– 43 –
And C.R. Smith was?
The head of American Airlines. So AOA was sold to
Pan Am and there was one hell of a battle about the sale
as to whether it would be okayed because it had to be
okayed by the government and there were a lot of arguments
against that.
Was American the principal shareholder in AOA?
Yeah, yeah it was 50/50. Well, the net of it was
that we were, we had to go to court, the president, Truman
was then president, the sale of AOA to Pan American was
approved. There was litigation; we had to go to court; we
won the litigation and so on. It was a big, a tremendous
case; it attracted a lot of attention and was quite a
famous case. And I won it. After that, I decided I’d had
a belly full of aviation and from there on, most of the
aviation work was done not by me but by others in the firm.
You’d just gotten tired of dealing with the issues or the
people or the . . .?
Yeah. I continued, obviously, I had to continue to
be involved to an extent but I mainly got off on other
This is January 31, 1992, and I’m meeting again with Mr.
Westwood. We left off when we last met, Mr. Westwood, with
your having, as you put it, more or less having had a belly
full of aviation and moving on to other matters in your law
– 44 –
practice at Covington & Burling. I know that there were three
cases of particular significance that you were involved in, the
Steel Seizure case, the Texas City disaster case and the Perez
Jimenez case involving the extradition of the then-dictator of
Venezuela and I thought that perhaps we could talk about those
three cases this morning. Why don’t we start with the Steel
Seizure case? When did that arise, if you recall?
Well that, that arose in the spring of 1952. Truman,
Truman’s administration you see would come to an end in
the next year. There would be, as a matter of fact,
Eisenhower was elected in, you know in the fall of 1952.
So this was right toward the end of the Truman
administration. What had happened was that there had been
a great dispute going on between the management of steel
companies and the labor unions over wages. It finally
became evident that there was not going to be an agreement
and the labor unions were going to go on strike. What
Truman did, feeling that a strike of the steel industry
would be a very critical thing, what he did was to prepare
to take over the steel companies on the theory that the
labor unions would not strike against the United States
running the steel plants and, obviously, there had been some
overtures with the labor unions and so on on the subject.
Well, the likelihood would be that under the, during the
time of the federal government having control of the steel
– 45 –
companies, wages would be increased. This was not exactly
what management wanted to have happen because there would be
no way in the world, as a practical matter, for them to
get back to their previous wage levels and continue with
collective bargaining with the labor unions. They would
be faced with a fait accompli and it was perfectly obvious
that the labor unions were sort of playing footsie and
playing ball with the federal government in the takeover.
The net of it was that the steel companies figured that
they were going to have to somehow or other try to resort to
litigation to prevent the federal government, the
President, from taking over and running the steel industry.
U.S. Steel came to us, this was John W. Davis’ firm in New
York, obviously with the thought that we would be local
counsel, but that they would be really handling the matter.
And we had quite a meeting with them. Well, Mr. Davis had
been an old-time friend of our law firm and we’d, we’d known
the Davis firm from way back and our relations always have
been very cordial, but we made it fairly clear to them that
sure, we would, we would be delighted to jump into the case
with them but we were going to be very actively involved,
we weren’t going to be simply names with their doing all
the, all the work and so on.
Was there any resistance to that on their part?
– 46 –
No, no, not really. Now we’d had a very, very happy
relationship with that firm over many, many years and we
had worked together on a lot of things. Well, the net of
it was that as far as our work was concerned, I was pushed
in charge of that and working with the Davis firm and
ultimately, as I say, with, very closely with Mr. John W.
Davis. We began right away, this was on the eve of the
seizure, the seizure had not actually occurred yet, but
the effort was going to be to forestall it somehow or
other. Well, it’s a long and very complicated story. The
other steel companies all around the country, they too
were planning to get into litigation and as matters turned
out, although we were working hard on drafting the
necessary papers and so on, but as matters turned out,
there must have been at least a couple of steel companies
that actually filed suit here in the District of Columbia
to enjoin, in an effort to enjoin a seizure before we
did. Now that wasn’t because we were delaying, but we
were probably taking somewhat more pains with the drafting
of papers than one or two of the other steel companies
that got ahead of us on filing the lawsuits. As it turned
out, in the end that didn’t make any difference. In any
case, we soon got our lawsuit filed to enjoin the seizure
and a whole flock of other steel companies got their
lawsuits filed and the . .
– 47 –
Were they separate lawsuits or did they join in yours?
Oh, no, no. They were separate lawsuits. A whole
flock of them. I’ve forgotten how many, but a whole flock
of them. Ours was just for U.S. Steel. But, of course,
U.S. Steel was the most prominent and biggest of all the
steel companies so their position was very critical.
Well, the net of it was that an immediate restraint was
sought from the district court and the district judge,
well, there was a big argument before the district judge.
One of the lawyers, the New York lawyers from the Davis
firm participated in that argument. We did not. We were
busy, still busy because we knew that whatever happened in
that argument, that it would have to go to the Court of
Appeals right away and then would get on to the Supreme
Court right away because everybody realized that the case
was going to be fought to the Supreme Court and that it
had to be disposed of almost within a few weeks. Finally
disposed of. And it was to be a unique type of
litigation. Well, the district judge, in effect, decided
in favor of the steel companies. But the whole proceeding
before him was a kind of shadowboxing really. It didn’t
make any difference which way he decided.
Because it was going up anyway?
Oh sure, right. And then it had to get into the
Court of Appeals and the government moved very quickly to
– 48 –
get into the Court of Appeals, literally overnight. We,
by that time, were taking pretty much of a lead. I had,
with me I had two or three of our very best lawyers, Stan
Tempko and Paul Warnke, and we were literally spending 24
hours a day and I mean it, moving on this thing. And, as
I say, we were really taking the lead by then. All the
steel companies, and they were kind of, I don’t mean to
look down on the others, but we were, it was easy, easiest
to sort of coordinate through us and we were, we had been
doing rather more fully the research and that sort of
thing than had been done by the other local law firms
here. You see, with the matter coming on, with everything
happening almost overnight, it was next to impossible for
law firms out in the country at large, be they Cleveland
or New York, or Boston or whatnot. It had to be. Moves
immediately had to be taken by the law firms that were
right here in Washington and that inevitably put us sort
of in the lead. Well, in any event, the matter got into
the court of appeals and although, although the steel
companies had been successful in the lower court, the
court of appeals was not quite of the same sentiment.
Did you handle the argument in the court of appeals?
Well, yeah. You had to because the argument, in
effect, was really an argument having to do with a
temporary relief. The government was just going to go
– 49 –
right on. See, they could go on to the Supreme Court
directly. The question was whether there would be any
kind of an outstanding injunction while they went on to
the Supreme Court. Well, the net of it was that the court
of appeals, we had a big argument one day and then, and
the court of appeals, in effect, rejected our position.
But, this meant that they would be going right up to the
Supreme Court.
Did the government make any effort, immediately upon the
dissolution of the district court’s restraining order, to take
over the steel mills or was there an understanding that it was
going to be litigated?
Well, this was the big issue. On the day that the
matter was argued, this, I’ve forgotten how long after the
matter had been disposed of in the district court, it
could have been the next day, it was all very fast. The
first appearance in the court of appeals, when, at the end
of which the court decided against us, apparently it had
not been really focused on that if the seizure were not
held up, the case kind of became a moot, moot in a sense.
And what we did, at the end of the first day when the
court immediately announced that, deciding against us,
what we did then was to, the lawyers were all lined up
before the bench when the court called us back to announce
their decision . . .
– 50 –
That same day, the day that it was argued?
Yeah, oh yeah. It was argued in the morning and the
court had us back there about, oh I don’t know, about 3:00
in the afternoon.
Do you remember who was on that panel, which judges? It’s
obviously a matter of record, but I’m just curious.
Yeah. Well, Lord, I can’t remember names but they
were very important judges. No, this was a time when the
court of appeals had some real top flight judges, I’ll tell
you. Well, anyway, when the decision was announced, it
was, it seemed obvious that the court had not focused on
the fact that if the, that the case might actually get
mooted if the government went on with a seizure while the
matter was still pending before the Supreme Court. So
here were the lawyers lined up in front of the judges as
the, right after the announcement of the decision and I,
in effect, took the lead in saying well now, wait a minute
your honors, we gotta hold this darn thing lest it become
moot. Because it’s going to go to the Supreme Court right
away. I didn’t say it in so many words, but it was
perfectly obvious that I was getting across the idea that
this was just a waste of time. Well, the net of this was
that the, in very dramatic circumstances and I can’t give
you all the detail of it, but it was really like a movie.
