John D. Aldock Second Interview: April 14, 2010Dawn Bellinger2022-04-29T10:39:55-04:00
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39 ORAL HISTORY OF JOHN ALDOCK Second Interview April 14, 2010 This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is John Aldock, and the interviewer is Judy Feigin. The interview is taking place in John’s office in Washington, DC, on April 14, 2010. This is the second interview. Ms. Feigin: When we left off, I think you were just beginning your clerkship. Do you want to pick up from that point and tell us how that went? Mr. Aldock: I accepted the clerkship with Judge Luther Youngdahl, who had an interesting history that intersected somewhat with mine. Youngdahl had been the Republican governor of Minnesota at the time Hubert Humphrey was the mayor of Minneapolis. Humphrey wanted to run for the Senate but couldn’t beat Youngdahl if Youngdahl also ran for the Senate, because Youngdahl was very popular, looked like God in the Sistine Chapel, and his brother was head of the Lutheran Church of Minnesota. Humphrey told Truman that, if Truman wanted the Senate seat for a Democrat, he had to get Youngdahl out of Minnesota. There was a rumor that Youngdahl’s doctors were telling him that he should do something more restful – like a federal judgeship – for his health. Humphrey told Truman that Youngdahl would be a great judge and that he couldn’t figure out why Youngdahl was a Republican. [Laughter] Truman purportedly said, “Although this is a man of stature, I’ve got no Supreme Court vacancies; all I’ve got is a district court judgeship in the District of Columbia, but I’ll promise him 40 that I’ll try to move him up.” Youngdahl became a district judge in DC and Humphrey became a Senator. Before I got to the clerkship, that was the limit of Youngdahl’s judicial promotion because, in his early years, the Owen Lattimore case was brought before Youngdahl. Owen Lattimore was a China expert, and he was the only State Department employee that Senator Joe McCarthy claimed was a Soviet spy. A case against Lattimore alleging perjury before a Senate committee was brought in 1952 before Youngdahl. The judge dismissed the main counts of the indictment. It went up on appeal, the DC Circuit split with an evenly divided court, and therefore the case went back down to Youngdahl. Ms. Feigin: How did it have an evenly divided appellate court? Mr. Aldock: Because somebody was recused. Leo Rover, the then US Attorney, came before Youngdahl and asked him to recuse himself because the judge’s opinion to throw out the case was strong. Youngdahl threw Rover out of court. Eventually, the Court of Appeals affirmed Youngdahl, and the case never proceeded against Lattimore. Of course, as far as the Republicans were concerned, Youngdahl was not going to a higher court. Youngdahl was a very good district judge and, since I had been working for Humphrey, I thought a Youngdahl clerkship might be interesting and I wanted to clerk in DC. I also had interviewed Judge Leventhal and, while I thought that 41 was a great clerkship, I felt an appeals court clerkship was like Law Review, and I hated Law Review. Leventhal was a great judge and a great man. I appeared before the DC Circuit many times. Leventhal was probably my second favorite of the judges on that court with Judge McGowan my most favorite. They both were intellectual giants. In any event, I accepted the clerkship with Youngdahl but told him I thought it was unlikely that I would finish the clerkship, because I thought I’d be drafted. Youngdahl told me not to worry. Ms. Feigin: Why did he say not to worry? Mr. Aldock: It was quite amazing. At that point, men who were under 26, single, and not in school were being drafted. Clerkships didn’t count; I had friends who were drafted out of clerkships. If you were drafted out of a clerkship, you were offered a deal by the Army. You could go in the Army as a foot soldier in Vietnam or you could sign up for four years in Army JAG. I was hoping not to have that choice. One day Youngdahl came into my office and said, “I want to show you a letter.” It was addressed to General Lewis B. Hershey, then head of the Selective Service. It was written to Hershey by his first name. I knew that General Hershey lived in Youngdahl’s building, the Cathedral Towers in DC, and that Youngdahl sometimes swam with Hershey in the mornings. The letter said something like, “I’m a senior enough judge who could sit on the criminal side or on the civil side. If Silver Spring is unwise enough to draft my law clerk, I will not sit on criminal cases, and crime in Silver Spring will rise.” 42 Ms. Feigin: [Laughter] Mr. Aldock: I said, “Very funny, Judge. Great joke.” Youngdahl said, “What joke? I sent the letter.” [Laughter]. I reached my 26 birthday and never heard from my draft th board again. Luck or the letter? I never will know. [Laughter] So I clerked for Judge Youngdahl. It was a great job. I was in court every day. The judge would pass me notes on his thoughts about the advocate who was before him at the time. “This guy doesn’t know what he’s doing” or “This one’s good; you can learn something” or “If he doesn’t shut up, I’m going to hold him in contempt.” Judge Youngdahl would decide the criminal motions on the equities. Many of the cases were criminal, and many were Fourth or Sixth Amendment issues, e.g. lineup issues and search and seizure issues. The judge would go back into chambers and say, “The test is did the police act reasonably?” For Youngdahl that was the issue. He would decide the case on that basis and then ask me to find the supporting case law. I actually don’t think that was a bad way to decide those type of issues. Youngdahl said, “If you find cases that make it impossible for me to do what I want to do, let me know. Otherwise, I thought the police acted reasonably or I don’t think they should have done it.” That was the way the judge decided the cases. I don’t believe he was reversed during my clerkship on any criminal case we had. Ms. Feigin: Were you the sole law clerk? Mr. Aldock: Yes. Many of my friends today were law clerks then with other judges. Paul Friedman, now a federal judge, was a law clerk for Judge Robinson. Bob Higgins 43 was a law clerk for Judge Jones. Bob Watkins was