sixth Circuit.
So having said that as kind of an introduction, I’ll jump in and start talking
about some of these cases.
MS. KAGAN: Are these going to be in chronological order?
MS. GERE: Yes. To the best of my recollection. Although I have to say that each of
these cases, because many of them were ongoing at the same time, I was
balancing among a number of matters. And then as my work evolved, both
on these cases and then, obviously when I got to the Civil Division, I dropped
off some of these cases in order to pick up the other cases that followed, like
Snepp and the Progressive case.
One of the first cases that I worked on in the Criminal Division was
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press v. AT&T. It involved a
challenge by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, numerous
news organizations and several journalists about providing toll records to the
government. The lawsuit was filed against both the government and, back in
the day, AT&T, which, of course, had a monopoly over phones. The issue
was that AT&T would, in response to a request by the government, provide
toll records of organizations and individuals that were requested. A toll
record in this instance meant not the content of any conversation but a record
of a number called, the time that the call started, and the time that the call
ended. The records were only maintained, as I recall, for a period of six
months. In any event the press was not happy about this practice, in large
– 92 –
measure because there also was no notice given to the telephone subscribers
that their records were the subject of an inquiry by the federal government.
MS. KAGAN: How did it come to light that this was happening?
MS. GERE: I don’t even remember, Barbara. I’m assuming that some reporter’s records
were obtained, and they learned about it but I don’t know whether it was
through some acknowledgement by the government as part of an
investigation. I’m not sure. But the case ended up raising First Amendment
and Fourth Amendment issues. It was filed in the District Court here in D.C.
and ultimately went to the D.C. Circuit where it resulted in a 70-page opinion
that affirmed the District Court in part, reversed in part, and remanded in
part. The case went on for a long time after that.
As I say, I was one of the early lawyers assigned to the case, so again, it
was at the stage where you’re doing discovery and obviously, this was a
document-intensive, records-intensive matter, including what records had
been requested, whose they were, where did they go, what were they used
for. It was a case that really taught me about the necessity of attention to
detail and to thoroughness.
My co-counsel, who was in the Criminal Division Special Litigation
Section with me, was a lawyer by the name of Stan Wright, who also was
quite young. I wasn’t even 30 years old at this point. Stan was a little bit
older. He might have been a bit over 30, and he already had argued a case in
the United States Supreme Court. So, again, these were folks that were
coming into Justice who were devoted public servants and really thought
– 93 –
they were there to do the right thing. Stan was a terrific teacher. He had the
patience of Job, particularly working with lawyers such as I who had never
litigated before. I had seen lots as a law clerk, but I’d never been the person
looking at documents, the person having to decide okay, does some type of
deliberative process protection apply, is there executive privilege. All those
legal issues as well. So that was a real education for me to work with
somebody like Stan. And I remembered as well in reflection for this oral
history that some of the law, some of the legal issues stay with you a bit. But
for me, it’s a lot more about the personalities and people; those are my most
vivid recollections. There was a lawyer by the name of Lee Marks who
represented AT&T. For the most part, he was our co-counsel although our
interests were not always aligned. There also were several government
agencies involved.
MS. KAGAN: Was he in-house at AT&T or was he with a law firm?
MS. GERE: I believe he was with a firm, Ginsburg, Feldman & Bress, then a powerhouse
law firm in Washington. I can’t remember, but what I do remember about
him is that he was always such a gentleman and very calm. There were no ad
hominem attacks, whether he disagreed with a position we took or even with
opposing counsel. Lloyd Cutler, another Washington legal giant, was
representing the plaintiffs. He was a renowned lawyer in the D.C.
community.
It was a way of learning how to be a professional, which I think as my
career progressed, unfortunately, a lot of that was lost on new lawyers. I
– 94 –
always look back and think I had a good foundation anyway. And, I tried to
pass on what I had learned.
Another case I recall quite vividly was Halkin v. Helms. I thought about
including case citations in this oral history, and I noticed that some other
people do, but I don’t think that’s really a critical thing. If anybody wants to
read about these cases, they’ll be able to find them because there are written
opinions and a lot of press coverage. Halkin was filed in the District Court
here in D.C. in 1975. The plaintiffs were anti-Vietnam War activists who
were living abroad, and they alleged that the United States government,
primarily the CIA and the NSA, were conducting unlawful surveillance of
them. They believed their constitutional rights had been violated, their First
Amendment and their Fourth Amendment rights. They sought injunctive
relief and damages from the government for the use of informants, electronic
surveillance, physical surveillance, intercepts of phone calls, the application
of watchlists. In fact, there were a number of government programs that
were implicated in this lawsuit, many of which were designed to determine
the level of foreign government influence on American citizens and
American organizations.
The groups that had gotten caught up in several of these programs—one
could have differing views, to be outraged that it was happening or to be
comforted that someone was keeping an eye on foreign influence of U.S.
actors. But the programs themselves were highly classified, and in order to
work on this case and again frankly most of the other cases I ever worked on
– 95 –
at Justice, I had to get a very high-level clearance to be privy to the
information that I was learning. I had a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented
Information clearance. They did not hand them out routinely, and certainly
not back in those days. But the cases really required it in order to determine
what could be produced in response to document requests or how to respond
to interrogatories. It was a necessity.
MS. KAGAN: How long does it take to get that clearance?
MS. GERE: I can’t even remember, but I had to fill out a lot of forms and a lot of
paperwork. I think it was after this, but when I was planning to leave the
country on vacation, I had to have a debriefing to make sure that I knew what
I could say or not say and who to alert if something were to happen.
The information in this case frankly was very sensitive, and it was before
there was such a thing as a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information
Facility). Justice and probably most other agencies now have facilities that
are dedicated to being adequately protected so that you can have a
conversation and not be concerned that somehow there’s going to be an
intercept of your conversation. But back in the day at Main Justice, there
were no SCIFs. There were no rooms that were adequately protected to
discuss or review documents. So, for months on end in this case, I reported
to work at the CIA out in Virginia. I ended up going out there daily. I never
came downtown. I would just get in the car and go from my house in
Arlington to the CIA, which was totally fascinating, both what I was getting
to look at, and being out there and seeing how cautiously people operated in
– 96 –
the building. For example, any time that I had to go to the restroom, I always
had to have an escort with me. I could not just get up from the desk where
they had assigned me to sit, which didn’t have any windows and it seemed
like a very small room. And people would bring me documents to look at. I
would sign for them, and they would check the documents, and then they
would take them back.
That was pretty exciting to be going out to the Agency and seeing this
kind of information, getting an understanding of what our intelligence
capabilities were in the 1970s, and then trying to figure out in the legal
construct, okay, what can we produce, what can’t we produce.
At one point, we had in response to a document request, we had produced
a lot of documents, and, as I recall, the other side, and the plaintiff’s lawyer
in this case was, and eventually everything leads back to Snepp, the
plaintiff’s lawyer in this Halkin case was Mark Lynch, who later became
Frank Snepp’s lawyer.
In any event, Mark and the ACLU had decided that they would have a
press conference about the documents that they had obtained in civil
discovery. This part is, I frankly don’t remember how this came about, but
the ACLU and Mark prepared a press release about what they were going to
announce in a press conference about documents produced in discovery and
when they were going to have this press conference. They provided Justice
with a copy of the press release is all that I can remember. And we then, I
think it was at our instance, but we, the United States, had an objection to a
– 97 –
party taking civil discovery materials and putting them out into the public for
a whole variety of reasons.
At the time, and this probably would have been 1976, 1977, 1978,
probably 1977, there was a local rule in the District Court that prohibited
basically trying your case in the press. It was a rule of limitation as to what a
lawyer could say about a case, with an overlay of, in particular, any adverse
influence it might have on prejudicing a potential juror so that it would be an
interference with the right to a jury trial. There also was Rule 26 itself, the
primary discovery rule, which provides that you have to have good cause to
deviate from a use not related to the case. And then there also was in our
Rules of Professional Conduct at the time an admonition against lawyers
using civil discovery for purposes not related to the litigation. This was a
really significant and hotly contested issue.
As I recall, we filed for a protective order arguing this press conference
should not be held, the lawyers should not be able to use documents for
purposes of having a press conference, that it was not really related to
advancing the purpose of the litigation. And, of course, this is back in the
day when people were just starting to do things like litigate cases in the press,
but it was pretty much frowned on at the time. We went back to the trial
judge. The trial judge, and I’m trying to think, the judge may well have been
the judge for whom I clerked. I could not go back and figure out from the
records, and I don’t personally recall arguing anything before her. But back
then too, there may not even have been an oral argument.
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In any in any event, the judge entered a protective order which said you
can’t use documents that you get in civil discovery for purposes not related to
the litigation and having a press conference is not advancing the litigation.
That decision went up to the D.C. Circuit. The Circuit in In Re Halkin
decided the case in a very lengthy opinion. It was a 2-to-1 decision. The two
most liberal judges on the D.C. Circuit, Judge Skelly Wright and Judge
David Bazelon, concluded that the protective order was not drawn narrowly
enough and that it infringed on the First Amendment rights of the litigants,
despite there being no case law that recognized a First Amendment right to
talk about what you got in discovery. Judge Malcolm Wilkey dissented in
the case, and going back and rereading the opinion, of course in my view,
Judge Wilkey had it absolutely right. He said that the protective order should
be sustained or affirmed, whatever the District Court’s decision on the
protective order. But Judge Wilkey didn’t prevail.
MS. KAGAN: It’s always the luck of the draw, isn’t it?
MS. GERE: It definitely is the luck of the draw. That case was, as I say, it went on for
some time before it ultimately was resolved, and when it was ultimately
resolved, I no longer was working on the case.
The one other thing I should mention, I did say that Mark Lynch was the
lawyer for the plaintiffs. His co-counsel in the case was a lawyer by the
name of John Shattuck, who also was an ACLU lawyer. John was a bit older
than I, not decades older by any means, probably not even a decade older, but
he was a consummate professional. Even though he was on the other side of
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the case, as I’ll talk about in a minute, he also was on the other side of the
Halperin case that I’m going to talk about. And interestingly, John later
became involved in government and diplomacy, and ended up being I think
the Ambassador to the Czech Republic. I think he then went on to the
Kennedy School to teach. Anyway, he took an interesting turn in his in his
legal career, particularly from being an advocate for the ACLU’s clients in
cases that regularly took on and criticized the government to frankly
becoming part of the fold, a public servant. Anyway, he was, or I shouldn’t
use that in the past tense, he was then and I’m sure still is, very bright but
was a very interesting and educational person to have as an opposing
counsel.
MS. KAGAN: He probably thought that it was all in the public interest.
MS. GERE: Yes. Exactly. And you know a lot of these issues are. I’m sure he looked at
it and thought that the surveillance programs that were being challenged were
too intrusive or too unsubstantiated as to who was caught up perhaps in a
dragnet of being identified as person who had been influenced by a foreign
government.
Anyway, that was an interesting case. There were two lawyers who
picked up the case because it went on. It went to the Circuit on the merits and
back and forth. The two lawyers who succeeded me on the case, one I
worked with, and then the other succeeded me too, were Larry Gregg and
John Seibert. They each left Main Justice at some point in their careers, and
Larry went on to become the Chief of the Civil Division over in the Eastern
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District of Virginia U.S. Attorney’s Office. John Seibert probably had
enough of winters in this area, and he ended up in the U.S. Attorney’s Office
in Hawaii.
Anyway, I learned a lot from people like that who were just such
dedicated public servants, clearly didn’t do this for the money, just as I’m
sure John Shattuck and Mark Lynch weren’t doing it for the money with the
ACLU either. I think we all believed we were doing the right thing, however
each of us defined that, and probably to the good of our legal system, there
were two sides to the issues and judges got to make decisions.
And then I want to take just a brief detour to talk for a few minutes about
the one case that’s not a D.C.-centric case. I was in the Criminal Division at
Main Justice and was assigned to a case that had been filed in the Eastern
District of Michigan in Detroit. It was a lawsuit that was filed by a group
called the National Caucus of Labor Committees, which was an arm of the
United States Socialist Party. They had kidnapped an individual who had
been serving as an informant for the FBI on what this organization was up to.
And in some fractured sense of responsibility, this National Caucus of Labor
Committees decided that it would give the informant one phone call after
kidnapping him.
MS. KAGAN: They had their own legal system?
MS. GERE: Their own legal system, and so the informant called his “dad,” who was
actually his contact at the Bureau to say help, they’re holding me hostage
here. And so he was able to get through to the Bureau with his one phone
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call, and the Bureau, because this was in Pontiac, Michigan contacted the
Detroit Police Department, and together, they went to where the informant
was being held and executed a search warrant to look for him. But he wasn’t
there by the time they got there. So, then they started taking documents and
other information to try and see if they could glean the location of the
informant. And as I recall, the informant somehow had crawled out of a
bathroom window. Anyway, he had gotten away. That left a controversy
between this organization and the FBI and the Detroit Police Department
over whether the search had been one in violation of the Fourth Amendment
and I’m sure they had First Amendment claims too.
I was assigned to the case early on and ended up, in addition to getting
documents and all that sort of thing, taking depositions of about twenty
members of this organization who either had been on the premises or were
identified as part of the leadership. I took those depositions in Detroit, and
I’ll never forget, even the court reporter and I as we were walking away after
these depositions saying those people were frightening, absolutely
frightening. They were automatons. It was like talking to members of a cult.
I thought it was scary who these young people following and what they were
believing.
MS. KAGAN: Were you personally afraid?
MS. GERE: No. I don’t think they would have done any harm to me, maybe if I lived in
the Detroit area. But I got to get on a plane and come home to Washington.
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It was more just they were clearly not thinking for themselves. They were
instructed what to say.
MS. KAGAN: Did they have lawyers with them?
MS. GERE: Yes. They had lawyers. They had a series of different lawyers, as I recall,
that they went through. And again, this was a case that ultimately went up to
the Sixth Circuit, probably a couple of times. But while I was there at the
beginning of the case at the trial level, I had one of my very first oral
arguments after I began at Justice. It certainly was the first argument I had
out of town. It was before Judge Damon Keith, who, as I say, was known to
be truly a civil rights icon, an excellent judge. At the time that the case was
pending and I was assigned to it, Judge Keith’s law clerk was Myles Lynk,
who later went on to become President of the D.C. Bar. Judge Keith had a
practice of giving his law clerks a lot of responsibility and autonomy, and so,
for example, he would have a conference in advance of trial, like a discovery
conference. He would ask his law clerk to preside over it. Not the judge. It
would be in chambers. After going out there a few times, I got to know
Myles in a professional way. But then fast forward. I am living here, Myles
moves to D.C., and we become friends. I don’t know whether through some
bar activity or whatever, we kind of rediscovered each other, and to this day,
however many years later that is, more than forty, he and I still are friends.
So, I have a fond place in my heart for that case. It gave me a good friend as
an added benefit to learning a lot about litigation. That was another one of
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my early and interesting cases, especially because of the personalities
involved.
MS. KAGAN: You were there alone?
MS. GERE: Yes. I was there alone. I guess I shouldn’t say entirely alone because of
course anytime a lawyer from DOJ went out to a foreign jurisdiction, we
always had an Assistant U.S. Attorney from the local U.S. Attorney’s Office
with us. I remember the Assistant U.S. Attorney that I worked with in
Detroit ultimately went on to become the U.S. Attorney several years later,
At one point, I really gave serious consideration to taking a job with the U.S.
Attorney’s Office in Detroit. At that time, Detroit was much more of a
vibrant community. I liked the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I liked the people in
the office, and they had some good judges in the Eastern District of
Michigan, so I thought I could do worse than that. But that obviously never
came to fruition.
MS. KAGAN: Probably for the good.
MS. GERE: Probably. I also at one point toyed with the idea of, this would have been
many years after that, of accepting an offer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office
in San Diego, California. This was after I was divorced, and so I was
footloose and fancy free. And talk about an interesting office. They had
terrific work. It would be hard to complain about San Diego. At the end of
the day, though, I thought it was just too far from my family and it seemed
like another world to me, which it probably would have been. Whether that
was a good decision or not, that’s another one of those I can’t look back on.
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To go back, as I’m going through these cases, it was interesting for me to
try and put some of this back together in retrospect. If you asked me, and
please don’t, because I won’t be able to tell you the answer, which case I
either liked the best or on which I learned the most or whatever superlative
one would attach, I’m not sure I could tell you. But one of the top contenders
would have to be the case of Halperin v. Kissinger, a lawsuit brought by
Morton Halperin, who was a protege of Henry Kissinger and had been part of
the National Security Council staff for Kissinger when Kissinger held the
National Security Adviser position. But what led to the case was then-
President Nixon and others, including John Mitchell, J. Edgar Hoover, and
Kissinger were concerned about leaks of information from the government to
the press about classified and sensitive information. The leaks, in their view,
led to putting at risk American lives and putting at risk strategies in
connection with the Vietnam War. In one matter, information about secret
Cambodian bombing raids appeared in the press, and it appeared before the
occurrence of whatever was supposed to happen. It was the final straw for
the people I’ve identified, and they concluded that they would identify the
two-dozen or so people who likely had access to that information and put
taps on their telephones to find out the source of the leak.
MS. KAGAN: They were employees?
MS. GERE: They were members of the press and employees. Anybody, whatever their
position, who might have had access or to whom a revelation or disclosure to
somebody in the press might have been made. So, it was both, whoever
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would have disclosed and the person to whom it was likely disclosed. The
telephone taps were put on to see if anybody either continued to disclose
what was believed to be confidential or classified information, whether
anybody acknowledged that that happened and to serve as a deterrent
because after a while, it was disclosed that taps had happened. But the tap on
Halperin’s phone lasted for 21 months, which was a long time. At that point,
the law, when these taps first went on, did not a require a warrant. If it was a
National Security tap, you did not have to have a warrant. At about this time
though, in another case handled by Judge Keith, there was a decision by the
Supreme Court that the Fourth Amendment had to be satisfied to obtain a
warrant for domestic surveillance.
Anyway, going back to the Halperin case, Halperin and his family, his
wife and his children, all had been caught up in the wiretap. They filed suit
against the government, and specifically against Nixon, Kissinger, John
Mitchell, Clarence Kelly, who was at that point head of the FBI because J.
Edgar Hoover had passed away, H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, other FBI
officials, and C&P Telephone Company for facilitating the tap on the phone.
The Halperins claimed their constitutional rights had been violated and
sought both an injunction and financial damages in the case.
MS. KAGAN: How did they find out about the taps?
MS. GERE: Ultimately the program was disclosed. That’s a good question. I can’t
remember. The suit was filed in 1973, so I don’t know whether it came out
as part of any of the Watergate investigation. I honestly can’t remember,
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Barbara. I don’t remember, or whether it certainly could have become
known because a lot of the press was caught up in it, and then former
government officials who were at State or NSC learned things about what
happened. I honestly don’t know. I’m sure I knew once, but no longer.
There were a lot of legal issues that were cutting edge, novel issues, many
of them having to do with immunity questions, meaning either executive
absolute immunity for acts, for example, as President of the United States,
qualified immunity, prosecutorial immunity, and what, given the state of the
law in 1973, what the law actually was or what an official should have
known it to be or predicted it to be. And with issues involving qualified
immunity there’s a considerable amount of factual investigation and fact
finding that has to be done before you can determine whether someone is
covered by some form of immunity.
Halperin presented those issues on many different levels because the
former President of the United States was involved, the chief prosecutor, the
Attorney General, was involved and various members of the White House
staff like Haldeman and Ehrlichman were involved. There potentially was a
deliberative process protection that should apply to what was being disclosed
and a question of how far the litigation would go in resolving the immunity
issues. So again, this was a case, certainly at the early stages when I was
involved, that involved a lot of document review and production. This was
before anybody had electronically stored information or hired companies that
came in and reviewed your documents for production. We as lawyers, and at
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Justice we didn’t have very many paralegals, were spending our time going
to agencies, getting documents, reviewing them, redacting portions,
producing them, and so on and so forth. And then we got to the point of
depositions, and that was to me the fascinating part of any case I was
involved in. This is what I can recall most vividly, and again, this goes not
so much to the legal issues but to the people who were involved.
In January 1976, I went to San Clemente, California for the deposition of
former President Nixon in the Halperin case. I met one of my supervisors, a
lawyer by the name of Ed Christenberry, in order to prepare former President
Nixon for his deposition. Mind you, Nixon is out of office. He has retreated
to San Clemente, California. This deposition is the very first time that
anybody hears from him in a sort of quasi-public role because obviously the
deposition was not open to the public, but ultimately the transcript would be.
So, Ed, my supervisor, and I went out and prepared Nixon for his deposition.
He had a beautiful home in San Clemente overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I
can remember we sat in his study and reviewed documents and discussed
what if they ask you this, what would your answer be, and going through
everything. He was very, gracious might not be quite the right word, but he
was thankful to us because we were his lawyers. We had been appointed to
represent him by the Justice Department. Once the former President was
cleared of any potential criminal charges, he was entitled to defense counsel
from DOJ in civil litigation that arose out of what occurred within the
parameters of his Presidential actions. He was grateful to not have to pay us
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to represent him and was trying to cooperate, and he wanted to be successful
in the lawsuit so that he didn’t end up having to pay money. The lawsuit was
filed against the former employees in their individual capacities, so any
verdict would have been against them personally, not against the
government. Government employees, in some cases, had gone to Congress
and gotten a special bill to cover a judgment, but whether that would have
been successful in Halperin would have been another question. In any event,
the deposition preparation went fine. I remember that former President
Nixon had phlebitis at that time, so he sat with his legs elevated for most of
the time we were with him. I found him to be, as I said, very sharp and was
very nice to us. He was apologetic that he could not have dinner with us that
evening because he had other plans. Whether he did or not, I have no idea.
That would have been kind of intimidating anyway. I was just happy at the
end of the day to go relax.
At that point, my supervisor by the end of the day, was not feeling well, so
I went and had dinner with John Ehrlichman’s lawyer, who was there as well.
He was a local Washington lawyer who was very highly regarded, by the
name of Larry Schwartz. Larry died an untimely death in a car accident at
Chevy Chase Circle many years ago. He was smart. He was funny. He was
fun. I remember we went to a Mexican restaurant that Nixon had
recommended to us, and we said to the host that President Nixon sent us. We
could have had anything we wanted at the restaurant. So that was a fun
evening. I kept a diary of sorts of my trip because my parents and my sisters
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were very interested. I still have it. I wrote it out in longhand on the flight
back to Washington. I don’t talk anything about the law. More just my
personal observations.
MS. KAGAN: The human-interest part of it.
MS. GERE: Yes. The deposition itself, there was a separate building as I recall that had
offices in it because, remember, for a while it had been the western White
House while Nixon was in office, so there was still a fair number of buildings
in the compound that the public couldn’t access but where we had the
deposition.
John Shattuck, the lawyer that I mentioned earlier who went on to a
diplomatic career, was the lawyer who took the deposition. I recall that there
was some concern by people at Justice that it would be a difficult session
because emotions were running high everywhere. The case had gotten a lot
of press. There was a lot of animosity between Kissinger and Halperin
because they had worked together. You can go back and read about it in the
Atlantic or the New Yorker. There are articles about the case and their
relationship. But to John Shattuck’s credit, he was very professional. He
began the deposition by addressing Nixon as Mr. President, which I thought
showed his respect for the office, even though he did not have a lot of respect
for the person whose deposition he was taking. I thought it showed John’s
professionalism and, as a trial lawyer, I think he probably also realized I’m
going to get a whole lot more out of this man if I treat him with some degree
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of respect than if I come in and start using tactics that are designed to get a
rise out of him rather than to get information.
MS. KAGAN: Especially given Nixon’s reputation for, to put it mildly, defensiveness.
MS. GERE: Right. My recollection is that Nixon was ready to tell his side of the story.
Part of that I attribute to us preparing him well. My memory is that my
supervisor and I prepared the former President for several hours in advance
of the deposition, but my supervisor, and his supervisor earlier, had also had
a separate earlier session with Nixon to prepare him. So I don’t want this to
sound like we breezed in, spent a few hours, and he was ready to go. Nixon
had spent time looking at documents and whatever else he had available to
him to prepare.
I should say while we were waiting at one point, I think we were in an
anteroom, Rosemary Woods came in and said hello to us.
Going back to the deposition itself, Nixon was ready. This was one of his
first times to address publicly some accusations against him, and so I think in
response to maybe the next question after state your name, the answer went
on for pages and pages and pages because he was just ready to lay it out
there. He was a witness that I thought did a good job given what the
allegations were, given what the questions were, and given the
circumstances. I do recall though that when we went into the deposition
room, I had expected, as had my supervisor, that it would be the court
reporter at one end of the table, opposing counsel on the other side, and there
were other parties’ lawyers there too. It wasn’t just Nixon’s counsel. It
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wasn’t just Halperin’s counsel. There was a lawyer for John Ehrlichman
because he had hired separate counsel, Larry Schwartz. I can’t remember
their names, but a couple of other lawyers were there for other people. I
can’t remember, but in any event, I thought that it would be Nixon, my
supervisor to his right, and then me sitting to the further right next to my
supervisor so that my supervisor and I could whisper to each other or hand
notes to each other about what was going on during the deposition as would
be the custom in most depositions. Instead, when we went in, Nixon insisted
that I sit on one side of him, and my supervisor sit on the other side of him.
MS. KAGAN: Why was that?
MS. GERE: It was like he wanted to be flanked by lawyers. I don’t know whether it gave
him some physical sense of either insulation or protection. I don’t know. It
was just one of those quirks that you don’t say well no, we don’t want to do it
that way. You just said certainly that would be fine. At one point during the
deposition, I do know that he said something about his able counsel on his
right and on his left. I can’t remember a lot of the questions, but I can
remember when I got complimented.
MS. KAGAN: How did he address you?
MS. GERE: I’m sure he just called me Sally although he may have called me Ms.
Whitaker, because that’s how I had been introduced to him. And I called
him, as I recall, Mr. President, to the extent I had to address him. Years after
this I received from him one of his books inscribed to me thanking me for my
work on the case, which I still have. It was very generous and very nice.
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The deposition concluded. Larry and I had the Mexican dinner. I’m
trying to remember, and I probably won’t get this quite right. I’m jumping
around here. I had really wanted to take pictures while I was there at
San Clemente, of the deposition room, but the Secret Service was having
none of that. One of Halperin’s lawyers or somebody with them took
pictures and the Secret Service wanted to confiscate the roll of film because,
of course, this is back in the day before phones or anything. You actually
had a camera with film in it. Somehow something was worked out. I think
the person had to promise to turn in the pictures he had taken, but he got to
keep pictures of his kids on the roll of film. At some point, I think the Secret
Service did let me have a picture of the room, but to this day, I don’t have the
picture, and the only way I even remember that is because I noted it in this
little diary that I wrote for my parents. Wherever the picture is, it’s gone
from my possession.
MS. KAGAN: I used to work with the ambassador to India during the Obama
administration, and I went to see him while I was visiting India. The guards
would not let me take a picture of the building with my phone. They would
take a picture, and could send it to me, but I couldn’t take it.
MS. GERE: This was during the time period when there was Presidential protection. The
following day, my supervisor and I went to Los Angeles to prepare H.R.
Haldeman for his deposition because he too was entitled to government
representation as he’d been named as a defendant in the Halperin case. I’ll
never forget it. We got to the hotel. It was the LA Hilton as I recall, and
– 113 –
Haldeman was staying there, and we were staying there. There was a gaggle
of press because somehow, they knew that Haldeman was there. We ended
up preparing Haldeman either in my hotel room or my supervisor’s hotel
room. I don’t remember which, but I remember it involved somebody having
to sit on the bed because the room wasn’t that big. We were trying to go
through documents and talk about what the questions might be, and how he
might respond.
MS. KAGAN: He wasn’t living in LA at the time? You just met him there?
MS. GERE: I think that’s right. My recollection is he too was staying there. I know we
were meeting in the hotel, and why the government didn’t spring for a
conference room, I have no idea. Or maybe the hotel didn’t have one. I
don’t know.
In any event, Haldeman was very affable, just a very, again, somebody
who was appreciative to have lawyers that he didn’t have to pay for and that
seemed to know what they were doing. With his deposition, I don’t have any
particular recollection of anything untoward happening. It was just a
deposition. Again, when it finished, there still were press around, not in the
deposition, but trying to find out what had happened. I think he came out
and said he told the truth about what was asked or some such thing as that.
The other thing that I remember about Haldeman is that after the
deposition, which, of course, is standard practice with all depositions, and I
assume it still is, but once the deposition was transcribed, a witness had thirty
– 114 –
days to review the transcript and edit it for any errors in the transcription. I
remember sending the deposition to Haldeman for his review.
MS. KAGAN: This would be errors in transcribing and not a chance to change what was
said?
MS. GERE: Right. You wouldn’t change a yes to a no unless, of course, you wanted to
reopen the deposition and go through all of that or have it come up on cross
exam at trial. This was if a court reporter had misspelled a name or some
transcription error. You probably did, as did I, have more than one occasion
when you got caught up litigating whether it was a transcription error or a
substantive change. That then opened up cross examination at trial. Anyway,
that didn’t happen here. As I recall, these were word edits that nobody would
have found objectionable.
But I did get a letter back from Haldeman on which he wrote at the top of
the onion skin cover copy I had sent him. This was back in the day when we
didn’t even have regular paper. It was crinkly paper, and he wrote back on it
and said thanks, I’ll look at the deposition, please send me an envelope to
return it to you in because I don’t have a secretary. I’m sure he didn’t want
to spend his own money on postage sending it back either. Anyway, I did
keep a copy of that letter for myself, which I still have. The thing that would
make me laugh is I framed it just as a conversation piece, and I used to keep
it in my office at the firm, and I think I might have had it at OAG too. I can’t
even remember. But after a number of years, it would really strike me how
many young lawyers would come in and say what’s this about. Who’s H.R.