The net of it was that the judges decided that they would
– 51 –
have a further proceeding the next day, not to review
their decision, but to see what, if anything, should be
done in the way of holding things up until the matter got
to the Supreme Court. Well, the next day I was the guy
who really did the argument for all the steel companies
because everything was, it was a great emergency and I and
my brethren worked, literally we worked right straight
through the night getting ready for the appeal because
that was what was going to be critical. The net of it was
that at the end of this argument the next day, what the
court decided to do was not to give us an injunction
pending appeal, which we were seeking, but to give us what
would amount to a temporary injunction. That is, they
would frame an order on the appeal from the district
court, they would so frame an order that the government
would not become free of restraint until, oh, I think it
was the following, about three or four days in the future,
I’ve forgotten just what the time element was.
So they were not going to permanently hold this . . . ?
Obviously they were giving us, intending to give us
an opportunity to get to the Supreme Court and let the
Supreme Court really decide what the hell was going to be
done. OK. So then it became perfectly clear that the
real big burden was going to be on us and our law firm
here . . .
– 52 –
And on you?
Yeah, and on me. And Paul Warnke and Stan Tempko.
And it was one other guy, gosh, I can’t remember his name
now, who was working with us, the four of us were working
on this thing and I’ll tell you, we got very, very little
sleep. But what we had to do, first of all, we had to get
a petition to the Supreme Court to review the case and
even though, even though we had been successful down in the
district court, there was nothing to prevent us, the
successful ones, from petitioning for direct review by the
Supreme Court instead, and skipping the court of appeals.
And why again would that have been the case?
Oh yeah, the Supreme Court would have an opportunity
as soon as an appeal was filed in the court of appeals,
the Supreme Court could grant direct review by it instead
of waiting for the court of appeals to review the matter.
And that’s what we were all, that’s what the government
wanted to do, you see, after losing the case in the
district court. And the, all this argument in the court
of appeals about injunction, that all would be only
temporary while the matter was getting on to the Supreme
Court. Well it was perfectly obvious that the government
assumed that they could get their papers, oh, maybe by the
end of the week, for Supreme Court review and they were
absolutely dumbfounded when, before they filed anything in
– 53 –
the Supreme Court, we had, on behalf of U.S. Steel, we had
papers filed in the Supreme Court seeking review, even
though we had been the successful ones in the district
court. But the point was, we also were seeking injunctive
relief pending appeal so that the matter wouldn’t be
This caught the government completely by surprise.
They were amazed. And we had been able to do this because
literally we worked all night and we had damn good
papers. The reason we were doing it was tactical. We
figured that the most likely way of getting protection by
a temporary injunction pending appeal issued, or a
restraining order pending appeal, issued by the Supreme
Court itself would be by gearing up and getting things
filed and making it clear that there really was a great
emergency, etc. The net of it all was that we were
ultimately successful in that tactic and the net of it was
that the Supreme Court actually did, immediately, issue a
restraint on taking over the, against any seizure pending
the determination of the matter on the merits by the
Supreme Court. And they also set the case for virtually
immediate argument. I think the argument on the merits
was, oh, I’ve forgotten the exact timing, but maybe a
couple of weeks. So we had to brief the case and then get
– 54 –
to the argument, all, you know, in overnight periods.
Well now, what we did, I, with Stan Tempko and the other
guy, we actually went to New York City and worked directly
with Mr. Davis, at Davis, Polk there in New York City, on
the papers, the brief and so on to be filed in the Supreme
Was he going to do the oral argument in the Supreme Court?
Oh yeah, oh sure.
And that was understood?
Oh yeah, what the hell, John W. Davis. And they,
ultimately what happened was that all the steel companies,
in effect, bowed to him to have him do the argument except
for, there was one company that insisted that their
lawyer, Charles Tuttle, be, or participate in the
argument. Charles Tuttle, incidentally, had been my first
father-in-law. [Laughter] But he was no longer my
father-in-law by that time. But, in any event, it was
John W. Davis and the brief filed by U.S. Steel would be
the brief that would be the leading brief and that’s what
we were working on in New York. And we played, we played
a principal part in the writing of the brief, working
directly with Mr. Davis. There was one of the partners in
Davis, Polk also was involved, but nowhere near as much as
we were. And I found it extremely interesting because I’d
always been a Socialist and John W. Davis, of course, had
– 55 –
been the Democratic candidate for president in 1924,
which, that whole campaign year was, to me, sort of a
joke. That was the year of the third party, when Wheeler
and LaFouette. And I’d always tended to think of Mr.
Davis as kind of an instrument of the capitalist system.
[Laughter] But here I became really very well acquainted
with the guy and the guy was wonderful toward me. Here I
was very, very young compared to him. By that time he was
an old man and world famous but he treated me as an equal
and we had a great time there in New York working together
on this brief. And I, I may say that for me, not only did
my esteem for Mr. Davis go high, higher than a kite, but
it was a tremendously exciting experience. Well then,
ultimately, there was, of course, the argument before the
Supreme Court and the brief that we had done on behalf of
U.S. Steel was obviously the lead brief and the case was
won to the amazement of everybody.
Was it really to your amazement?
Well, we, by that time I suppose we had convinced
ourselves that we were going . . .
It is always the risk that any litigator has.
Oh sure.
But, when you started off, did you think that it was really

– 56 –
When we started off, we figured it was going to be
one hell of a fight and the chances much against us.
After all, here was the President of the United States and
how in the hell could a bunch of steel companies enjoin
the President of the United States from doing something
that he figured ought to be done.
But the constitutional questions were certainly very serious.
I haven’t read that case in many, many years, but thinking back
on it, it doesn’t strike one when you read the case as it
having been, constitutionally, an uphill battle.
No. No. That’s true and you know, you look at it as
surely, purely as an academic matter. But practically
speaking, politically speaking, the idea of in a great
economic emergency, which there was, . . .
And the sole emergency being that if the steel companies went
on strike, everything would stop all, or a lot of manufacturing
and so on.
Oh sure.
Do you recall whether the steel workers, the Union, actually
participated. I don’t recall, were they in the litigation?
Well, I, for the life of me, I don’t remember whether
they were a party to the, a party, yeah, they must have
been a party to the litigation. In any event, they
certainly were very much involved in the whole . . .
And that would have been, would that have been when Arthur
Goldberg was General Counsel to the Steelworkers?
– 57 –
Ah, yeah. I think, isn’t this ridiculous? I think
Goldberg was involved.
That would have been about his time there. I’m not really
certain, but that was quite an array of legal talent that was
brought to the matter.
Oh, this was, this was blue ribbon stuff, there’s no
doubt of that. But for me personally, the exciting thing
was to become so well acquainted with, and work so
intimately with John W. Davis and it, I was absolutely
amazed that one who had been in favor of maintaining the
exploitation of the masses by the capitalists’ society
should be such a nice guy. [Laughter] He was absolutely
wonderful toward me and he treated me, in every sense,
this wasn’t just a pose, as an equal and we, there in his
offices, we were preparing the brief, we would have
regular sessions, the two of us, there in his office with
two or three others sort of sitting around as though they
were audience, arguing back and forth exactly how the
argument should be developed and so on. And the guy was
marvelous. Well, that was a big case and that was won.
Did you continue to represent U.S. Steel after that on
Washington matters?
Well, oh yeah. We had done, I can’t remember whether
there were other U.S. Steel matters that came up after
that. U.S. Steel, their regular counsel, of course, was
– 58 –
Davis in New York and it’s very likely, because we had
done, over the years we had done a lot of work with Davis,
Polk. For them here in Washington and they for us in New
I see.
See, in those days you didn’t yet have a lot of
Washington offices of law firms outside. Law firms
hadn’t, nothing like what has happened since where law
firms are spread around.
Right. You also were involved in the Texas City disaster case?
Yeah. Well that . . .
The disaster, as I recall, it was refinery explosion. Is that
Well, it was, a tremendous amount of material was
being loaded on to a vessel in, this was explosive
material, down at the wharf in Galveston. Or in Texas.