clerking for Judge Bryant at the time. I met all the clerks and liked them, and we used to hang out together. After sitting in the courtroom every day and watching these lawyers, it did not take long for most of us to conclude that “we can do this.” So you were motivated to be a trial lawyer on the grounds that you had learned something about the craft, you were comfortable with it, and it looked like fun. All the clerks I mentioned became Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) and trial lawyers. Ms. Feigin: Really! By the way, all the ones you mentioned were male. Were there any female law clerks in those days? Mr. Aldock: There were very few female law clerks and very few female District Court judges. I think then there were two female judges. Burnita Matthews would have been the first. June Green would have been the second. I appeared often before Judge Green. She told stories about coming to the bar and no law firm would hire her. When Judge Green tried to use the library in the courthouse, she was told women were not allowed. I think June Green was the only judge who had female clerks at that point. Subsequently, Judge Gasch had female clerks and, of course, others did as well. Ms. Feigin: Are we talking only about the District Court now? Mr. Aldock: I am talking about the District Court, but I don’t recall a female judge on the Court of Appeals. I’m not positive but I don’t think there was one. Were there women law clerks? I don’t remember any. This was 1967-68. Life changed 44 dramatically for women lawyers within a year because of the Vietnam War. My law school class had four women and, within a few years, classes were 30, 40, and 50% women. It had to have been during the late 1960s and early 1970s when this shift occurred. In part, I think because the men were being drafted. That was the catalyst for the change. Then, when women were coming out of law school in those numbers, the pressure on the judges, whatever their views, was to get with the program and take the best students. Jumping ahead, when I was with the US Attorney’s Office, there was a growing number of women law clerks. In any event, I clerked for Judge Youngdahl. I was supposed to work until September, but in June the judge said, “This is your last day.” I thought, This is not good. I’m getting fired. [Laughter] I inquired further. The judge said, “I’ve been thinking that I’m not going to be that active this summer. I’m going to take some time off. While I am a Republican, my party is going down the tubes. I can’t stand Nixon. I’ve talked to Hubert. He is running for president. You should end your clerkship early and join the campaign tomorrow.” And I did. I appeared at Humphrey’s election headquarters here in DC and was assigned to a group of terrific people headed by Robert R. Nathan, who had held major economic positions during World War II and had an influential consulting firm in DC. Nathan was in charge of domestic issues for the 1968 campaign. His deputies were Stuart Eizenstat, who had come out of the Johnson White House, and David Birenbaum, who later became a Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations. There also were a group of very senior people on the foreign affairs side, including George Ball and Zbigniew Brzezinski; we were the domestic side. 45 Our views on the Vietnam War were not solicited, and we had nothing to do with the war issues. We divided the work into various subjects. I had “crime,” “cities,” “race,” and a variety of other issues. The game plan was to create a task force of very eminent experts on each subject – to pick the five or so best people on each subject. Out of the task forces, we would get ideas for Humphrey to use in speeches and policy positions. In any event, it would look good to be able to say that the task forces were advising the candidate on these matters. As a result, I met terrific people, including James Q. Wilson of MIT and Henry Ruth of subsequent Watergate fame who worked on the crime task force. While the Vietnam War was the main issue, crime probably was the second most important issue in the 1968 election. On the cities task force, we had former Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz and several people from the Ford Foundation. The task force on race was composed of very prominent academics. Ms. Feigin: Kenneth Clark? Would he have been on? Mr. Aldock: Kenneth Clark, yes. It was very interesting and great fun, but there were a couple of depressing things. On the housing task force I couldn’t get any ideas, because all the members kept saying that everything was either politically impossible or the cost was prohibitive. Just to get the ball rolling, I asked the members to tell me what they would do if neither cost nor politics was a problem. Amazingly, they still didn’t have any ideas. How could that be? So we never wrote anything 46 useful about housing, but we did get some great ideas out of several of the other task forces. On the foreign affairs front, there was a story I heard from very reliable people that, during the campaign, Humphrey was told by Joe Califano (who was in the White House) that President Johnson knew that Humphrey was considering the so-called “Peace Plank” on the Vietnam War issue that was pending before the Democratic Convention. Califano warned Humphrey that, if he endorsed that position, Johnson would appear on national TV and call Humphrey a traitor. While some of us thought that would get Humphrey elected, Humphrey decided not to endorse the “Peace Plank.” I’ve looked back at the Peace Plank versus what was then the United States Government’s position, and they are not all that different. I guess that symbolically they were burning issues, and therefore the actual words were not so important. In any event, Humphrey didn’t differentiate himself from President Johnson on the war until very late in the campaign, and then it was too late. The election was very close, and we all flew to Minneapolis on election might. We thought Humphrey was going to win. Even by midnight we thought we might have had it, but when I woke up – I’d probably had too much to drink and not much sleep – we had lost. I do think that with another week or so Humphrey would have been victorious. Ms. Feigin: The younger