– 115 –
Haldeman. Why do you have this letter? That was when I knew I was aging
or that perhaps the history lessons that young people were getting did not
include Watergate or certainly not at the level of having lived through it.
I have one more Halperin deposition story. Actually, two. One of the
other fascinating, from a human-interest perspective, depositions that I
defended was of former Secretary of State, he was at that point the Secretary
of State, Henry Kissinger. We did his deposition at the State Department in
one of the very fancy seventh-floor historic conference rooms, which meant
there was a huge table and heavy chairs that were immovable. We arrived at
the deposition. We had prepared the Secretary at least a couple of times
before the day of the deposition. When we arrived, there were name tags on
the backs of each chair where people participating in the deposition were to
sit. I didn’t have anything to do with that. My supervisor didn’t have
anything to do with that. This was Kissinger dictating where people were
going to sit at the table. As I later learned, and I don’t know how or whether
this was some kind of legend that developed, but there was such animosity
between Kissinger and Halperin that Kissinger did not want to give Halperin
the satisfaction of being able to sit directly across from him and watch him be
asked questions by Halperin’s lawyer. So, on the opposite side of the table
from Kissinger, it was Halperin’s lawyers, probably John Ehrlichman’s
lawyer, any other lawyers who were there, and then Halperin was down at
the other end of the table. There was no violation of deposition rules. The
rules do not prescribe who has to sit where. My experience was that it
– 116 –
depended on the layout of the table, the layout of the room, where the plug
was for the court reporter, if there was a videographer, where the camera was
going to be. This deposition though was before much of that. There was no
such thing as a videographer, if I recall back that far. But Kissinger knew
how he wanted people to be sitting in the room and what he was going to be
comfortable with, and that’s what we did. And it wasn’t like you could move
chairs around. They weren’t nailed to the floor. But they were so big there
was no way that you could move them to reorganize anything.
MS. KAGAN: What if Halperin’s lawyer wanted to ask him something during the course of
the deposition?
MS. GERE: His lawyer was right across the table from Kissinger.
MS. KAGAN: Right. But what if Halperin wanted to say something to his lawyer?
MS. GERE: Like anybody else. You just hand a note up. That’s what happened in other
depositions too. There probably was some kind of kerfuffle. I don’t recall.
It probably came down to do you want to take Kissinger’s deposition, if so,
have at it. This is your chance, and if you don’t like it, you are free to leave.
It was not the kind of thing that a lawyer was going to go back to court or file
a motion. A lot of this, too, involved people who were still at high levels of
government service. Being called for depositions, you don’t just pick up the
phone and say hey, I’d like to take the deposition of the Secretary of State
tomorrow. That is my major recollection of that deposition.
And then the last deposition that I have a particular memory about was the
deposition of John Mitchell. And again, he no longer was the Attorney
– 117 –
General, but his deposition was being taken about the time period he served
at the Department. Obviously, I was one of the lawyers at the deposition,
and my same supervisor likely was with me, Ed Christenberry. I remember
Mitchell saying when we got there, and although this is clearly not the first
time that I had met him because I’d been involved in the preparation, but he
made some comment about how the women at the Justice Department when
he was Attorney General hadn’t been as pretty as I was. I thought, are you
really saying this. I was young. This was early on in my career. I wasn’t
going to rock the boat and say something at that point, but I was the only
woman in the room. All the male lawyers got a chuckle out of it, and we
moved on. I’m sure one could look at this and say well Mitchell was just
trying to make small talk because he was nervous about his deposition.
There are excuses for people. I’m not saying good ones.
MS. KAGAN: I’m surprised you didn’t get more reactions of that sort back then.
MS. GERE: I did get reactions. Back then, I can’t tell you how many depositions I went
to where people assumed that I was the court reporter, for example, or that I
was somebody who had wandered in off the street as opposed to being the
lead lawyer on the case. So yes, I had a lot of situations like that. Or people
coming into a room and basically if there were other people there who were
men, they were the ones who were acknowledged. Not I. But you had to at
that point, grin and bear it. I was just a baby lawyer at that time. None of it
was a comfortable position to be in.
– 118 –
The Halperin lawsuit ended up going on for years. It went to the D.C.
Circuit and ultimately went at least on some of the immunity issues to the
United States Supreme Court. There was a divided court because Justice
Rehnquist had recused himself because he’d been at the Department during
some part of this time period, which left a D.C. Circuit opinion in place. I
have this vague recollection that fourteen or more years after the litigation
began, President Nixon ended up paying a dollar in nominal damages, and
Secretary Kissinger wrote a letter of apology to Halperin. The apology, I
would say to call it an apology was definitely a stretch, but whatever it was,
everybody was ready to say enough, no mas, we’re done. There’s a lot of
law that came out of the case regarding issues of absolute Presidential
immunity, prosecutorial immunity, and qualified immunity. So, a big case,
and I certainly had a lot of interesting experiences with it and learned a lot.
MS. KAGAN: Did Halperin attend any other depositions?
MS. GERE: Yes. Halperin is a smart man. He was, as you always hope to have, a client
who is well-informed about whatever it is you’re litigating, because they help
you become the expert needed to ask the right questions or the right follow
up and to be able to translate when you get some answer that leaves you
scratching your head. But he also was very emotionally invested in the case
as well.
MS. KAGAN: Well, that’s why I was wondering about him being so far down the table. It’s
a little awkward.
– 119 –
MS. GERE: My recollection is that Kissinger was one of the last deponents, if not the last.
and by then I think probably the lawyers had a pretty good lay of the land.
MS. KAGAN: Were Halperin’s lawyers pro bono lawyers?
MS. GERE: They were with the ACLU. I’m sure they were pro bono. I’m pretty sure
that Halperin didn’t pay anything. I had other cases even while all of that
was going on in the Criminal Division, but those were my highlights from
Halperin. It would be hard to pick my favorite child among my cases, which
case did I have the most fun on, which case did I learn the most in, which
lawyers did I like the best, which judges did I appreciate appearing before. It
was a great experience too as a trial lawyer in seeing what happens when
cases go on appeal, how important the record is. This goes back to what I
was saying at the beginning about the importance of attention to detail and
really digging into facts to make sure you’ve got them all and that you’re
putting them together. It’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle,
making sure you’ve got the right pieces in the right places.
At this point in the chronology is when I make the transition to the Civil
Division from the Criminal Division at DOJ. All the people that I had
worked with in the Criminal Division came to the Civil Division with me, but
people began to be given different caseloads because the supervisors had to
balance out who was working on which cases, who had time. The cases I’ve
just spoken about were ones that, as they went on their litigation lives, I
rotated off and became involved in these other significant national security
cases. Initially I regretted leaving the Criminal Division because I thought
– 120 –
we had such a good group and the work was so interesting, and we had our
own little world because we were not in Main Justice. We were in a building
that long since has been torn down. It was at Ninth and Pennsylvania, N.W.
That block now has another big building on it. But there used to be a biker
bar on the first floor of the building as well as a sort of greasy spoon coffee
shop around the corner on D Street. It was just the old world of litigating;
you know lawyers would go in there and have coffee in the morning and talk
about cases before you went to the office. In the evening, there’d be this
whole coterie of people who rode motorcycles coming to the bar in the
building. It was an interesting place to be. The government rented I don’t
know how many floors in this office building, but that’s where we were.
Then, when we were transferred on the organization chart to the Civil
Division we physically were transferred to Main Justice. That to me was in
and of itself a thrilling place to be because there was so much history in Main
Justice. Everything from the murals, the Depression Era murals that are on
the wall, to the statue in the Great Hall, to thinking about Bobby Kennedy
having walked the halls or Wade McCree or Griffin Bell or any of the
Attorneys General or Solicitor Generals. The offices were old, obviously the
building was old. It subsequently was closed and went through a major
renovation, but when we were transferred, the individual offices were so big
that you never had an office to yourself. You shared an office with another
lawyer and so you had to learn how to coexist with somebody else and not
get distracted. You had to be able to do your work, and you had to put on
– 121 –
your blinders. I initially shared an office with a lawyer who was on the Civil
Appellate staff. He was a nice guy, very quiet. We got along fine, and
ultimately when I became a supervisor, I did get an office to myself because
you would have personnel issues to deal with. I had some other officemates
along the way, and that was an interesting experience.
So, those were my formative years and my formative cases at Justice.
From a personal perspective, I was relatively newly married. My husband
and I both were working in the same office at Main Justice, the Federal
Programs Branch. We each had our own cases other than the point where we
intersected and tried the Snepp case together. We would commute in and out
from Arlington. I think probably because there were two of us, we got a
parking space in the building. It may have been we qualified as a carpool.
That’s how my legal career started and my work at the Justice Department
unfolded.
MS. KAGAN: That’s an incredible string of cases. Few lawyers have had such a great
opportunity to work on so many really interesting and important cases,
especially so early on in their career.
MS. GERE: My reaction after a couple of years of this was wait, what am I ever going to
do after this that’s as legally challenging, with people who are known across
the country and the world as my witnesses. But fortunately, my legal career
continued, and I continued to have extremely interesting litigation to work
on. I might have had an early ride to the stars in my litigation, but
fortunately I did not have to come crashing back down to earth.
– 122 –
MS. KAGAN: Right. Well, that’s part of your career and why it is so fascinating. You
deserved to handle great cases. I imagine a certain amount of circumstance
just put you in the right position at the right time, but you wouldn’t have been
able to continue that kind of trajectory if it wasn’t for your own skill.
MS. GERE: I can’t say that everything was roses in the Criminal Division. For a while,
we had a supervisor, and I think we must have moved floors in the building
or something, and so we got a conference room. My supervisor said to me,
well Sally, why don’t you be in charge of decorating the conference room
because you’re the only woman in the Section, and you would be the only
one who would know how to do that. To his, I won’t say credit, but I had
good assignments while I worked for him. But thinking back, he probably
had no choice because we had so much work and so few resources. It wasn’t
as though he could say okay, I’m going to cut her out of it because she’s a
woman and shouldn’t be doing this work. I like to think he recognized that I
was as good a lawyer as anybody else in the Section.
MS. KAGAN: Probably better than many.
MS. GERE: Probably better than, well I won’t say that. Anyway, I was still enjoying life
as a newlywed with a challenging job and an exciting city and buying a new
house in Arlington, Virginia, before I-66 or the Metro.
MS. KAGAN: So, were there any tensions with your husband about you having so many
high-profile cases? I assume your husband’s cases were a little bit more
routine.
– 123 –
MS. GERE: Actually, no on both counts. The Federal Programs Branch where we
worked handled many cases that were high-profile, and Glenn ended up
working on several of the most significant. I don’t know if you remember
the Karen Silkwood case. That was Glenn’s case. He represented the FBI
agents who were sued by the Silkwood estate. That was a high-profile case.
He was counsel on a case about the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which
was a huge civil case about constructing a dam. I can’t remember the details.
But it was national news kind of case. Glenn also worked on a case that was
an effort to stop a railway strike where the Government was seeking an
injunction to bar the strike. It was a nationally critical case and ended up
being argued in the Ceremonial Courtroom in the federal courthouse. It was
such an important case that Griffin Bell, who then was the Attorney General,
came to the argument, sat at counsel table, and introduced my former
husband to the court as the person who would be arguing the case on behalf
of the United States.
MS. KAGAN: Wow.
MS. GERE: I remember his mom flew in from Cincinnati. He didn’t know she was
coming, but she came to watch the argument. I think the same question
could be asked of me, was there tension because he was getting a lot of highprofile
cases. I would say we both were very fortunate. Glenn was an
outstanding lawyer. No question about it, and the things he worked on, he
was well-deserving of having them assigned to him. He did a bang-up job
for the government.
– 124 –
MS. KAGAN: Where did he go after Justice?
MS. GERE: After Justice, and this is where questions come about what I did and when I
did it. I think I mentioned Glenn had grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was
always really interested in going back to Cincinnati to practice law. I think
there was some amount of him that was going to prove that even though he
grew up the son of a truck driver, he was going to be at the top of the legal
profession in his hometown. That was part of his goal. In Arlington, we had
a neighbor, this is how random life is, but we had a neighbor who had a
lawyer who had worked for him in the Tax Division at DOJ. He left the Tax
Division, moved to Cincinnati and went to work for a law firm. The lawyer
who moved to Cincinnati contacted his former supervisor, our neighbor, and
said do you know anybody who would be interested in working for my law
firm in Cincinnati. Glenn and I talked about it. We both were having such
terrific runs at Justice. Why would we want to leave, except that this was
part of Glenn’s long-range goal. So, we talked about it, and I remember we
agreed, you go and interview. Here are the things that we will absolutely
insist on. And in our little DOJ world, these were like pie in the sky – pay
for our moving expenses, pay x dollars in salary, whatever it was – much
more than he was making at DOJ. The firm offered considerably more than
what was on our list. Glenn liked the people at the firm, Graydon, Head and
Ritchey.
MS. KAGAN: What kind of law did he practice there?
– 125 –
MS. GERE: Litigation. This was an old blue-blood firm, which I think was also part of
the I can play on any field and best people who may have had a lot more
opportunities than I did. He quickly became one of the leading lawyers in
Cincinnati. He had his very first criminal case that he took to trial which was
defending a doctor who was accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud. I can’t
remember which. It was front-page news every day. And he won. That set
him on a path of getting more high visibility cases and clients. He did a lot
of true trial work. He later did a lot of False Claims Act work.
MS. KAGAN: Did he stay there for the rest of his career?
MS. GERE: Yes. He did leave that firm and go to Vorys Sater, which has an office here
too, but he was in Cincinnati the whole time. It was a small legal
community. When we divorced, it did not seem that that was going to be a
good place for me to stay, as much as I had a lot of good friends and there
were parts of living there that were attractive. I liked the U.S. Attorney’s
Office a lot, but I needed to do what was best for me, which at that point was
not staying where I otherwise might have been in the shadows.
MS. KAGAN: Was the divorce hard on both of you in the same way?
MS. GERE: I can’t speak to on the same way. I don’t know. It certainly was hard on me.
I have to believe it was hard on him. After we got divorced and I moved
back here, we started dating again.
MS. KAGAN: Each other?
MS. GERE: Each other. Yes. We gave some thought to whether we should remarry. We
didn’t do that.
– 126 –
MS. KAGAN: Was the divorce mutual when it happened?
MS. GERE: I don’t know about that. We went through efforts to reconcile with a
professional. We both just came to see that we had crossed some line where
getting back was not going to be likely. That was a very difficult time in my
life, I know that, and I suspect it was for him too. I remained extremely close
to his parents. I know it was difficult on them too. I used to go and visit
them. My mother-in-law came here and visited me here in D.C. several
times.
MS. KAGAN: I guess there wasn’t so much acrimony that you couldn’t go back and revisit
the relationship.
MS. GERE: Yes. But then once he met and married somebody else, we didn’t
communicate anymore after that. His parents have passed away, so what
little I used to learn, which wasn’t necessarily a lot, ended. His mom was
good at compartmentalizing. I was her friend at that point as opposed to her
daughter-in-law.
MS. KAGAN: Well this has been fascinating. So next time, we will pick back up again with
the Snepp case and finish talking about that.
MS. GERE: Yes. I think that sounds like a good plan. I will be brushed up to move on to
the next session.
MS. KAGAN: Wonderful as always.
MS. GERE: Thank you, Barbara.
– 127 –
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place on Monday, June 15, 2020, over
Zoom. This is the third interview.
MS. KAGAN: Hi Sally. We should return to finish our discussion of the Snepp case. You
were going to provide some more information on that.
MS. GERE: Good afternoon, Barbara. It has been a while since we talked about Snepp,
and there have been many changes in our lives and in our world, and one of
them is that we now are doing this interview virtually as opposed to sitting
together at the table in your home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So
we will make our adjustments and go forward.
So, last when we spoke, we were talking about the Frank Snepp case. I
mentioned, I think, the trial during which we were successful in presenting
the case for the United States to obtain an injunction to require Mr. Snepp to
submit any further writings that he did based upon his time at the CIA to the
agency for pre-publication review. We also had asked the court to impose a
constructive trust over the proceeds of the sale of Mr. Snepp’s book and to
turn such proceeds over to the US Treasury. The case then went forward to
the Fourth Circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Mr. Snepp, obviously, since the government had been successful on all
counts in the case, it was Mr. Snepp who sought an appeal from the Fourth
Circuit, and the government and Mr. Snepp briefed the case. We had oral
argument in Richmond, Virginia. As I think I mentioned, the way that the
Justice Department was structured at that time, and I believe probably still is,
– 128 –
the Appellate Section argued anything that went forward in an appellate
court, so I did not get to argue the case, nor did any of my trial-level
colleagues. Instead, it went to the appellate staff.
The argument was very interesting in part because the Fourth Circuit was
at the time, and I think it still has, the tradition of the judges coming down off
the bench after oral argument and shaking hands with counsel. It’s very
civilized. I was, although not arguing the case, sitting at counsel table in the
event the appellate lawyer needed advice on any of the facts or anything that
happened at the trial.
So it was very interesting, and in 1979, I can’t believe it was that long ago,
but in 1979, the Fourth Circuit issued its opinion in which it upheld the
injunction that had been entered by the District Court but did not agree that
imposition of a constructive trust was the appropriate remedy, and so it was
kind of a split decision. The government was successful on what was the
more critical piece of it, which really was the enforcement of the contract to
obtain pre-publication review, but the remedy, the Court ofAappeals found
that a more appropriate remedy for something that was partially a contract
issue and somewhat a fiduciary trust issue was the government could seek
nominal damages, and, in an appropriate case, perhaps punitive damages. So
that left, frankly, both sides unhappy. Snepp, because the injunction
remained in place, and the government, because it viewed removal of the
constructive trust as really taking away the financial power of the
requirement of review. In other words, if the only thing that was going to
– 129 –
happen to you was you were going to have nominal damages of, you know,
$5,000 assessed for selling your book without pre-publication review, that
did not seem to be much of a deterrent.
MS. KAGAN: No. I would have hoped they would’ve at least made it whatever the profit
he made off the book.
MS. GERE: Well, and that’s essentially what the imposition of a constructive trust would
be. That was sort of our argument. The punitive damages are extraordinarily
difficult to obtain, and you’d have to prove things that were going to be very
difficult to prove.
MS. KAGAN: But he was still able to continue selling the book?
MS. GERE: Yes. He was able to sell the book, but he could not depend that he would be
keeping any proceeds. So by the time it got up on appeal, I think the
proceeds were in the neighborhood of $140,000 as his profit. Obviously, the
book had gotten a tremendous amount of free publicity. The case got a lot of
comment in newspapers, magazines, and law review articles, which probably
boosted the sale of the book.
I should say that the Fourth Circuit decision on the injunction was on
behalf of all three of the judges. It was Judge Winter, Judge Phillips, and
Judge Hoffman, who was a District Court judge, and he was sitting by
designation. As to the constructive trust, Judge Hoffman dissented and said
the government should be allowed to have a constructive trust as the measure
of damages. So the government had some good language in the dissent to
support our position on constructive trust, but there was some concern, at
– 130 –
levels above mine I’m quite confident, given that I was the lowly trial lawyer
in the case. But, by the time the decision got to the Solicitor General’s
office, and that’s where the decision would be made as to whether the
government was going to seek certiorari and have a further review by the
United States Supreme Court, I can remember a lot of discussion back and
forth about whether it would be appropriate to seek certiorari. Part of the
concern was if we sought certiorari, perhaps the Supreme Court would on our
instance look at the entire case then and reverse on the injunction. And so
how much of a risk was there if we ask the Supreme Court to review just part
of it. As it turned out, that sort of became somewhat moot because Snepp
sought certiorari, and once he sought certiorari, then the United States filed a
conditional cross-petition for certiorari. So Snepp was seeking review of the
injunction, and we were seeking review of the measure of damages.
It was a very interesting time to be working with the Solicitor General’s
office to help craft a cert petition. There were a lot of different views on how
the case should be presented, what the argument should be, what the
likelihood of success was going to be, but there were cross-petitions for
certiorari. To everyone’s astonishment, the Supreme Court granted certiorari
and issued a ruling on the merits based solely on the certiorari petitions. So
there was no full briefing on the merits and no oral argument before the
United States Supreme Court. Yet the Court issued a very comprehensive
and fairly lengthy decision upholding the injunction and reversing the Fourth
Circuit on the constructive trust.
– 131 –
MS. KAGAN: Nice.
MS. GERE: So, in essence the Supreme Court reinstated the District Court’s opinion and
order because that was the District Court’s initial ruling in the case. That
caused quite a lot of controversy and comment by lawyers and by
commentators about whether what the Supreme Court had done was
appropriate. It certainly did what it did, and I think that remains a pretty
extraordinary step. Not that I’ve gone to any great lengths, but I don’t
believe the Court has done such a thing again, both substantively and
procedurally. The Supreme Court decision was per curiam in 1980. There
were three Justices who dissented. Writing for the dissenters was Justice
Stevens, and he was joined by Justices Thurgood Marshall and William
Brennan. As one might expect, there were, depending on which side of the
case you were on how you looked at it, this was a significant First
Amendment issue question for some people. The government, of course, had
tried to stay away from that and make it simply a breach of contract. You
signed an agreement to submit any manuscript, you didn’t do it, you violated
your contract. That’s not First Amendment. That’s essentially employment
contract law.
So it was very interesting, and kind of as a side note, I, many years after
that, ended up buying an apartment in the Woodley Park Towers
condominium building. That very apartment had been the home of Justice
Brennan for many years, and so it was kind of interesting to go from, here I
– 132 –
am a lawyer to now I’m a homeowner and I’m taking a shower in the same
place that Justice Brennan did. Or having dinner or whatever.
At one point, again, many years later when I was teaching at Georgetown
Law School, my husband and I were at some kind of a reception for the law
school professors. Justice Brennan had an honorary teaching position. I
believe he was teaching a course for one semester at Georgetown, so he
happened to be at this reception. My husband and I were talking with him
and his wife and saying it’s a small world. We live in the apartment where
you used to live, and then Mrs. Brennan, who was his second wife, said, “Oh
my goodness, I wonder what you did with that kitchen in that apartment. I
hated it. So when I married the Justice, we moved out of Washington, and
we moved over to Virginia.” I said we redid the kitchen. She said I’d love to
see what you did to it. So my husband said, “Why don’t you come over for
dinner.” Did we just invite a Supreme Court Justice over for dinner? Yes,
we did. And so we actually had the Justice and Mrs. Brennan over for
dinner.
MS. KAGAN: Wow. What year was that?
MS. GERE: That would have been, I’d have to go back and look, but probably 1994 or
1995. We were very close friends with Barrett Prettyman, a renowned
Supreme Court advocate at Hogan & Hartson and mentor to Chief Justice
John Roberts. Barrett had clerked on the Supreme Court and obviously was a
very well-regarded Supreme Court advocate. Barrett knew the Justice and
his wife quite well, so our dinner included Barrett Prettyman and his wife,
– 133 –
Noreen, the Justice and Mrs. Brennan, and we sat in our dining room and just
listened to him tell stories about living in the apartment, about the Court.
That was the only time in my life that I ever had a dinner or any other meal
catered, but I didn’t want to spend time worrying about what I was going to
serve for dinner.
MS. KAGAN: And running back and forth to the kitchen.
MS. GERE: Right. By the end of the evening, the two young men who had been sent to
cater the dinner by the company were ready to pay us for having had the
opportunity to serve a Justice of the Supreme Court and to hear half the
stories. It was definitely a memorable evening.
MS. KAGAN: Yes.
MS. GERE: Another one of those Washington is a small world stories.
MS. KAGAN: Yes. That’s terrific. I guess we can continue to go on until Zoom kicks us
off.
MS. GERE: Okay.
MS. KAGAN: So I know that was your first big trial, and what a big trial that turned out to
be. Not just some small potatoes kind of let me get my feet wet. You were
totally immersed.
MS. GERE: Right. It’s not many times that your first trial is covered by Dan Rather and
others.
MS. KAGAN: Right. But was the book allowed to continue to be sold.?
MS. GERE: Yes. I believe it’s still available, but Snepp is not allowed to keep the
proceeds. He challenged the injunction again probably ten years later, long
– 134 –
after I left the Justice Department, but I know other people at Justice
defended the injunction, and it remains in place. Meaning if he writes
anything about the time while he was employed by the CIA, it has to be
reviewed before he can publish it.
MS. KAGAN: What’s the penalty for breaching the injunction?
MS. GERE: Well that would be up to whatever court in which the government sought to
bring an action for enforcement of the injunction or some sort of damages. I
don’t know. Fortunately he didn’t do that.
MS. KAGAN: Right. I was thinking perhaps someone in the future who doesn’t care about
the proceeds and just cares about getting the book published.
MS. GERE: Well you may find out soon enough if former National Security Advisor to
President Trump John Bolton publishes his book in the next few weeks. I
think it’s already been delivered to bookstores. It’s embargoed until the
release date, but as of last week, according to accounts in the Washington
Post, his lawyer was still engaged in discussions with the White House
because he still had not gotten approval for publishing it.
MS. KAGAN: A lot of people are waiting on that book.
MS. GERE: And the same thing happened to Snowden with his tell all book. It’s a ruling
that retains its clout.
MS. KAGAN: Well good for you.
MS. GERE: Anyway, it seems like another lifetime ago.
MS. KAGAN: It’s a positive that you’ve had many lifetimes since then.
– 135 –
MS. GERE: That was certainly a very exciting time period and an exciting case to work
on, and one that I thought at the time would be hard to ever exceed the
excitement and the notoriety and the challenging legal issues as Snepp was,
but I learned not too long after that there was another case right around the
corner, and one that I was also asked to work on as a trial lawyer.
MS. KAGAN: How long afterwards was that?
MS. GERE: Let’s see. We actually filed suit in the Progressive case, that’s the United
States v. The Progressive Magazine in 1979, so the Supreme Court issued its
ruling in Snepp in 1980. They sort of came back-to-back, although the trial
in Snepp was 1978, so it took a while for it to get up through the Supreme
Court.
The Progressive case was another interesting lawsuit because the United
States was dealing with an issue again that was one of first impression in
many regards. Basically what it involved was an author who was a freelance
writer, a man by the name of Howard Morland, who wrote an article about
how to build a hydrogen bomb. The article was going to be published by
Progressive magazine, which was a long-lived publication in Wisconsin.
The Department of Energy got word of the publication and there was a flurry
of effort by a lot of people above my paygrade to try and convince the
magazine that it should not publish the article because of the national security
implications of doing so. The magazine would not agree. There had been, as
I recall, contacts with the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others
to ensure that if somehow they got a copy, they would not run it because of
– 136 –
the national security implications. Because the magazine was unwilling to
agree to withhold publication, the Justice Department decided that we needed
to file a lawsuit to prevent publication of this article. Of course, then people
began looking at it is this another Pentagon Papers case because the
government is trying to stop publication, and that is obviously a very difficult
standard to meet. We brought the suit, and my recollection is we primarily
brought it under the Atomic Energy Act. There was a provision prohibiting
the release of restricted data that might injure the interests of the United
States. “Restricted data” was a technical term in the statute, and essentially it
was the information used by the Department of Energy engineers and
scientists, so it’s kind of secret information, if you will, that was afforded this
special protection under the law. The lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin because
that’s where the magazine was.
MS. KAGAN: How broad was the magazine’s audience?
MS. GERE: I don’t recall how, I’m sure I knew once, but the point really was more
frankly foreign states getting copies of it, and at the time, I can remember the
person, the demagogue, that people worried about at that point was Idi Amin,
a Ugandan despot, and there were some other foreign powers that would not
be good to have a hydrogen bomb in their arsenal, so to speak.
So we ended up filing suit in the Western District of Wisconsin. The
initial judge to whom the case was assigned recused himself. I’ve forgotten,
he had some relations I don’t know whether with the lawyers or the
publication. I’m not sure. It ended up before a judge by the name of Robert
– 137 –
Warren. We had a hearing before him in 1979, I think March maybe, out in
Milwaukee. I was one of the trial lawyers. Our team was led by our Deputy
Assistant Attorney General, a lawyer by the name of Tom Martin. Another
trial lawyer by the name of Bob Cattanach, and I were the trial lawyers on the
case. Later on, another lawyer named Keith Werhan became part of the team
because the issues kept expanding as we were going forward. In any event,
we had this big hearing before Judge Warren. He wrote a decision shortly
after the hearing and entered an injunction prohibiting publication of the
article. That caused, back at that time, there were editorials in the Post and
the Times about whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, considering
what the legal issues were. The argument that the Progressive editors and
Mr. Morland made was that the public needed to know how to build a
hydrogen bomb in order to have an informed conversation about the use of
and the wisdom of the use of nuclear weaponry.
MS. KAGAN: That’s seems to be a stretch.
MS. GERE: Judge Warren was not too taken with that argument. He was, however,
impressed with the affidavits that the Justice Department had obtained to
support its request for an injunction. Much of the case was litigated under
seal because in order to have a full and complete discussion of what was in
the declarations or the affidavits, one would have to have a security clearance
to be able to do that, and so, again, it was one of those issues that puts the
government in an awkward position of trying to enforce a right without
increasing the harm that results from an attempted enforcement. The
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decision by Judge Warren was written publicly. I can recall the briefing was
extraordinarily interesting for me because I wasn’t a nuclear scientist, and
trying to figure out how to draft a declaration that made the points about
national security and the potential impact of this disclosure was quite a lesson
in how to write a persuasive declaration without knowing all the nuances of
the detailed information.