Down in Texas City, down there at this wharf. And it
exploded and it, of course, was a tremendous, tremendously
damaging thing. Not only property but otherwise. It was
a huge, huge explosion. Almost incredible. Litigation
was begun. Practically every lawyer in Texas was involved
in it. We were not involved. Practically every lawyer in
Texas was involved.
This would have been personal injury litigation and the like?
– 59 –
Oh, a whole flock of things. And the matter went up
to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Which matter would that have been, Mr. Westwood?
Well it was . . .
What were the federal questions or . . .
Yeah, it, I’m trying to, this is ridiculous. I’m
trying to think now. I’m trying to think what the basis
for the federal jurisdiction was, whether it was, it could
have been diversity.
Were you involved at the Fifth Circuit?
Oh no. No. We weren’t involved at all. But in any
event, the Texas lawyers, the plaintiffs’ lawyers had been
successful in the, in the district court level. They got
up to the Fifth Circuit and they lost. And that’s when
they came to us. And the matter was brought, as a matter
of fact, to Mr. O’Brian. Now Mr. O’Brian, you see, was
getting to be a pretty old man. He was 70 years old when
he came to our firm.
Yeah. He came in 1945 and he was, he was 70 years
old. But he was still very, very vigorous at that time.
Of course, this was, this Texas disaster case was in 1950,
I guess it was the fall of ’52 that, or late summer or
fall of ’52 that it came up. So Mr. O’Brian was, he was
still vigorous, but he was getting pretty old. I was the
– 60 –
guy who was assigned to work with him and work on the
briefing of the case and so on and help him get prepared
for argument.
Before the Supreme Court?
Who was the defendant in that . . . was it . . . I want to say
Mobil or one of the, one of the major oil companies, but I
can’t remember.
Well, in any case, that side of it we can easily fill in the
blanks on.
It’s perfectly silly the way I’m running into
blanks. I’m just getting too damn old to remember these
things. Well, in any event, we had to prepare a petition
for cert and that got dumped in my lap, which we did, and
cert was granted. Then there was the matter of briefing
and ultimately the argument. The Texas lawyers had, as I
say, nearly every lawyer of any consequence in the whole
state of Texas was involved in this case; but what the
Texas lawyers did was very sensible. They had wanted Mr.
O’Brian, they had very deliberately decided that they
wanted him to be handling the case in the Supreme Court
and what they had done was to, was to agree that a
particular lawyer would work with us and with Mr. O’Brian
instead of having a whole flock of lawyers trying to
– 61 –
work. And one of the leading partners in a leading firm
in Houston was picked for that. But there were also
involved in this case some admiralty issues, or at least
potentially involved and there had to be an admiralty
expert who would be with, helping with and available to
Mr. O’Brian in, and us, in working up the brief and
potentially in the argument. So, in addition to this
leading lawyer in Houston working with us, there was also
another lawyer in Houston who was one of the leading
admiralty lawyers in the country as a matter of fact but
certainly down in that part of the country, who was
likewise designated to work with us, or at least be
available on call in connection with any admiralty issues.
That lawyer was a guy named Brown, first name John. He
had grown up in the state of Nebraska. He’d somehow or other
gotten to Texas and had developed quite a practice there.
Ultimately, of course, he got to be on the court of
appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Ultimately he became Chief
Judge of the Fifth Circuit. Ultimately the son-of-a-bitch
was coming to visit me about every, every few months and
ultimately the son-of-a-bitch was here only about two weeks
Is that right?
We became very, very close friends.
As a result of that litigation?
Sure. That’s where it . . .
– 62 –
That’s where it began . . .
Oh yeah. We got very closely involved because they,
these two lawyers from Texas, including that guy,
practically had to live with us doing the brief because
there was a tremendous record; it was terribly important
to get the brief done in a way that would meet all of the
needs and the views and so on of all of these lawyers in
Texas. And, at the same time, would be a damn effective
And writing briefs by committee, the most difficult thing of
all to do?
And we were extremely successful and I may say the
Texas lawyers were very smart not to try to intrude but to
leave everything to these two guys they had picked to work
with us so that it turned out to be a very, very smooth
operation. And then the matter ultimately was argued.
Did Mr. O’Brian do the argument?
He did but I had to get into it.
In the argument?
Oh yeah.
How did that come about?
Well, he, Mr. O’Brian was getting very old and there
were parts, he and I had divided the argument. He was
going to deal with certain aspects and then I was to come
along and deal with the other aspects. As it turned out,
– 63 –
I had to, almost to take up my part of the time, I’ve
forgotten whether we each had a half-hour or each of us 15
minutes, whatever the, I don’t remember now. But, in any
event, it was darn near necessary for me to cover the
whole, the whole matter.
In your time?
In my time, yeah. But, in any case, the case was
ultimately decided. Every one of the good judges,
justices on the Supreme Court voted our way. The trouble
There weren’t enough of them?
[Laughter] There weren’t enough of them. Right.
I’ve forgotten now what the vote was. I think it was 4-3;
it seems to me there were two who did not participate. I’d
have to double check. I think that’s right. And we got,
we got the three best.
Well, there’s some solace in that isn’t there?
Oh yeah. But it really was very funny. Frankfurter,
let’s see, Black, Frankfurter, I think it was Black,
Frankfurter, I don’t know, I’d have to check it, but, and
Roberts I guess, maybe voted with us and then, and these
other idiots voted against us. It was, and, of course,
the opinion that the Court wrote was absolutely impossible
and . . .
Impossible to understand?
– 64 –
Oh yeah. Sure. And they haven’t adhered to it in
future years.
Do you recall what the major issue was in that case?
Well, the, what the hell were we arguing about
mostly? I guess the real basic issue was whether there
had been negligence of some kind. In other words, any
kind of culpable conduct in the loading of this stuff.
And, the opinion that was written in effect held that
there was not and in, and I’m about 99% sure that not
once, but several times since, there have been decisions
and opinions by, even by the Supreme Court itself, that
are just plainly inconsistent with what was dished out.
And it was perfectly obvious that the, the thing that was
wrong, the weakness in the plaintiffs’ case was that they
asked for too much money. And we told them that. When
the matter first came that the complaints and so on that
had been filed simply, for that day and age, asked for too
much money. And there is very little question but that
the Supreme Court was, the majority of the Supreme Court
was moved to decide the case as they did because there
would have been involved entirely too damn much payout.
A practical reason.
I don’t think there’s much question about that. And
I think lawyers at the time pretty much agreed that the
tactical mistake made by the Texas Bar was very serious
– 65 –
when they, when all the litigation was first being
evolved. They just were reaching for the moon.
That’s been a practice in Texas that’s continued unabated. Why
don’t we talk about the Venezuelan extradition. The extradition
of Perez Jimenez who was, as I understand it, the then-dictator
of Venezuela, is that right?
Well, he was not at that time. He had been.
I see.
Yeah. In the summer, in August of the year whatever
it was, I’ll have to doublecheck the year. On a Saturday,
I was working in the, in my office at the firm. Saturday
mornings in those days I found very important because
they, you could really get some work done at that time.
And there looked in on me Dean Acheson, he was working
also on that day and he told me that there was an
extradition case that was going to be coming from
Venezuela and he wanted to know whether I would handle
it. Well, I never heard of an extradition. I guess maybe
Dean Acheson had heard of extradition, but he didn’t know
anything about it. But I always figured that I could do
anything. I was not an aviation lawyer or any other kind
of specialist. I was a lawyer and lawyers are supposed to
be able to do anything that a client needs. So I said
sure, I’ll handle it.
– 66 –
The net of it was that the, I was soon meeting with
the Ambassador of Venezuela, the Venezuelan Ambassador.
The Embassy, incidentally, was just around the corner from
my home which . . .
Made it very convenient.
In the end that made it really very convenient
indeed. This was, yeah, this was in 1959. That’s right.
In August of 1959, yep. Well, to make a very involved
story somewhat simpler, it, I was advised by the
Venezuelan Ambassador that Perez Jimenez, who had been the
dictator of Venezuela, was living in Miami. That the
Venezuelan democratic government had, in effect,
overthrown Perez Jimenez and had installed what was a
genuine democracy down there and that proved to be quite
genuine. It was extraordinary. That they had found that
Perez Jimenez had committed various crimes. He had, in
effect, misappropriated money and stuck it in his own
pocket. He was also accused of causing the murder of
certain people and they, the democratic government of
Venezuela wanted to extradite him and get him down there
and try him on both the murder charges and also the
mal…, what they call malfeasance, misappropriation of
funds. Stealing.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but stealing.