generations won’t understand that you could go to sleep and not know, because that doesn’t happen anymore. Can you explain a little bit what election night was like and how the returns came in? 47 Mr. Aldock: It was very exciting. The returns would come in, precinct by precinct, and nobody would call the election. So you just had precinct totals. Humphrey had his own people who would try to interpret the data. I don’t think the TV anchors told you anything. They certainly weren’t projecting the election, and I don’t think they had the sophisticated polling methods necessary to do so. I also don’t think the networks polled people coming out of the voting booths. Poll watchers only would say whether the turnout was high or low in traditional Democratic or Republican strongholds. I had an informal understanding with the campaign that, if Humphrey won, I would go to the White House. I likely would have had a policy position and would be a K Street lobbyist today. So much for litigation. But if we lost, the Attorney General would sign my commission as an Assistant US Attorney. So I flew back from Minneapolis the day after the election and walked into the US Attorney’s Office – David Bress was US Attorney – and said, “I’m here to report for work.” Ms. Feigin: Before we start the US Attorney’s Office, let me just ask you some more questions about the campaign. Did you personally interact with Vice President Humphrey in any significant way? Mr. Aldock: No. We would write our materials which would go to Bob Nathan, and they would be marked up and sent back. We sometimes saw the candidate walking around the office, but there was no real personal interaction. Humphrey would wave and say, “Good work, boys,” or something to that effect. We were working 48 pretty much around the clock because we had the feeling that everything we did was important, whether it really was or not. Ms. Feigin: And where was everyone working? Mr. Aldock: A big office on Connecticut Avenue. I guess the rents were cheap, and the campaign had some money. We were paid late and intermittently; we ultimately got paid, but the paychecks didn’t come on a regular basis. The salary was quite low, but no one really cared. Ms. Feigin: Do you have any idea, any memory of what kind of salary one earned in those days for this work? Mr. Aldock: I know as a law clerk I made $7,000. I started in the US Attorney’s Office at $7,500, and I made less in the campaign. I know Judy, whom I was dating during this period, was working for Congressional Quarterly and was earning $4,200. When we got married in 1969, Judy still was making less than $5,000, and I was making $7,500. On those combined salaries, we ate out several nights a week, lived in a nice one-bedroom apartment in the Van Ness on Connecticut Avenue, traveled abroad every year, and owned a car. We lived as well as we live today on so many multiples of those numbers; we lived very well on very little. To continue, after the campaign I showed up in Dave Bress’ office and reminded him that he had hired me. Ms. Feigin: [Laughter] Had you had any interviews with him? 49 Mr. Aldock: I had had an interview but it was tentative, because I was working in the campaign. Ms. Feigin: You mean you had an interview with him personally? Mr. Aldock: Yes. But it was a five-minute interview; he was just passing by. The procedure was that other people in the office did the interviews. Bress very much wanted a judgeship so anything political was fine with him. Unfortunately for Bress, he never did get a judgeship. The US Attorneys generally do not try many cases, but Bress took a case that he then assigned to me while I was sitting there. It was the contempt of Congress case of Jeff Fort, who was one of the Blackstone Rangers, a bad street gang in Chicago. Jeff Fort had taken the Fifth Amendment before a congressional committee on every question. The case was all paper. Bress thought it was a great case; I thought it was deadly. Bress was not going to lose this case on a technicality, so it was the most over-prepared case you could imagine. That was my first case as an Assistant US Attorney. Ms. Feigin: Did you win? Mr. Aldock: We did. I think it took half an hour. Afterwards, Bress said, “You’ve got a good record and you were on the Law Review and, while we usually start Assistants in the Court of General Sessions (which was then the lowest trial court in the District) we’ll start you in Appellate.” So I started in Appellate. We didn’t argue all our cases while we were in Appellate; we took them with us when we moved 50 to the Trial Division. In my three years in the US Attorney’s Office, I probably argued 50 appeals. The Appellate Section was a very small group. Many people who went into the US Attorney’s Office had no interest in Appellate. Everybody wanted to appear before a jury, so people went through Appellate as fast as they could, and some were deemed wholly unqualified. A lawyer, who shall remain nameless, one of the top trial lawyers in the city, washed out of Appellate after a month. The lawyer and his supervisor agreed that he was not able to brief and argue cases before the DC Circuit. He is a great jury lawyer, but it’s a different skill set. I remained in Appellate for a year and enjoyed it. Ms. Feigin: Could you tell us before we progress beyond Appellate what the court structure was then? Because it was quite different. Mr. Aldock: There was a Court of General Sessions, which handled misdemeanors for which defendants could be sentenced to no more than a year. These included attempted burglary (but not burglary), prostitution, negligent homicide, disorderly conduct, shoplifting and petty larceny. Attempted robbery was a three-year sentence, so it went to US District Court. The intake procedure was called papering. The police officer would show up and present his evidence to an Assistant who would decide what to do with the case. The US Attorney’s Office probably had only 50-60 Assistants; it has several hundred now. In our time, we were overwhelmed with the case volume. We would look at the case and, if the person was going to get probation or a juvenile deferral, we would break the robbery down to attempted burglary and 51 simple assault; lower the felony charges; and charge