At one point there was some fear that an organization, a publication in
Australia, was going to publish the article, and we sent a Justice Department
lawyer to Australia to invoke, they have a Government Secrets Act or
something like that, I can’t recall. I do remember that the lawyer who was
flying to Australia with these very highly classified documents traveled with
an armed FBI agent who had the briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.
MS. KAGAN: Oh my goodness.
MS. GERE: This was not something to be trifled with that was being discussed in these
various declarations. In any event, the publication did not come about in
Australia, so that was good. But the case did continue forward in the United
States in Wisconsin.
I should go back and say that a lot of what was filed was under seal
because of its classification. We wrestled with how to accommodate the
need for the lawyers on the other side to be able to see what the government
was saying in order to make their legal arguments in opposition. So we
ultimately worked with the Department of Energy and probably the FBI to
obtain security clearances for a number of the lawyers who were assigned to
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defending the magazine and the author. So that’s kind of how they were able
to continue to litigate.
MS. KAGAN: Do you remember what law firm it was?
MS. GERE: Yes. I do. The Progressive magazine was represented by a local Wisconsin
law firm with a terrific history. The first name in the firm was LaFollette. I
think he was the governor at one point. It was a firm of high esteem in the
state, and so they represented the magazine. On behalf of the author, the
freelancer, Paul Friedman, now Judge Friedman of the District Court,
represented the author. That was one of the early opportunities I had to get to
know Judge Friedman. It was one of the, unfortunately I can probably put on
one hand the number of cases where over the years I would say that I
developed not just a professional appreciation of opposing counsel, but a
personal appreciation. In my view, a case can be fought as hard as can be,
but it does not need to involve ad hominem attacks or making things
personal, just stick to the law and stick to the issues. It’s been what, forty
years, and I’m still close friends with Paul Friedman. That was, like the
Snepp case, sort of a side benefit. I made a good friendship with Judge
Friedman as the result of working on this case, despite the fact we were on
opposite sides and in a very highly contested and very emotional case for a
lot of people.
So, the injunction was issued, and not surprisingly, the judge who was
very much of a pragmatist, said honestly, I do not think that this is a case that
a court should get involved in, and why don’t you parties, why don’t you go
– 140 –
talk and see if you can’t reach some kind of a compromise, and then I won’t
have to issue an opinion. The idea, I think, in his mind was that there would
be a negotiation in which the magazine and the Department of Energy would
agree upon what was permissible to say publicly. That did not work. The
Progressive then appealed to the Seventh Circuit and attempted to get the
injunction overturned or set aside or whatever their ultimate wording was. I
can’t remember. I do remember very vividly going out to Chicago and
having the oral argument. Again, I did not argue the case because it was at
the appellate level. Happily, however, the person who was permitted to
argue was the lawyer, Tom Martin, who had been working on the case right
from drafting the complaint because he was the Deputy Assistant Attorney
General. But he had been, prior to that time, a Deputy Solicitor General, so
no one could say Tom didn’t know what he was doing in an appellate court.
He was a fabulous lawyer. The argument was I want to say in September of
1979. A few short days later, the article, well first the substance of it and
then essentially the article itself, were published in violation of the
injunction. But, of course, the injunction ran only against the Progressive
magazine or any one of its agents. So the publication was done by, I think
some publication in Wisconsin and then in California.
MS. KAGAN: Where would they get the article from?
MS. GERE: Good question, and there was an FBI investigation opened to determine how
it was leaked or where it came from. To my knowledge, nothing came of it.
And then the decision for the Justice Department was what do we do and
– 141 –
essentially we didn’t have a lot of options left other than to move to dismiss
the appeal as moot. I don’t even remember whether we were the moving
party or whether the Progressive was the moving party. So that was a very
exciting case.
MS. KAGAN: Who was the author? What kind of background did he have?
MS. GERE: As I said, Howard Morland was a freelancer.
MS. KAGAN: But how did he figure out how to build a bomb?
MS. GERE: That was the other part of their argument was that this could not be as secret
as the government argued that it was because he had found out his
information simply by going to public sources. So going to libraries that had
declassified DOE documents. We ended up, I remember this too, I ended up
going to a lot of the nuclear installations around the country that had libraries
both to see what was in the library and to talk with employees about what in
their view was in the public domain. There were a lot of issues that we had
to come to grips with on that argument.
The government’s position was that, first of all, I don’t think we ever
conceded it was all on the public record, and even if it had been, there would
have been no way that he had the ability to put all this together without the
assistance of a scientist. Sort of an eye-opener, or more of a door opener,
into a different world, and that was one of the scientific community for me
because there were very strongly held views after we dropped the atomic
bomb about what United States scientists should be doing, what should be
disclosed to the public, what should be withheld, and so it was hard to tell
– 142 –
from whom Morland might have gotten additional information or guidance.
I’m really stretching my memory here, but I want to say that Morland, his
first name was Howard, and I think he had a brother who was a lawyer in
D.C. at the time with one of the firms, and I don’t remember any more than
that. I’d have to look it up and see if I can find him. I don’t know that I’ve
ever asked Judge Friedman how he happened to come to represent Morland.
I don’t know.
MS. KAGAN: What did Judge Friedman say about the magazine going ahead and
publishing it?
MS. GERE: He was, of course, his position was that Howard Morland had a First
Amendment right to express his views in an article and that it should be
published.
MS. KAGAN: But while the proceeding was going on?
MS. GERE: While the proceeding was going on, that was the subject of a lot of the
argument back and forth about whether it was in the public domain, should it
be, what in fact was the risk to the United States of publication. All of these
issues, looking back at the Pentagon Papers, there was an extraordinary
burden to meet to have the publication withheld. I don’t know what the
Seventh Circuit would have done. We’ll never find out. I don’t even
remember honestly if there was a sense of the panel, from any of the
questions, I don’t even recall.
MS. KAGAN: But there was an injunction in place?
MS. GERE: Yes.
– 143 –
MS. KAGAN: So, he went ahead and violated the injunction?
MS. GERE: No. He did not. Somebody else published it.
MS. KAGAN: Oh right. But they could never tie anybody to it.
MS. GERE: Right. No one ever tied the Progressive to it, which would have been the
strongest case we could have had. But really the injunction, as injunctions
are, are directed to certain parties who are under their enforcement.
MS. KAGAN: That was very interesting.
MS. GERE: Yes, it was very exciting.
MS. KAGAN: And then what happened?
MS. GERE: And then after that, this now takes us up to 1980, just about, or the end of
1979, beginning of 1980, and at that time, my then-husband and I moved to
Cincinnati, Ohio, from Washington in the summer of 1980. My husband was
from Cincinnati and very interested in going back home to practice law. His
parents lived there. He had an offer from a law firm. He had been working
at the Justice Department as well with me. He had an offer from a firm that
was really, in our young lives, too good to be true, so we did not pass up the
opportunity to move, and that was all terrific for him. As Mark Twain said,
“when I die, I want to be in Cincinnati, Ohio because everything happens
there ten years later.” As I found out very quickly upon trying to get a job
myself in Cincinnati, there were very few, very very few, women who were
litigators or went anywhere near a courtroom. I sent out many resumes. I
don’t recall exactly, I might have had some nibble, but not much. This is
despite coming off two extraordinary successes in the courtroom.
– 144 –
MS. KAGAN: But it was Cincinnati.
MS. GERE: So what did happen, though, was that with the change of administrations,
there was a new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. I don’t
even remember how I happened to learn that or think about it. So I applied
to the U.S. Attorney’s Office where there was an opening. Apparently this
U.S. Attorney thought it would be really helpful to the Office, which was the
Southern District of Ohio, and included Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton.
So some pretty big cities in Ohio. He thought it would be beneficial for the
Office to have someone on its staff that could talk to people in Washington at
the Justice Department because every U.S. Attorney’s Office needed to be in
good stead with the Department because the Department itself had such
control over the U.S. Attorney’s offices. I did not disabuse him of the fact
that I really did not think I had a direct phone line to the upper echelons of
the Department.
MS. KAGAN: That was going to be my next question.
MS. GERE: Or that there was some secret language or handshake that I had that was
going to be helpful. I wanted the job, and so I said, of course I’m the perfect
person for establishing that relationship with Washington, D.C. I laugh about
it now, but it was another one of those serendipitous things that turned out to
be just terrific. I loved being in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It was a whole
different experience from being in the Justice Department. The Justice
Department, at least the work that I did, tended to be more, I want to say
cerebral and dealing with issues of legal import, first impression, notoriety,
– 145 –
precedent-setting, whatever all those big words were. But being in the U.S.
Attorney’s Office was, at least at that time in the Southern District of Ohio,
was like going to a general practice law firm. You not only had to be
cerebral, but you had to be able to run up to the courtroom on five-minutes
notice and do whatever it was that some judge wanted you to be there to talk
about. So it was a very different experience, but one that I really enjoyed. It
gave me a lot more time in the courtroom and trial work that I would not
have had had at the Justice Department.
MS. KAGAN: That lucky streak probably couldn’t continue forever.
MS. GERE: Right. So the work ranged from—I did a lot of medical malpractice because
there were military hospitals under our umbrella, so I did wrongful death. I
did bankruptcies.
MS. KAGAN: Some of that you need to develop a certain amount of substantive expertise
or at least working knowledge.
MS. GERE: Yes. And I had to, of course, first of all gain some working knowledge of a
court, the office I was working in, and the lawyers who were my opposing
counsel. That was an experience because virtually everybody in the Office
when I joined it, they were all from Cincinnati. They all had some kind of
political tie to the U.S. Attorney or the Office or somebody, and so I was
definitely a fish out of water. When it came to the judges, there were three
active judges when I went to the Office, one of whom had a hearing on the
census that had just been taken, either it was in the process of being taken
and it was being challenged. That was one of the first arguments, as I recall,
– 146 –
that I had in the Office. The judge wanted to have the hearing in his
chambers as opposed to in the courtroom, which I didn’t quite understand,
particularly because there must have been twenty lawyers at least who were
involved. All these different parties that were challenging the census or had
some stake in how it was being conducted. I don’t remember all the ins and
outs. So we got the judge’s chambers, and I sat down, and the judge called
on me. I started to talk, and he said, young lady, I could hear you a lot better
if you’d come and sit on my lap, at which point I pretty much thought get me
out of this place.
MS. KAGAN: Wow. Were there other women attorneys in your office?
MS. GERE: Yes. In the Office. One was, I can’t remember whether she was there when
I got there or whether she started shortly after I arrived, but women were
definitely the exception. There were no, at this hearing with all these
lawyers, there were definitely no other women in the hearing. I can
remember going home that night and saying I don’t know if I’m going to be
able to practice here because this is just a different world. My husband at the
time said oh, it’s the same world, it’s just that people in Washington learn to
be more subtle about it. I thought I’m not sure this is a big improvement.
Maybe. I don’t know.
So that was one of my early introductions to the judges.
MS. KAGAN: You were handling that case by yourself? No team?
MS. GERE: Yes. Usually in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in that office, most of the person
power, I was going to say “manpower” because most of it was, but most of
– 147 –
the emphasis was on the criminal case load. At that point, Cincinnati was on
the raceway up from Mexico to Detroit and Chicago on the drug delivery
speedway, and so we ended up with a fair amount of drug-related cases and
that took a fair amount of the office’s resources.
MS. KAGAN: How many attorneys were there in the office?
MS. GERE: I would say there were, well in Cincinnati there were probably a dozen
maybe, fourteen maybe.
MS. KAGAN: And everybody handled whatever case came to their desk.
MS. GERE: Yes. Until I got there, and then gradually we developed a specifically
designated civil division, and so there were lawyers that did only the civil
work, and then others that did the criminal work. And that held true. We
then kind of had to bring all of the three offices (Cincinnati, Columbus, and
Dayton) together so that everybody was handling things the same way, so
that would have been the folks in Columbus, which at that point was a
smaller office. I think after I left, a couple of U.S. Attorneys have actually
sat in Columbus as opposed to Cincinnati, and then that kind of shifts the
personnel.
One of the other things that I recall about being in Cincinnati and the
difference in practice, certainly from the Justice Department and in most of
the cases that I handled, because they were pretty sensitive cases, and
everybody wanted to make sure everything was appropriately documented,
there always was when you reached an agreement with an opposing counsel,
you always reduced it to writing just to confirm that you and I talked and
– 148 –
agreed to something. These are the days before email, of course, but just so
that everything was documented. When I got to Cincinnati, and one of the
first cases that I worked on, again I don’t remember which one it was, but I
think I must have asked the opposing lawyer, or he asked me for an extension
of time to file something, I don’t know, whatever, an answer or response to a
motion, and we had a nice conversation and he said okay, I agree let’s do
that. I very dutifully wrote him a letter and said this is what we agreed, and
he picked up the phone and said I know you’re new to this legal community,
but you really don’t want to do this because it will essentially set you apart,
and he said lawyers here, if they tell you they’re going to do something,
they’ll do it. You can depend on their word. I thought, what a novel
concept. It’s different from what I had been accustomed to, but, of course, at
Justice, I was litigating with lawyers from around the country, and everybody
had different ways of doing things, and you could know people not nearly as
well as if you were in a relatively small legal community, kind of what goes
around comes around. So after that, I stopped sending letters and relied upon
people’s word. Until I couldn’t, when somebody crossed you, and then
obviously you’d know.
The other kind of story that, well a couple of them, that were I think
interesting and reflective of being a woman in a smaller city in the early
1980s when women were not very numerous in the bar and certainly, as I
say, not in the courtroom. One of the judges had this system where he would
have what he’d call settlement conferences. Of course one question is should
– 149 –
the trial judge be overseeing a settlement discussion in a case over which he
was presiding. Anyway, the judge had this whole system that he referred to
as the Lloyds of London system. Every time for the first, I don’t know,
couple of years that I was in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, every time I would
go to one of these things, the judge would turn to me and say, “Counsel,
maybe because you’re new to the community, maybe you don’t know Mr.
So-and-So, but he is an outstanding lawyer.” He was always kind of putting
me in my place, that whoever was across the table was the hometown hero.
MS. KAGAN: And all three judges?
MS. GERE: Well the third judge, the story about him was that his goal for a new lawyer
who was a woman was to make her cry during a trial. That was his goal.
MS. KAGAN: Did you know about that in advance?
MS. GERE: I knew about it partway through my first trial in front of him when he was
just very difficult, exasperating. He used to refer to Washington, he would
always say to me, yeah but you’re from Washington, Baghdad on the
Potomac. Anyway, he was definitely difficult, and he was the chief judge.
Partway through my first trial in front of him, his then, I can’t remember
whether she was his courtroom clerk or deputy, we were on a break, and she
came up to me and said, “Don’t do it. Don’t cry.” And I said, “Cry? I’m not
going to cry.” And she said, “He’s going to make you.” No he’s not. So it
was like this game of cat and mouse.
MS. KAGAN: It wasn’t his law clerk, it was his courtroom clerk?
– 150 –
MS. GERE: Yes. It was I think she was his courtroom deputy. So she’d seen it all.
Anyway, I had my work cut out for me just kind of fitting in with the court
and the rhythm of the office. There were two women who did criminal work,
one who was there I think when I started, and the other one I think, as I said,
she came shortly after I did, but the guys that did the criminal work all teased
me because most of the civil work, if it went to trial, it was a bench trial, and
so they would forever be teasing me about oh, you civil people, you don’t
know how to stand up in front of a jury. They teased me and called me the
Main Skirt because I was the Chief of the Civil Division. So one day I
remember saying to them, okay, give me some of your cases. Let me try
some of your criminal cases. So for the next probably three years, I did some
criminal work as well. I probably did a half a dozen criminal cases,
prosecuted them. It turned out that I did way more than anybody had
anticipated because one of the cases involved a female lawyer in Cincinnati
who set up this ring with her mother and her coterie of boyfriends. They set
up all of these staged automobile accidents and thefts to collect insurance
proceeds. So we indicted her, her mother, and her then-current boyfriend
who was the lead guy among the boyfriends. The judge granted a motion to
sever, so we had three trials instead of one. So I did some criminal work, and
that convinced me that what I really loved was civil litigation. The whole
notion that you couldn’t game things out and take depositions and look at
documents beforehand was not my cup of tea. I can remember these criminal
trials, I co-tried them with one of the more senior male lawyers in the office.
– 151 –
I remember the first trial when it came to be the defense part of the case and
he looked at me and he said okay whoever comes through the door, I’ll cross
them, and you take the next one. And you would have no idea who was
coming through the door next. You didn’t really do a lot of Brady
disclosures back then. So whoever walked in the door, that was who you
were going to cross-examine. That was for me—I am sure exhilarating for a
lot of people to do that and find it exciting—but I found it too nervewracking.
So I became the chief of the civil division, which is for what I
remained for the five years that I was there.
The cases that stick out most for me were the swine flu cases. So back in
the late 1970s or early 1980s there was a fear of a swine flu pandemic. The
United States indemnified all of the makers of the vaccine. When people
became ill after they got the swine flu shot, they would sue the United States.
There were hundreds of cases around the country, and they were consolidated
into a multi-district litigation panel and a general set of discovery done, but
then at the end of that, each of the cases would be sent back to its home
jurisdiction for trial.
For whatever reason, the Southern District of Ohio had a
disproportionately high number of cases. The chief judge decided he would
assign all of the cases to the newest judge to handle them. He was the one
who had this “let me tell you about your opposing counsel who’s so hometowny.”
He was assigned all the cases, and as the newest AUSA, I was
assigned all of the cases. I got to know the judge quite well, and the cases
– 152 –
were fascinating as medical issues, legal issues, and how to handle MDL
litigation. They were complicated, and I had a lot of them. Several of them
went to trial. I traveled around the country doing depositions, getting expert
testimony lined up. So that was a real education.
MS. KAGAN: How many cases did you have?
MS. GERE: I think we had at least a dozen. Probably more like eighteen. As time went
on and people watched what was happening, some people voluntarily
dismissed, and other people would come up with creative medical causation
proof, and others would say well I’ve come this far, I’m just going to roll the
dice and hope for the best.
The sign that I had finally arrived in the office was in connection with one
of these, I believe it was one of the swine flu cases. We had one of these
settlement conferences, and the lawyer was from Columbus, not Cincinnati,
who was my opposing counsel. He was a very well-known lawyer, but when
we got to the conference, the judge turned to him and said you may not know
Mrs. Whitaker (my married name), but she’s an outstanding lawyer. So I
knew that I had turned the corner and finally was going to be part of the
home-town team.
MS. KAGAN: About time?
MS. GERE: Yes. About time.
MS. KAGAN: When you had your jury trials, because you were a woman, did the defense
tend to excuse female jurors?
– 153 –
MS. GERE: No. I did not get that sense. Cincinnati was much more, people decided who
they wanted as jurors based on their zip codes. This was all kind of news to
me because I wasn’t from Cincinnati. They didn’t mean anything to me. I
got the impression that jurors were very interested in seeing a woman in a
courtroom because I don’t think that was the day of women on TV law
shows. That definitely was in its infancy. I remember, though, after one of
the criminal cases that I tried, I was shopping for shoes at a women’s shoe
store near the courthouse, and I was in there just kind of browsing, and all of
a sudden this woman came up to me in the store and said I just knew you
bought your shoes here. I thought, Who are you? I don’t recognize you. I
don’t know you. She said, I was a juror in one of your cases, and we used to
talk about your clothes, and I always thought this was where you bought your
shoes. This was a lesson on so many levels, that how really focused jurors
can be and how they look at and take cues from lawyers. I always used that
story when I was teaching at Georgetown, that you are kind of walking a
tightrope. You want jurors to pay attention to you, and you be the reliable
guide in the courtroom, but you can’t be a distraction from your client. To
me, that meant I wasn’t going to go in with big gold chains on and a bunch of
fancy loud clothing. At that point I thought that would make me the focus
instead of my client or that it was not necessarily consistent with what I was
trying to convey to a juror that I was the people’s lawyer. I represented
them, the taxpayers, the United States.
– 154 –
MS. KAGAN: I have been told that women attorneys should wear dresses in front of a jury
rather than a suit, that that appealed to jurors more.
MS. GERE: I think that so much has changed on that score. When I was in Cincinnati,
one could not wear pants to court. When I was at the Justice Department,
nobody would have even thought about it because that wasn’t part of what
the attire should be. As I taught, though, at Georgetown over the twenty-year
period, I always made it a point of talking to my students, male or female,
about the importance of being neat, the importance of not being distractingly
dressed, the importance of being comfortable because you’re going to be
sitting in a chair and then up and moving around and you can’t have on shoes
that hurt your feet, you can’t have on something you worry is too short. And
so I would tell people my preference was for women not to wear pants, but if
they wore pants, it should be a whole coordinated pantsuit, not a plaid jacket
and blue jeans or whatever. But boy over the years as I continued to practice
at the Attorney General’s Office, that was not even an issue anymore.
Women wore pants all the time to court. Jurors now have seen so many
lawyers on TV in pantsuits they’ve decided that’s okay.
MS. KAGAN: Right.
MS. GERE: Over the years, I’ve appeared before a lot of judges. One judge in Columbus,
Ohio banned open-toed shoes because that was beach attire. There were
judges before whom you could not wear pants. I think there were judges that
would not look kindly upon men who wore earrings or a stud in their ear.
– 155 –
Just again sort of the whole distraction factor. You don’t need to call
attention to yourself.
MS. KAGAN: That’s interesting.
– 156 –
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place on Zoom on Wednesday, July 1,
2020. This is the fourth interview.
MS. GERE: As you just noted, we talked a little bit about what’s going on now in our
lives during the pandemic. Now we’re going to take a turn back and resume
my discussion with you. Last when we left the story, as it were, I was telling
you about my time at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was just terrific. It
was one of the best jobs that I had in my career. I’ll never forget listening to
United States District Court Judge Stan Harris here in D.C. give a talk and
say the best job he ever had was being a part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I
thought, wow, that’s something coming from somebody who’s a federal
judge and he’s looking back wistfully being in a U.S. Attorney’s Office. But
now that I’m to the point of looking wistfully back, I can certainly identify
with that.
MS. KAGAN: Would you have ever wanted to be a judge?
MS. GERE: Yes. I did. And that was one of the significant disappointments in my life. I
got very close. We’re not quite to the stage where I started applying, so I’ll
talk a little about that as it comes up.
There came a point in Cincinnati where my then-husband and I concluded
that our marriage was not working out as each of us had hoped or expected.
We both had left Washington with the expectation and the hope that we
would have children, and we thought that going to Cincinnati, which is where
he was from, would be someplace with a slower pace and for us a family
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network because his family, his parents, with whom he was very close, were
in Cincinnati, so that was one of our motivations for going there. But things
didn’t work out for us, and we divorced in 1985. At that point, I had to
reevaluate my life. I was living in a place that really was not my hometown,
and as much as I liked the U.S. Attorney’s Office and began to feel like an
insider, I never really felt like an insider in Cincinnati. It was a very insular
legal community in particular, and there were very few women who were in
litigation. So it occurred to me that if I wanted to kind of start my life afresh,
staying in Cincinnati in a small legal community, I would never make a break
from my husband, and I needed to be who I was. So fortunately there was a
program at the Justice Department that was available to Assistant U.S.
Attorneys where your U.S. Attorney’s Office would loan you to the
Department in Washington, D.C. for a year to teach at the Attorney General’s
Advocacy Institute. The incentive for an office to do that was they got to
hire somebody in your stead, but they didn’t lose the slot because you would
go back to the office after a year. One of my colleagues in the U.S.
Attorney’s Office in Cincinnati had done it years earlier, and he was very
positive about the experience. He also said from a personal point of view,
you’re in a position where it would help you sort things out and make
decisions about where you wanted the next phase of your life to go.
So I applied to be the Assistant Director of the Attorney General’s
Advocacy Institute, which at the time was located in Washington, D.C., and
now has a new name, the National Advocacy Center, and it’s in
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South Carolina. It made a big move for a lot of political reasons. I’m not
sure they were necessarily good ones. While I was there, and I applied and I
got the job, so I moved from Cincinnati to D.C. in the Summer of 1985 and
began working at the Department in the fall, I believe.
Essentially what the advocacy program involved was bringing all of the
litigating attorneys who worked for the Justice Department, whether in the
Department itself or in one of the 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices in for a twoweek
training period. It was a terrific program.
MS. KAGAN: That must have been a big cohort.
MS. GERE: Well we usually had, and I can’t even remember back in those days, we
probably had thirty or forty people at a time, but we would run these
programs several times a year. There was a civil program, and there was a
criminal program because the training for each was different. The people
who taught the courses were experienced Assistant U.S. Attorneys. In the
civil courses, we had sessions on how to cross examine, how to do a direct
examination, how to take a deposition. Back in the early to mid-1980s, we
had very elaborate video systems, so we videotaped all of the students who
were coming through and then you would sit down with an experienced
AUSA and walk through what you saw on the screen. There were not a lot
of training programs at that point that had taken advantage of something like
video and being able to watch yourself. It was very much a hands-on
program, a terrific learning experience. The last two days of the two-week
course period you would actually try a case. We flew in judges, federal
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judges from all around the country, to sit as judges for the trial so by the time
you finished your two weeks, you had actually tried a case before a federal
judge.
MS. KAGAN: Any juries?
MS. GERE: We had juries where we could find people, whether it was through contacts
that people had in the community, and we would have people come in and sit
as jurors. As I say, it was a terrific experience for the students. I think
mostly the feedback came from the judges because they knew that was part
of what their role was and to preside over some of these trials. It was a great
experience for the students, and the judges clamored to be invited to come
and teach because it gave them an opportunity to have a paid-for trip to
Washington, and it was always good for them. They had all been appointed
via a Senator. They kept up their political ties. They had friends in the
Department and so forth, so we never had trouble getting judges to come in
and assume that role, which was really gratifying. I got to meet all kinds of
judges and work with them on their schedules and when they could come in
and what they could do. So it gave me a different perspective on the federal
judiciary.
MS. KAGAN: How many AUSA trainers were there?
MS. GERE: We would probably have at least another two dozen people coming in during
that two-week period. People usually came in for a one-week segment and
then they would go back to their offices. So we constantly had people
coming in and out. We would try and have group dinners, opportunities for
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the AUSAs to get to know each other too because that was another
invaluable resource where you’d meet somebody and say, gosh, I have a case
involving swine flu or whatever the topic might be, and that helped develop
more resources internally with Department contacts.
MS. KAGAN: How many of you were in charge of running the Advocacy Institute?
MS. GERE: I was in charge of the civil programs, and one of my colleagues who was an
AUSA in Bridgeport, Connecticut, ran the criminal program.
MS. KAGAN: That’s a lot.
MS. GERE: We had a terrific staff. We had I think two to three people who were sort of
staff/paralegals, and they did a lot of the work in scheduling things and
making sure rooms were set up and that we had hotel reservations, we had
restaurant reservations, all that kind of thing. So it was a lean operation
looking back on how much we were able to accomplish. And then there was
a director over us who was the liaison to the attorney general and to the
hierarchy of the Department to make sure we were training people on topics
that U.S. Attorneys thought were valuable.
I taught some of the courses myself. Of course you would always
encounter times when somebody at the last minute had an emergency and
didn’t show up or whatever. I very much enjoyed the actual teaching, which
fast forward many years later, I did end up teaching for twenty years at
Georgetown Law School, so that was sort of the beginning of my teaching
career.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have a curriculum for the visiting teachers?
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MS. GERE: Oh yes. We had a curriculum. We had materials that they were supposed to
teach from. We had tips on how to give a constructive evaluation of
somebody’s performance. We had all kinds of things. We had outside
lecturers come in to talk. One woman in particular who was a regular who
taught essentially how to read juries. She was always interesting and very
provocative on how you decided who you wanted to have as a juror and then
how you asked questions if you were permitted to do the voir dire to get to
the information that you wanted. That was always very interesting.
MS. KAGAN: Did issues of race and gender play into that in any subtle way?
MS. GERE: She was, and again, this was in the mid-1980s, so we’re talking some time
ago. One of the things that she did that I thought was very revealing is she
would take somebody from the audience among the AUSAs and have them
come up to the front of the room and say their names and say which office
they worked for and how long they worked in the office and where they
lived. Very minimal information. And then she would go around the room
and say do you think this person reads Time magazine. Do you think this
person reads books? Do you think this person has views on who should be
our next President? And inevitably people would say oh yeah, just look at
him. He drives a Corvette. That’s clear. So it was sort of an implicit bias
teaching just based on how somebody looked and the few five facts that you
gleaned, and all of a sudden you were making up a whole backstory about
somebody that may, of course, may have had and likely had very little basis
in truth. So that’s what she was saying. You have to be much more
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measured in your assumptions about people based on what information you
have, and back then, really when you got your jury list, you look now, and I
haven’t done this in a while, but it’s really pretty bare-boned information,
where somebody lives, what their occupation is, what their marital status
may be, their address. And so you have to take that and think about it but not
in a way that allows you to pre-judge based on whether it’s a man or a
woman or what their ethnic background is.
MS. KAGAN: Were the folks that came in to do training, were they mostly local attorneys?
MS. GERE: No. They came in from around the country—both people being trained and
the trainers. We did take people from Main DOJ here in D.C., people from
the Civil Division, people from the Criminal Division. People who actually
got into court. This was much more, we didn’t have appellate lawyers or
environmental lawyers, unless they were people who went to court.
MS. KAGAN: So not every AUSA took this training. It’s only the ones who would be
litigating.