– 67 –
So the Ambassador told me that the papers were coming
right away and all that, apparently all that was necessary
was that I just get them filed and, well, I didn’t know
anything about extradition and the firm didn’t know
anything about extradition.
Nor do I, yet. So you’re going to have to educate me a little
And Dean Acheson wasn’t involved. He was, he was
spending his time mostly working at his farm and otherwise
enjoying his post-active life. Which incidentally, after
the Truman administration, after his time as Secretary of
State, he came back to the firm and he was wonderful. He
was very helpful to us and he did a certain amount of
work. But, obviously, he attracted things and obviously
the extradition had come because of him. But it was all,
as it turned out, it was all turned over to me and Dean
had nothing to do with it from there on and I was
completely, utterly accepted by the Venezuelan Ambassador
and ultimately the Venezuelan Government.
Well, we, the papers got here. There was nervousness
about it and great secrecy because it was feared that if
word leaked out and Perez Jimenez heard that there was
going to be an effort to extradite him, he would flee. As
it was, he was installed in a residence down in Miami and
living a perfectly comfortable life and the Venezuelans
– 68 –
were very nervous; they wanted to be sure to get him
before he had an opportunity to get away. Well, the
papers got here. They were in Spanish. We had a hell of
a time. There was some English, but the English wasn’t
much. The net of it was, what I had to do was to put
together a team in a great hurry. We had to deal with the
Venezuelans, we had to explain to them how things were
done here, we had to get papers translated and everything
done in, under great pressure and in a great hurry. Well,
it’s a long, long story. On the face of it, I found I had
to do some looking into what extradition was and you read
the pertinent statutes and so on and it looks like, and
also even the, a certain amount of textual material and
even a certain amount of judicial decisions and on the
face of it, it’s like a preliminary hearing in a criminal
case. You don’t have to prove anything really. All you
have to do is just show that there’s reasonable,
reasonable cause to detain the alleged criminal for later
trial. And the, on the face of things, apparently, the
analogy to a preliminary hearing in a criminal case was an
exact analogy and that’s what I thought we were getting
into after I’d looked around a little bit over this first
weekend. So that didn’t look like anything terribly
complicated and the only problem was to get papers filed
in a great hurry before Perez Jimenez got wind of it and
– 69 –
decided to flee. Well, fortunately, it turned out that
despite the fact that the papers that came were, many of
them in Spanish, and that we had to fiddle around and get
something that would, that could be read. I did get down
to Miami in a hurry and we did, fortunately, we got a
lawyer there, a local lawyer who was really very, very
good and very helpful. I can’t now remember his name but
he was one of the leading lawyers in Miami and he worked
with me in great style, made things very easy for me and
didn’t try to take over in any way, just tried to ease my
way and help me in various ways.
The net of it was that we were able to get papers
They were filed in the U.S. District Court in Miami?
Yeah. Yeah. And we were able to get papers filed
and served very quickly. And were able also to have the
matter set for immediate hearing and what we wanted to do
was to get the district judge to, in effect, to put the
guy under restraint and then have an immediate hearing.
Which is the way extradition was handled apparently on the
basis of all the, all the statutes and treatises and other
things I had read, the whole darn thing would be disposed
of in a matter of maybe two or three days. The guy would,
if reasonable cause had been found, and we had a lot that
we figured showed reasonable cause . . .
– 70 –
Then off you would go?
I would be shipped off. So this would end my
interruption of my summer vacation. Well, of course, it
quickly developed and wasn’t going to be like that.
Who represented Perez Jimenez?
He, right away, immediately got a lawyer in Miami who
was a leading criminal [lawyer] there and a very able guy
and who . . .
Do you remember his name?
I can’t remember his name. I, no, I don’t remember.
In the report of the case, obviously, is his name. Well,
it’s silly. I just can’t remember him.
I think we’re going to run out of time on this tape so let me
just change tapes. There, I think we’re back on tape. When we
left the other tape, I’d asked you if you had recalled the
lawyer representing Perez Jimenez and you didn’t and we agreed
that we’d come up with his name perhaps when we saw the
reported decision. But, in any case, it did not, I gather,
turn out to be the three-day sojourn in Miami and then back to
summer vacation. It turned out to be something far more
complex than that?
Yes indeed, it did. Matter of fact, it was not, it
was, I think about a week longer than three years.
[Laughter] Well, I guess the fellow in Miami was pretty good
– 71 –
Oh, he was. He was good. That was an extraordinary
How did that turn into three years and a week?
Well, in the first place, he immediately indicated
that, well, he got free on bond right away and, of course,
that made us very nervous because we figured what the
hell, he would skip out and run away and the Venezuelan
Government was extremely nervous about it. But I think
he, I think he was somewhat over-confident. I think he
figured that with this lawyer that he had there in Miami,
who was a very, very top flight lawyer, and probably with
his own background of experience that all you had to do
was, was slip money to people and everything would be done
the way you wanted it, I think he really did not think
that there was a very serious threat. I may be wrong in
my judgment.
It sounds plausible, for sure.
But, in any case, he didn’t flee and he did post a bond
and it was a substantial bond. But then, instead of
having an immediate hearing, it was indicated to, by his
counsel to the judge that some time would be necessary.
As soon as I realized that this was going to be a serious
proceeding, I had to focus on the fact that I couldn’t
read Spanish and that it was going to be necessary to have
witnesses, it was gonna be a real hearing, it was not
. . .
– 72 –
Not what you thought you were getting into.
I was amazed. Well, the net of it was that we got
ready to do a big job. One of the first things that was
necessary for me to focus on was that it would be like a
criminal proceeding.
Had you had any experience at all in criminal cases?
No. I had had some, but oh, I’d gotten assigned to
some criminal cases, but that hadn’t amounted to anything.
This was something for the American Civil Liberties Union
and some other things in my early, early career. I
suppose I ought to tell you something about those. Some of
those were, well the newspapers, newspapers carry great
pictures of me with my clients.
[Laughter] We’ll have to come back to that.
But, in any event, this thing was, I really had to
get ready for something that was going to be more than
just what I had assumed to be a normal criminal
preliminary hearing and right off the bat, there was the
problem of translation. I couldn’t rely on the
translations that would come from the Venezuelans
themselves because they were not expert in writing English
the way, in a way that was suitable for the reading of our
courts and so on here. Fortunately, I stumbled on to a
guy who was not many, not long out of law school who was,
had been an expert in, had concentrated, majored on
– 73 –
Spanish matters, had actually done some work in South
America and who was floating around the city of
Washington. He was a young man apparently not having a
regular job, but he was a lawyer, not having a regular job
and trying to make ends meet by translation. And I
grabbed him to do some translating. I saw immediately,
almost immediately, that this guy was a pretty smart
fellow. The net of it was that ultimately we hired him.
And he became very much involved in the Perez Jimenez case
and was enormously helpful.
Did he stay on with the firm after that case?
And he stayed on after that for quite some time. But
he ultimately decided that he wanted to move out on his
own and he did. And became, and he still is, a rather
prominent lawyer who, here in Washington.
Who is that?
Oh my God. He’s a good friend of mine.
Well, it’s just another blank we can fill in.
Isn’t that ridiculous?
Well, you got him to do the translating?
Yeah, and when I realized that he was also a good
lawyer, as I say, the thing to do was to hire the guy
because this was then a quick way for me to find out just
what an awful lot of the materials meant. It also turned out
that there was another young lawyer in the firm who had just
– 74 –
come with us and who had been Editor in Chief of a law
journal out at Stanford and had been a law clerk to one of
the justices of the Supreme Court, I’ve forgotten now
which one, and he had just come with us shortly before —
Bill Allen, who was absolutely tops, and I grabbed him.
And we really began to move on this thing. When we
finally, when we focused on the fact that we had hold of
something that was going to be a huge case of
international import, well, ultimately there were
proceedings in the, in the court, not only before the
district court but before the court of appeals for the
Fifth Circuit. We had hearings in Petersburg.
Petersburg, Virginia?
In, not Petersburg . . .
St. Petersburg?