misdemeanors. What we didn’t know, which they do know today, is whether we were reducing charges on somebody who had three prior murder convictions and therefore we never should have reduced the charges. We didn’t have that kind of tracking system. When somebody comes into the court they now know who the person is and whether he or she should be a target defendant. Ms. Feigin: Do you mean you didn’t know in time to make the initial decision? Because obviously you ultimately knew at sentencing. Mr. Aldock: Right. You didn’t know in time to make the decision. After I left Appellate, I was sent to General Sessions (the court I just was describing). It was a zoo, great fun but crazy. The court had trouble dealing with the volume of cases. It had judges who were less than ideal: Judge Halleck, who was the son of the then Minority Leader of the House, and another judge who had been Nixon’s roommate in law school. (Nixon was president at that time.) Ms. Feigin: Who was that? Mr. Aldock: Buddy Beard. We had Judge Kronheim, who was the son of the largest liquor dealer in town and a man with whom President Truman played poker. And yet these men, with all that political influence, could get only a General Sessions judgeship! They were not stars. By and large, the judges were not the highest quality. There were, of course, certain exceptions. The African American judges often were better, because they needed higher standards to get appointed. But the court wasn’t the same as its successor, the Superior Court, is today. The Superior 52 Court for the District of Columbia is one of the best state courts in the country. Today, they generally appoint very good lawyers. Ms. Feigin: Did the US Attorney, then as now, do local crimes as well as federal crimes? Mr. Aldock: Both, but all the local crimes that were felonies and now are tried in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia were tried in US District Court, not in the Court of General Sessions. To deal with the volume, we resorted to some extralegal remedies that were deemed necessary to keep the community happy. We would sit on a rotating basis on what was called “The Counter.” That meant that any citizens who had problems could show up, and Assistant US Attorneys would meet with them. We did some amazing things. For example, I granted numerous common law divorces. Ms. Feigin: [Laughter] What does that mean? Mr. Aldock: Women would come in and say their husbands had beat them up, and some showed it. I’d say, “Are you married?” Answer, “No, common law.” “How many years?” “I have no idea.” After confirming the woman’s wishes and determining that reconciliation was unlikely, I’d order the “husband” to stay away from the woman. I then would get both parties to sign a paper agreeing to separate, i.e. common law divorce. Ms. Feigin: [Laughter] Did you do things like order alimony? 53 Mr. Aldock: No, we never ordered alimony, but we did order property to be returned to the person who paid for it, i.e. “You took the car? She gets the car.” And we would issue what amounted to informal restraining orders with no judicial approval. Some of the restraining orders were tough calls, because we often saw terrible physical abuse. The question was whether or not to bring formal charges. Often when we did, the woman wouldn’t testify. The track record was dreadful. So we took our chances and ordered the man not to see the woman again, but we were at risk – there could be further abuse or even a homicide. We never were sure, so Assistants agonized trying to figure out which way to go. Ms. Feigin: Did it ever happen to you that there was a murder? Mr. Aldock: It never happened to me, but it occurred in the office while I was there. That was sobering. Ms. Feigin: Did you award custody of children? Mr. Aldock: Yes. Of course, we had no lawful basis for formally doing so. The judges all knew what we were doing, and it continued for many years. The US Attorney’s Office hierarchy also was aware of what was happening; indeed we were assigned to counter duty. In some ways, we may have accomplished more at the counter than we did in prosecuting repeat offenders for prostitution or similar offenses. We also had cases of bullies who beat up others for lunch money. We’d subpoena the other bully; he’d come in and thought he would be charged. The odds of charging a 15-year-old boy with beating up a 13-year-old boy for his lunch money was zero, but they didn’t know that. Often it worked out well. 54 Another job of an Assistant was to be on call at home at night for emergency warrants. One of us always would be on call. Ms. Feigin: For the police? Mr. Aldock: Yes. I recall a particular Thanksgiving when I was an Assistant and living in the Van Ness Apartments. Police officers showed up to obtain a warrant to search a car in an alleged rape case. The basis for the warrant was pretty thin. The police had nothing written down; they just told me what they had. We had typewriters; there were no computers. I didn’t type, but Judy did. So I dictated the basis for the warrant as best I could. It had to be typed before it went to the judge, and the police were in a hurry. It was Thanksgiving, and they had to take it to the judge’s house. Judy typed it, but the carbon paper was in backwards so it was unreadable. Absolutely unreadable. The police said they couldn’t wait for it to be retyped and ran off with the unreadable warrant. They told me later that Judge Kronheim signed the paper without looking at it. I never heard what happened to that case. I had a couple of other memorable cases while I was an AUSA in General Sessions. We really learned to try cases in that court. We had no real training; it was mostly watching others and using trial and error. I would be assigned to a courtroom, a police officer would walk in, he’d hand me a file, and I’d open it up and hope it had papers in it. If it had any information charging a crime, I was ready to go. The judge, often while you were reading and before you had finished, would say, “Call your first witness.” If you found the police officer’s name, you’d call him. If not, you’d ask, “Is there a police officer in the room? 55 Officer, would you take the stand? Officer, you are here to tell us about a burglary. What happened?” Ms. Feigin: So