MS. GERE: And then it was all voluntary. It was a two-week commitment of time for
those being trained and at least a week for the trainers and travel, and most of
the time, people carried on whatever their responsibilities back in the office
were at the same time. Of course back then we didn’t have computers, we
didn’t have the Internet, so it was a little more difficult. You’d have to get
somebody to basically be a stand in for you. It was a great program. I’m sure
it still is a good program, just in a different place and in a different way.
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It was a great experience but having that disconnect from Cincinnati for a
year allowed me to decide that I did not want to go back to the U.S.
Attorney’s Office.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have a network of people that were still in D.C. from your time here
that you were able to reconnect with?
MS. GERE: I had a number of friends because as I mentioned my husband too had
worked at the Justice Department before we moved to Cincinnati, so we had
a lot of friends who had been mutual friends of ours, but when I came back to
D.C., I resumed – well, I hadn’t really ever stopped being friends with a lot
of people, and kind of resumed that. One of the ties that I had continued to
keep was with all my friends in the Civil Division at Main Justice. When I
started thinking about not returning to Cincinnati and talking that over with
my friends in the Civil Division, they all said great, good idea, why don’t you
come back to the Civil Division. Part of me resisted that notion because I
didn’t want to feel as though I was going backward in my life. I wanted to
feel still that I was making progress in my life. I was making a fresh start,
and so I thought about that pretty carefully. I concluded when I was offered
a position as senior trial counsel, that was quite a different position than I had
had when I left. The Civil Division had grown substantially, and I felt that it
was different enough that I thought I was making a forward step. I also was
just not ready to cut the cords with my federal service. I loved working for
the United States of America, and going to the Civil Division allowed me to
maintain that tie. So, in 1986, I finished my year with the Attorney General’s
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Advocacy Institute. I then went as senior trial counsel to the Civil Division
at Main DOJ which was a fascinating move to make because the work there
was so interesting. It was interesting when I left, and it was just as
interesting when I went back. A lot of different kinds of cases that I was
being given because of my new title and role.
MS. KAGAN: I’m trying to quickly think about changes in administrations and whether
there was any change in policy and direction, cases that were thought to be
once pursued.
MS. GERE: Good question. I would have to go back because when I left the U.S.
Attorney’s Office, I believe that it was still President Reagan who was
President.
MS. KAGAN: Yes. This was in the early 1980s.
MS. GERE: I’m trying to remember what the dates were. So he was President from 1981
to 1989. Yes, I should remember this because I have a picture of Attorney
General Ed Meese and me. The Attorney General’s office was on one of the
upper floors, and the Advocacy Institute was on the first floor of the
Department. For each one of these sessions, typically the Attorney General
himself would come and give either, depending on his schedule, welcoming
remarks to the people coming in or closing remarks as they had completed.
So I do have a picture of myself with Ed Meese.
So anyway, when I went back to the Civil Division, that still would have
been during the Reagan administration back in 1987. To the very much
good, my recollection of times at the Justice Department, at least at my level
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as a career lawyer, there was not a lot of politics brought to bear on the
decisions that I made in litigation or that my immediate supervisors made.
Clearly, we knew that there were programs and goals that each President had,
and each Attorney General would run the Department somewhat differently,
but I don’t remember a lot of politics being involved. But whether that’s
because I was at a career level, but I don’t remember any of my superiors
ever thinking that they were being forced to take positions for political
reasons. Mostly to the credit of the Attorneys General under whom I worked
and whether it was just because it was the Civil Division, but people were not
pressured unnecessarily, and I think there was a fair amount of deference
given to lawyers who had been in the Department and had great institutional
knowledge, which, to me, was very important to keep the continuity of the
Department and the independent integrity of the Department intact.
MS. KAGAN: Although there obviously are always choices to be made, what areas to
pursue, what cases to go with, and that, I think, you can’t help but be perhaps
somewhat affected by who’s running the show.
MS. GERE: Yes. Because there are certain overarching goals that each President
establishes, and each Attorney General has his or her goals as well. But I just
don’t feel that political pressures of those days are anywhere near what they
are today. I’m not there today, but I am a sentient human being, and I don’t
know for certain what my colleagues are experiencing, my colleagues who
still are at the Department.
MS. KAGAN: You probably don’t want to know.
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MS. GERE: There’s been a great deal of concern among former DOJ employees, and we
have written several letters recently about the actions of the current Attorney
General, William Barr, that are inconsistent with the way so many of us
recall our experience at the Department.
MS. KAGAN: That’s been covered pretty widely in the press.
MS. GERE: Yes. So, there I found myself in the Civil Division of the Justice Department
in another one of the small world stories that one can only tell in
Washington. While I was in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cincinnati, I had
the great good fortune to have a law clerk, Rick Morgan, who worked in our
office, particularly for me, and very closely with me, on a lot of the swine flu
cases, which were taking a great deal of my time for a period at the office.
Eventually, Rick graduated from law school, and I think we had a lot of
conversations about what would be a good thing for Rick to do, and I’m sure
I persuaded or, at least I like to think that I had a hand in convincing him that
going to the Justice Department would be a great thing for him to do as part
of his legal career. So lo’ and behold, he applied to the Department of
Justice Civil Division and was hired. When I returned to the Civil Division,
the person who had the office right next to mine ended up being Rick
Morgan, my former law clerk from Cincinnati! It was terrific to have
someone that I knew, someone whose legal acumen I very much admired,
just a terrific lawyer, and it was just great fun to have somebody that I shared
a different part of my life with but that I could then continue to share my life
with. So we had great fun. I did not work any cases with him while I was at
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the Department, but nonetheless, that too was a pretty close-knit group, so I
got to see him regularly.
MS. KAGAN: Were you involved with Divisions other than Civil?
MS. GERE: No. I was just Senior Trial Counsel in the Civil Division.
MS. KAGAN: No, I mean in all the various types of cases? There’s a range of substantive
subject matters in Civil.
MS. GERE: There’s a range of substance. It appeared, at least as I was trying to go back
and reconstruct the time that I was there, there were a couple of cases that
took a good deal of my time in part, I think, because when I previously had
worked at the Department, I had been involved in the cases that we’ve talked
about—matters relating to classified information, working with intelligence
agencies, working with the State Department. Two cases in particular came
along that were assigned to me. They were very unusual cases that involved
in one way or the other the USSR back in the day. Again, we’re talking
1987. One of the cases to which I was assigned was a case that was brought
by an American broker of some sort who sued Izvestia for libel and breach of
contract. Izvestia at the time was the Soviet newspaper that was actually
considered to be an arm of the Soviet government, so in effect, it was like
suing a sovereign state. It was private litigation, but the Department was
involved to protect the interests of the United States. It was a case that
really, I mean these two cases that I want to talk about were ones that only
lawyers could love because they were extraordinarily technical. Each of
them really begins with issues of service of process.
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MS. KAGAN: The U.S. government was an intervenor in these cases?
MS. GERE: Well, we were an intervenor in one case. We on behalf of the State
Department, as I recall, moved to intervene to make the views of the United
States known to the Court.
In the second case, my recollection is that the judge, before we even filed
a motion to intervene, issued an order asking for the views of the United
States. So, in any event, the Justice Department got involved, and primarily,
it was I would say to present the views of the State Department, which were
in essence the views of the United States on how best to deal with a foreign
sovereign, whether our courts were going to entertain cases against a foreign
sovereign. The Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act is what was applicable, and
there are very limited opportunities for a private party to sue a sovereign state
in a United States court. But before you could even get to that point, you had
to figure out how do I serve this foreign state, and the Act and rules are very
complicated. You have to serve the embassy of the foreign state.
Well, long story short, in the first case, which is called Gregorian v.
Izvestia, the Soviet embassy refused service of process and therefore no one
responded. The case had been filed in the Central District of California,
which is where the plaintiff was located. The attempted service was made,
but then the judge had a hearing, and no one showed up on behalf of Izvestia,
and so the court entered a default judgment in the amount of some, I’m trying
to think if I made a note of it. The Court entered a default judgment for
$413,000 and entered an order allowing the plaintiff to begin seizing bank
– 169 –
accounts and any other property that he could get his hands on. He did get
his hands on a Cyrillic typewriter as part of his efforts to make good on
collecting on his default judgment. But at some point, there was a motion to
vacate the default judgment by the Soviet Izvestia, and that was where the
United States got involved. Basically, we agreed that the default judgment
should be set aside in order for the Soviet government to come in and make
whatever argument it wanted to make substantively.
MS. KAGAN: Because you would want the same courtesy in a reverse situation.
MS. GERE: Right. And we were not taking a position at that point on whether an
interpretation of the Act allowed the ultimate relief that the plaintiff sought.
Simply we were trying to preserve the opportunity for the foreign state to be
heard in our court to say no we don’t belong here, or yes we do, and here’s
what we have to say.
Eventually, the Court agreed that Izvestia should be permitted to appear.
The case went on. I no longer worked at the Department, but the case did go
up on appeal, and there’s a whole opinion on appeal, and it’s very, the whole
case is, very detailed on the precise contours of the Foreign Sovereign
Immunity Act. Anyway, so that was the case that took up a lot of time for
me, very interesting to delve into the diplomacy that the State Department
was charged with conducting and how it intersected with our judicial system.
MS. KAGAN: What division within the State Department were you working?
MS. GERE: Our primary contact was with the Legal Adviser’s Office. I know that I had
to get affidavits from people at the State Department about the consequences
– 170 –
of not at least affording an opportunity for a foreign state to be served
properly.
MS. KAGAN: What year was this?
MS. GERE: This was 1987. So I’m trying to think. I think Judge Sofaer, I think, was
probably still the Legal Adviser at the State Department. I don’t remember
exactly who we had. I know I got declarations in both these cases from
people at the State Department.
The second case, Carl Marks & Co. v. USSR, was a class action, or a
purported class action, I can’t remember whether the judge ended up
certifying it as a class action. Again, it was a private lawsuit by bond holders
of Soviet currency, and it was currency that had been issued prior to the
Bolshevik revolt, so in any event, the suit was against the Soviet Union, and
it was all about whether the bonds that these bond holders had purchased
continued to have value. It was a very interesting trip through history. The
judge who presided over the case was in the Southern District of New York.
The judge who presided was the then-Chief Judge, Judge Brieant, I think. He
was quite a character, and I say quite a character in a kind of admiring way
because his opinion is a real testament to the breadth of his learning, beyond
being a judge. His opinion starts with a quote from the book JR, by William
Gaddis, and it’s a very tongue-in-cheek quote that is a play on words of class
action, and this was brought as a class action. The judge gives a lengthy
discourse about William Gaddis and his literary career, how brilliant Gaddis
was, with which I agree, but how the judge weaves this all into this opinion is
– 171 –
quite remarkable. And then the opinion goes through in remarkable detail
with terrific footnotes all of the evolution of the Russian government
following the Russian revolt, and he talks about the Bolsheviks and Lenin
being hidden in a boxcar so that he can get to Moscow to lead the
government. It’s fascinating, and it’s all germane to the case and without it,
you would be definitely scratching your head about what are these people
complaining about again, and what does this have to do with whatever is
going on. The opinion itself is a tour de force, honestly, and I was very glad
for this opportunity to go back and read it because I honestly hadn’t looked at
it for decades. Again, it ultimately devolved into who did the United States
recognize as a legitimate government, and who could dismiss the bonds and
their value, all of which the judge had to grapple with, and he was the one
who said I’d like to get the United States’ view on how important this
decision is to our diplomatic relations with the USSR. He’s trying to say I
want to hear from the government on the impact of our diplomatic and
foreign relations, what kind of an impact is this case going to have, how
important is this to our government, what do you all have to say about it. We
went to the State Department, and we again said this was another situation
where there was an attempt by these bond holders class members to serve the
USSR. The USSR claimed that service was not effective or not proper, so
they didn’t show up, so Judge Brieant did what the judge in Los Angeles had
done and entered a default judgment, and it was kind of once there were teeth
and an order saying there’s a judgment against you, you need to step up and
– 172 –
do something Soviet Union, and we United States need to step up and say
how far should the United States be pushing for use of its courts to hold
accountable a foreign sovereign. So Judge Brieant ultimately set aside the
default judgment and allowed the USSR to come in and present its defense.
Again, the United States was not involved in the nub of the dispute whether
the bond holders recovered or not but rather could they take advantage of
United States courts to seek relief from a foreign sovereign. The substance
again, that was not my role, and I then left the Department. My recollection
is that that case too went up, that one would have gone to the Second Circuit.
The first one went to the Ninth Circuit. And, of course, at DOJ, when
something went up on appeal, the trial lawyers lost their hold on the litigation
because we had an independent appellate staff, which was a good idea. They
were able to bring perhaps less emotion and more distance in analyzing
which cases the United States should be seeking appeal on and how to frame
any appeal that we were being asked to defend.
MS. KAGAN: Do you know what the upshot of the case ultimately was.
MS. GERE: I know that the case in California, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and
reversed in part, and remanded it, so I’m sure it went on. My recollection is
that’s kind of what happened in the, I didn’t make a note about what
happened in the Second Circuit, but again, in the small world category, my
recollection is that the cases on appeal were handled by Doug Letter, who
worked in the Civil Appellate Section of the Civil Division, and Doug is now
counsel to the House of Representatives, in this very interesting and
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tumultuous time in the government. Anyway, Doug was another one of the
just absolutely brilliant lawyers that I had an opportunity to work with at the
Justice Department. And fortunately, the government is lucky enough still to
have his services.
So that, and obviously I had other cases that I worked on. I stayed as
Senior Trial Counsel for about a year and a half. I was approaching my 40th
birthday. I had never been in private practice. I’d never interned in a law
firm. That was a world that was foreign to me and yet here I was pretty
substantially into my legal career, and I always thought I ought to try that
private practice thing sometime, maybe. Very serendipitously, I had been
back at Justice for a while and, within the space of a week, I had two of my
former DOJ colleagues call me from two different law firms and say we’re
looking for somebody, we think that you would be great, would you ever
think about leaving the Department and going into private practice. And I
thought this is really a signal. Two people in one week, just before my 40th
birthday. Is somebody sending me a message that it’s time for a change? So
I interviewed with each of them. I was very impressed with both. One firm
that I interviewed with was Jenner and Block, and the person who had been
the Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Division at one point,
Tom Martin, was the person who had contacted me. Another truly brilliant
lawyer, and he had been at Jenner for a while. So he called, and I said sure
I’d be happy to come and talk to you. It sounds interesting. No promises, of
course, on either side.
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The other person who called me was Becky Ross, who was one of my
contemporaries, colleagues, at Main Justice and also an outstanding lawyer.
She had left Main Justice, had gone to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C.,
and then had left to join a start-up law firm here in D.C., and she had been
there about a year, I think. She was very enthusiastic. She said this is a great
group of people, they’re vibrant, they’re entrepreneurial, they split off from
Hogan and Hartson, which was a big deal back in the mid-1980s. You didn’t
just take part of your executive committee and walk out of Hogan and
Hartson. These people did. There were a number of women at the firm
already. I interviewed with that firm, Ross, Dixon & Masback, as well. I
was very taken with the plans that they had for the future and the thought of
being someone who could come in very early in the firm’s foundation or
formation and help get this organization off the ground. They had at that
point no one beyond Becky who had any litigation experience, any real
courtroom experience. They had way more business than they could handle,
and so they said to me we don’t want you to do any business development.
We want you to just be able to come in and start taking depositions, start
preparing matters for trial.
Jenner, obviously, had a somewhat different mix of people, and I thought I
don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, and the notion that I did not need
to be responsible for business development right away, which wasn’t my
highest and best use, appealed to me a lot. So I met with the various people
at Ross Dixon and then finally decided maybe I should make this leap.
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MS. KAGAN: How large was the firm at the time?
MS. GERE: At the time, I’m not sure there were even twenty people in the firm.
Probably fewer than that. I remember in the interview process, because a
group, or a concentration of the clients that the firm had were insurance
companies. During one of the interviews that I had, one of the name partners
said to me, “Are you sure you have the grit to come here and represent
insurance companies? Insurance companies are (a) always viewed as having
deep pockets, and (b) always viewed as the bad guy.” I said and what do you
think I’ve been doing working for the United States government for the last
fifteen or more years. We too were always the deep pocket and usually
somehow the bad guy. So, again, that sort of, it was an interesting way for
him to present it, but it also made me think this is a place I probably can use
my skills.
So I talked about it with various friends and people at the Department who
all knew that this was something that was just time in my career to try. I
don’t think anyone begrudged me or thought me, at least I certainly hope
they didn’t. I, in my heart of hearts, thought that I could be at the firm for a
couple of years and then I’d go back to Justice. I thought I’m going to get
there, and I’m going to find out that my heart is really in public service, and I
will want to go back. It was twenty four years before I left the firm. Almost
twenty five years. And perhaps a good way to start our next session is to talk
more about what that transition was like and particularly how I filled what I
– 176 –
viewed as the void of public service and giving back to the profession that I
felt when I went into private practice.
MS. KAGAN: It was that much of a change for you?
MS. GERE: Yes. And in my view of myself and what was important to me. People who
at that point, again we’re talking the mid-1980s, people who left Justice often
left for money. I was a single woman. I didn’t have a family. The money
was not what mattered to me. What mattered to me was the people that I was
working with and the caliber of work that they were doing, but also, again,
this piece of me that wanted to be sure that I continued to give back to the
community and to the profession. And it took me a little bit of time at the
firm to kind of figure out, how do I do that. How do my partners let me do
that?
MS. KAGAN: You came in as a partner?
MS. GERE: I came in as an associate. The firm was so new. They said we’ll bring you in
as an associate, and then in two years, we’ll consider you for partnership. I
was so naïve, I knew nothing. And the money didn’t matter. The title didn’t
matter. It was just—I want to try this private practice thing. I don’t care
what I’m called. I don’t really care what they pay me. So they paid me way
more than I was making at Justice, and I got a signing bonus, by which I was
just very taken aback. I was there for about a year, and they came in one day
and said okay, we just made you a partner. So it was something that I wasn’t
staying up at night trying to figure out, am I going to be a partner and when is
it going to happen, and what do I need to do. It definitely worked out. So I
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became a partner within the year after I had started at the firm. It was a very
interesting many years, and again, among the best of my life as a lawyer and
I still have my closest friends who were my colleagues from the firm. I think
I was telling you earlier, I have not been out of my apartment for anything
non-essential since March. Last night, my first time out, was to go and sit in
the backyard, socially-distanced, with one of my former Ross Dixon partners,
Bill Briggs and his wife, Gail. It clearly was a very close-knit group, and I’m
eternally grateful for that.
MS. KAGAN: The firm then grew quickly.
MS. GERE: Yes. It did grow quickly. We had, as I said, when we started out way more
work than we could possibly handle, so we were pretty aggressive about
hiring. Although the word aggressive might be too strong. Balanced with
the we need to have new people come in, the people that we hired were very,
very rigorously selected, and we were a boutique firm that did a lot of
interesting work and law students and young lawyers really, really wanted to
come and work at the firm. So we were so fortunate to have top-tier law
school people come in as summer associates and then they liked the firm well
enough that they stayed on. The firm, because we represented insurance
companies, had a lot of different substantive areas that fell under the
insurance umbrella. The one that I spent most of my early days, quite a few
years actually, was representing attorneys, accountants, and executives and
officers who were covered by professional liability or directors and officers
liability insurance policies. These professionals were, under their insurance
– 178 –
policy, depending on the terms of the policy, entitled to a defense by their
insurer and appointed defense counsel if they were sued, and so my firm was
the go-to firm for a lot of insurers for what were really “bet the company
cases.” This was during the bank and S&L failure days. We represented a lot
of accountants and lawyers who gave advice to S&Ls and banks. When those
financial institutions failed and they were the subject of lawsuits, we would
be appointed as defense lawyers. They were multi-million-dollar cases and
significant firms were at risk for their very existence. The work was very
stressful. It was all over the country. It was exotic and heady in a way
unlike the headline cases at the Justice Department. Not often that you were
going to read about one of your cases in the New York Times. On the other
hand, you certainly would read about the law firm cases in professional
literature when you had a case that somebody got sued for $45 million and
the law firm gave notice under its E&O policy. So that was fun. For me, it
was a good chance to be in private practice and still maintain the feeling that
I was representing individual human beings. In addition to the insurance
defense work, the firm also did a lot of insurance coverage work. That was,
to me, extraordinarily analytical and you had to be way, way smart to do it. I
did a fair amount of it, but I did not do it with the flair and insight that many
of my partners did. On the other hand, if they had to take a deposition, they
couldn’t run out of the room fast enough. So it was a good place for me to be
able to do what I enjoyed doing and what I considered that I did well, which
was the defense of real people.
– 179 –
MS. KAGAN: Right.
MS. GERE: So what do you think, Barbara?
MS. KAGAN: Up to you.
MS. GERE: How much more time should we go? Maybe this is a good place to stop
because I would like to get my thoughts distilled for what I want to talk about
in private practice, and I need to follow up on something that you said.
In making my decision to go Ross Dixon, I felt that it was a good place to
go for me because there were women there, and that’s something that I’d like
to talk about the next time we get together because at that point, again, there
were not necessarily, even in Washington, an abundance of women in
litigation. I knew that was going to be a significant transition for me leaving
the Justice Department, which had many more women, and they were in
many more senior roles than in law firms.
MS. KAGAN: Sounds like a good plan.
– 180 –
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place by Zoom on Tuesday, August 11,
2020. This is the fifth interview.
MS. KAGAN: Hi Sally. This is a follow-up to our session last month. I don’t know how
many sessions we’ve had so far, but they’ve all been wonderful. Good to see
you again.
MS. GERE: Good to see you, Barbara, even if it’s only virtually on a screen, but you look
very good. I’m happy to be here.
MS. KAGAN: When we left off last time, you were going to be getting into the world of
private practice and why you came to it, how you came to it, what you did
there, and how you liked it.
MS. GERE: Well, I think as I left my story, I was at the Department of Justice as a Senior
Trial Counsel. I was very much enjoying the work, and then one random
week, two of my former DOJ colleagues, who had gone into private practice,
called me and said their firms were looking for someone with trial experience
to join them. It seemed to me that as I was approaching my fortieth birthday
and had never been in private practice that there must be some alignment of
the moon and the tides and my birthday, and so I thought, you know, I ought
to give that private practice a try.
I was very proud of the work that I did at the Department of Justice. I was
immensely lucky to work with brilliant people at the Department of Justice,
but for anyone who had not had that opportunity, I think people in private
– 181 –
practice tend to look down on people who have only worked for the
government.
MS. KAGAN: Or had a small practice or a solo practice.
MS. GERE: Yes. And so I thought I need to test myself. I need to figure out is there
something in my legal career that I have missed or in my own personal
education that I’ve missed that I would gain in private practice. So I
interviewed with two firms that my friends were working for. Both were
very impressive. I thought it was an interesting exercise to talk with a private
law firm about the next phase of my career, and the firm that I joined, Ross,
Dixon and Masback, was a relatively new, I think maybe a three-and-a-halfyear-
old firm. It was a spinoff from the venerable Hogan and Hartson. A
number of the people who left Hogan had been or even at that moment were
on Hogan’s executive committee, so it caused quite a kerfuffle when they
left. They had an abundance of work and wanted to hire somebody who
knew their way around the courtroom but didn’t necessarily have clients
because they already had too many clients. Those were the days. So I was in
the right place at the right time with the right skill set.
It was exciting because all but one person, one of the name partners, all
but one of the lawyers at the firm was younger than I, so I was betting on
learning from people who were younger than I was, and I thought either
that’s going to make me run faster or I am going to say this is not a very good
idea and go back to the Justice Department. I did not do that. Fortunately,
the people that I worked with were terrific lawyers who just liked the fact
– 182 –
that I had probably more trial experience than just about any of them and
government experience, but they were just immensely gifted lawyers. So as I
had at Justice, I learned every day from my new-found friends at Ross Dixon.
My work at the firm primarily, particularly at the beginning of my
practice –
MS. KAGAN: Let me just jump in. What year was that?
MS. GERE: I joined the firm in September of 1987.
MS. KAGAN: Do you want to talk about the runner-up firm?
MS. GERE: The other firm was then Jenner and Block. It was a much larger firm and
had, as I recall, fewer women, and I, at the end of the day, was excited to be
kind of at the beginning of a new business which Ross Dixon was. At this
point, I can’t even remember anything more than that other than I had some
very good interviews at both places, but I decided to go with Ross Dixon.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have any way of discerning whether you were being paid the market
rate being a female and out of government and at a small firm?
MS. GERE: As a government lawyer, I had no idea what anybody, and I wasn’t at the
time involved with anybody on a personal level enough to say so, what do
you make as a guy or what do you make as a woman. All I remember
thinking was that Ross Dixon paid me, and I can’t even remember the
amount, but at the time it seemed like a fortune and a signing bonus. But as a
government lawyer, it didn’t take a whole lot at that point to pay somebody a
fair amount more than they had been making. And when I got to the firm, I
went in as counsel, so I did not join the firm as a partner. They had told me I
– 183 –
think that they would consider me for a partnership in two years or
something.
MS. KAGAN: It would be a lot longer today probably.
MS. GERE: Right. And at the time, honestly, I didn’t even think I was going to be there
two years. I thought I would go back to the Justice Department, so I thought
I’d try this out for a year and see if I like it. I probably won’t, so then I’ll go
back to the government. Of course that was naïve too, thinking that I can just
pick up the phone and say two years later or a year later hey I’m ready to
come back, and I’m sure the answer would not necessarily have been the one
I wanted. But in any event, that was all academic because I was very happy
being at the firm.
MS. KAGAN: What was the percentage of women in the firm at that time?
MS. GERE: At the time, I’m trying to think. There was one woman who was a partner.
MS. KAGAN: Out of how many partners?
MS. GERE: Out of I believe at the time there were six. It might have been seven. The
numbers are a little fuzzy for me. But even one in 1987 was a significant
number of women partners. In the firm itself, there were at least five or six
women out of a couple of dozen, maybe thirty. So there was a good number
of women in the firm, which I thought, coming from Justice where there
were by the time I left, a number of women in the various parts of the
Department. I thought this is a firm where they are more enlightened, shall
we say. Being younger I think nobody had, well we always only hire men
kind of mentality, but that simply wasn’t the way it was. Certainly as time
– 184 –
went on and I was made a partner after I think I had been there a year maybe
and then I was made a partner.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a surprise?
MS. GERE: Yes. I had no idea I was being considered, and I’ll never forget either, when
I became a partner, I called my mom who was still alive at that time, and of
course there were no lawyers in my family, but I called and told her that I
had just made partner, which was a big deal, and she was totally like okay
but what did you have for dinner. I didn’t really have a family where people
understood the significance of that, and I’m not sure there was any reason
why they should. I was still the same person, the same sister, daughter,
whatever as the one who wasn’t a partner.
So that was kind of the beginning chapter of how I got to the firm. The
work that I primarily did was, this was in the time of the big bank failure
crisis in the late 1980s, early 1990s. My firm represented a number of
insurance companies. That was its stock.
MS. KAGAN: On the defense side?
MS. GERE: On the defense side. Well, yes and no. We were what’s referred to as
coverage counsel. We represented the company itself if it were sued for bad
faith or if it got embroiled in issues regarding legal fees that it was being
charged or asked to pay as well as giving legal advice to the company as to
whether a claim that had been made for payment under the policy was in fact
covered by the policy. So it was a lot of very sophisticated contract analysis,
but that was not mostly what I did. At least I did some of the coverage work,
– 185 –
but then the other part of what we did when an insured was sued and had
coverage under its policy, for some insurers, the company controlled who
would be appointed as defense counsel to defend that insured, and so that
was more the kind of work that I did. Most of the work that I did was in
defense of either lawyers or accountants, professionals, and so, for example,
you were representing a law firm against a complaint that they had
committed malpractice. You were actually looking at the merits of the claim,
but you were being paid to do that job by the insurance company. So there
were all kinds of legal issues about should an insured get to choose their own
counsel or not or as defense counsel, was your allegiance to the client or was
it to the insurance company or was it some hybrid. It was, to me, an entirely
new world. This was not government litigation. I knew the rules of the road.
I knew what to do in a courtroom, but I had to learn how to speak a whole
new language. And here’s the other irony. My grandfather began an
insurance agency in Syracuse, New York. It was the oldest insurance agency
in Central New York. When my grandfather, whom I never knew, passed
away, my father was asked by his mother to come and take over the business
so that it could continue and would support my grandmother as well. I think
I mentioned earlier that I have three sisters. My father would no more have
thought about having a woman run or help him run an insurance agency than
fly to the moon, and here after his death, of course, here was one of his
daughters defending insurance companies, the very insurance companies he
– 186 –
represented in his insurance agency. So it took a while for the world to
evolve in my family, at least.
MS. KAGAN: Yes. Coming full circle. In a lot of those private practice cases, were there a
significant number more that settled than in your government work?
MS. GERE: A lot of our cases, a lot of it was just figuring out how to get the best
settlement, but that’s true with all civil litigation.
MS. KAGAN: Right.
MS. GERE: The other thing that I did a fair amount of was mediation and arbitration.
Again as ways of attempting to avoid the courtroom, but at the same time,
you could not be an effective advocate at an arbitration or a mediation if the
other side thought you’re going to eventually capitulate because you don’t
even know where the courthouse is let alone when to stand up or which side
of the courtroom to sit on. So you had to be able to bring your bona fides
along with you.