St. Petersburg in Florida, hearings in New Orleans,
hearings in Miami. There was actually some incidental
litigation that came up in New York. This had to do with
efforts of some people to get his property, or get at his
property. I had, as a matter of fact, I had David Acheson
working on that. Because I was having to be in about six
places all at once and it, it evolved very quickly into
what turned out to be probably the biggest extradition
case that had ever, ever occurred.
– 75 –
Wouldn’t the, again, forgive me, I don’t know a thing about
extradition, but I would guess that most of the issues were
constitutional issues. Whether or not he was being given due
process before being shipped out of the country, or were there
factual questions?
Well, to a degree there were some factual questions.
His lawyers were awfully clever, they could make a great big
show out of nothing. And we had, we had to show that
there was some reason to accept the allegation of
corruption and the allegation of murder because you don’t
extradite just because you say there was.
Right. But did you have to bring people from Venezuela?
Yeah. We ultimately had to, had to put together an
evidentiary proceeding . . .
Almost like trying the murder or stealing cases?
Of course, it didn’t have to be as thorough as a
trial, but inevitably, it was a lot more thorough than
most criminal preliminary proceedings. And, ultimately,
in the long run, the judge did find that we had not proved
the likelihood sufficiently of murder. But he did hold
the guy was extraditable on the financial corruption
I wonder if that would mean that, after he was extradited, the
Venezuelan authorities were somehow precluded from trying him
for murder.
– 76 –
Oh yes. It meant . . .
How would U.S. courts monitor that?
Well, there’s no way, there’s no way they could
monitor that. The United States Government would have to
monitor that. But it, part of the treaty of, extradition
treaties provide that when a man is extradited, he can be
tried only on the charge for which he is extradited. He
can’t be, you can’t pull something else on him.
But this matter, of course, became internationally
famous and it led to all kinds of complications and
international notice and just endless proceedings. It
went on and on and on.
Did it become famous because of who was involved?
Yeah. Sure.
Were the legal issues also of great note?
Well, the legal issues . . .
This seems like an extraordinarily drawn-out . . .
Well, the legal issues were of great note in the
sense that the, what had happened in Venezuela in the way
of a revolution against Perez Jimenez and the overthrow of
a dictatorship and the ascendance into power of a true
democracy and then all that had happened since and it goes
on and on and on. This was headline stuff all over the
world and it, every time, every time anything in
– 77 –
connection with the case was even mentioned, there was
immediate interest and excitement and concentration. We
ultimately, well, ultimately, it, we got a favorable
decision at the district court level. Went to the court
of appeals and there was a big argument there.
Ultimately, we got a favorable decision there. Then he
went and sought certiorari of the Supreme Court and in,
there was a, this was, I can’t quite remember what time of
the year it was. In any event, there was a special, if he
were going to get in the Supreme Court, he had to get some
kind of injunctive order from the Court pending appeal or
pending action on his petition for certiorari.
Otherwise, as a result of the Fifth Circuit decision, he would
be off to Venezuela?
Yeah. Sure. The matter of some kind of restraining
order or injunction pending came up before Justice, the
labor . . .
Goldberg. On a Saturday. I had been, Bill Allen and
I and, we’d been down in Miami, I had to fly up here on
Friday night and appear before Goldberg on a Saturday down
in chambers. Down at the Supreme Court building and his
lawyer was there. What Goldberg was doing was deciding
whether some kind of a restraint should be issued. And we
had quite a, quite a session with him and my argument was
– 78 –
against restraint and his lawyers, of course, were arguing
for a restraint.
What was your argument against restraint? I mean, you knew
that they were going to be appealing, that cert would be
granted or not and if it wasn’t that would be the end of it.
Well, my argument was that there was really no basis
for cert, that there wasn’t sufficient merit in his case
to, for the Supreme Court to bother with it.
So it was a likelihood of success on the merits argument and
that allowing him to stay in this country pending that was just
dragging out his time here and delaying the inevitable?
That’s right. Well, in the end, Goldberg agreed with
me and . . .
Did he write an opinion?
I don’t think he wrote, I, well . . .
Or would you just get an order?
I’m pretty sure it was just simply an order. And I
think, we spent the morning down there and I think he
issued the order along about the latter part of the
afternoon and then I had to fly back. God, I hadn’t had
any sleep. I had to fly back to Miami and well, we
figured that we were going to get the guy. We were
wrong. The State Department then got into the act. All
this had begun you see under Eisenhower.
And now you’re under Kennedy?
– 79 –
And now we’re under Kennedy. And for some crazy
reason, the Kennedy regime, the State Department regime
under Kennedy, got the idea that there just might not be a
fair trial in Venezuela. That there would be prejudice
against this poor devil. Well, I nearly died. The very
idea of the administration of John F. Kennedy, this great
left-wing liberal, suggesting [laughter] that this
right-wing criminal who had been dictator of Venezuela
should not be sent back to face justice. I couldn’t
believe it.
A little too much for you to take.
It was incredible.
And how did the State Department get involved? You’d already
had an order from the Supreme Court, you go back to Miami . . .
No. But you see, you see, extradition is not a court
Oh, I see.
Extradition is still a climatic order. The State
Department, they don’t have to extradite, even if . . .
Even if there is a court order?
Oh yeah, sure. They don’t have to. And this thing
went on for months. In the meantime, the Venezuelan
Ambassador had changed and there was a new guy who turned
out to be awful good. The original ambassador was very,
very good but he was sort of an academic type, the old
– 80 –
school type. The new Ambassador, matter of fact, is
presently one of the leading lawyers in Caracas.
Is that right?
Yeah. I can’t remember his name but we became very,
very chummy and well, he and his wife liked me and they
entertained us and we entertained them. But, in any case,
we had, I think we got, my vague recollection is that we
got the decision, a favorable decision, from Goldberg
along about, oh, say January or February of 1962 or ’63 and
we didn’t get the guy actually extradited and put on an
airplane to ship back until I can’t remember whether it
was July or August. But it was exactly, exactly three
years from the time it had begun and it must have been, it
was, I think it was about six months after all the
litigation had been ended.
Before it really happened?
Before it really happened.
What happened to him in Venezuela? Do you know?
Oh, in Venezuela. He was, he was jailed and they
made up a special jail cell for him that was like an
apartment and he immediately had all kinds of lawyers
lined up, leading lawyers in Venezuela and it went on and
on and on down there for a long time. He was kept in jail
all that time but he had visitors and he ultimately,
ultimately there was a trial. Ultimately he was found
– 81 –
guilty and the, I think it was actually tried before the
Supreme Court of Venezuela. And he was found guilty and
sentenced to imprisonment for a length of time which
coincided precisely with the time we had had him in jail
here and the time he had been in jail down there.
I neglected to point out when we finally got the
extradition proceedings done before all the courts, then
we got him in jail and he was, so he was, all this time,
between the ending of the litigation in courts and the
time we actually got him extradited, while we were
fiddling around with the State Department, the guy was in
jail down there in Miami. [Laughter] It was incredible.
But, in any event, he got, after his trial in Venezuela,
he was found guilty and sentenced to a term of
imprisonment that coincided exactly. So he was
immediately released and immediately took, this had
obviously all been arranged, he immediately took off for
Spain and I think at one time after that, this was in
1962, ’59, ’60, yeah, 1962. At some time after that it
seems to me there was an attack on Venezuela from Peru and
I think, I think PJ, I think he was back there in Peru
while that was going on, thinking that it might work.
It might work and he’d be back in office?
I don’t know, he may still be alive. I’m not sure.
Was that the one and only extradition case you had?
– 82 –
That’s the one and only.
Didn’t start any extradition practice at Covington & Burling?
No. As a matter of fact, extradition is a rare, a
very rare proceeding and 99 percent of extradition is just a
routine formality. There, we did, of course, research
extensively. There had been a few Supreme Court cases on
dealing with extradition in one way or another. An
extradition from one state to another is a very different
matter. Extradition from one country to another, and it,
literally, what we were dealing with was an area that was
virtually without significant precedent. Actually,
extraditing a head of state, I don’t think anything of
that sort had ever been done. I don’t think it’s ever
been done to this day.
That’s probably so. I certainly don’t recall having . . .
Mind you, this was for an alleged crime committed
while he was head of state. I don’t think it’s ever been
done, I’m sure it’s never been done before and I don’t
think it’s been done up to now.