no prep. Mr. Aldock: Nothing. We never met the police officer or complainant beforehand. We certainly learned on our feet. I remember one of my first cases before Judge Pryor, who was a good judge. I opened up the file and saw that the charge was “possession of implements of a crime” (PIC). I had no idea what that meant. It turned out that, if a defendant was in possession of a syringe and something else like a tourniquet and there were only traces of drugs on these things, we charged it as PIC. The judge called me to the bench and said, “What are you going to do with this case? Particularly, what are you going to do with that possession of implements of a crime charge?” I looked at the information and saw there were three counts, including two drug possession charges, and they all had the same maximum sentence. I hadn’t a clue about the PIC count, and the judge was asking specifically about that count. I did not have a good feeling about where this was going. [Laughter] So I said, “I’m going to dismiss that count, Your Honor.” Judge Pryor said, “That was very wise of you, because I think the PIC statute is unconstitutional and I have so held.” [Laughter] Of course, no one had told me. Since then I got on very well with Judge Pryor. Another memorable case was before Judge Harry Alexander. The judge had psychological problems, if not worse. Nobody wanted to be in his courtroom. Before being assigned to Judge Alexander’s courtroom, we were told that, if we 56 were “in trouble,” we should call Luke Moore, who was the head of General Sessions for the US Attorney’s Office. If Luke had lived long enough and run for mayor, he would have won. When you crossed the street with Luke Moore, it would take a long time, because everybody knew him and wanted to say hello. Luke was one of the few people who got along with Judge Alexander. I was assigned to Judge Alexander’s courtroom. At one point during the trial, the judge said, “I’ve had enough. You’ve been staring at my water pitcher. You’re in contempt. Marshal, take him back.” The “him” was me. This was not good. [Laughter] The Marshal took me to the cellblock behind the courtroom. He told me, “This happens. Don’t worry about it, but I’ve got to put you in the cell. I understand the drill. You want me to call Luke Moore.” I said, “Please.” [Laughter] I was in the cell for an hour while Luke Moore and the judge had tea before I finally was released. I was not happy. Luke was having tea, and I was sitting in the cellblock. [Laughter] When I returned to the office, I was granted a reprieve. I was told I had done my Alexander duty, and it was somebody else’s turn. They always had trouble getting the next volunteer for Judge Alexander. It usually went to someone new in the Court of General Sessions. There also was another judge in General Sessions who would leave the courtroom during trials. The judge would leave and ask his career clerk to carry on. We called the clerk judge whatever his name was, but he was the clerk. I don’t think he had a law degree. [Laughter] He would proceed with the ongoing trial. It was generally in nonjury prostitution cases. The prostitution cases all went the same way. The prosecutor had to establish the price and what the girl 57 was going to do for the price. Of course, no one believed the dialogue was quite so precise. Ms. Feigin: How many cases would you do in a day? Mr. Aldock: We would sometimes try 2 or even 3 cases in a day, particularly if they were nonjury. Few of the cases were prepared in advance. Yet, it sort of worked. The cases were misdemeanors, and we generally won them. If we lost a case, it was because either the witness never showed or the chain of custody of the evidence was screwed up, and the judge had to dismiss it. The jurors would occasionally acquit in domestic violence cases, particularly if it was the wife retaliating against a previously abusive husband. Sometimes the jury thought the case was too petty – maybe shoplifting from Hecht’s [local department store] – but, by and large, the juries would convict. The police department in those days was very good, it was racially integrated, and black and white officers were partners. There came a time later when that was not allowed, and the police leadership drove out the whites, and they drove out the blacks who got along with the white police officers. It was a shame. Ms. Feigin: Can you give a sense of when that happened? Mr. Aldock: I believe during the early 1970s they had these problems. It’s now a good police department again, but there was a bad period. When I was in the US Attorney’s Office, the police officers were terrific. If you had a murder case you got detectives who were great people, smart and dedicated. 58 After six months, I moved from the Court of General Sessions to the US District Court. If I had a serious case like a murder case, I got detectives who were professionals. In the District Court we were generally assigned to specific judges for different periods of time. I was assigned to Judge William Bryant, one of the first black judges on the court, and Judge June Green. Judge Bryant was considered a tough assignment for an AUSA, so the office wanted an Assistant who could cite case law, because Judge Bryant, a former AUSA and successful defense attorney, had a reputation as the most “liberal” judge on the court. When I was assigned to Judge Bryant, the office was losing half of the Fourth Amendment motions. That was troubling. I loved the assignment, and I loved Judge Bryant. I thought he was a terrific person and a great judge. I learned a lot in his courtroom. Bryant worked a little like Youngdahl. He’d say, “If I don’t think the police did what they should have done, you’d better have a case.” Also, the judge would bargain with the Assistant. When I had a strong case, i.e. eyewitnesses and recovery of a weapon, Judge Bryant might call me to the bench and say, “I am troubled about the search; you don’t need the gun.” I responded “What do you mean I don’t need the gun? I need the gun.” Bryant: “If you are as good as I think you are, you don’t need the gun. Do it without the gun.” [Laughter] Sometimes I’d say, “I can’t,” because he wasn’t ordering it. Other times I’d say, “All right. I will do it without the gun.” Judge