I was very engaged in that practice. I thought it was interesting. I thought
it was exciting. The cases that I worked on were failures of huge banks that
were putting law firms that had been in business for decades at risk of failure,
as well as international and national accounting firms. These were no small
stakes. So I never felt that I substantively took a step down from the types of
legal issues that I had at the Justice Department. Now, obviously, they were
of interest to a much smaller group of people than those reading the front
page of the New York Times or the Washington Post. But to the clients, they
were very important.
– 187 –
MS. KAGAN: And in some cases, as a practical matter, they had more of an impact.
MS. GERE: Yes. So, I did that kind of work at the firm and maybe what I’ll do is kind of
talk about the work that I did at the firm and then I want to make sure that I
talk to you about or that I include in this oral history my effort to balance
being in private practice with no longer being in public service at the Justice
Department. So pivoting back to the kind of work that I did at the firm. So I
did that, and over time, I did some of the coverage work at the firm, meaning
I represented the companies themselves in their issues about whether some
part of their policy actually provided coverage under their insurance policy.
I also, and I’m not sure how or why, but as time went on and as
employment issues more generally became, or came to the forefront,
including for insurers because they were now writing employment practices
liability insurance, I ended up defending a lot of employment cases on the
direct defense side. So a lot of trade associations, non-profits whose staff,
typically the CEO, had done something that someone had either sent a
demand letter threatening litigation or they actually filed suit. And I found
that very interesting because of the human issues that were involved, and
coming closer to the end of my time at the firm, I guess probably more
through word of mouth and the fact that I had this employment experience, I
ended up representing a good number of women who were being eased out of
the workplace for lack of a better description because they had gotten older,
they were more expensive, and they were frankly more vulnerable to
– 188 –
somebody coming in and saying we want new blood here, we want new
faces. I loved working on those cases.
MS. KAGAN: You were still on the defense side in those cases?
MS. GERE: Well, I was representing, this was just a woman would call me, and I would
be retained by the woman. It had nothing to do with any of my insurance
cases.
MS. KAGAN: So you were doing plaintiff side work as well?
MS. GERE: Right.
MS. KAGAN: There are a lot of firms that won’t go both sides.
MS. GERE: Right. And, of course, I always had to ensure that there were no conflicts for
any of the firm’s clients. A lot of the women that I represented frankly
needed a voice for themselves because it’s very hard to advocate for yourself,
particularly when you are a woman of a certain age and that’s not the way
you’ve been trained, it’s not the way that you’ve been expected to act, and if
you did, that would be further confirmation of why you should be out the
door. For most of those cases, what I attempted to do was to help women
move on because I knew and could explain to them the risks of litigation,
both financial and emotional, and could look at where they were and figure
out where the pressure points were where I could get the best exit package
possible for this person. I took pride in what I was able to accomplish. I
think it kept me connected to being active in the practice of law believing I
was doing something that I thought was for the good of another individual.
MS. KAGAN: I understand.
– 189 –
MS. GERE: Which sometimes in private practice, particularly when you’re in a corporate
practice, you, I think, sometimes don’t even think about the personal prices
that are being paid by people.
Anyway, so I did that, and that was very interesting. While I was at the
firm, I also represented, and this was back through more often than not an
insurance carrier but representing a lot of non-profits and trade associations
on governance issues, on relationships, what’s the role of the CEO, what’s
the role of the board, what’s the role of the membership. What are the
bylaws, how should bylaws be constructed. So I learned a lot about nonprofit
law and non-profits, which is also interesting. There’s a theme here. I
was a litigator. I was somebody who knew the rules of the road, if you will.
I knew the Federal rules. I knew how to read the local rules. I knew how to
read state court rules. But I always got to learn some new subject matter,
which I thought was what kept the practice of law interesting.
MS. KAGAN: Yes. And with a lot of matters being fact-driven, it’s always a new day.
MS. GERE: Right. And you really have to immerse yourself, and you really have to
know the facts because so much turns on finding that one little piece of
information the other side overlooked or never thought about. It makes a big
difference.
During some of my time at the firm, I was on the firm’s recruitment
committee. I became the I don’t know whether I was ever formally named as
Ethics Counsel, by that title, but after a while, I became the person everybody
– 190 –
came to and essentially said well if Sally thinks it’s okay, then you can do it.
If not, we need to think about it.
MS. KAGAN: But you didn’t have every answer right at your fingertips.
MS. GERE: Oh gosh no. And after some period of time, my firm of Ross, Dixon and
Masback merged with a firm in San Diego, California, and became a larger
firm. It was a national law firm, and as we grew, of course, issues of conflict
became more complicated, and the firm took all of those issues very
seriously.
MS. KAGAN: What firm did you merge with?
MS. GERE: We merged with a firm that basically was led by a lawyer by the name of
Roy Bell, maybe ten lawyers with him, but by then, Ross, Dixon and
Masback had established an office in Orange County. We had an eclectic
firm at the beginning. We had a very significant First Amendment practice,
and we represented the Orange County Register, the newspaper. The
Register wanted us to actually have lawyers in California. We opened an
office in Orange County, and then our insurance clients said that’s great
because now we’ve got counsel on both coasts. Eventually we also had an
office in Chicago, so the firm, during the period when firms were more flush,
we were beginning to expand, and at that point, our ethics issues and other
issues that might fall more generically under those of general counsel were
coming more to the fore, and I, after a while, went to our management
committee and said I would like to be formally recognized as general
counsel, and here’s what I think the duties should be and how this should
– 191 –
operate and have other partners work with me as needed on issues. So the
firm agreed, and we did that. I did not get a break in my billable hours, but
the idea was we have people who work on recruiting, we have people who
work on the executive committee, we have all kinds of people doing all kinds
of things, so this will just be your administrative contribution. At some point
I kind of pushed back on that. Anyway, that’s another part of the story, but
as the firm grew larger and ultimately when we merged with Troutman
Sanders, which wasn’t until 2009. How funny. As we are talking, something
just popped up from Troutman on my computer. It must be an alumni
newsletter or something. Anyway, when we merged with Troutman, there
was an established general counsel’s office and there were representatives in
each of the cities who were assistant general counsel. I was not at that point
general counsel for the entire firm because I was not with the legacy
Troutman people, but I remained the primary deputy general counsel in D.C.
for the firm.
MS. KAGAN: Were you consulted before mergers to determine how difficult the conflicts
that would arise would be to overcome?
MS. GERE: We had a lot of conversations, and at the time that we decided to merge with
Troutman, my recollection is that I was on the executive committee at that
point so I was quite actively involved in is this going to work and how is it
going to work and who might be a beneficiary or who might lose business or
who might be forced out. It was compounded because in D.C., we were the
only physical Ros Dixon office where there already was a Troutman office,
– 192 –
so it was physically putting people together from the Ross Dixon Washington
office and the Troutman Washington office. In all of the other geographic
areas, Troutman had, and still has, a big presence in Richmond and it’s an
Atlanta firm. But in no other city were the two firms physically thrust
together. Now we’re married, here you go, figure it out.
MS. KAGAN: Did it require a physical move?
MS. GERE: Yes, which was probably a not insignificant part of our decision-making
process for Ross Dixon was coming within reaching distance at the end of
our lease at 2001 K Street, and Troutman had sufficient space at 401 Ninth
Street, so Ross Dixon moved to the Troutman space.
MS. KAGAN: Was that the first really significant merger?
MS. GERE: Yes. In terms of numbers and the overlap in physical space. Troutman was
significantly larger than we were. Troutman recently again has merged with
Pepper Hamilton, and now it’s really huge.
MS. KAGAN: Was there concern about a change in the culture, how the smaller firm, by
your bootstraps kind of mentality, would be affected?
MS. GERE: Yes. The merger with Troutman was probably an economic necessity. This
again was really when the market and the economy were doing very poorly,
and it was also for the younger people in the firm to say we want to be sure
that there’s a structure that’s going to carry on because those of us who were
at Ross Dixon in the early days, this is twenty-some years later, and so
people are aging, and the younger folks want to know okay, what’s the next
chapter look like.
– 193 –
MS. KAGAN: Had not many younger attorneys been made partners?
MS. GERE: Yes. But they were the ones saying okay, are we going to be able to expand
our business, should we be looking to get into some new area, cyber law,
whatever. I have to say it was very bittersweet, and not everybody was
enthused about it, although I think that’s probably true of any merger.
People who are happy with it, and people who are not. And there was a
whole concern I think particularly for a number of the women in the firm that
we were marrying a southern white male establishment law firm. That really
was not who we had been heretofore.
MS. KAGAN: The percentage of women went drastically down.
MS. GERE: Yes. But the number of people went up when we merged with the folks in
California. I’m not even sure though if they had one woman in that office.
So that was a question for us at that point too. I don’t think any of these
mergers are matches made in heaven, frankly.
So that’s kind of as the firm evolved, my professional work evolved, and
mostly I remained in the litigation area, although with the time that I
represented a number of women, I would say that was more traditional legal
counseling, but the end game, if there were not a resolution, was going to be
litigation, so I didn’t get too far away from it.
MS. KAGAN: What were some of the more interesting ethical questions that you had to
face?
MS. GERE: Oh my goodness. Mostly they were without disclosing too much, but
typically about whether we could take on a new client and particularly where
– 194 –
we represented this whole bevvy of insurance companies who in turn had
insureds. If we were looking at clearing a conflict, how did you do that. It
was just the same kinds of issues that people come across today. It was not
to me at the time so much the specific issues as there were camps of people.
Do you want this firm to succeed as a business, we can’t be turning clients
down. There was a camp that said we can’t be taking clients that we should
not for ethics reasons be taking because we’ll end up being disqualified as
counsel or brought up on whatever bar charge. So it often was kind of
negotiating with your own partners to enlighten them about how one should
analyze the issues and what the risks were of making a wrong call.
MS. KAGAN: I assume that where there were client conflicts, we’re talking about different
substantive areas.
MS. GERE: Yes. Usually.
MS. KAGAN: And so were you able to get a lot of waivers?
MS. GERE: We did get waivers. I remember working on those and getting informed
consent, and how do you get informed consent. I mean all those kind of
traditional ethics issues. And I think to the credit of my partners, I don’t
recall ever being presented with a case regardless of whether it was the
partner who brought in the most money every year saying damn it, we have
to take this case. I never experienced anything like that, to the firm’s credit
and to the partners’ credit.
MS. KAGAN: And nobody had to leave the firm because of conflicts?
– 195 –
MS. GERE: No. Our partners, that was before Troutman, our folks who had a First
Amendment practice, eventually they peeled off because there were, from
time to time, some conflict issues. They set off to form a new firm. There
were, I think, four of them maybe who left the firm. I think they probably
still have the top-ranked First Amendment practice in the country.
MS. KAGAN: Which firm is it?
MS. GERE: The partners were Lee Levine, Mike Sullivan, and Betsy Koch, so it was
Levine, Sullivan, and Koch. Now I haven’t checked lately as to whether
people have retired, but it was definitely a thriving enterprise. Again, just
brilliant lawyers, every single one of them. Betsy was one of the women
who was at Ross Dixon when I joined. She was an associate. But again, she
was one of the women who already was there, and obviously went on to do
some very good work. I can remember getting, I hadn’t been at the firm too
long, I guess you have to kind of laugh at it. Lee Levine had an argument in
the United States Supreme Court, and one of my partners, who shall remain
nameless, or probably more than one, decided that befitting his new position,
Lee really needed a wardrobe refresh, so I was tasked to go shopping with
him and another partner. We decided what suits he should buy and what ties
he should wear.
MS. KAGAN: Is this for the press?
MS. GERE: We have this person who’s now going to be out in the public and the face of
Ross Dixon, so let’s spruce him up a little bit. This was not my idea. I was
just the woman who was brought along on this endeavor. As I recall, we
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went to, at the time, I think there was a big Britches, I don’t know if you
remember the men’s store Britches of Georgetown, that’s where we went to
do the shopping. Anyway, the times in the early days of the firm were great
fun. People were young. They were energetic, smart. They were hardworking,
and we were making it on our own. So that kept me there certainly,
and the idea of going back to Justice didn’t cross my mind again for many,
many years.
MS. KAGAN: How would you say the atmosphere, the culture, was different from the
government?
MS. GERE: I would say that that was one of the things that drew me to the firm was
because it seemed the culture was not significantly different. I did not feel at
the firm, and maybe it’s because I was made partner so early and I never
really thought about that, but there did not ever seem to be competition with
your colleagues. I didn’t compete with my partners for business. I didn’t
compete with my partners for associates to do more work or for a secretary.
It always felt as though we were in it together, and that’s certainly the feeling
that I had at Justice. It was different because while there was a great deal at
stake in cases at the Justice Department, it was not as though you would ever
have a client who would say screw that up, I’m done with you. And yet that
happens in private practice. It was a different kind of pressure that, as my
senior partner Stu Ross, repeated endlessly in giving advice to the younger
and new lawyers. (I was younger than Stu, and he was the only one who was
older than I was at Ross Dixon.) Stu used to say that “lawyers advise, and
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clients decide.” He said you have to do your best to give them all the advice
that they need to make a decision, that’s your job, and then you stop, and
they have to make the decision based on your advice. Don’t ever mix
yourself up with being the client.
MS. KAGAN: And then if a client asked what you would do, would you bow out of that?
MS. GERE: Or you would reframe and say if it were I, I would look at say, here are the
risks, and you kind of try and do it that way.
MS. KAGAN: Being a woman, was it different being in the government versus being at the
firm because there was more of a gender parity in the federal government
than law firms.
MS. GERE: Yes. And there was, and this goes into the philosophy of running law firms,
and that is among partners, whether you disclose to each other how much
money everybody is making as a partner. In many firms at the time that was
a highly-kept secret. Ross Dixon did not operate that way, so we knew what
other partners made, but then, that opens another set of issues because people
will say pick “x” partner and say I do the same thing that “x” does, and I’m
not making the amount of money that “x” is making, and so compensation
issues were handled by a compensation committee that was appointed by the
partnership each year. It involved, along with whether to make somebody a
partner, some very contentious financial issues.
MS. KAGAN: How many women were typically on the compensation committee?
MS. GERE: Until after I had been there for quite some time the women partners typically
made less than the male partners. Everybody had a different way of valuing
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their contribution. Did you look at billable hours, did you look at
administrative work, did you look at the work in the community, the support
of the profession, pro bono work, how did you make that calculation. I can
remember many years people trying to sit down and come up with some way
to objectify that.
MS. KAGAN: A formula.
MS. GERE: Yes. Some kind of formula. From time to time we did have formulas, but
even a formula still has to have some elements put into the formula and has
to have some latitude. And not surprisingly, either, until you’re actually on
the compensation committee, which I was multiple times, you don’t really
appreciate how difficult it is to make some of those comparisons and to make
some of those decisions, particularly when these are people who are your
friends and the colleagues that you work with. And sometimes the
compensation committee got it right, and sometimes it didn’t.
MS. KAGAN: Did partners do self-evaluations?
MS. GERE: After a while, yes, we did. And then we did, as part of your self-evaluation,
you had to discuss what you did for the firm, what your plans were for the
next year, what you plan to bring to the firm. That sort of thing. But it was
always I think a difficult process, and I think that the women in the firm took
longer to catch up financially, and I’m not sure that, frankly, they ever did.
MS. KAGAN: Was there any maternity leave policy?
MS. GERE: Not really. Not until D.C. law had some policies, but my three partners, one
who was an original partner, had children, and the other two also. One who
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was my DOJ colleague, she ended up having children, and then the third
partner became a partner at the same time I did, she had children. All of
them had spouses who worked. All of them had essentially live-in or
functionally live-in childcare. All of my male partners had stay-at-home
wives. I admire my female partners for what they were able to do in the face
of the demands on them because there was no letup and no recognition of any
additional role that all the women were playing.
MS. KAGAN: Were they at the firm when they had the children?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: So did they take time off without compensation?
MS. GERE: That’s an interesting question. I don’t remember. I’ll have to ask a couple of
them. I don’t know. I should know, but I don’t. And whatever it was, they
were all such hard drivers themselves that I doubt they took anything more
than whatever minimal amount, and probably continued working from home
even though back in those days before computers that was a lot more
challenging.
MS. KAGAN: Did you work harder when you were in the firm than in the government or
work longer hours?
MS. GERE: I would say they were for the most part comparable, although overall I would
say I worked longer hours at Justice. But again, I didn’t have children, so if
there was someone looking around for who can jump on a plane, who can
stay late, for the most part I volunteered. But when someone simply says you
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don’t have a family so it’s not as much an imposition on you, I think it’s not
a fair analysis.
MS. KAGAN: Right. It’s not as though you were waiting for your life to be filled by more
work.
MS. GERE: Right. Eventually, too, more women became partners and there were more
of us to have a voice, which I think helped. Although, we had issues in the
firm. I think there were, as in other firms, male members of the firm, that
hadn’t quite figured out the “me too” movement and being part of the
structure of the office of what’s appropriate, what’s moral, what’s ethical.
People would come to me, and I developed a very close working relationship
with our HR director, Terri Carnahan, so she would come to me with issues
to discuss and how to handle things. I also was among the people that if
there were any claim of harassment, I would do an investigation and
determine what steps, if any, should be taken.
MS. KAGAN: How much sexual harassment was going on in the firm as far as you know?
MS. GERE: Probably about the same amount that was everywhere else, which, to me,
was too much. I’m sure that people needed to have the curtain drawn back.
People needed to understand that what they thought was a clever innuendo
was in fact an unwelcome comment that potentially spoke of a bigger issue.
But even at that, the founders of the firm, the people who controlled the most
shares, were all men. I hope that it was a different era. I certainly found as I
continued to travel around the country and go to courts in other jurisdictions
and meet with lawyers in other jurisdictions that the fact of being a woman
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became less remarkable and you were viewed more as a professional and
that’s the way you should be treated. I think even in the context of the firm,
it took a while before some of these guys recognized I’m one of your partners
too. I happen to be a different gender, but that doesn’t give you either
latitude to treat me unfairly or to harass me or whatever. It was dicey, I have
to say, because there were people who left the firm and they were women.
MS. KAGAN: So you said that the partners who had children when they were already at the
firm were very driven, so they really didn’t care much about any kind of
maternity leave. But was it also because they felt they would slip behind in
their careers and in the way they were perceived at the firm if they took
maternity leave?
MS. GERE: Yes. I would say definitely yes, with a healthy dose of they’re just Type A
personalities, that they were going to be the best that they could be regardless
of their maternal state.
MS. KAGAN: And so the sexual harassment was less in the government?
MS. GERE: Yes. Definitely less. That’s based on my observation.
MS. KAGAN: But you do get a sense.
MS. GERE: Yes. And, of course, back in the early days when I was at Justice, there
wasn’t any such thing as sexual harassment to anyone’s observation or
acknowledgement.
MS. KAGAN: Was the Women’s Bar Association in existence by then?
MS. GERE: Yes.
MS. KAGAN: And so were these kinds of issues that came to the fore?
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MS. GERE: But Barbara they came to the fore when I was clerking for Judge Green who
was a woman, and she was treated very differently on the bench by the
lawyers who would come into the courtroom than they would have ever
treated Judge Gesell next door or Judge Jones at the end of the hall. I was
clerking in 1972, 1973, 1974. These were times when there weren’t women
on the bench and there were a lot of older men in D.C. who could not accept
the fact that there was a woman sitting up at a higher level on the bench
telling them or their clients what they had to do.
MS. KAGAN: Well hopefully they did that at their own risk.
MS. GERE: Well, yes, which I always thought was crazy for them and their clients.
MS. KAGAN: Were they even aware of it?
MS. GERE: I’m confident it was on behalf of a number of them flat out intentional, trying
to say can I get a rise. I guess that made me think about it because my judge
was president of the Women’s Bar Association years before she went on the
bench. She was well aware, and I think was unfairly held to a different
standard and criticized more than her colleagues for doing the same things.
MS. KAGAN: Criticized in evaluations, outside evaluations?
MS. GERE: People would, word of mouth, I guess.
MS. KAGAN: Probably in the hallways kind of thing?
MS. GERE: Yes. But I got to see up close and personal as the judge’s law clerk, and I
also took time during my clerkship to go and watch how other judges
conducted their courtrooms just because it was something the judge
encouraged us to do as part of our learning process.
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MS. KAGAN: So did your judge talk with you a lot about that?
MS. GERE: Yes. She was definitely of the era that you simply had to work harder and be
better prepared and have a very thick skin. Don’t let it get to you, don’t let
them see you sweat, don’t let them see you cry. And that’s why I was so
fortunate to have a role model. So many women in the courtroom didn’t. I
was thinking about that as I was reading this book that I was telling you
about, Shortlisted. Looking back at my career how unique given when I
graduated from law school and was looking for legal jobs that my very first
supervisor was a woman. Two of the Assistant Attorneys General for whom
I worked at DOJ were women, and of course I clerked for Judge Green
before I went to Justice, so before I ever got to private practice, I had been in
workplaces where women were in charge. There hadn’t been a woman
Attorney General, but the Attorney General would have been so many levels
above me it wouldn’t have mattered on a day-to-day basis. It was the
Assistant General that ran the Division. One of the Assistant Attorneys
General for whom I worked was Barbara Babcock. She was a formidable
lawyer and definitely a formidable woman and somebody that I interacted
with on virtually almost a daily basis in certain of my cases. And Alice
Daniel, who was the next AAG, was as well. So I was really very lucky to
have women that I could model myself after. Every single one of them was
head and shoulders in my view above the men around them.
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MS. KAGAN: There was some school of thought that women attorneys as supervisors were
tougher on younger or less experienced women attorneys than they were on
the men.
MS. GERE: I had heard that, and ironically, where I heard that most was when I went into
private practice, that none of the secretaries wanted to work for the female
partners because they were more demanding. I don’t recall any of the female
associates saying I don’t really want to work with her because she’s a woman
or any of the male associates either. It was more the secretaries, and that
seemed to be the rap. Of course I had at the firm three spectacular secretaries
with whom I still stay in touch. We had some times, but we figured it out.
With my last secretary, she’d been there long enough, she’d seen everything.
She already knew it all.
MS. KAGAN: What other activities were you involved in while you were at the firm?
MS. GERE: This was, as I said, I regretted leaving public service when I left the Justice
Department, so I started looking to do other things that I thought would offset
private practice. So at the firm, I did a number of pro bono cases. When the
firm first started, we were all about pro bono, and everybody got credit for
every hour of pro bono that they worked the same as for a billable hour.
MS. KAGAN: That was enlightened back then.
MS. GERE: That was definitely enlightened. We ended up with one of our lawyers,
David Dwares, being selected as Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year by the bar.
We had terrific results for various clients. I handled both the supervision of
some of the younger lawyers who were doing pro bono litigation, and I also
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then took on some cases myself. One involving a very complicated custody
and divorce case, and that went on for years and actually went to trial. It was
quite something. Another case that my firm and this was I think to its everlasting
credit took on pro bono was on behalf of a Justice Department lawyer
who had not gotten his renewal notice from the bar to pay his dues and had
then not paid his dues. He ended up through a set of circumstances where the
judge looking at another issue found that the lawyer had been
administratively suspended from the bar and so he had practiced for about a
year without being licensed to practice law.
MS. KAGAN: I know this case.
MS. GERE: So we got a TRO on behalf of the lawyer that kept the Justice Department,
which was about to make him file notices with courts around the country
advising that he had been practicing without a law license. The bar also
refused, even if he paid the dues, to retroactively admit him. So the period of
time of unauthorized practice of law was always going to be on his record,
hence the Justice Department couldn’t continue to employ him. He had been
at Justice at that point for 25 years and just been the subject of a federal
opinion extolling his virtues and discussing what a great lawyer he was and
what a fine job he’d done on behalf of the United States. It was not the bar’s
finest hour, shall we say. It was the bar’s system of keeping track of lawyers
and dues that was the problem. It was antiquated, it didn’t operate properly,
and then they had this notion that if you missed the deadline, you were just
out of luck—there was no way to make a correction. Michael Sitcov was the
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name of the lawyer at Justice. The system was unfair at best,
unconstitutional at worst. There was another situation involving a lawyer
who had been serving in, I don’t remember which war, maybe Iraq. He had
failed to pay his dues, and his father tried to pay them, and the bar wouldn’t
reinstate him retroactively. In any event the case involving Mike Sitcov
became a federal case when it never should have been. It was before Judge
Emmet Sullivan in the D.C. federal court. Judge Sullivan had, as you
probably know, previously served on the D.C. Court of Appeals.
MS. KAGAN: And Superior Court.
MS. GERE: Yes. And Superior Court. But it was his time as a D.C. Court of Appeals
judge that influenced him in the Sitcov case I believe. The D.C. Court of
Appeals oversees the admissions process of the bar. And so Judge Sullivan
basically said I think you ought to go over to that court and ask for its view.
All this did was increase exponentially the cost to my client at which point
my firm, as I say to its ever-lasting credit, handled the case pro bono and
allowed us to continue litigating. In any event, the Court of Appeals said
well, we can’t address the constitutional issues that you raised here and so at
the end of the day we’re going to send it back to Judge Sullivan. And so it
went back to Judge Sullivan who said, really, can’t you settle this case. This
is getting crazy. And so we ended up going to mediation with a courtappointed
mediator from the D.C. Circuit Mediation Panel who was
phenomenal and settled the case with Sitcov being retroactively admitted and
wiping clean his bar history and restoring his record without blemish, as it
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should have been. The bar thereafter has definitely cleaned up its antiquated
processes. It was a “bet the company” case for Mike, this man who had
worked tirelessly for his whole professional life at Justice was going to have
it all taken away because the bar did not send him a notice. Yes, we should
all remember all kinds of things. But, if you want my money, you need to
send me a bill and tell me it’s time to pay. If you don’t do your part, I cannot
do mine. So that was a fascinating case. But that was only one part of my
relationship with the D.C. Court of Appeals, that was my pro bono litigation.
But several years before that, one day I got a call from the Chief Judge of the
D.C. Court of Appeals, Annice Wagner, who asked me if I would be willing
to serve on the court’s committee on admissions.
MS. KAGAN: Who was the judge?
MS. GERE: Chief Judge Annice Wagner. I knew who Chief Judge Wagner was, but I
didn’t know her well, and I had truthfully no idea what the committee on
admissions did. She made it sound very engaging and my thought was since
when do you ever say no to the Chief Judge who calls you to be on a
committee. So I thought okay, I’ll figure it out. As it turned out, the
Committee on Admissions, which is an arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals, is
responsible for the administration of the bar exam and recommendations to
the court on the character and fitness of bar applicants for fitness to practice
in the District of Columbia. When I first was appointed to the committee,
that meant I wrote the questions that were asked on the bar exam for certain
topics and I graded the exams and I sat essentially as a trial bench with the
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other members of the committee on character and fitness issues. For
example, if you passed the exam, were you fit to practice law—had you
committed a crime, did you have issues with bankruptcy, had you abused
your spouse, all manner of issues, each one very interesting but each one
very troubling, and it took a fair amount of time.
MS. KAGAN: Was this after the Sitcov case?
MS. GERE: No. This is years before. But having been on the Committee on Admissions
for two terms and my ethics role at the firm, I then represented a number of
people who were trying to be admitted to the D.C. Bar and had something in
their background they knew was going to be a problem. I developed another
niche area of practice as a result of court service.
MS. KAGAN: Yes. A niche practice.
MS. GERE: Right. But this would have been fairly early on. I’m trying to remember
what year. I was on the Committee on Admissions for eight years. It was
very time-consuming. There would have been back then, probably a couple
of hundred people who took the bar exam, maybe 250, so you would have
that many bar exams to grade. And the way it was done was we divided up
who graded which questions.
MS. KAGAN: Internal consistency.
MS. GERE: Yes. And grading consistency. And then we would go to Chicago and have
organized trial runs on grading because the National Conference of Bar
Examiners started writing uniform national questions and attempting to
impose some consistency on how questions were graded. But the grading of
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bar exams was quite time-consuming. And then the number of people who
had issues with their admission to the D.C. Bar even after they passed
definitely took a lot of time. I was on that committee, so basically, I was a
bar examiner from 1995 to 2002. We had during the time that I was on the
committee we had a very senior partner from a very well-known firm who
had been practicing law in the District of Columbia for about a decade at a
D.C. law firm without ever getting admitted to the D.C. Bar. By the time
somebody said to him you may think you’re pretty hot stuff, but you have to
be a member of the D.C. Bar, he had a problem. It might have even been an
opposing counsel who complained. I don’t know how it came to light. He
may have actually filed an application after somebody suggested that he seek
admission. We had expert witnesses. We had the name partner of the firm
who came in and testified. And I think as a result of that, of course, the
Committee on Admissions has no authority over a law firm qua law firm, but
it sent a signal to the legal community and to law firms that you don’t want to
be held up to this embarrassment, so to the extent as a firm you are paying
for the lawyers in your firm to belong to the bar, you better be checking that
they actually belong to the bar as well as paying their dues.
We had so many interesting matters. Another one that was a real cuttingedge
issue is that we had an individual who had been involved in the murder
of the first female officer killed on duty in the District of Columbia, and he
applied for admission to practice law in D.C. There are a number of
jurisdictions which have automatic prohibitions against admission. If you’ve
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been convicted of a felony, don’t even think about going to law school
because you won’t get admitted to the bar. D.C. has a somewhat different
standard, and back in the day, I don’t know, I haven’t looked at the cases in a
while, it used to be an eleven-factor test as to whether you had taken
responsibility, how long ago the crime was committed, how old you were,
what your role was, what you have done with your life since. There is a
question whether you have rehabilitated yourself. In the matter before us, the
person who had applied had done meaningful work while he was in prison
and had been admitted to law school with the full knowledge of the dean of
his background. The students elected him president of his law school class,
and so if one believed in redemption and followed the case law, you had to
give careful consideration to all of it. At the end of the day, my recollection
is that he was on parole, and that was one of the disqualifying factors for
admission in D.C.