I think that you’re probably right. Mr. Westwood, in reading
some of the many articles that you wrote during your career,
one of the things that really stands out is your long-standing
commitment to legal aid. It seems that that was something that
you first became heavily involved in as early as the early
1950s and even before. I’d like to spend a little bit of time
– 83 –
talking about how you first came to have an interest in legal
aid and then how you came to be interested in making sure that
the concept of legal aid, and legal assistance for the indigent
in general, was one that the rest of us became aware of. I
know you were active in the ABA in that area, so why don’t you
start from the beginning. How did you first get involved with
legal aid?
Well, from the time I got to the firm initially, I
had hoped that I would get some experience actually in
trial work and I had obviously thought some about
overthrowing the capitalist system and I, not too long
after I had started I would go down to the court and put
my name in to be assigned to cases. I didn’t have to ask
anybody here at the firm, I just did. The firm was very,
very informal. We had no formality. I did things that I
never, never asked anybody about. I just did them. Of
course, I soon became very, very busy at the firm. I
earlier mentioned the PWA cases that I got involved with.
Well, that was a tremendously demanding thing and I got so
deeply involved in that and some other matters early on,
that I really had very little in the way of opportunity to
try to do anything in the way of assigned cases or
anything of that nature. But I also found, this was
somewhat disillusioning, that although now and then I
could get an assigned case, I would find that the guy was
– 84 –
really guilty as could be and it’d be much, I could get a
better deal for him by pleading him guilty than by
pleading innocent and then . . .
Going to trial?
Going to trial. And the fact of the matter is that I
went to some considerable trouble trying to get experience
in trying cases on a pro bono, or on an assigned basis
with next to no success. And I, I really oh, I had one or
two very dramatic episodes which got in the newspapers.
Big headline stuff.
Do you recall what those cases involved?
Yeah, well I’ve got, there’s a notable case, this is
in 19–, this came along in 1936. Some ladies were
picketing the auction of Franco, the brother of the guy,
the Franco, the dictator who was starting to overthrow the
democratic government in Spain and these ladies picketed
the auction.
What type of auction was it?
His household goods. He was getting back to Spain
and in order to participate in the Franco army, in the
Spanish Civil War, and he’d been assigned to the Spanish
Embassy over here. He was leaving here, leaving the
United States and he wanted to get rid of his stuff and
there was an auction of his household possessions. And
there were three ladies who picketed. They, their general
– 85 –
idea was don’t patronize this character, he’s an evil
man. Well, they were arrested for parading without a
license in violation of a regulation of the District of
Columbia Commissioners that required a license before you
could parade. And no one had ever suggested that a mere
picketing a place was a parade.
But it was now suggested and these people were
actually arrested and it was going to come up before a
police court. This was before there was a United States
District Court and a United States Superior, this was,
there was still the old Supreme Court of the District of
Columbia which was formed during the Civil War and
continued right up to recent years. And there was also a
police court. A police court was a court in a great big
building at the southwest corner of Judiciary Square on
9th Street, a huge building and there was a great big room
on the first floor of that building, it was a huge room,
that’s where the police court sat and there was a bench
down on one end of this room and these ladies were to be
tried before the police court for violation of a district
regulation and it, I can’t remember now whether, what was
really threatened in the way of punishment, but there was
an obvious legal issue as to whether picketing a place was
a parade and the American Civil Liberties Union defended
– 86 –
them and they got a hold of me and asked me to handle the
case. So I did. And the case was being prosecuted by the
Corporation Counsel’s office, just one of the lawyers on
the staff. I got moving on that case, the police court
judge was a very conservative old fellow. To him, I’m
sure, every communist was an evil person, but he was a
good lawyer and I was not talking communism, I was talking
law. And I was, I had a lot of points that I was making
and he took me seriously and pretty soon the courtroom
became filled and pretty soon the Corporation Counsel’s
boss came in and took over. [Laughter] It was the
funniest thing that ever happened.
I finally got, I give you my word, before noon of
that day, that room had become so full of spectators, many
of whom were lawyers, you know, who would hang around the
court getting, picking up cases. That room was so full
that I hardly had room to pace up and down in front of the
bench. Barely. And this judge was getting a great kick
out of it because all, no one could have been more
violently anti-communist than that judge. I’ve forgotten
his name now. He was a damned smart guy and he was taken
by the fact that I was not dishing out a lot of junk, but
I was making, I was making good, legal arguments and the
Corporation Counsel was going crazy. Back and forth we
would go. Well, the net of it was, when we got, the
– 87 –
evidentiary part of the proceeding had been nil. I mean
that was . . .
You mean it was conceded. Everyone knew what they had done.
Oh sure. But finally I pulled an argument. I had
found a decision of our Court of Appeals, it must have
been in the early days of our court, it must have been
around, I can’t remember now, it must have been as early
as about 1900. You see we had no court of appeals here
until about 1890 and I think this was a decision along
about 1900 to the effect that you do not take judicial
notice of regulations. The Corporation Counsel never had
approved regulations. Hell, they were all in pamphlets
and published and so on. And here was a parading
ordinance. There was a regulation, you gotta get
permission, a permit for a parade and there it was, all
printed up. But I was making, among other arguments, I
was making, waving this in the air. What is this? The
thing that they were charged, that my clients were charged
with violating is a piece of paper here. There’s no
crime, no crime is committed for violating a, viewing
something that is inconsistent with a piece of paper that
nobody ever heard of, what is it? The net of it was, the
judge agreed with me. And the Corporation Counsel damn
near died.
– 88 –
Because that presumably called into question the validity of
all of their pieces of paper regulations?
Oh sure. I’ve always meant that, I meant after that
to double check to see what the hell they ever did about
it, but I, I had it worked out very nicely. And needless
to say, there was a lot of stuff in the newspapers about
that, including pictures of me with my flying suit on.
Well, did that, did that pique or begin your interest in legal
aid and doing it?
No. I was, really, see this was in 1936 that this
happened and the aviation stuff was just beginning then
and I was still doing a lot of the . . .
PWI work?
PWA. That was going on and the aviation stuff was
starting and it, in just a few weeks after that, I got
literally so busy I couldn’t do anything except carry on
the work in the firm and it was very frustrating. But I,
by the time I got through everything in 1950 and by then I
quit full-time on aviation matters and began getting into
other things. I was still kept so busy in an effort to
get into things in addition, apart from the aviation, you
know, you don’t do that just between nine and five and, as I
said earlier, in those days we worked oftentimes seven days
a week and hell, the kind of hours people keep these days,
wasn’t anything like that in those days. But in 1955, the
– 89 –
spring of 1955, my daughter was in her first year in
college up at Skidmore . . .
That was the town that I grew up in.
Did you?
Yeah. She was in college there and they, this was
before it became co-ed, just ladies. And they had a
father’s day in the spring.
Happy Pappy’s Day it used to be called.
Yeah. Yeah. And I went up there with a couple of
other people who were driving and they offered to take me
along and so it was a convenient way. But one of the
people who was going was that lawyer, well-known lawyer
here in town. He knew me, of course, and he began,
somehow or other, telling me about the Legal Aid Society
here. Well I knew there was a Legal Aid Society but I’d
been too busy, I’d never paid any particular attention to
it. But, by the time that weekend was over, I had talked
to this fellow enough about the Legal Aid Society to get
real curious about it. The net of it all was that I got
myself involved in the Legal Aid Society and I was soon on
the Board, well, matter of fact, a lawyer of some
prominence from Covington & Burling, hell he got on the
Board at Legal Aid Society just by looking at ’em. And
the Legal Aid Society in those days had no money to speak
– 90 –
What was it about what he had discussed with you that caused
you to become interested?
Well, he was telling me about the Legal Aid Society
and the kind of work they did and the need for more
support than they had, the way that it was, had to be very
conventionally operated, there was a full-time guy who was
the Director of the Legal Aid Society staff, such as it
was, who did it at a salary that was practically nil and
they just didn’t, had never had the support and attention
in the community that they merited. And that just stirred
my interest.
I see.
And it touched on the sort of thing that I’d always
kind of intended to get involved in, but had been, just
been too damn busy to do it and it made me feel guilty.