Bryant and I got along very well, and he became a good friend after I left the office. He was recognized by the community and the other judges as a great judge and a great human being. The new DC courthouse is named after 59 Judge Bryant. That was accomplished in a bipartisan way just a few years ago by judges of different political persuasions, i.e. Chief Judge Hogan and Judge Friedman, and by Democratic and Republican senators and congressmen who had to approve it. Judge Bryant was revered. He was the first African American prosecutor to try cases in the US District Courthouse for the District of Columbia. Bryant, as a defense attorney, argued the Mallory case in the US Supreme Court. In 1965, Bryant became a judge and in 1977 he became the court’s first African American Chief Judge. We prosecuted murder, rape, and robbery cases. I loved being an AUSA in the US District Court. The attorneys would go out for beers and discuss our cases. It was there that we got tips on how to try cases. We tried about a case a week, except when we tried multiweek cases. Ms. Feigin: One a week?! That’s a lot. Mr. Aldock: Yes. They try far fewer today and also have Assistants doing a lot of work that does not involve trying cases. The people I met in the US Attorney’s Office forty years ago remain among my best friends today. Ms. Feigin: Who are some of those people? Mr. Aldock: Bob Higgins, Bob Bennett, Tom Green, Dick Hibey, Judge Paul Friedman, Earl Silbert, Roger Adelman, Rick Cys, Barry Levine, Bob Watkins, Don Bucklin, Steve Grafman, Roger Zuckerman, and many others. 60 When the Superior Court was first established, there was a need for lots of judges. Former AUSAs or Public Defenders had a good chance of getting a judgeship, and several of my former colleagues went on the bench, i.e. Willie King, Bob Shuker, and John Terry, to name a few. Ms. Feigin: Did you consider doing that? Mr. Aldock: No, I had no interest in being a judge. We have former AUSA reunions. Probably 50 to 80 people who were Assistant US Attorneys from what was called the Flannery Era come. Flannery was the US Attorney during the late 60s and early 70s before he became a judge. There is now an annual Flannery lecture in the Ceremonial Courtroom at the courthouse in honor of Judge Flannery, who died a few years ago. The speaker at the first lecture was Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, and this year Justice Scalia spoke. Ms. Feigin: Was Judge Lamberth part of the group as well? Mr. Aldock: Yes. These reunions have very high attendance. Two of our group, Bob Bennett and Jim Sharp, represented presidents Clinton and Bush in criminal investigations. The Flannery Era Assistants were a special group and have a special bond, even after forty years. Ms. Feigin: Why don’t you state for the record what Bob Bennett did for President Clinton? Mr. Aldock: Bob represented President Clinton in the Paula Jones case. 61 Ms. Feigin: What did Jim Sharp do for President Bush? Mr. Aldock: He represented Bush in potential criminal matters that never came out. Jim never talks about it and it was not well-publicized. Jim Sharp is another excellent criminal trial lawyer from that era. Ms. Feigin: Was that the last part of your work at the US Attorney’s Office? Or did you go to another division after you were doing the felony trials? Mr. Aldock: No. Felony trial was the last stop. Ms. Feigin: Tell us about some of your cases. Mr. Aldock: I thought the hardest case I had as an Assistant was an incest case before Judge June Green, involving a father who raped his daughter. It was the Walter Ashe case which had been tried once and reversed. When I was assigned to try it, I had to make the decision whether to try it again. Then I had to decide whether I was going to try the case as an insanity matter. I spent weeks with the two children; the boy – her brother – was a witness. The alcoholic wife wouldn’t testify. The victim was a 10-year-old girl, but the event happened when she was 7. The brother was about 5 at the time. I had a psychologist examine the children to determine whether the children could handle the trial. Would the trial be detrimental to their future mental health? The psychologist said it would be OK and might even be useful. I am not sure I agreed, but I am not a psychologist. So I retried the case. I had to be careful with Judge Green, because she would have ruled in my favor on any plausible argument. Judge Green hated the case and 62 wanted the defendant to be convicted a second time. I had to make sure that I didn’t lead her into reversible error. After the jury convicted, I agreed to a not guilty by reason of insanity finding if the defendant didn’t contest dangerousness and was therefore committed to a mental institution. The defendant agreed and then switched lawyers, and I had to try the case again on the issue of dangerousness. It was an emotionally trying case. The jury found him dangerous which resulted in automatic commitment to St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital. Ms. Feigin: Did you have the sense after it was over how the children handled it? Mr. Aldock: I checked on them some years later, and they seemed to be OK. They went into foster homes. The mother was a hopeless alcoholic. The father was committed to the mental institution for enough time that he wouldn’t know where the kids were. At the end of my three years as an Assistant US Attorney I was ready to leave. I was in the office from 1968 until October 1971. I got married in 1969. Ms. Feigin: I want to get to that, but do you want to finish the cases first and then we’ll get to the personal? Mr. Aldock: I was assigned to a lot of the insanity cases for the US Attorney’s Office. Those were important cases to the office. Also, Circuit Judges Bazelon and Burger, who later became Chief Justice, sparred over mental health issues in numerous cases. It seemed like every case had a mental health issue because, I think, Bazelon looked for an issue in every case. The DC Circuit had its own unique law on the insanity defense. It was called the Durham Rule, and it was different from every 63 other circuit. That difference became symbolic for some of the judges. Some thought that, but for the Durham Rule, the DC Circuit would rejoin the