MS. KAGAN: He was still serving a sentence?
MS. GERE: Yes. He was released but still under sentence. I believe he applied for his
parole to be concluded. After I was off the committee, I lost track of it. But
we had all kinds of issues with all sorts of people. Sometimes you would just
sit there and say to yourself, how did you think you were going to be a
lawyer. You lied on your law school application, you cheated on the bar
exam or whatever the transgression.
MS. KAGAN: How do you cheat on the bar exam?
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MS. GERE: Oh my. We had lots of those cases. People were very ingenious about
writing things on paper, on themselves. This is of course in the day before
computers. You couldn’t even use a computer for the bar exam, but people
would write codes to themselves on parts of their body and then go to the
restroom or try and take a backpack into the toilet stall. We had people who
worked out with somebody else, turn your test paper a certain way so I can
see it, but we’ll sit next to each other. People are creative, and not in a good
way. What makes you think you would ever be a good lawyer. A client is
supposed to be able to trust you.
So fast forward, not only was I then for two terms on the Committee on
Admissions looking at people at saying I’m not sure we should admit you
because you know what, we’re going to see you down the road before Bar
Counsel because you will have done exactly what we feared you would do.
So then I served two terms on a hearing committee for the Board on
Professional Responsibility, another court appointment. In other words, the
trial court that hears Bar Counsel complaints against lawyers who have been
charged by Bar Counsel. Again, fascinating cases. Sometimes you would
look at them and say there but the grace of God, and others you would look
at and say what were you thinking.
Of those cases, the most interesting case that I worked on involved a
former federal judge, Abraham Sofaer, who was the Legal Adviser at the
State Department when a Pan Am airliner was downed by alleged Libyan
terrorists. Sofaer left the State Department and went to work at a private firm
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and was representing Libya in connection with the downing of the plane. So
then-bar counsel Len Becker, another brilliant lawyer, decided that this
warranted a sua sponte charge, so he, as Bar Counsel, filed the charge for
violating the District’s Rules on Professional Responsibility. I was on the
hearing committee that was assigned to hear that case. There were very highpowered
lawyers and considerable testimony. I think it went on for two
weeks maybe. Meanwhile I was still trying to juggle my law firm work.
These are things I was supposed to be doing in my spare time and not my
billable time. At the end of the day, we concluded that he had violated the
D.C. Rules on Professional Responsibility and should be sanctioned. We
wrote a very lengthy, I want to say sixty- or seventy-page opinion. I should
give due credit. The person who had the heaviest pen because you sat in
panels of three, two lawyers and a non-lawyer. The other lawyer on my
panel was Glenn Fine, whose name you may recognize because he was the
Inspector General at DOD who recently was asked to resign from the
position—solely for political reasons. Glenn is a brilliant, brilliant lawyer.
So obviously it was a pleasure to work with him. He was so smart. We,
mostly he, crafted a terrific opinion that I thought was exactly where it
should be. Our non-lawyer member was not in agreement. The bar member,
Judge Sofaer, appealed, but was not successful. The appeal goes from the
hearing committee to the Board on Professional Responsibility, which
adopted our decision. Then, if it is appealed further, it goes to the D.C. Court
of Appeals. The D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the decision by the Board on
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Professional Responsibility against Sofaer. He then appealed to the Supreme
Court but was unsuccessful there as well. I don’t think the Court even took
cert. So that was very interesting.
I always had a lot on my plate because that was not all I did. I was on a
number of other court committees at the same time. And then along the way,
tell me to stop when you’re ready, but along the way, I also decided that it
would be very good to teach, particularly at the time, and this would have
been in the mid-1990s. The person that I was dating, Bill Causey, had been
teaching. First, he taught at AU, and then he taught at Georgetown where he
taught a trial practice course. I remember saying to him, do you have women
in your class, and he said yes. I said what kind of role model are you. You
need to have a woman in there. So one thing led to another, and I applied to
become an Adjunct Professor. For many years, we co-taught a course on
trial practice, and eventually, the dean asked us to come up with a course that
was two semesters long. So the first semester was basically the building
blocks of civil litigation, doing discovery, interviewing witnesses, selecting
your client, figuring out which court you’re going to be in. And then the
second semester was the traditional trial advocacy, how do you do an
opening statement, a direct examination, a cross examination, a closing
argument. But this was putting the two pieces together so people understood
there was actually a good reason to think about what kinds of interrogatories
you were sending out or what questions you were asking in a deposition
because those were the underpinnings for when you had to go to trial. I think
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there’s a real disconnect for young lawyers who want to litigate to understand
how that process really all fits together.
So I taught at Georgetown for a couple of years with my then-significant
other, now my husband, and then he moved on to teach other things.
Teaching together was not the best thing for our relationship anyway. We
have very different styles, which was one of the things I think that the
students liked. So I set about finding another professor to teach with, and,
over the years, I taught with several of my male partners at the firm, each of
whom had very varied careers and strong communications skills and would
introduce a different perspective from mine. I think the students in the class
enjoyed that, and seeing that trial practice, the rules are the rules, but how
you use the rules and how you personally present something to someone,
there’s discretion, there’s flexibility. You’ve got to figure out what works for
you as much as anything, figuring out how to be a good lawyer in the
courtroom.
MS. KAGAN: Did you talk to the women about how they should dress in court?
MS. GERE: You bet. Because when I first started, and the way that the class culminated,
the two-semester class, was that the students would actually try the case that
they had been working on all year before a real judge. Sometimes I was able
to talk a federal judge into it. Sometimes it was a Superior Court judge.
Either way, they were terrific people and saints for taking a Saturday to help
train new lawyers, because it took a whole day to preside over one of these
trials.
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MS. KAGAN: Did you have a jury?
MS. GERE: Yes. We would have a jury. We frequently asked the students to, at the
beginning the year, we would say each of you, and we had maximum
enrollment of eight students in the class, each of you will be responsible for
at the end of the year for putting two people on the jury for an entire Saturday
in the springtime with whom you have not discussed any of the case over the
preceding year. We had one student who got his high school English teacher,
who had been such a role model for him and encouraged him to go to college
and then to law school, to come and sit on the jury. We had people’s parents,
we had other students. So it really was good because we had a whole
collection of people, and then as part of this exercise, the jury got instructions
from the judge, they went back to the jury room, they deliberated, and while
they were deliberating, the judge did the constructive critique of the
performance of each of the students, and then we would bring the jurors back
in, and they would render their verdict. Sometimes there were some
shocking results. People who thought I put my friend on there, my friend
wasn’t supposed to vote that way. Then we would all go out and have a
drink and debrief and talk about the trial and the class. The other professor
and I, whichever person it happened to be, would wish the students well.
I was uncannily lucky that two of my star students, Brant Martin and Matt
Blecher, from my entire teaching career came to work for me at OAG. One
of them, Matt, is still there.
MS. KAGAN: Did you try to recruit them?
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MS. GERE: Yes. I told them this would be a good place for you to work, and that was at
the beginning of when we had what was, and still is, a very active legal
fellowship program, the Charles F.C. Ruff Fellows Program, that Attorney
General Irv Nathan began. It was a one-year fellowship that was offered in
local law schools. We, the Office of Attorney General, put up part of the
money, and the law school put up the other, and then the students came to the
Office for a year. If the Fellows had done a good job and they happened to
get lucky and there was an opening, a number of them got to stay on at OAG.
Life works in strange ways.
I enjoyed teaching. I was very gratified that Georgetown, which every year
gives out an award for the best adjunct professor, awarded it to me one year.
It’s always nice to have an accolade.
MS. KAGAN: When did you stop teaching?
MS. GERE: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and I did go back, as I recall, and
I taught a couple of years after that, so I think I had a hiatus. I think I missed
one year with treatment and so forth, but I did go back. I ended up teaching
until 2015. A good, long run, 1994 to 2015.
MS. KAGAN: Where’d you find good replacements?
MS. GERE: Never letting any prior tie get too cool, one of the people that I got was
Jimmy Rock, an associate who had worked with me at Ross Dixon. He left
the firm to join the Office of the Attorney General before I did, before I had
even thought about it. So he was there at OAG when I joined in 2011, and
he’s still there to this day. Another brilliant lawyer. He was, I had watched
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him in court. I had obviously grown up with him from the firm to OAG. He
did work for me, and I just knew that he was the next generation, the new
technology, the new techniques, so I was very excited. I taught with him
toward the very end, and then I decided to step back. There was another
young lawyer who had worked for me at OAG who was extremely
impressive and had tried a lot of cases, so I knew that she, Esther Yong
McGraw, and Jimmy Rock would make a great teaching team as they also
had worked together at OAG. They were in different parts of the Office, but
through circumstances had ended up working on something together, so I
knew they could get along. They kept up the teaching for several years after
that. Esther then had a baby and just didn’t have the time to work, raise her
child, and teach. Then Jimmy got promoted, and he got too busy. Oh well,
but we all had a good long run.
So that was good. And I had some other things that I did, at least during
that time period, more for the District Court. There was a Lawyer
Counseling Panel which I think the court now has let go dormant, in part
because the bar has picked up and has so many resources. But the Lawyer
Counseling Panel at one point was very active. Lawyers who practiced in the
district court were referred to this committee, and we were tasked with
working with lawyers before they made egregious law practice mistakes—or
after having problems, helping to teach and correct them. They needed help
figuring out how to balance their practice or refreshers on some of the
substantive areas, so it was sort of like a super-mentoring role. I worked with
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three or four lawyers over the time I was on that panel. Some of the issues
the Committee handled, the bar has a lot of resources on now, practice
management, and they have lawyer counseling that is staffed by
professionals with counseling degrees and experience, that sort of thing. So
that was another interesting committee assignment. You look at some of
these lawyers and say oh my gosh. Others you go there but the grace of god
because I could have gotten crosswise with that judge too.
During that time I was regularly asked to be a member of the D.C. Circuit
Judicial Conference, which is the conference that meets every other year with
judges and lawyers. It’s an honor to be asked to attend, and it’s all by
judicial invitation, unless you hold some position, for example, you’ve been
chair of a court committee. I always felt that it was necessary to give back to
the profession and to do pro bono work because I was no longer in
government service. These were some of the ways that I made sure that I
didn’t lose touch with how real people and real lawyers dealt with the world.
I think that contributed to my satisfaction with private practice, if you will.
MS. KAGAN: Did the firm continue to give full credit for time spent on pro bono work?
MS. GERE: No. And then we went through various iterations of who would get it and
was it a percentage of the hour. It got fairly sophisticated. I can’t speak for
now. I don’t know, and I did what I was doing for the couple of years that I
was at Troutman, but that would have been carried forward to what already
had been pending. That was part of I think the appeal of the firm in the first
instance too was that when it was young, it was very committed to pro bono,
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to the point that we used to sometimes laugh that the people who would
apply to us, the first question would be when can I start working on pro bono
cases, and you’d have to say well there are a couple other things that you also
have to do at the same time. People were somewhat naïve, and we may have
overplayed the stock and trade of our firm, but not exactly.
MS. KAGAN: It would go in cycles, and depending on what the job market was like,
students might not even raise the issue.
MS. GERE: Right. And while I was at the firm, because I really wanted young women to
join the firm and once they joined, to succeed, I did, not to the exclusion,
because I always had close relationships and some of the best associates that
I worked with and the ones I remained close to, were men, but I really tried
to make sure the women were treated equitably and became partners when
they should have and got the work that they should and were treated by the
same tests or actions that the men were. Unfortunately I was not always
successful.
MS. KAGAN: Did you have a lot of associates come in, close the door, and complain to you
or look for your advice?
MS. GERE: Yes. Regularly. There came a number of times when I would have to say to
people stop, I’m a partner, and what you tell me, I know you want to keep it
confidential, but as partner, I have an obligation to the partnership too. It
was always very difficult. I thought it was important for any lawyer, and I
had staff who came to me, men as well as women, and close the door. I
never wanted to discourage people from talking or pursuing what they
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thought that they should. I just needed them to understand that at a certain
point, I would have to be putting on my partner hat and that they needed to
be aware of that. I always thought that was kind of unfortunate. We had a
very savvy HR director, Terri Carnahan, who had started out as a messenger.
She was really something and just did a terrific job, educating herself and
being someone who could spot personnel issues and work things out. That
was one of the additional misfortunes when we merged with Troutman
Sanders, there was a question about an overlap in D.C. of administrative
staff, and Troutman tried to figure out how to work people in, but it ended up
that I think five of our administrative staff, including the person who had
been our COO, five of them got picked up and hired by another law firm here
in the city as a group, and they’re still working together. One of them has
retired. The rest of them are chugging along. That firm doesn’t realize, or
maybe they do by now, it was quite a few years ago, but what a good deal
they got. They were consummate professionals. It was a loss for us. The
people at Troutman were good, but they weren’t my Ross Dixon colleagues.
I don’t mean to say it that way, but they weren’t people I had grown up with
and helped form and understood how they thought and always knew I could
trust and rely on. It wasn’t that I couldn’t trust or rely on the people from
Troutman.
MS. KAGAN: It takes a while. Well, good. So is this a point that you think makes sense to
break?
MS. GERE: Yes. I think so.
– 221 –
– 222 –
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place by Zoom on Thursday,
August 27, 2020. This is the sixth interview.
MS. KAGAN: Good afternoon, Sally. We’re here for another installment of your
interviews.
MS. GERE: Good afternoon, Barbara.
MS. KAGAN: Do you want to do the recap that you had suggested on where we left off?
MS. GERE: Sure. I believe when we last left off in this story, I had, through serendipity,
been given an opportunity to give back to the city and go to work for
Irv Nathan, who had been named as the city’s new Attorney General by then-
Mayor Gray. I jumped at the chance. First of all, Irv Nathan is a lawyer who
is unparalleled in terms of intellect and public service, so the opportunity to
work for him was very attractive. Second, I wanted to close my career in
public service. The time was getting near.
MS. KAGAN: How well had you known Mr. Nathan before?
MS. GERE: I knew Irv professionally. Not a close friendship, but professionally. I also
knew his wife professionally. She and I were, and still are, very active in the
Girl Scouts, and we worked together on a board. So I knew both of them and
was very impressed. Judy Walter, Irv’s wife, is a force of nature herself in
her own field and is a truly remarkable woman. So, Irv made me an offer. I,
as I said, was very excited about the opportunity. I was not particularly
excited about the pay cut, which was enormous, but it was an opportunity
that I really did not want to forgo, and I guess maybe the luxury of having
– 223 –
reached a point in my career where I was at the twilight zone, money was not
the paramount interest.
MS. KAGAN: How old were you when you made the switch?
MS. GERE: Let’s see. I left the firm in 2011, so I was 64, almost 65, when I left. I’ll tell
you the other thing, and it may sound a little strange, and I hope that I
mentioned it earlier on in my conversation with you, Barbara, but my very
first job in the law while I was still in law school was at what was then called
the D.C. Corporation Counsel’s Office. So the D.C. Attorney General’s
Office was in fact just a new name for the former D.C. Corporation
Counsel’s Office. To me there was something, I don’t know, poetic might be
the wrong word, but something that felt right to close my career in the law
where I had begun it.
MS. KAGAN: Before the opportunity arose, had you set a date for retirement?
MS. GERE: I don’t know that I had set a date particularly, but as with most firms,
Troutman Sanders was sort of keeping an eye on people’s age and
encouraging the older partners to begin transitioning clients to younger
partners and start decreasing their activities in the firm. So certainly that was
part of what was going on, and frankly, I had kind of done everything that I
had hoped to do in a law firm, which was to establish myself as a good
lawyer and one who served her clients well but also who served her firm well
from the management committee, recruiting, ethics, general counsel, and my
paramount interest in mentoring young lawyers, men and women. And I
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thought now was the time while I still had some wits about me to go to a new
position, and I thought this job at OAG was made for me.
MS. KAGAN: So, was it difficult to transition out of the firm? Did you have a lot to wrap
up?
MS. GERE: I had a fair amount to wrap up, but probably unlike some people, I had
always made an effort to work with other people, so there were very few of
my clients that had not worked with other people in the firm, so when I left,
they were able to make a transition. It was hard to transition away from the
comfort of the firm, comfort both in terms of the people that I knew and
worked with, not just the other lawyers, but the support staff, my secretary,
paralegals, the messengers. The people who really, I worked with them as
people, not as nameless, faceless co-workers. And so going to OAG was an
entirely different experience. It was not different if I looked back at my days
at the Department of Justice. It was just that there had been 25 years in
between, and I had been much more self-reliant at Justice and then was
certainly expected to be when I was at OAG. OAG was underfunded. The
city was still coming out of the very grave economic problems that it had had
with the oversight of Congress and the Control Board. So there were no frills
at OAG. The office had gotten beyond what I had heard about as the not-toodistant
horrors of lawyers being expected to buy their own copy paper and
bringing toilet paper into the office because it was not being supplied. So
things were pretty grim. I got there when things were beginning to right
– 225 –
themselves, and I give Irv Nathan credit for having a good relationship with
the mayor and helping to right the office.
The work was on the one hand no different from what I had done pretty
much my whole life which was to litigate. It was much more focused on
litigation locally in the Superior Court and the District Court as opposed to
my prior practice that had been nationwide. It was very different though in
terms of the subject matter. I now was going back to my days of being a
government lawyer where my client was the people. So my client was at
OAG the people of the District of Columbia, which was exciting and
gratifying, but it took a bit of time to transition to those being my clients.
And, of course, the law had changed in the 25 years since I had been a
government lawyer, so a steep learning curve. But at least I had had the
fundamentals, so I understood things like sovereign immunity and qualified
immunity, tort actions against the government, which is where I started out
initially when I joined OAG. I started in the Civil Litigation Division, which
was responsible for defending all of the civil litigation filed against the
District of Columbia that was a tort action or a government contract,
essentially those. It was a pretty broad spectrum.
MS. KAGAN: Wasn’t that a lot of your caseload at the firm?
MS. GERE: It was a lot. The other Division in the office which was newly created
shortly after I started was called the Public Interest Division, and that was
created, or reconfigured, by Irv Nathan, and essentially that Division was
responsible for the consumer protection actions, the affirmative litigation,
– 226 –
and defense of the litigation that involved class actions. So it was more
programmatic challenges to the District’s actions as opposed to individual
actions, which were being handled in the Civil Litigation Division.
It was a transition for me honestly to go to the Civil Litigation Division
because I went in as an assistant deputy to George Valentine, who was the
Deputy of the Division.
MS. KAGAN: He had been there a long time?
MS. GERE: He was an institution in the office and frankly in city government. But for
me, I had been my own independent agent pretty much for 25 years, and now
I was officially somebody’s assistant deputy. That took a bit of adjustment.
George, and I’m sorry. This is a little difficult. George was brilliant. I
learned a lot from George. I think I helped him become a better manager.
He gave his heart and soul to the office and to the District of Columbia, and
he was, of course, one of the first people who died of COVID here in the
city. It was a blow to me because, although I had retired several years
earlier, and George had gone on to be the right-hand lawyer to the Mayor, so
we weren’t working together any longer, but we remained friends, and we
would get together regularly for brunch and to chat. I was texting with him
the night that he was admitted to the hospital, and he died the next day. It
was very shocking and a great loss for the city because George had been
there so long, and he knew everyone, and he knew everything about the law.
He graduated from Harvard Law School, so he was definitely no intellectual
– 227 –
slouch and kept everybody else who worked for him jumping. He did not let
things slide.
MS. KAGAN: He had been working for the District government for his entire career?
MS. GERE: Ironically, he had started out as an associate at Troutman Sanders in Atlanta.
He and I never overlapped, but it was sort of like one of those strange
coincidences. George was a very private person, but he chose to leave
Atlanta and come to D.C. and was interested in public service, as I
understand it, and began his D.C. career in public service, which is where he
remained. He had multiple people who tried to get him to come to their
firms. I know Judge Sullivan tried for years to get George to apply for a
judgeship, and George always said I’m doing what I like to do, and I’m going
to continue to do it.
MS. KAGAN: Did he have a connection to D.C. before moving here?
MS. GERE: Not that I know of. He ended up having nephews here. He had some
relatives. I don’t know, they probably came here after George did, given
their age, but I’m not sure about that.
So anyway, I spent probably about three or three-and-a-half years working
with George in the Civil Litigation Division under Irv Nathan, who was then
the Attorney General.
MS. KAGAN: Did you handle any individual cases yourself?
MS. GERE: Well, I did. Because that was one of the requirements that Irv gave me when
he made the offer to me. There was, and still is, it’s probably now I guess the
oldest, because I think one of the older cases just got resolved, but it’s one of
– 228 –
the cases that has been pending for the longest time in the District of
Columbia. The case is Salazar v. District of Columbia. It was, and still is, a
case that was brought against the District of Columbia in the 1990s and
related primarily to the provision of Medicaid services to children, the
EPSDT program. The District at the beginning of time was not handling the
program as it should have. A suit was filed, and the case went through a
couple of judges and ultimately ended up before Judge Gladys Kessler.
Judge Kessler kept a close eye on the case and was always very concerned
about the welfare of the children of the District of Columbia. Irv wanted me
to be lead counsel on the case, so I was for years, until I left OAG.
At about the same time that I came to OAG and became responsible for
the litigation, the Department of Healthcare Finance in the District of
Columbia, which was where DC government involvement in the EPSDT
program oversight resided, had identified a remarkable woman, Colleen
Sonosky, to be the contact person and oversee the administration of the
program. She and a couple of her staff members really just made remarkable
strides, remarkable, in getting the program to where admittedly it should
have been.
MS. KAGAN: So she wasn’t an independent monitor?
MS. GERE: No.
MS. KAGAN: There was a settlement, I assume?
MS. GERE: There was a consent decree that was entered many years before. Well,
without talking out of school, was one that was written in a time where
– 229 –
everything had been very different, everything from what was computerized,
what there were statistics about, what other states, what other jurisdictions
were doing. And Judge Kessler, I think in one opinion, acknowledged that it
no longer was serving the purpose because it no longer spoke to the world as
it was, particularly after the Affordable Care Act was passed. After that was
passed, we were able to get some parts of the consent decree removed
because they simply were no longer applicable. But the case remains. It was
open, despite Judge Kessler’s best efforts as she too retired with the case
unfinished. As she frequently told us, she had an unusual way of handling
the case. Nothing was ever done in open court. Everything was always done
in the jury conference room. No members of the public were permitted even
to observe the proceedings. She thought that it facilitated more civil
conversation between the parties. It, though, kept a lot of stakeholders out of
the process, and I think that was unfortunate. Some of them asked to have
everything heard in open court, and the Judge never ruled on the motions.
The District government firmly supported the motion because we thought
more heads are better, and more ideas and more thoughts and more
involvement might produce more solutions.
MS. KAGAN: They’re part of The District’s constituency.
MS. GERE: Yes. So Judge Kessler’s was a less formal process. The judge would tell us
when we met with her that this case was the most important case that she had
while she was on the bench. She handled the tobacco litigation, so I think
that’s quite a statement about how strongly she felt about the Salazar
– 230 –
litigation. It unfortunately took on a life of its own because what started to
drive the litigation was the issue of attorneys’ fees and how much the lawyers
were charging the District to advance the case.
MS. KAGAN: Who was it that brought the suit?
MS. GERE: It was a law firm, a boutique firm called Terris, Pravlik and Millian, and they
made millions from the District of Columbia, and I’m sure still are. It was
from my perspective not a good use of money. The money could have much
better gone to the programs about which the complaints were being made,
particularly when there were processes and people in place at that time by
2011, 2012, to assure that problems were being addressed. So that part was
very unfortunate. We ended up in fee litigation, went to the D.C. Circuit, and
it was not a good chapter in the litigation or, I think, on the issue of
attorney’s fees that the District of Columbia citizens have to pay. I could talk
for hours on that.
MS. KAGAN: The unfortunate thing is that it’s not that dissimilar from a lot of other class
actions that were brought against the city.
MS. GERE: Yes. And at some point, it becomes counterproductive, and you’re paying
more for someone to “monitor” than to actually staff the programs that need
to be run.
In any event, that took up, leading that case, took up a significant amount
of my time. It was a very steep learning curve for me about how the
Medicaid program worked, the various D.C. agencies that were involved,
because there were a host of agencies that had their fingers in things. But it
– 231 –
was a big piece of litigation. It was not unlike things that I had done at the
Justice Department, and I sort of felt like I was back in the U.S. Attorney’s
Office. Part of my life then also was doing fast-paced litigation because
George and I supervised all the lawyers in the Civil Division, and they were
the ones who would go to court on a daily basis. If a case went to trial, that’s
the Division where the trial was going to be coming from. The Public
Interest Division, because of the types of cases they did, tended to handle
more summary judgment, large summary judgment motions, and very few
trials.
So I spent time watching people in court, trying to advise people, moot
them before they went to trial, debrief after they went to trial.
MS. KAGAN: Were the two of you the only supervisors in the section?
MS. GERE: No. There was a deputy, an assistant deputy, and then there were, at the time
I was there, four sections, and each one of those had a section chief. So that
was the first-level supervisor, and then me and then George.
MS. KAGAN: So did your group handle appellate matters as well?
MS. GERE: No. The D.C. Attorney General’s Office has, I want to say, an awardwinning
Solicitor General’s Office with very, very savvy appellate lawyers.
So everything that went up on appeal would be handled by the SG’s Office,
and they would work with the trial divisions in discussing whether OAG was
going to affirmatively appeal a case, and the SG’s office would make the
final decision. Obviously if the other side appealed, then it was kind of off to
the races.
– 232 –
When I started at OAG, a fellow by the name of Todd Kim was the
Solicitor General. Todd is a remarkable, and I keep using the word
remarkable, but in my life, I think I’ve had the good fortune of working with
a lot of remarkable people, but Todd was very, very bright. He had clerked
for Judge Judy Rogers on the D.C. Court of Appeals when she was there. He
was unflappable, creative, thoughtful, very quiet, and when he spoke, the
room would go to a hush, and you would say wow, why didn’t I think of that.
But in any event, Todd was Solicitor General when I started. I can’t
remember how long after, it might have even been a year later, Todd hired an
assistant deputy or a deputy solicitor general, a woman by the name of Loren
AliKhan, who came out of private practice. She is another truly remarkable,
brilliant lawyer, who, upon Todd’s departure, and this goes fast-forward, but
Todd left the office to go into private practice. After a long process, Karl
Racine made Loren AliKhan the Solicitor General. She has done a terrific
job, both internally in terms of marshalling and really professionalizing the
entirety of her staff and achieving some excellent outcomes in litigation, and,
I think, improved perception by the courts and what they expect of the
Attorney General’s Office.
MS. KAGAN: Yes. I have seen that. So how many attorneys were there in the office when
you joined?
MS. GERE: In all of OAG? There were probably several hundred, probably close to 300
maybe. It was a big office, and, of course, the office had not only civil
– 233 –
litigation but was responsible for criminal work, juvenile, and certain other
designated local agency enforcement activities.
MS. KAGAN: Right. And then the maximum sentence was changed for certain
misdemeanors and those cases were transferred from the U.S Attorney’s
Office to OAG. So that upped their caseload significantly.
MS. GERE: That’s a perennial issue, and I am confident the current Attorney General still
is trying to wrest local control over local crimes, but so far, Congress has not
seen fit to do that.
But OAG also had not only criminal and commercial work, it had child
support, a whole group of lawyers that ensured payment and collection of
child support orders, responsibility for the welfare of children. It had a labor
and employment section that handled internal employment issues. It was a
busy office and one that Irv, through dint of his reputation and his work,
elevated the office.
OAG has been exceedingly lucky to have had in leadership people like
Chuck Ruff, Judge John Ferren, Judge Judy Rogers, Judge Inez Smith Reid,
Judge Vanessa Ruiz, some of the really outstanding lawyers of the city who
agreed as public service to go in and run the office. Bob Spagnoletti came in
from the U.S. Attorney’s Office more recently and really reorganized the
office to elevate its own self-image. He’s the one who decided we’re going
to be called, as other states are, an attorney general’s office, and we’re going
to act like one and start teaming up with other state AGs and forming teams
to take advantage of assistance from other jurisdictions. So I think Irv was
– 234 –
one more in that category of people who was giving it his all, and he too, just
as I was, was close to the end of his active legal career and had been a partner
at Arnold and Porter, had been very high up in the Justice Department, had
been the General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives and had done
a lot of significant legal work, but I think he too came to the conclusion he
wanted to close out in public service.
MS. KAGAN: When did he join the office?
MS. GERE: He would have started in January of 2011, and I joined the office in May of
2011. He was still assembling people and trying to snag people from other
parts of his life to come in and work at OAG.
MS. KAGAN: Did he increase the management team?
MS. GERE: I believe he did, probably more in some reorganization ways because I think
he recognized the volume of work. He did not have enough money to take
people out of doing on-the-ground work and make them managers or
supervisors. I think he tried to look at the office and make some changes that
made sense without taking away from the people who were actually on the
ground doing the work.
MS. KAGAN: But it sounds like he brought in a good number of people.
MS. GERE: Yes. As many as he could in the Civil Litigation Division. He was able to
bring in, I don’t know if you ever knew him, Jon Pittman, who was a partner
at Crowell and Moring. Jon’s younger, but he hadn’t been in public service,
and he was looking for an opportunity and somehow Irv prevailed upon him
to apply, and he did. I worked in a supervisory position with Jon for a year
– 235 –
or so, and he then became George’s Assistant Deputy when I moved. Jon
now is a judge on Superior Court, which I think speaks well of him and
OAG. There was another lawyer that I worked very closely with in the Civil
Litigation Division, Shana Frost Matini, who also now is a judge on Superior
Court. So I think the office has done very well for itself, and I think the
community is the luckier for it.