So when I, I began right away to look into it. And one
thing quickly led to another as soon, I mean, a partner of
some prominence by that time, I was of some prominence
locally, and a partner in any event of Covington &
Burling, my God, if, indicates some interest in the Legal
Aid Society, boy they, they really grabbed you. And,
literally, at that time, I’ve forgotten now, it’s, God, I
don’t know, there’s a story about it all somewhere or
other that I wrote up, I think the Legal Aid Society’s
total income at that time was something like, oh maybe
$10,000 a year or something of that sort.
– 91 –
I think that’s right.
Yeah. It was ridiculous. And so I, I got, got
moving on that and . . .
Actually, you had written an article for the ABA Journal in
April of 1965 and you noted that, by 1954 the Legal Aid Society
had an income of $14,000 annually.
Yeah. It was ridiculous. Really, it was
ridiculous. I was horrified. So, I then began the
screaming and yelling at Legal Aid. And we soon were able
to stir up interest on the part of the Bar Association.
The Bar Association theoretically had always supported the
Legal Aid Society, but they, hell they hadn’t done
anything to speak of and, fortunately, in the year 19__, I
guess it was 1955, yeah, yeah, I wrote him a letter
yesterday, Charlie Rhyne, was president of the Bar
Association and there was a vacancy on the Board of the
Bar Association, some guy had been elected and died or
something. Well, I never could have been elected to
anything, but Charlie Rhyne and I had, knew each other
well and had exchanged ideas on lots of things and Charlie
got a hold of me and appointed me to fill this vacancy. So
here I was, all of a sudden on the Board of the Bar
As well as the Legal Aid Society?
Yeah. I was just getting started. So what I did,
one of the first things I did on the Board of the Bar
– 92 –
Association, Charlie’s regime began, as I remember it, in
maybe the late spring or early summer. I guess nothing
much was done during the summer, but in the early fall, we
would have regular meetings and what I did right away was
to propose what amounted to a study of the Legal Aid
Society and the need for expanding and supporting and so
on of the Legal Aid Society. And that was done. And, as
a matter of fact, we, under Charlie’s leadership, we set
up a committee that made a really vigorous study of legal
aid and what was needed here in the District of Columbia.
The committee staff was headed by David Acheson. There
was part-time . . .
You mean David Acheson?
Yeah. One of our people here in the firm. And we
got, we got some money from the Meyer Foundation and there
was some money from some other outfit that may have been,
it may be in that article. In any event, we got money and
the result was that there could be, actually be hired a
staff to work under David Acheson, of young lawyers, some
of them later became of some prominence, digging into the
Legal Aid what went on here and what was needed and so on
and there was ultimately, oh, I don’t know, a couple of
years later, there was actually published a big Legal Aid
report, it’s one of the most important documents in the
history of Legal Aid in the United States. It’s about
– 93 –
that thick and maybe, probably there’s a copy of it up
Legal Aid, at the time, was involved with both civil and
criminal cases, is that right?
No. Legal Aid was just civil. The Legal Aid
Society. Well, in the meantime, I was on the Board of the
Legal Aid Society and what we got going was actually
raising some money with the support of the Bar
Association. And we were also hoping to, I said the
support of the Bar Association, we found rather quickly we
could get more support from the Judicial Conference than
from the Bar Association. Once Charlie Rhyne had ceased
being President, he went on, you know he ultimately became
President of the American Bar Association.
I think he was the youngest person ever to be
President of the American Bar Association. But what we
soon found was, it was very difficult to get any kind of
really aggressive, vigorous support from the Bar
Association but we could from the Judicial Conference.
Prettyman was then the Chief, Justice of our Court of
Appeals and was, and ran the Judicial Conference and I
knew Prettyman well. We were both golfers at Burning Tree
and he knew me from my activities down at the court and so
on. And Prettyman was a person with a real sense of
– 94 –
public obligation and public service and, the net of it
was, that we very quickly were able, through the Judicial
Conference, to get, drum up support in the Bar generally.
And started fund raising. And we got, we were able to get
the income of the Bar Association, of the Legal Aid
Society, raised to well over $100,000 a year, which to
me seemed a fortune compared to what it had been.
Of course, of course, it . . .
And in fact it was a fortune compared to what it had been.
Well, yeah. But it was, it seemed to me to need a
lot more to enable the doing of much more than in fact
$100,000 would permit. In the meantime, there was this
effort at legislation, at setting up legislation of some
sort or another to . . .
This would be under the Kennedy Administration?
Well, yeah, yeah. But there was, but we actually, we
actually had, we actually had the Legal Aid Society here
going on a significantly expanded basis and, and there
was, under the Kennedy Administration, there had been the
United Planning Organization that had been set up locally
that some money from the Federal Government, I’ve
forgotten what the appropriation was. And all of a sudden
one day, I’d, we were getting some, we were getting some
support from that direction and I, my, I was getting the
– 95 –
office, my firm very much interested in the Legal Aid
Society; we were, I think by that time we actually had
assigned to the staff of the Legal Aid Society for
three-month stretches, a young lawyer from our firm that,
that was very unusual to do anything like that.
It was. It still is.
Yeah. And I think, I think a lot of this is told in
that article. Well, the point of the matter is that one
day, one June day, there called on me in my office a
lawyer from Philadelphia who said that they were having a,
he was very actively involved in the ABA, this was
Forhees(?) and he said they were having a meeting at the
United Planning Organization, at the, one of the agencies
that had been set up under Kennedy. In any event, the
whole matter of legal aid was up and they were talking
about having some, getting some kind of legislation for
federal appropriations for legal aid and . . .
How did that idea strike you?
Well, I thought that was fine. We, hell, we were
doing it here already. But I didn’t have any idea what
was going on nationally. I’d paid no attention whatever
and this guy, other people nationally didn’t know much
about what was going on in the District of Columbia. We
were just quietly going ahead and we got some money and we
were pushing ahead with our support of our Judicial
– 96 –
Conference. The net of it all was that I got curious and
got involved with what this meeting was all about and it
turned out that the Federal agency that had been headed by
Kennedy and, of course, ultimately the agency that was set
up by Lyndon Johnson was a very, very active, aggressive
crusading outfit and I got mixed up in it.
What do you mean you got mixed up in it? Were you opposed to
the kinds of cases that they were taking in?
No, no, no, no, no. They were, what they finally
decided to do was to set up a national organization to
promote legal aid and, but not legal aid in the
conventional, old-fashioned sense but aggressive legal aid
that would be law reform and, really, a two-fisted,
hard-fighting movement to improve the law for poor people.
How did you feel about that?
Well it was fine. It seemed to me perfectly fine.
Great. About time somebody began to get aggressive. And,
well, one thing led to another and finally money was
provided through, it was on a temporary basis from the,
from the Economic… I’ve forgotten.
Office of Economic Opportunity?
Something. And money went to the District of
Columbia and we had what was called a United Planning
Organization here, UPO, and they actually created a
neighborhood legal services project. So that here was the
– 97 –
Legal Aid Society, we were getting money from the Bar and
getting more increasing support and here was an NLSP,
Neighborhood Legal Services Project, with neighborhood
offices around, the Legal Aid Society had never had any
neighborhood offices.
Was that because you just couldn’t afford it?
No. They couldn’t afford it. I had been able, we had
one branch office; finally we’re able to get one branch
office which we set up out at Howard, at Howard Law School,
or Howard University, but that was sort of nominal. But in
any event, when, my thought had been when this NLSP was
set up, and I think in these articles I tell about how all
that came about, my thought had been that we would get the
Legal Aid Society and the Neighborhood Legal Services
Project in one merger, into one organization. It was
silly to have it two separate organizations. Well, I
worked toward that objective for a while and then all of a
sudden, and here I was on, had been brought onto the Board
of the NLSP, as well as being on the Board of the Legal
Aid Society and all of a sudden I was told by people very
much involved in NLSP that it was thought that there was a
conflict of interest between the Legal Aid Society and
these neighborhood legal services.
You were saying that there was a conflict of interest between
your being a member of the Board of both the Neighborhood
– 98 –
Legal Services Project and the Legal Aid Society. How did that
strike you?
Well, I thought that was silly but, but I, instead of
arguing about it, I figured well, all right, accept it.