mainstream and wouldn’t come up with “kooky” insanity opinions all the time. The case to challenge the Durham Rule was called US v. Archie Brawner, 471 F.2d 969 (D.C. Cir. 1972). Brawner’s lawyer was a man named Flynn, who had been a Supreme Court clerk and was a noted practitioner. I think he was a senior partner at Sidley. I was assigned to handle the appeal for the government. A partner at then Shea & Gardner named Bill Dempsey was the amicus appointed by Chief Judge Bazelon to support the Durham Rule. The court was split on the issue; the only question was where the majority would be. We argued the case before the full court en banc. Ms. Feigin: What was the result? Mr. Aldock: Durham was overruled by a unanimous court but Bazelon filed a separate concurring opinion. Ms. Feigin: Do you have any recollection about the en banc argument, because that’s quite an experience. Mr. Aldock: It was the biggest argument I had had. It was a very active bench because the judges were committed to one side or the other. Chief Judge Bazelon wanted to stay with the Durham Rule. Judge Leventhal supported what was then called the ALI Rule. I believe the rule came out of Columbia University and Leventhal was a Columbia man. The key was Judge McGowan – a great jurist who almost always decided issues correctly, in my view, and was never political or 64 ideological – just a great judge. I thought I would do pretty well with McGowan. The argument was all questions and speeches by the judges: What’s the consequence of doing this? What’s the consequence of doing that? What requires us to do it? Do we have discretion? Is it a constitutional issue? It was a very partisan court, although probably not as partisan as our present Supreme Court. Ms. Feigin: How did you prepare for it? Mr. Aldock: There was a lot of preparation. I had a young man assigned to assist me named Dan Bernstein, and he was very helpful and very good. I basically moot-courted it with Bob Higgins, who was a person I respected and whose judgment I trusted. I remember at one point I gave the argument, and Bob said, “I don’t like it. It’s too academic. Explain it the way you did when we had drinks last week. Do it that way.” I changed my opening a few days before the argument. On the other hand, I didn’t get to deliver it anyway because the argument was all questions. I gave parts of it – my sound bites. An active bench does not hear much of a prepared argument. Ms. Feigin: So there wasn’t a formal moot court system even for a case going en banc? Mr. Aldock: No. There wasn’t much formal anything in those days. There wasn’t much supervision of our work; Flannery hired us and let us do our jobs as we saw fit. I remember late in my tenure there was an attempt by the Department of Justice to control dismissals of indictments by the US Attorney’s Offices. The 65 Nixon White House wanted to show it was tough on crime. DOJ thought that we dismissed too many cases. We had the authority to dismiss a case if we thought we did not have the evidence or if we thought the defendant was innocent. We needed the permission of the US Attorney who always deferred to our judgment, but not the DOJ. I remember calling some guy at Justice who probably never tried a case in his life to tell him I intended to dismiss this case for these reasons. He said, “No, I can’t approve it.” I said, “What do you mean you can’t approve it?” “I can’t approve it.” “Well, I’ll talk to the US Attorney.” I went to Tom Flannery’s office and said, “This bozo at Justice says I can’t dismiss.” Flannery said, “Let’s just tell him our office is not trying the case but, if he would like to come down and try it, it would be OK with us.” That was the kind of support you always got from Flannery. Of course, at the Department of Justice level they blinked; it was all bravado. In our days we felt it was our obligation to dismiss a case if we were not morally certain the defendant was guilty. I think it is different today. There is pressure for a prosecutor to “win.” I think the idea that a prosecutor is doing justice as opposed to winning and losing has been somewhat lost. Maybe that’s just sour grapes by somebody who is now on the defense side, but I don’t think so. My former prosecutor colleagues all feel this way. Maybe “collective sour grapes.” Ms. Feigin: When you say that, are you speaking specifically about this US Attorney’s Office or do you think this is a nationwide phenomenon? 66 Mr. Aldock: I think it’s nationwide problem. But the DC US Attorney’s Office always was better than other places. The Southern District of New York also was a great US Attorney’s Office. In my experience, which was always as a defense attorney appearing elsewhere, you didn’t get the quality you had in DC and New York. Ms. Feigin: When you were preparing for this argument, you came to meet Bill Dempsey, who was the amicus appointed by the court? Mr. Aldock: Yes. I spent some time with Dempsey speaking about the Brawner case at law schools. This was a big case at the time. Ms. Feigin: Law schools in DC or elsewhere? Mr. Aldock: They were all local. At the end of one of those law school sessions, Bill Dempsey said to me, “Why don’t you come by and meet some of the people at Shea & Gardner and have lunch?” I said, “Fine.” I never had heard of Shea & Gardner. I really didn’t know anything about law firms in DC, even though I’d grown up here. I met Frank Shea, Warner Gardner, Steve Pollak, Marty Flynn, and a few others. There weren’t many partners; fewer than 20 lawyers in the office. Most were Supreme Court clerks. At the end of the day I was asked, “Why don’t you join the firm?” I responded, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” I talked to Bob Higgins and a couple other friends, then I accepted. In my mind it was not a big decision; after a couple of years I would look for something else. So the decision to go to the law firm where I remained more than 40 years was done with no planning and minimal due diligence. 