It was very interesting work. As I said, I loved the hustle and the bustle,
and all these different teams of lawyers going to trial and preparing. As a
trial lawyer, you prepare, prepare, prepare, but there’s always something that
happens that makes you go oh my gosh, now I’ve got to pivot and do
something else. So, it was pretty much day-by-day doing that, which was
exciting, and the people who work in the office are very dedicated. They,
almost all of them, could have gone out anywhere and made a lot more
money, but they couldn’t have been in court as much, and they couldn’t have
been in public service.
MS. KAGAN: The office also became more attractive once they set the salary to be on par
with the Public Defender’s Office, which is based on a federal salary.
MS. GERE: Yes. I think that’s very true, and that was something that Irv started and Karl
Racine when he became Attorney General was very successful in getting
more money for the office overall to hire staff. For example, there was no
one to work with Karl and the Chief Deputy as Senior Counsel. If there was
research to be done or work to be done, you needed a more junior lawyer to
do something like that to ensure that the groundwork is done. Karl and Chief
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Deputy Natalie Ludaway were able to hire two outstanding women to serve
as Senior Counsel, Stephanie Litos and Elizabeth Wilkins. So Karl was able
to get a lot more of that type of support once OAG became independent of
the Mayor’s office and could go to the City Council for its own budget.
MS. KAGAN: Was there an increase in sub-dividing within the Civil Litigation Division of
OAG?
MS. GERE: No. There are sections within the Civil Litigation Division, but there have
always been sections. To kind of fast forward, but I don’t want to leave this
phase of my OAG days without talking for a couple of minutes about
something that I felt very proud to be a part of at OAG. That was when Irv
Nathan had somehow, somewhere, sometime had a conversation with Dean
Treanor at the Georgetown Law School and they were talking about some
other program, and I don’t even remember which one it was, where a local
law school teamed up with a local DA’s office or Attorney General’s Office
to have a fellowship program, to bring in law school graduates and then have
them work for a year as lawyers in the Attorney General’s Office. So Irv was
so taken with the idea that he basically said to me, Sally this is a great idea,
and I would like to put you in charge of this. So by the time we finished I
think the first year, maybe the second year, we had every local law school
except Catholic in the program. Catholic was at that time having some
serious financial issues because the way the program operated was that the
law schools contributed half the salary of the fellows, and our office
contributed the other half, so it meant that the law schools had to have
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enough money or come up with the money to pay the young lawyers. They
didn’t get benefits, health benefits, but they got jobs. The fellowship program
was named in memory and recognition of the extraordinary legacy of Chuck
Ruff who also led the Corporation Counsel Office, OAG’s predecessor.
MS. KAGAN: How many slots were there?
MS. GERE: It kind of varied, but it was between ten and fifteen over time, and so
essentially each one of the divisions in the office got either one or two Ruff
Fellows for the year. It was, and still is going strong. Loren AliKhan, the
Solicitor General, took the program over when I left. She and I worked on it
together for the last year I was there. The program has been extremely
successful, and I mark the success by the number up young lawyers who’ve
remained in public service, many of them in OAG, and many of them in the
D.C. government, several of them in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and several
more at Main Justice. It really was great for the Office because these were
bright, fresh, newly minted attorneys saying to some of these older lawyers
who’d been around for a while, well why do you do it that way. The answer
could not be because that’s the way I’ve always done it. That’s really not a
satisfactory answer because the new lawyers would push back and ask why.
So it really was a terrific program. It was a fine linkage also for keeping the
law school part of the local community, and part of the way to do that was to
act through our Attorney General who served the local community. That was
and is a terrific program.
MS. KAGAN: When did it start?
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MS. GERE: It started in 2012. We did a lot of the groundwork and Tarifah Coaxum,
OAG’s CAO, worked on a whole lot of financial issues. Fortunately there
were a couple of very good people at OAG who figured out a way to make
the money work. Tarifah Coaxum was all onboard with it, and she was the
person that I relied upon to figure out which pocket and page the dollars
came from. I think I may have mentioned that in the sort of the small world
way of things in Washington that two of the students that I taught at
Georgetown became Ruff Fellows and joined OAG through the program.
And I supervised each of them during my time and theirs at OAG.
MS. KAGAN: When did you start teaching at Georgetown?
MS. GERE: I started teaching in 1994. I taught from 1994 to 2015.
MS. KAGAN: Maybe we can talk more about that later.
MS. GERE: So that was a good overview of my work at OAG. Obviously, even though I
lived in the District for thirty years, it really gave me new insights into how
the city operated, how the Mayor’s office operated, how City Council
operated, how local law got made, how we dealt with Congress, which really
has a thumb on us. It was a very educational time, not just from a legal
perspective but from a legislative perspective—how do things really run in
the District. But what happened then was of course the District ended up
having its very first elected Attorney General, which was either going to be a
disaster for OAG, a disaster meaning someone would run or be elected who
really was not equipped to run an office and to establish autonomy and
independence from a mayor to make the whole process work.
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MS. KAGAN: That was under Fenty?
MS. GERE: No. This was, I can’t remember when the vote was taken because the people
in the District of Columbia voted for an independent Attorney General, but it
then did not come to pass until the next election, so it was several years later.
Mayor Bowser was the mayor, so it was the end of Mayor Gray’s term. Irv
left a little bit before the end of Mayor Gray’s time in part to allow the person
who was elected to be the next OAG to get started and get things organized.
The city was extremely lucky to have Karl Racine step up and run for
Attorney General. Karl had been the managing partner at Venable, had been
at PDS, and had been in the White House Counsel’s Office. He was a real
lawyer, and still is.
MS. KAGAN: A lot of candidates threw their hat in the ring, and it was unclear where they
even got their hat.
MS. GERE: Right. But fortunately for all of us who live in the District, Karl was
successful in being elected Attorney General. That brought more changes to
the Office. For me, I was very excited. I knew Karl just a very little bit, not
well at all. I was high enough up in the office that I wondered whether Karl
would come in and essentially ask for resignation or reassignment by all the
deputies and assistant deputies so he could kind of restock the shelves with
his own folks, and I thought I would be one of the first to go given that I was
identified as being an Irv Nathan person. Fortunately for me that did not
happen, nor honestly did it happen generally. Karl, to his credit, did not do
anything precipitous. He kept people in place until he really had an
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opportunity to see how the office operated, how the Deputies operated, and
the very first order of business honestly was establishing our independence
from the Mayor’s office. That took great focus by everyone, but particularly
by Karl, and Natalie Ludaway who was hired as his Chief Deputy. Natalie
was a partner in a local law firm that has very strong local roots, and she was
very, still is, very well connected, and knew her way around the city and
around litigation. She and I had served on the Committee on Admissions as
Bar Examiners many years earlier but had remained friends. She too was a
real lawyer, so we were lucky to have two real lawyers running the office.
The changes that Karl made, after he stepped back, and once we got
through the issues with the Mayor’s office and came out intact with our
independence in place, Karl very much wanted to bring the office up to speed
in the affirmative litigation realm, which in the past had been ably handled by
an Assistant Deputy by the name of Bennett Rushkoff, who now is an ALJ.
But there was never enough money, and with Irv, Bennett’s Section
identified the big things and addressed those. Karl wanted to be more active,
particularly in the realm of working with other AGs, the Maryland AG, the
California AG’s office, New York, Delaware, Washington State.
Everywhere. But that took money and that took staff, so Karl wanted to beef
up, if you will, that part of the office. Obviously, that was going to take
some time, and the person, Ellen Efros, who had been the Deputy of the
Public Interest Division under which that work had been placed, left the
office and went to become General Counsel to the City Council, so there was
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no Deputy in place. Karl and Natalie prevailed upon me to move, and they
lured me, saying you can just be “Acting” Deputy for a while. You don’t
have to give up your other position of Assistant Deputy. We just need
somebody to fill in for a while. So I agreed to do that, and it took a bit of
time after they got to see who was where. I ultimately was named, after
going through a competitive hiring process, I was named Deputy of the
Public Interest Division. So now my work had a feel much more as it did
when I was at Main Justice. Huge cases, things that made the headlines. Not
necessarily things that went to trial but that caused a lot of public interest.
There was the sale of PEPCO, which was a big administrative process and
hearings before the Public Service Commission. Again, all the class actions,
and at that point, we were doing gun litigation, trying to have upheld the
revisions that had been made to the District’s gun laws in the wake of the
Heller decision. We had issues with Congress on budget autonomy, who was
writing our budget and who was approving our budget. So there were some
major pieces of litigation that were going on in that Division. I was not able
to leave Salazar, which was the Medicaid case, behind with George. I took
that with me. So I continued to be responsible for that and was lucky then to
have one of the younger lawyers in the Public Interest Division, Brad Patrick,
assigned to the case to work with me who did just a terrific job. He’s now
with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Georgia. So I started out then too
overseeing some of the new affirmative cases that Karl wanted to bring.
MS. KAGAN: How many attorneys were in that division?
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MS. GERE: Not enough. Maybe thirty-ish. I can’t even remember because there were
some rejiggering of folks, and that Division also was responsible for the part
of the office that oversaw licensure of nurses, doctors, housing permits and a
diverse amount of administrative and regulatory work. It was a whole
different world, mostly that was in the administrative OAH realm. So that
was part of my oversight too, which was, again, some disparate parts that
were put together. Ultimately, Karl took the affirmative action folks and had
some housing folks from another division, put them together, and started the
Public Advocacy Division, which made sense. Who was doing affirmative
work and who was doing defensive work, and kind of keeping all those lanes
in some organized order. And I stayed very active in the Public Interest
Division.
Again, I also was basically in charge of the Ruff Fellowship Program
during my time in the Public Interest Division. There was an Assistant
Deputy slot that was assigned to me, and a terrific guy was picked for that,
Chad Copeland, who had been in the Division for many years and was a bit
of an institutional knowledge person. That was terrific. And then I had
Section Chiefs in charge of various parts of the layers of management. A lot
of very talented lawyers, some of whom had been there many years and
many brand-new lawyers. So it was a good mix of folks. It was hard to
decide to leave. There wasn’t a day that I was unhappy to get up and go to
work, which certainly counseled for staying on as long as I could keep my
fingernails gripping the ledge. But at the same time, I saw that there were
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limited opportunities for managerial promotions in the office, and I felt as
though I had been there long enough. I’d made my mark. I had done a lot of
the things that I wanted to do, and so I decided it was time for me to move on
and move on as in retire from the active practice of law. I can’t say that after
I did it I didn’t regret it. But sort of fleetingly because Karl did come to me
afterwards, after I had told him that I wanted to retire, he came to me and
said can we come up with something that’s part-time? Can we come up with
something where you’re a consultant? Something to make sure that we can
take advantage of you and what you’ve learned and what you’ve done. But I
knew myself too well to know that I wouldn’t have been able to put
guardrails around myself, and it would have been right back in the thick of
things. And again, it was an exciting place to work and good that its
reputation had improved, the salaries had improved, and the Ruff Fellows
introduced a whole cohort of new lawyers to the work, but we all have to
recognize there’s a time for us, and I felt that I had made the most of my time
and now it was someone else’s time.
MS. KAGAN: How long did it take you to make the decision once you first started thinking
about it?
MS. GERE: Probably not that long. But I knew that if I fretted over it too long, I would
just be fretting forever, and I needed to make a decision, and I need to say it
out loud and actually tell somebody that I was going to do it. Obviously, I
talked to my husband about it.
MS. KAGAN: Was he retired at the time?
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MS. GERE: He was retired at the time. He had retired a full year before I did, more than
a year before I did, because his goal was to write this book that he had been
working on forever. I finally said to him the time is now. If you’re going to
write it, you need to write it. You can’t write it and be a full-time litigator. It
just doesn’t work, so you need to retire. So he retired, and the last thing that
he wanted was for me to be retired at the same time that he was at home
writing. I would have been nothing but a distraction, and I did not want to
take my first year of retirement to watch him sit at the computer writing a
book. He had finished his first draft of the book, John Houbolt: The Unsung
Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings, and so the coast was clear, we thought.
Of course, who knew that the editor had different ideas about how much a
first draft needed to be a fifth or sixth draft.
So I retired in February of 2018. Every year, Bill and I, for the last
decade, have gone to a little inn in Vermont for a long weekend. I had never
been at the inn but that I didn’t have a work crisis to interfere with my little
vacation. So looking at retirement, I thought, you know, if I’m going to do
this, I need to do it before February so I can feel what it’s like to go to this
wonderful place and actually enjoy it. So that’s what I did.
MS. KAGAN: Then you could stay for a week if you wanted.
MS. GERE: Actually, in celebration, we did stay an extra night, so that was good. In any
event, that’s what I did to retire. They wanted to have a farewell party for me
at OAG and all that, and I said no, I really don’t want anything. I left my
firm and told them no farewell parties. It feels like a wake or a funeral. I
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don’t want that. It would make me feel like I’m dead already, so my firm
was very gracious in my exit and honored my request. They gave me a
lovely gift but did not put me through a farewell thing. OAG did not listen to
me quite as well. The staff put together something lovely, and it was all
really just the people that I’d worked with most closely. It was just perfect.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a surprise?
MS. GERE: Yes. It was a surprise because I had really expected them to follow my
instructions better. But it was very nice, and it was a good way to end. I got
to say goodbye to people that I might not otherwise have seen from outside
the OAG building.
So then we went on vacation February. Then I came back in March, and I
thought I wonder what’s going to happen now. All of a sudden, I got a phone
call from Darrin Sobin, who works for the D.C. Bar and who had clerked for
the judge that I had clerked for, who was way younger than I am. He said, I
want to take you out for a retirement lunch, and I said oh, that’s very nice,
that’s lovely, let’s do it. And so we set up a date, and then the next thing I
know, he said to me Bob Spagnoletti wants to come too. Okay, well I know
who Bob Spagnoletti is. But I have no idea why he wants to come to a lunch
to celebrate my retirement. I should have been more astute because at that
time, Bob was the new Chief Executive Officer of the D.C. Bar. So we went
to lunch, the three of us, and I pretty much sat down and had taken my coat
off, and Bob and Darren said, we want you to run for the Board of Governors
of the D.C. Bar. I said what? No. That’s crazy. Why would you want
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somebody who’s retired from the active practice of law being on the board.
They clearly had given thought to it and said, we would like people with a lot
of different kinds of experience, people with other kinds of board experience,
people with government experience, people who have also private practice
background. We think that you should run.
MS. KAGAN: You had it all.
MS. GERE: I thought well that’s all a very interesting idea, but I haven’t run for office
since I was in grade school and that didn’t work out well. I didn’t get elected
president of my 6th grade class. So in any event, they said just go through
your contacts, and you’ll be able to figure it out. That was way easier for
them to say than for me to do. I then ended up getting on a track of trying to
very quickly put together the forms to be nominated. Just because they urged
me, there’s a whole formal nomination process. I had to be reviewed and
vetted by those people, and then I needed to figure out how to run a
campaign without an office, without a staff. I wouldn’t have been able to do
it at OAG on government time. Anyway I had the good fortune to have my
friend Loren AliKhan, the Solicitor General of the District of Columbia, who,
in her spare time, is a super-duper tech guru, and she helped me organize my
contacts and figure out how to send out emails asking for people’s votes. So
I did, and I ran, and I won, much to my shock and amazement.
The other thing that Bob and Darrin said to me, you’ve given back to the
profession your whole career, why are you stopping now? So that was
another way of looking at service on the Board of Governors as it’s really
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supporting our profession. So now I am in my third year of a three-year
term. In June of this year, I will be finished with my term.
MS. KAGAN: You’re not going to run again?
MS. GERE: I don’t think so. I’ve done my thing. One of the big issues for me as part of
the Board of Governors. Well, two things. One, to help with the transition
from the stranglehold that the prior executive director had had for thirty years
on the Board of Governors and assist the new executive director, his team,
and the new Board of Governors with assuring transparency, diversity of
staff, understanding of the roles of board members and executive directors
and staff. One of the most important things was I truly believed that the bar,
with 109,000 members, and now a property owner because it owns its own
building, needed a general counsel. To me, that was a very important thing
for the bar to focus on and to accomplish. We recently have hired the very
first general counsel of the bar, and she started probably not even a month
ago.
MS. KAGAN: Who is it?
MS. GERE: It’s a woman by the name of Erum Mirza. She had worked for several years
in her career in private practice at Arnold and Porter and then had worked for
a nonprofit trade association. So really understanding how boards work,
what an executive director does, what the role of a general counsel is, and she
just seemed to be the perfect person for our inaugural general counsel. We
had terrific people who applied, which was also gratifying that people
thought that it was a challenge that they wanted to take.
– 248 –
MS. KAGAN: Were you on the selection committee?
MS. GERE: The executive committee of the Board of Governors acted as kind of an
advisory committee, but as with all nonprofits, the hiring of staff, and general
counsel is considered to be staff, the final decision is made by the executive
director. It’s standard practice. So we spent a lot of time interviewing
people, looking at papers and so forth to give advice. It was a very thorough
and very open process, which I think also was important.
MS. KAGAN: That’s great. So were you a big part of the process?
MS. GERE: Well I’m on the executive committee and was part of the movement within
the Board of Governors to assure that it came to fruition. When I first was on
the board, the idea was floated. It was not embraced by all, so it meant kind
of going back at it and bringing it forward.
The current bar president Susie Hoffman, well, she’s not current now. She
has already finished her term as President, but it was under her
administration, shall we say, that this got passed and then passed on to the
new folks to implement.
MS. KAGAN: Have you played any role in bar president transition since you’ve been on the
board?
MS. GERE: Yes. We have had, and not to disclose too many things, but we had some
issues that faced the new bar president who came in and had to hit the ground
running, obviously with COVID, with a lot of the issues related to Black
Lives Matter demonstrations, and what the bar could or could not say
publicly. It was very much a swift transition that Geoff Klineberg had to step
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into, and he’s been fabulous, another good, steady, practical, objective voice
in some tumultuous times.
MS. KAGAN: That’s fortunate.
MS. GERE: Yes. Very fortunate. And I think the people who are serving on the Board of
Governors at the moment are really solid and very much dedicated to the
profession and to the Bar and to its members, which you want to have in your
board that’s governing you. So that has taken up probably more time than I
thought it would. On the other hand, I think it’s been very important work,
and I’m glad that I’ve had a little extra time to devote to some of the work
that I might not otherwise have had.
But in framing my retirement, I also have had to kind of step back and
decide what of my volunteer work I was going to continue with.
MS. KAGAN: What activities had you had going on?
MS. GERE: I had been and have been for many years involved, and a board member for
quite a few years now, in the Frederick B. Abramson Scholarship
Foundation, which gives scholarships to disadvantaged D.C. high school
graduates from public schools. More important than the money that we give,
we have very targeted mentorship that goes through four years of college.
We give scholarships for the entire four years of a student’s time in college,
unlike a lot of organizations that give one year and then you’re on your own.
We actually identify our scholars and increase their scholarship money the
longer they stay in school. We pair them with a mentor. Our mentorship
program is very active. We have a lot of resources. The organization is
– 250 –
about to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Fred Abramson was a past president
of the D.C. Bar. He was also Bar Counsel heading up the disciplinary
system, a lawyer in private practice, and again, serendipity in life, was
someone who was a mentor to me. So I’ve been very supportive, as has Bill,
my husband, of the organization for the past thirty years. I now am Vice
President of the organization. The organization has grown, has evolved, has
grown up. We have a terrific young man who is our President, who started
out many years ago as one of our scholars. He graduated from Dunbar High
School, went to Williams College for his college years. His mentor was Irv
Nathan, so Irv too is involved in the Abramson Foundation, another way that
I had known Irv. But it’s a terrific organization. Bill and I are currently
mentoring a young woman who is at Cornell. There’s no end of work.
There’s no end of time that could be spent helping students, polishing our
programs, figuring out operationally from a governance perspective how
we’re going to operate, where we find dedicated board members, how we
train them. There’s a lot to do.
MS. KAGAN: How did the foundation come to be?
MS. GERE: When Fred passed away, and he was very young, I think he was about 55, he
had touched the lives of a number of people, many of whom got to know
Fred because he was involved in the Judicial Nomination Commission for the
District of Columbia. He made it his goal to encourage women and lawyers
of color to apply for judgeships, and there are many judges on Superior
Court, some of them now retired, who will tell you that it was because of
– 251 –
Fred Abramson that they became judges. Paul Friedman was the Bar
President following Fred, so he worked very closely with Fred. And Paul
and his wife Liz became close friends with Fred. There’s a whole host of
people who admired Fred, and when Fred passed away, everyone decided
okay well what can we do to carry on Fred’s legacy, most of which was
mentoring and encouraging young people educationally and then
professionally. So they decided to start this scholarship organization, and it
started in the living room of Liz and Paul Friedman’s home thirty years ago
and so we’re still going.
MS. KAGAN: That’s great.
MS. GERE: We’ve had some terrific young people who are now much more grown up
come through our program. One of our scholars recently won the primary for
Ward Four, for the seat on City Council, so she likely will be elected to serve
on the City Council. We have another young woman who was just named
one of 40 Hispanic Nurses Under 40 to watch in the future. These young
people with the organization with our mentorship behind them have just done
remarkable things. We have another young woman whose father was
incarcerated, and she’s my double success story because I got to know her
through Girl Scouts and her Gold Award project, and then she applied and
became an Abramson Scholar, but her Gold Award project was to start a nonprofit
organization to help kids who wanted to go to college but whose
parents were incarcerated so had a real uphill battle. Our Gold
Award/Abramson Scholar, Yasmine Arrington, went to Elon for college.
– 252 –
She graduated from college, got her divinity degree from Howard University
and now has this nonprofit that she essentially runs and has given out
scholarships and figured out ways to identify and help kids whose parents are
incarcerated. So I mean it’s really, especially somebody as I am who doesn’t
have children of my own, you may recognize a theme through here,
recognizing and doing what I can to support other young people who clearly
can use a hand. But boy are they going to go someplace and do something
positive with it, and that’s very satisfying.
MS. KAGAN: Is your mentorship term the four years of college?
MS. GERE: Yes. So we are in year three with our mentee, and she has been trying to
figure out school and her life in this COVID environment. She has made the
decision to take her classes virtually, even though Cornell has attempted to
offer some courses in person, but I think between her and her mom, they
have decided what’s best for her is to be here at home.
MS. KAGAN: So she’s going to stay here?
MS. GERE: Yes. And do her classes online. So that takes up some of my retirement
time. The other thing, as I mentioned, is my work with the Girl Scouts,
which mostly involves working with the girls who get their Gold Award,
which is the highest award that one can get in Girl Scouting, and much
harder to get than what the Eagle Scouts tout.
MS. KAGAN: What does it take?
MS. GERE: It takes a lot of work and a lot of gumption. There’s a very rigorous process
of applying. A young woman identifies a project that has to have a lasting
– 253 –
impact on her community. She has to identify how it is going to be run,
planned, what’s going to be involved, how she’s going to get volunteers to
work on it, how she’s going to get funding, how she is going to attempt to
assure that it is successful and continues once she goes off to college.
MS. KAGAN: That’s a tall order.
MS. GERE: It’s a tall order. And there are review processes in place every step of the
way. It’s a very hard award to attain. It’s the kind of thing where at least
my understanding is that a lot of admissions officers, if they see that you’re a
Gold Award recipient, put you in a separate pile, a to be considered more
closely file. In the, again, kind of small world happening, unfortunately not
with a happy ending, there was a young woman who got her Gold Award that
I met. She, in college, even high school and then certainly in college, had
decided she wanted to be a lawyer. So I said to her, why don’t you apply to
be an intern at OAG, and you’ll see what it’s like to be a lawyer. She did,
and she got hired, and she worked for me. She was fabulous. She went to
UVA undergrad. She then went to Georgetown for law school and
graduated. She became a Ruff Fellow at OAG, did a spectacular job, and
was hired in a full-time position in the Civil Litigation Division. She just
wowed everybody with her work. She was so happy, loved every minute of
it. I got a call, unfortunately, six months after she had started, and she had a
brain aneurysm and died. A very young woman who clearly had the world
ahead of her and had already made a mark at a young age. So that was very
sad.
– 254 –
In any event, I’ve made some, as I said, terrific contacts through the Girl
Scouts, and done more mentoring.
MS. KAGAN: Have you stayed in touch with your mentees?
MS. GERE: I have stayed in touch with several of them. I have another one that was a
young woman who worked at OAG as an intern and was an Abramson
Scholar. She graduated in May from Notre Dame law school and is looking
for a job, so I’ve done mock interviews with her. I stay in touch as best I can
with many of these people, and then I still have my professional mentees, but
they’re my people that I worked with, younger lawyers who are now in
private practice that I stay in touch with, and I talk to about the rigors of
being in a law firm. What did you do when this happened? What advice do
you have in this or that situation? People in government, the same thing.
Should I leave the government, should I stay here? So I’ve stayed in touch
with lots of people.
MS. KAGAN: That’s terrific. Any other extracurriculars? Not that you have excess time
for anything else.
MS. GERE: I did, through the Bar, have my one remaining extracurricular activity to tell
you about. Susie Hoffman had asked me last year to be the planning chair
for the Bar Conference to mark the 100th anniversary of the passage of the
19th Amendment. I spent months with a planning committee and right down
to the wire. The conference was going to be held at the Omni Shoreham, but
COVID came, and the Omni Shoreham cancelled. Obviously, we could not
have a thousand people coming into the District in June, which is when the
– 255 –
conference was scheduled. So we now have reimagined the conference and
it will be offered virtually. We still have a star-studded cast. It’s changed a
little bit as people’s schedules have changed. Our focus remains on the
history of the 19th Amendment and the importance of voting rights,
obviously becoming even more important now. Our conference has been
rescheduled for October 20 and 21, 2020, so very close to election time. A
lot of the issues on our program have to do with voting rights. So that has
resurfaced, and I don’t have time for anything else. I’m working on that at
the moment double time.
MS. KAGAN: I can imagine. Well good for you. How long did you teach at Georgetown?
MS. GERE: I taught at Georgetown for about twenty years, I would say.
MS. KAGAN: So you started when you were at the law firm?
MS. GERE: Yes. When I was at the law firm and really had to figure out ways to do that
on my own time, so I taught only at night, after hours, so would have to
figure everything out not to interfere with my client work. I always co-taught
so that in the event I had to travel for work, it wouldn’t be that the class had
to be cancelled. There would be another professor who would be there to
cover.
MS. KAGAN: Who was your co-teacher?
MS. GERE: Well, it depended on what time. I started out teaching with my, he wasn’t
even my husband then, but I started out teaching with the man who now is
my husband.
MS. KAGAN: How did you meet?
– 256 –
MS. GERE: We met through something called the Inns of Court, a lawyers organization.
And Bill actually fixed me up with somebody else because he was married,
and so he fixed me up with somebody else. That didn’t work out, and
eventually his marriage didn’t work out either, having nothing to do with me.
I didn’t really know him well, but we got to the point where we were both
then single and so we started out as friends and kind of went from there. But
the teaching part of it, he already had been teaching at Georgetown for a few
years, and he would tell me about the women that he had in his class, and I
said you need another role model there. What are the women in the class
going to learn from you. So long story short, I interviewed with the dean and
was hired as an adjunct professor for the wonderful sum of it might have
been $500 a semester or something. I’m not sure. So Bill and I taught
together for a while.
MS. KAGAN: What class did you teach?
MS. GERE: We taught at that time a trial advocacy class.
MS. KAGAN: Was it a clinical course?
MS. GERE: Clinical. It was more of a practicum, I would say. How to write an
interrogatory, how to cross examine somebody, that kind of thing. At one
point, Georgetown decided that it wanted, as were many other law schools, to
start shifting toward practical education, and we talked with the dean. There
was a course on civil discovery, there was a course on trial advocacy, but
nobody who had put those pieces together for a student to see how the
litigation process actually worked, the writing an interrogatory is not an end
– 257 –
in itself. It is a steppingstone for how to go to trial in the event you’re not
able to settle your case. So we put together a proposal to the dean for a twosemester
course that would run for the entire year and start with interviewing
a client and ending with an actual trial before a real judge. So Bill and I did
that for several years together. It became somewhat of a strain on our
relationship.
MS. KAGAN: Were you married by that point?
MS. GERE: No. The school then was looking for somebody to teach an evidence course,
and somehow, they roped Bill into doing that. But that was, again, a very
intense course to be teaching so he couldn’t teach all of that and then have a
full-time job and write a book in spare time, which there wasn’t much spare.
Anyway, so then I for a number of years taught with one of my former
partners at Ross Dixon, and then he retired, and then I taught with another of
my Ross Dixon partners and then another, and then finally the last person
that I taught with was my associate at Ross Dixon, but by the time I was
teaching, he was running one of the offices at OAG, and so it seemed to us
that it was good for students to have not only the defensive perspective,
which was more my perspective, but someone with an affirmative litigation
perspective, which he introduced.
MS. KAGAN: When did you stop teaching?
MS. GERE: In 2015. He, Jimmy Rock, continued to teach, and he brought on a woman
from OAG, with whom I also had worked. She and he taught for a couple of
– 258 –
years and then she had a child, and she ran out of time to be doing too many
extracurricular things.
MS. KAGAN: Is the course still being taught?
MS. GERE: No. Jimmy then continued his advancement in the office and again, just
simply didn’t have the time to devote to teaching, which I was sorry about
that, but we had a good run.
MS. KAGAN: What made you decide to step down from that?
MS. GERE: As I think about it, it was the amount of time that I was spending at work,
particularly transitioning to being the Deputy of the new Public Interest
Division. It was one thing to be somebody’s assistant deputy, George
Valentine, who is ultimately in charge, to being the person in charge myself
as AG Racine was reimagining what he wanted this Division to do and what
work individuals were assigned to do and who should be in which slot. It
just ended up being more time than I felt that I had and could still give my all
to teaching. Even though I didn’t get paid a lot, next to nothing, the students
were paying, and they deserved a truly engaged professor.
MS. KAGAN: Had you always or for a long time been interested in teaching, or was that
something that just sounded good when the opportunity came about?
MS. GERE: I believe that I talked about, and this is now ancient history between you and
me, but I think I talked about the year that I was at Justice where I ran and
taught the civil litigation courses for the Attorney General’s Advocacy
Institute. That was my first formal teaching, and then in private practice, I
did a lot of presentations, teaching of a sort, to a number of my clients about
– 259 –
Insurance coverage issues, employment issues, sexual harassment issues,
sexual harassment policy, investigations. And talking to a jury or talking to
judge is a form of teaching, so I think a good litigator never ever stops
teaching. Bill and I had thought well when we retire, we’ll both retire and
teach, and that would be a good way to close out our legal careers, but Bill
has been caught up in his book, I got caught up in work, and now we’re
retired, and I don’t really see us going back to any kind of formal teaching.
MS. KAGAN: Are you enjoying your retirement and the little bit of spare time you have
from all your obligations?
MS. GERE: Yes. I’m over now the two-year mark, but I think that COVID has altered
time, so I probably have had more time to devote to my volunteer work
without sacrificing my personal life, and part of that is because before the
pandemic, I would go out for lunch, I’d go out for drinks, and I’d go out for
dinner, and I would play with people’s kids and all that that. I no longer am
able to do that, but what I can do is get on a Zoom call with my mentee or a
phone call with another mentee or draft some governance policy for
somebody. So in some ways I don’t think that I have had a full impact of
actually being retired. I believe that stepping off the D.C. Board of
Governors in June will make a big difference in my time. I am serving one
year as the Vice President of Abramson, and then I’m termed out under our
bylaws.
MS. KAGAN: And no longer on the board?
– 260 –
MS. GERE: And no longer on the board. And the Girl Scouts is a well-oiled machine, so
it can consume as much or as little time as I have. My Abramson term will
be up in June as well. Maybe COVID will have relieved us a little bit more
maybe by June of 2021. So that’s when I’ll really feel what retirement is
like.
MS. KAGAN: And no thoughts about what other things you might get involved with?
MS. GERE: No. I really hope to have more time and the ability post-COVID to spend
time with my friends and with my family. It’s been very sobering to have
lost George Valentine to COVID. It’s another one of those times when you
say we are not immortal or eternal. Once I am out of lockdown, I want to go
back and do what I liked to do just as much for me, which is to spend time
with friends.
MS. KAGAN: More than fair. So we periodically touched on what it was like to be a young
woman attorney back in the day when you were a young woman attorney, the
particular challenges that you faced, how your personal life was affected, and
the like. Do you have anything to add about that?
MS. GERE: I believe that I mentioned the book that I was reading in my little bit of extra
spare time recently, a book called Shortlisted, about the women who were put
on a shortlist for consideration for the Supreme Court starting decades ago,
even before I went to law school, and the book’s lessons are taught through
the life stories of the women who were pioneer lawyers and a few of them
judges and a few of them who got shortlisted for the Supreme Court.
Finally, we get to Sandra Day O’Connor who actually gets on the Supreme
– 261 –
Court. But I read about their lives and think about my own. None of them
had an easy time, and in retrospect, I don’t think I had an easy time. Some of
the women affirmatively chose a career. Some of the women thought they
could balance work and family and do both. Most of them had varying ways
to cope, some of them more successful than others. A lot of it was dependent
on the support of their partners, whether they were married, officially or not.
I have been, I guess to that extent, lucky in my career that at least I was
married to two lawyers who understood the pressures of being in practice.
Neither of them understood the pressures of being a woman in practice
though. I believe for my first husband I made more concessions to his career
than in retrospect maybe I should have, but I can’t look back now, and I
certainly have had a terrific career.
MS. KAGAN: You ended up in a good spot.
MS. GERE: I ended up in a good spot. Not having children has been difficult, but I have
tried to supplement that with family members, nieces and nephews, and with
the people that I have worked with and mentored. In one way or another that
hole in my life kind of got, I won’t say “filled” but satisfied with what life
had presented me. And someone else may look at my life and say, well,
better off for you. You never would have gotten where you got had you been
tasked to juggle more than you did. You might not have been able to do it.
MS. KAGAN: Do you think that’s true?
MS. GERE: I have two younger sisters who were single moms, and I think maybe in
retrospect, that’s what I should have done. But I looked at them and knew
– 262 –
myself, and I did not have the strength of either of them. Did that affect my
career? It allowed me to be the person to volunteer and say I’ll go to
Muskogee, Oklahoma, or I’ll stay late and write that brief, or I’ll take X
client to dinner and hope he doesn’t make some lewd suggestion at the end of
dinner. And all those things probably helped propel me in practice, to
become a successful partner and to be successful lawyer generally. The other
fact, if I’m going to be candid talk about all of this, and I guess that’s the
point of it. One of the other things, you asked me about was whether I had
ever wanted to be a judge. And I guess reading this book again has kind of
brought my own history back to me. I was shortlisted several times, for trial
court judgeships but I was not selected, which has been a disappointment. I
was disappointed because I so admired the judge that I worked for that I
wanted to be as she was. I wanted to be a judge that could treat people with
dignity and respect regardless of who they were and feel as though I could be
a just decider. But again, it wasn’t meant to be. My last effort was probably
doomed from the beginning because I really was too old. I think that the
more recent Presidents have been much more focused on putting people,
even on Superior Court, who could be there for two or three decades. I can’t
look back and focus on that because that was a door that closed but it opened
the door to going to OAG, frankly.
MS. KAGAN: Right.
MS. GERE: Because if I couldn’t do public service as a judge, I was darn well going to
figure out another way, and I did. One door closed, and another one opens.
– 263 –
MS. KAGAN: Well no one could deny that you’ve had a really fulfilling life with
adventures yet to come.
MS. GERE: We kind of laugh about that, but there was a point early on in COVID where
Bill and I sat down because everyone said you need to have your affairs in
order, you two don’t have children, what would happen if something
happened to both of you, and all I can think is I don’t want my family to have
to try to figure too much out, so we spent several weeks kind of getting
everything organized and delivered to one of my nieces. It did allow me to
sit back and say if COVID takes me in the next few weeks, I’ve had a good
life, and that makes me feel very good.
MS. KAGAN: It doesn’t sound like you made bad choices made along the way or have
feelings of regret about anything.
MS. GERE: No. I can’t regret much. There are maybe some choices I could or should
have made differently. My mother would always say to me things happen for
a reason. I would never know what the reason was, but somehow that stuck
with me, and so you kind of pull up your big girl pants and go on.
MS. KAGAN: It doesn’t seem like any of the less-than-perfect choices or situations derailed
any of your goals.
MS. GERE: No I don’t think so.
MS. KAGAN: Or even curbed your enthusiasm for your career. Nothing really had a
negative impact on you.
MS. GERE: Right. And I was really incredibly lucky to work with people who made my
professional life exciting and interesting, and my personal life, I’m married
– 264 –
to a wonderful person. I have still all my sisters and their children with me.
I consider myself fortunate.
MS. KAGAN: And for good reason.
MS. GERE: And to circle back to why we’re here which is the D.C. Circuit Historical
Society oral history project. I am eternally grateful that I have that thread
that started with my clerkship in that courthouse and has been frankly a
lifeline for me all that way to now. I’ve seen changes in that court. I’ve seen
changes in the physical plant. I’ve seen changes in the judges. I’ve seen
changes in the case types that they get. That’s been a unique perspective to
have had. “It” being the District Court, of which I know better than the D.C.
Circuit, but together, it’s an incomparable court. It’s easy to understand why
it is a steppingstone to the Supreme Court. It’s a place of intellectual
challenge and real-world problems for resolution. I’ve been lucky to be a
part of that. It’s also something that not everybody else has done. My real
dream would have been to be a judge on that court, and I did get shortlisted
for that. I got to the White House, I got interviewed, but I was not the one
selected. But I continued to advance my career and work with the court
through a variety of committees and work with the judges and cases in the
court so that I was able to stay connected.
MS. KAGAN: I venture to say that you wouldn’t have had the same breadth of impact in
your life had you been a judge. I understand that judges have a tremendous
effect on the lives of individual litigants who appear before them, but the
totality of your work has been remarkably far-reaching.
– 265 –
MS. GERE: That’s a good way to look at it, Barbara. I appreciate that. Thank you.
MS. KAGAN: It certainly seems like that to me. As a citizen of the District of Columbia
and as a fellow attorney, I’m glad you had your hands in so many things in
such positive ways.
MS. GERE: Thank you. This has been terrific. I’m wondering if there’s anything else
that I should be thinking about telling you or whether we have come to a
conclusion. Or should we take a break and make a decision?
– 266 –
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Barbara Kagan, and the
interviewee is Elizabeth Sarah Gere. The interview took place by Zoom on Wednesday,
September 16, 2020. This is the seventh and final interview.
MS. KAGAN: Hi Sally.
MS. GERE: Hi Barbara.
MS. KAGAN: We’re here for our final wrap-up session. This is where we put a nice little
bow on Sally’s professional life.
MS. GERE: I am happy that we’ve come to a conclusion, but I must say I’m going to very
much miss our conversations, and I hope we continue them without having to
record them.
MS. KAGAN: Me too. It’s been a long time.
MS. GERE: It has. Pre-pandemic, even.
MS. KAGAN: Yes.
MS. GERE: Well, I do thank you, and I appreciate this opportunity to wrap things up, as
you say, and put a bow on it. I have given some further thought to how to
wrap this up and further reflections on my professional life, which, of course,
comes along with my personal life. For me, this year, which is the 100th
anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment whereby women won the
right to vote, is a significant time, as it is for all women. It is an historic
landmark that is the product of the hard work and sacrifice of a lot of women.
As part of my D.C. Bar responsibilities, I’ve been the planning chair for
our conference this year that is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the
19th Amendment. And in preparation for that, I’ve done a lot of reading
– 267 –
about women’s suffrage and about the women who led the movement over
many decades because it took many decades to secure the vote for us. And
even after the 19th Amendment was passed, it took many more years for all
of us who are women to be able to vote. It reminded me that there are many
women whose stories have not been properly told, people history has
overlooked. So I appreciate the chance to be here and give my little share of
history.
It also made me reflect and think more about the women in my life who
have had a tremendous impact on me, obviously starting with my own
mother who was forced to drop out of college because of the Depression and
her widowed 279 simply did not have enough money for her to finish
college. But nonetheless she was one of my biggest, most vocal, and most
supportive cheerleaders throughout her life and always encouraged me to
reach for the heights even when she had been unable to reach them. My
three younger sisters have been very supportive of me for many years. I’m
lucky to have a continuing cheerleading squad among my family, which has
been very important for me through a lot of ups and downs.
Of course the connection I have to the District of Columbia Court, to the
District of Columbia District Court in particular, is through Judge June
Green, for whom I clerked and who was my role model of how to be a
successful woman lawyer and not to lose my humanity. My humanity and
my empathy I definitely got from my mother, but I received from Judge
Green direction and instruction on how being a lawyer was not mutually
– 268 –
exclusive with being a caring human being, that indeed the best lawyers were
able to have both or should demonstrate both.
So I’m very lucky to have had that kind of women as my role model
because, as we’ve discussed, there were very few women in the courtroom at
the time I was a law clerk. And so I’m happy to tell my story about my
professional life in the District of Columbia District Court from when the
doors were just beginning to open in the early 1970s to women in the court,
in practice and on the bench. I have been lucky during my professional life
to have been mentored by other women for whom I worked and with whom I
worked and to be able to pay that forward and mentor young women with
whom I worked over the many years. All of which has made me recognize
the importance of women in my personal life and women in my professional
life and women in my life in this court where, when I was a law clerk, there
were very few female law clerks at that time. There obviously was only one
female District Court judge, and yet here we are, many years later, and now
we have our second woman, Chief Judge Beryl Howell, serving as the chief
judge of the District Court for the District of Columbia. So I think the court
has come a great distance, and a lot of it has been through the hard work of
the women who have practiced there, frankly, including me, and being
involved in committees and helping the court do the tasks that the court was
responsible for doing and having the pleasure as a lawyer of appearing before
many of the judges on the District Court.
– 269 –
So I think to tie all this together has been a real gift to me as well as I hope
helpful to anyone who may listen to this or read it in the future to understand
what being a woman lawyer was like through the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s
and 2010s, a time of change for women in the law. It’s been a journey, and I
have been very fortunate to have had good strong women in my life. I hope
to have passed some of their strength through me to the next several
generations of women practicing law in this court and elsewhere. And thank
you, Barbara. It’s been wonderful to get to know you. Obviously, you’re an
icon in your own right. It’s been an honor for me to be interviewed by you.
MS. KAGAN: Well thank you for that, but I am not icon material, but I’ve learned a lot
from you. It’s been really wonderful. You really do embody all that you
wanted to be in your professional life. I think that part of the reason your
professional life has been successful and has been so important to you is
because there is no demarcation between who you are as a person and who
you are as a professional. So it’s been easy for you to be a good lawyer
because you’re a good person, and you came to the law with a certain set of
approaches, a certain set of values, and you’ve been able to stay true to them.
I think you have a strong will and a strong personality in all the best senses of
the words. Not everybody would have been able to pull it off like you did.
You didn’t really quite know what a pioneer you were at the time, which is
probably a good thing. Otherwise you might have been looking over your
shoulder too much and not just forging ahead. So it’s been great, I admire
you so much. It’s been terrific getting to hear about your life and your career
– 270 –
and I appreciate your candor, which I think is very important, and will be
very valuable for the people who get to listen to this.
MS. GERE: Thank you again, and we’ll stay in touch for sure.
MS. KAGAN: Take care.
A-1
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
Index
60 Minutes (television show), 85
Abramson, Fred, 262
ACLU, 84, 101, 103, 105, 125
Affordable Care Act, 239
AliKhan, Loren, 242, 248, 257
Amin, Idi, 144
Anderson, Dave, 77
Arnold and Porter, 244, 259
Arrington, Yasmine, 263
AT&T, 95, 97-98
Atlantic (magazine), 115
Atomic Energy Act, 143
Babcock, Barbara, 78, 90, 213
Banzhaf, John, 57
Barr, William, 174
Bazelon, David, 103
Becker, Len, 222
Bell, Griffin, 127, 130
Bell, Roy, 199
Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents (case), 73, 76
Blecher, Matt, 226
Bolton, John, 141
Brady v. Maryland, (case), 71, 159
Brennan, William, 138
Brieant, Charles, 179-81
Briggs, Bill, 186
Briggs, Gail, 186
Carl Marks & Co. v. USSR (case), 179
Carnahan, Terri, 209, 230
Cattanach, Bob, 144
Causey, Bill (second and current husband), 223, 261
Charles F.C. Ruff Fellows Program, 226
Christenberry, Ed, 76, 112, 123
CIA, 82, 85, 87-88, 99-100, 134, 141
Coaxum, Tarifah, 248
Colby, William, 89
constructive trust, 91, 134-38
Copeland, Chad, 253
Crowell and Moring, 245
Curchin, Alex, 47, 50
A-2
Cutler, Lloyd, 98
Daniel, Alice, 213
Decent Interval by Frank Snepp
Dershowitz, Alan, 84, 89
District of Columbia v. Heller, (case), 252
DOJ See United States Department of Justice
Dwares, David, 214
Efros, Ellen, 251
Ehrlichman, John, 111, 116, 122
EPSDT program (Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment), 238
False Claims Act, 132
Ferren, John, 244
Fine, Glenn, 222
First Amendment, 84, 88, 96, 99, 103, 106, 138, 150, 199, 204
Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, 177-78
Fourth Amendment, 96, 99, 106, 110
Friedman, Paul, 147, 262
George, Richard, 48
Gere, David (father), 4
death, 229
disciplinarian, 29
insurance agency, 2
Gere, Laura Ruth (sister), 4
Gere, Margaret Prescott (sister), 4
Gere, Marsha Dodge (sister), 4
Gere, Elizabeth Sarah (mother), 1
Depression, 279
religious upbringing for family, 6
Schenectady, 3
Gere, Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) – Personal
American Field Service exchange student in France, 18
birth Rochester, New York, 2
breast cancer, 226
Cincinnati, 40, 55, 130- 32, 151-53, 155-56, 158, 160-62, 164, 165-66, 171, 174-75
Denison University, 31
divorce, 132, 165
family religious upbringing, 6
Frederick B. Abramson Scholarship Foundation, 260
Vice President 271
George Washington University Law School, 38
Girl Scouts, 232, 263-64, 271
mentoring, 265
A-3
Journal of International Law and Economics, 57
law clerk with D.C. Corporation Counsel (now D.C. Attorney General’s Office), 52
mother, 279
sisters, 279
Syracuse Central Technical High School, 24
Syracuse University Law School, 37
Gere, Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) – Professional
D.C. Bar, 107, 218-219
Board of Governors, 257-58
Board of Professional Responsibility, 221, 223
responsibilities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, 278
District of Columbia Court of Appeals, 61, 216-17
Committee on Admissions, 217
Georgetown Law School, 139, 162
adjunct professor award, 226
teaching, 139,161, 169, 224, 226, 249, 266-67, 269-70
Inns of Court, 267
mediation and arbitration, 195
OAG (Office of the Attorney General) (formerly Corporation Counsel), 234
Advocacy Institute (now National Advocacy Center), 172, 270-71
Assistant Director Advocacy Institute, 166
Civil Litigation Division, 237
Public Interest Division Deputy, 252, 269
Ross Dixon, 186, 188, 191, 204, 206, 227, 231, 269
Committee on Admissions, 217-19, 221, 251
compensation committee, 207-08
culture as compared to government, 205
interviews, 184
merge with Troutman, 200-02
partner, 193
pro bono cases, 214
swine flu cases, 159, 160, 174
Troutman Sanders, 200-02, 204, 229-31, 233, 237
United States Attorney’s Office, 164
United States Attorney’s Office (Cincinnati), 152, 174
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Committee on Admissions, 217
United States Department of Justice
Federal Programs Branch, 76, 81, 127, 129
Honors Program, 72
Senior Trial Counsel, Civil Division, 172, 175, 182
Special Litigation Section, Criminal Division, 73, 97
transition to Civil Division from the Criminal, 126
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Law clerk, Judge June Green, 62-63, 65-66, 68-69, 80, 83, 211, 213, 279-80
Lawyer Counseling Panel, 227
A-4
women in litigation, 188
Gesell, Gerhard, 65, 211
Ginsburg, Feldman & Bress, 98
Goldbloom, Irwin, 77
Government Secrets Act, 146
Graydon, Head and Ritchey, 131
Green, June, 62-63, 65-66, 68-69, 80, 83, 211, 213, 279-80
Gregg, Larry, 104
Gregorian v. Izvestia (case), 177-78
Haldeman, H.R., 111-12, 118-21
Halkin v. Helms (case), 98, 102
Halperin v. Kissinger (case), 104, 109-10, 112, 115-16, 118, 121-22, 124-25
Halperin, Morton, 109
Harris, Stanley, 164
Hedge, Brook, 83, 86
Heller, See District of Columbia v. Heller
Herblock (Herbert Lawrence Block), 90
Hines, Margaret, 52
Hoffman, Susie, 259, 266
Hoffman, Walter, 136
Hogan & Hartson, 140, 183
Home Rule Act, 79
Hoover, J. Edgar, 109, 111
Howell, Beryl, 280
In Re Halkin, See Halkin v. Helm
Jenner and Block, 182, 191
John Houbolt: The Unsung Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings by Bill Causey, 255
JR by William Gaddis, 179
Karen Silkwood See Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee
Keith, Damon, 95, 107
Kelly, Clarence, 110
Kent State, 50
Kessler, Gladys, 238-39
Kim, Todd, 242
Kirkpatrick, Wallace, 51
Kissinger, Henry, 109-10, 115, 121-22, 124-25
Klineberg, Geoff, 260
Koch, Betsy, 204
Kopp, Bob, 91
Kreger, Chris, 40
Laidlaw, John, 48
A-5
Leonardo, John, 53, 56
Letter, Doug, 182
Levi, Edward, 75
Levine, Lee, 204
Levine, Sullivan, and Koch, 204
Lewis, Oren, 81, 84-86, 89
Linder, Denny, 77
Litos, Stephanie, 246
Ludaway, Natalie, 246, 250
Lynch, Mark, 84, 90, 101, 103, 105
Lynk, Myles, 107
Marks, Lee, 97
Marshall, Thurgood, 138
Martin, Brant, 226
Martin, Tom, 144, 148, 183
Matini, Shana Frost, 245
McGraw, Esther Yong, 227
Meese, Ed, 173
Mirza, Erum, 258
Mitchell, John, 109-10, 123
Morgan, Rick, 174-75
Morland, Howard, 143, 145, 149-50
Nathan, Irv, 226, 232, 235-36, 238, 247, 250, 261
National Caucus of Labor Committees, 105
National Conference of Bar Examiners, 218
New York Times, 143, 145, 187, 196
New Yorker (magazine), 115
Nixon, Richard, 55, 109-10, 112-17, 124
NSA, 99
O’Connor, Sandra Day, 272
O’Donoghue & O’Donoghue, 70
Patrick, Brad, 252
Pepper Hamilton, 201
Phillips, Samuel, 136
Pittman, Jon, 245
Post, 145
Prettyman, Barrett, 140
Progressive (magazine), 143
Racine, Karl, 243, 246, 250, 270
Rehnquist, William, 124
Reid, Inez Smith, 244
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press v. AT&T (case), 95
A-6
Roberts, John, 140
Robinson, Aubrey, 65
Rock, Jimmy, 227, 269
Rogers, Judith, 242, 244
Ross Dixon, 184, 186, 188, 191, 201-02, 204-07, 227, 231, 269
Ross, Becky, 183
Ross, Dixon and Masback, 183, 190, 199
Ross, Stu, 206
Ruff, Chuck, 244, 247
Ruiz, Vanessa, 244
Rushkoff, Bennett, 251
Salazar v. District of Columbia (case), 238, 252
Schwartz., Larry, 114, 116
SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), 100
Seibert, John, 104, 105
Shattuck, John, 103, 105, 115
Shortlisted by Jefferson and Johnson, 212, 272
Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee, (case), 129
Sirica, John, 65
Sitcov v. District of Columbia Bar (case), 216
Sitcov, Michael, 215
Snepp See United States v. Frank Snepp
Snepp, Frank, 101
Sobin, Darrin, 256
Sofaer, Abraham, 179, 221-23
Soltanoff, Eleanore, 63
Sonosky, Colleen, 238
Spagnoletti, Bob, 244, 256
Starr, James, 58
Stevens, Paul, 138
Sullivan, Emmet, 215, 237
Sullivan, Mike, 204
surveillance programs, 104
Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, 129
Terris, Pravlik and Millian, 240
The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle), 37
Today (television show), 85
Treanor, William, 247
Troutman Sanders, 200
Trump, Donald, 141
Turner, Stansfield, 88
Umin, Steve, 72
United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 94-96, 102-03, 124, 240, 275-76
A-7
Circuit Judicial Conference, 228
Circuit Mediation Panel, 216
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 91, 134-36, 138
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 181
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 181-82
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 148
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 95, 107
United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 61, 66, 74, 94, 96, 98, 101, 103, 135
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, 105, 108
United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, 144
United States Department of Justice, 70-71, 93, 108, 113, 126, 131, 170, 174, 181-82, 189, 208,
213
United States Socialist Party, 105
United States State Department, 121, 176, 178-80, 221
Legal Adviser’s Office, 178
United States Supreme Court, 79, 90, 95, 97, 110, 124, 137-40, 142, 205, 223, 272, 276
United States v. Frank Snepp (case), 82, 84-91, 93, 95, 101, 127, 133- 35, 137, 141-42, 147
United States v. The Progressive Magazine (case), 95, 142-43
Valentine, George, 236, 241, 269
Valentinre, George, 237
Vietnam, 48, 50, 82, 88, 93, 98, 109
Vorys Sater, 132
Voting Rights Act, 79
Waddy, Joseph, 65
Wagner, Annice, 217
Walter, Judy, 232
Warren, Robert, 144-45
Washington Post, 142-43, 196
Watergate, 111, 121
Webster, David, 72
Werhan, Keith, 145
Whitaker, Glenn (first husband), 48, 53, 68-69, 86, 129-31
Wilkey, Malcolm, 103
Wilkins, Elizabeth, 246
Williams and Connolly, 72
Winter, Harrison, 136
Women’s Bar Association, 211, 212
Woods, Rosemary, 116
Wright, Skelly, 103
Wright, Stan, 97
You Were Always Mom’s Favorite!: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Live by Deborah
Tannen s, 14

B-1
Oral History of Elizabeth Sarah (“Sally”) Gere
Table of Cases and Statutes
Cases
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), 71, 159
District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), 252
Gregorian v. Izvestia, 658 F. Supp. 1224 (C.D. Cal. 1987), 177
Halkin v. Helms, 690 F.2d 977 (D.C. Cir. 1982), 98, 102
Halperin v. Kissinger, 424 F. Supp. 838 (D.D.C. 1976), 104-25
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press v. AT&T, 593 F.2d 1030 (D.C. Cir. 1979) 95
Salazar v. District of Columbia, 954 F. Supp. 278 (D.D.C. 1996), 238, 252
Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee, 485 F.Supp. 566 (W.D.Okl. 1979), 129
Sitcov v. District of Columbia Bar, 885 A.2d 289 (D.C. 2005), 216
United States v. Frank Snepp, 456 F. Supp. 17, 82-3, 95, 101, 127, 133- 35, 137, 141-42, 147
United States v. The Progressive Magazine, 467 F. Supp. 990 (W.D. Wis. 1979) 95, 142-43
Statutes
Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148 124, Stat. 119, 239
Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C. §2011 et seq. (1946),143
False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 – 3733, 132
Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1441, 1602–1611, 177-78
Government Secrets Act, Pub.L. 61–470, 146
Home Rule Act, Pub.L. 93–198, 87 Stat. 774, 79
Voting Rights Act, Pub. L. 89-110, 79 Stat. 437, 79

BIOGRAPHY OF ELIZABETH SARAH (“SALLY”) GERE
Sally Gere grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. with her parents and three younger sisters in
an era that began to open new professional opportunities for women. For Sally ,that
led to the law. After graduating from Denison University and George Washington
University Law School, Sally was a law clerk to Judge June L. Green of the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia-the fourth woman in the country to be
appointed to the federal trial bench. With Judge Green as her role model, Sally
learned how to be a successful trial lawyer.
After her clerkship, Sally served in the Criminal and Civil Divisions of the U.S.
Department of Justice and was Chief of the Civil Division in the U.S. Attorney’s
Office in the Southern District of Ohio. She then returned to the District of
Columbia, where she spent more than two decades as a partner and general counsel
at Ross, Dixon & Bell, now Troutman Pepper. h 2A11, Sally returned to public
service as a Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General for the
District of Columbia, where she worked until her retirement in 2018.
Over her career, Sally litigated a wide variety of civil and criminal cases in trial and
appellate courts in the District of Columbia and across the country. Many of them
made headlines in the [Mashington Post and the New York Times, and several reached
the Supreme Court of the United States.
Sally taught at and, for a year, led the Justice Department’s Advocacy Institute
program for civil litigation. Sally also was an adjunct professor at Georgetown
University Law Center for over 20 years, where she was honored with an
Outstanding Adj unct Professor award.
Sally’s other contributions to the profession include having served as a bar examiner
with the D.C. Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions and as a member of one
of that Court’s Board on Professional Responsibility Hearing Committees. She was
Chair of the D.C. District Court’s Committee on Pro Se Litigation, and a member of
its Local Rules Committee, its Lawyer Counseling Panel, and its Merit Selection
Panel for magistrate judges. Sally has been a member of the D.C. Circuit Judicial
Conference for decades and has received numerous professional awards. She was
one of the first members of the Potter Stewart Inn of Court in Cincinnati, Ohio, and
was a member of the Charles Fahy Inn of Court, the first Inn of Court in the District
of Columbia.

Biography of Interviewer Barbara Kagan
Barbara Kagan, now retired, practiced law in the District of Columbia upon receiving her law
degree from Cornell University. After serving in a number of federal government agencies, she
established her own lawpractice, representing individuals and companies in both civil and criminal
matters. ln 1992, she accepted the newly created position of Public Service Counsel at Steptoe &
Johnson, becoming one of the very first attorneys in the country, and only the second in D.C., to
lead a law firm pro bono program on a full-time basis. She was tasked with building a robust and
effective firmwide pro bono program that would advance the public interest, while also matching
the varying skills and interests ofthe firm’s attorneys both in the U.S. and abroad. As Public Service
Counsel, Ms. Kagan identified, assessed, and accepted pro bono cases, ranging from
representations of individual clients in an array of substantive areas to large matters with
significant local, national, and international import, and created several signature projects.
Additionally, she regularly supervised and co-counseled with Steptoe associates and partners and
served as lead attorney in a variety of cases. Ms. Kagan also served as the firm’s liaison with
numerous public interest organizations and served on many of their boards. She has authored
articles and papers addressing issues related to pro bono practice.