67 Ms. Feigin: This is 1971. Do you remember what the starting salary for an associate was in 1971? Mr. Aldock: I think the US Attorney’s number had been moving up. It was $7,500 when I started. I probably was earning $15,000 when I left. The law firm probably paid $18,000. And again, we never lived so well. I still can’t quite understand it. Ms. Feigin: Before we get into the law firm, let’s go back a little bit and talk about how you met your wife and tell me a little bit about her. Mr. Aldock: I had grown up in Silver Spring and gone to Montgomery Blair High School. Judy had grown up in Bethesda and attended BCC but we didn’t know each other in high school or college. I went to Northwestern University, and Judy went to the University of Wisconsin. Judy is two years younger than I am. Growing up we didn’t know anybody in common. While I was in DC for my clerkship, Judy and I met at a party in Southwest DC at the Tiber Island apartments. I believe Judy was the date of the host of the party whom I knew from law school. To this day Judy denies she was his date, but he certainly thought so at the time. Judy was working at Congressional Quarterly. She lived at 2121 P Street and walked to work. Ms. Feigin: What did she do for them? Mr. Aldock: She was a researcher. Congressional Quarterly in those days was the main source of information about what was happening in Congress. 68 We got married on May 18, 1969. Judge Youngdahl married us at Judy’s parents’ home in Bethesda. I had to remind the judge that he had no jurisdiction to marry a couple in Maryland; therefore, we were officially and secretly married the 16 of May in Judge Youngdahl’s chambers, where we just signed papers. th Two days later Judge Youngdahl “married” us again. As far as Judge Youngdahl was concerned, he was speaking for country and God. The judge enjoyed doing weddings much more than being a judge. Ms. Feigin: [Laughter] Mr. Aldock: The judge’s lack of jurisdiction caused some problems. Many years later, my mother-in-law was at a party where she heard that a federal judge had no jurisdiction to marry couples in Maryland. She called up and told me, “You are an idiot. The children are illegitimate.” Ms. Feigin: [Laughter] Mr. Aldock: I barely had recovered from that conversation when my mother called. She said, “Do you mean that I was not at the real wedding? Which date do you celebrate your anniversary?” Judy and I really couldn’t win, but we celebrate the wedding that people were invited to as opposed to the signing in the judge’s chambers. Ms. Feigin: What was Judy researching? What was her field? Mr. Aldock: Congressional Quarterly basically did analyses of legislation in those days. There was no National Journal or Politico; they had no competition. It was “the” organization. If you wanted to know what legislation was pending, what it 69 contained, whether it was going to pass, what was the basis for the provisions, etc., you’d get it from Congressional Quarterly. Ms. Feigin: How often did Congressional Quarterly (CQ) come out? Mr. Aldock: Weekly. And it also did all kinds of special reports and an annual Almanac. There was no Roll Call; CQ covered that niche, too. CQ didn’t do Hill gossip, but it certainly covered all the political angles. CQ had its own journalistic citation rules that were not unlike the lawyer’s Blue Book. Everything was done in a certain way and had to be precise. CQ had to have a sound basis for anything it printed. It wasn’t breezy like a Roll Call. It was a technical publication, and it was everyone’s Capitol Hill Bible, including the people on the Hill. Ms. Feigin: And what was Judy’s involvement with Watergate? Mr. Aldock: After Judy left Congressional Quarterly, she worked in the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee and ultimately became its Acting Director. Judy had locked the safe that was broken into the night of the Watergate burglary. That same night, we parked on the street in front of the Watergate and directly across from the Howard Johnson’s while attending a concert with friends at Wolf Trap. When we returned, we saw lots of activity in front of the Watergate, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. The following day the police and FBI called. Judy was told she had to return to the DNC to view the crime scene, confirm that she’d locked the safe, and determine what was missing. Ms. Feigin: This is 1972? 70 Mr. Aldock: Yes. And it turned out that the prosecutors for Watergate were Earl Silbert and Seymour Glanzer. Because they knew Judy, they enjoyed the fact that she was a witness. Ms. Feigin: Were they both at the US Attorney’s Office? Mr. Aldock: Yes, they both were. We learned lots of things about Watergate that other people didn’t. Judy testified at the trial of the Watergate burglars. It was all direct testimony with no cross-examination, because the technical issue of the burglary was of no consequence to the trial. We got three to five pages of transcript, and both of our children used the transcript for show-and-tell at school. “My mommy was in Watergate!” [Laughter] That was at a time when people still knew what Watergate was, but maybe those days are gone. During Watergate Judy and I would go out evenings, often to the Shoreham Hotel to watch the comedian Mark Russell joke about Watergate. Sometimes there would be people like Mitchell in the audience. Ms. Feigin: The Attorney General? Mr. Aldock: The Attorney General. Those were fascinating times. Hank Ruth, whom I worked with in the Humphrey campaign, became a big player as the Watergate prosecutor with Jaworski after Archibald Cox was fired. Hank also came to Shea & Gardner for a while at one point. Ms. Feigin: How long did Judy stay with the Democratic National Committee? 71 Mr. Aldock: I think she may have stayed another two years after that. Then she did part-time work for CQ for several years thereafter, because her contemporaries were in charge as they moved up the line. The editor was Peter Harkness, who had been a colleague of Judy’s. I think he just retired this year from Governing magazine, a sister publication of CQ, so he had been there a long time. Ms. Feigin: That is a fascinating footnote to history. Mr. Aldock: It was fun. Ms. Feigin: I think this may be a good time to stop, because we’re about to begin a huge block which would be your time at Shea & Gardner. So unless there is something you want to add, pre-joining the firm, probably we should save that part for the next session. Mr. Aldock: We’re done. Ms. Feigin: Thank you so much. Mr. Aldock: Thank you.