But as between the two, I wanted to stay on the
Neighborhood Legal Services because it was a much more
aggressive movement than the Legal Aid Society and also
there was the obvious advantage of having available
federal money so that although the Legal Aid Society had
been better off financially than it had been initially, it
still was dependent on raising contributions, locally, and
it wasn’t anywhere. It was becoming evident to me that
that wasn’t anywhere near enough money and the only way,
really, to get Legal Aid established properly was to get
the benefit of significant amounts of federal money. So I
resigned from the Legal Aid Society Board and became very
actively involved in the Neighborhood Legal Services
Now was that the Neighborhood Legal Services Project locally,
or on the, on a national level through . . .
First locally. Locally. And we, well, it’s a long
story; some of the Court of Appeals judges had been
involved in helping getting this thing under way. Various
community agencies were, their support and interest were
elicited and, fortunately, there was a group, mainly of
– 99 –
black lawyers, who were very actively interested and I
think one reason for their very active interest was that
whereas Legal Aid Society had always been a kind of a
white man’s activity, this Neighborhood Legal Services
Project, I’m talking about the running of the thing, this
Neighborhood Legal Services Project, it was, it looked as
though blacks could really get involved and play a big
part in the running and guidance of the thing. I think
they just, they just had more confidence in it. And,
there’s something to be said for that point of view, the
Legal Aid Society had been a much more conventional kind
of old-fashioned legal aid operation with particularly
bringing to the fore such ideas as law reform whereas what
a number of people felt, and this was very true of some of
the black lawyers, what a number of people felt was that
more was needed than simply to defend, or some particular
interest of some poor person, in a particular piece of
litigation, that there should be efforts to improve the
law and improve the decision of cases and improve the
direction of the precedents we’re taking and so on and
so-called law reform.
You know, that’s a debate that has been going on forever as far
as legal services is concerned and one of the obvious questions
is, to me, is at the time that you were on the Board of the
Legal Aid Society and then you got off the Board of that to
– 100 –
stay on the Board of the more aggressive Neighborhood Legal
Services Project, you are becoming an ever more prominent
partner at Covington & Burling. Certainly some of the law
reform efforts that Neighborhood Legal Services was advocating,
were at least arguably contrary to the position that one or
several of your firm’s clients might have taken. How did that,
how did you reconcile that? Was that a conflict in your mind
and if so . . . how did you reconcile that?
No. We never worried about clients’ attitudes and,
to our doing, our do-gooding, it never bothered us a bit.
Did any clients come to you and say, look I . . .
I don’t remember any.
Or did any other lawyers in the firm?
Not that I know of. It may, there may have occurred
but I never heard of any, anything of the sort. I think,
I can’t help but believe that a lot of lawyers, and this
may be a reason incidentally that the Legal Aid Society
never really had amounted to a great deal, it may well be
that lawyers feared that if they got too aggressive that
they would lose clients.
I think that’s true.
Yeah, yeah. But that never, I think it’s fair to
say, and I was close to the running of the firm mind you,
I was right in the middle of things here for many, many
years, I wasn’t just out on the periphery. I was very
– 101 –
much involved in the firm administration and so on, and I
don’t remember anything to indicate that our very
aggressive interest in legal aid and providing legal help
to the indigent and seeking to reform the law in the
interest of the indigent, I don’t remember anything, ever,
of any consequence in the way of adverse client reaction
or losing clients on that account or anything of that
A hypothetical question — and I think I know the answer to it —
but if it had caused problems with clients, what do you think
you would have done?
I’d have said the hell with the client. And I mean
that. And I think that point of view would have had a great
deal of support from within the firm. I may say that in all
the things that I did over the years, from the time, from
the very beginning, and I did a lot of things, I always had
complete, utter sympathy and support from my brethren in the
law firm.
That speaks very highly, not only of you, but of course of your
Oh yeah. Yeah. God it was true. Judge Covington, now
mind you, a conservative like Judge Covington, I called
him comrade and he’d never bat an eyelash. [Laughter] I
thought about it in later years, I just couldn’t help but
laugh to myself. [More laughter] Oh, they were, the
– 102 –
Judge and Mr. Burling were wonderful. And they created a
set of ideas and attitudes and so on at the firm, at least
up until recent times, I don’t know what it is now, but
attitudes and values that the firm was faithful to, been
faithful to all these years.
How long did you stay on the Board of the Neighborhood Legal
Oh Lord. I’ve forgotten. I can’t remember. I was
on the Board for a long, long time.
When we first discussed this, I think that you had mentioned
that it was after the OEO legislation under Johnson came into
being that you began to kind of phase out, at least on the
national level, of legal services. Is that right?
You see, I got, I got drawn into what once, once I
got beyond just the local Legal Aid Society, I immediately
began having contacts with the National Legal Aid
Association and ultimately I was brought onto that Board
and ultimately I was made, in effect, their lobbyist here
in Washington to work on government problems that they
had and seeking to strengthen the support for the
National Legal Aid Association, NLADA it was called,
and I just got spread all over the place. Now, what all
this ultimately led up to was an absolutely fascinating
experience under the Nixon Administration. It became
apparent ultimately, LBJ had not, was not going to run for
– 103 –
re-election and the Republicans won the presidency and
Nixon became President and the problem of all of the
social services and so forth that had been set up in the
days of Lyndon Johnson became very severe and very tough.
We saw, we interested in legal aid had seen all along that
legal aid should be regarded as something different from
emergency government aid, government aid to meet an
emergency situation. It had nothing to do with the kind
of social reform and the meeting of the sort of temporary
emergencies that the Johnson Administration social
services groups had been so much involved in. Legal aid
shouldn’t be thought of in those terms. Legal aid should
be thought of as a permanent thing. In days of prosperity
there was still need for the legal aid operation. Because
there always would be some poor people who needed legal
help. And this was very fundamental and we began with the
National Legal Aid Association, we began to cultivate that
idea. And instead of being upset at the elimination of the
Lyndon Johnson kind of United Planning Organizations . . .
Office of Economic Opportunity.
All that. We didn’t much care provided we could get
legal aid separate and independent and indeed that would be
an improvement. And I was actually made a lobbyist for
the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. Their
– 104 –
lobbyist here in Washington to work to that end. Get
somehow or other a separate and independent recognition of
legal aid on a federal basis, with federal support. And I
got into it and I very vigorously, fortunately, mainly
through Burning Tree, there were some fairly important
Republican politicians that I knew, and knew well and I
respected them. Not because I necessarily agreed with
their ideas, but they were decent people and I could, I
could get access to them. And, as I say, I became a
lobbyist for the National Legal Aid and Defender
Association and despite the fact that here was Nixon in
the White House, and despite the fact that there were a
number of elements in the Nixon Administration who were
working to eliminate anything in the nature of federal
support for legal aid, I was able, quietly, to maneuver
and get introduced to the right kind of people and get on
the staff, the White House staff and I found some people
who really would listen.
Who were those people on the White House staff?
God, I’ve forgotten their names now. I remember one
guy, I can’t for the life of me, I can’t remember his
name. He was tremendously effective. He did a lot of the
drafting with me and I drafted measures. Isn’t that
awful, I can’t think of his name?
Well, that’s on the edit.
– 105 –
And then we, I also had effective access to . . .
Nixon had two main guys on his staff. Who the hell were
Haldeman and Ehrlichman?
Who later became famous for other things.
I’ve forgotten now which was which. But in any
event, I had access to one of these two top guys and he
would listen. And we made a lot of headway. And this
was, this was not as a result of pulling strings or
anything of that nature. It was simply that I had been
able to get behind closed doors and although some of these
people knew I was a left-wing communist, we respected each
other, we knew each other and over long periods of time had
seen things happen. And I found myself able to, on an
independent basis, and I finally told the National Legal
Aid and Defender Association, literally, I finally told
them now, look, I’m no longer representing you. I’m not
your lobbyist anymore. I am solely Howard Westwood and
what I found was that on that basis I could get farther
with, in accomplishing the things that I wanted to
accomplish and really, it worked like a charm.
And the end result was the Legal Services Corporation?
And the end result was that. Now it took a lot of
doing, and ultimately, you see we got things through, I
– 106 –
was trying to think, we got the statute, see it wasn’t
until the Nixon Administration that we really started
working on getting the federal legislation on legal aid.
And we got the statute adopted in the House. Isn’t that
funny, I can’t remember now whether it was the House first
or the Senate first. But, well, I don’t know.
But that’s a matter of record.
Oh yeah. But the point of the matter is that it was
all spread over a period of pretty close, about a year,
and maybe even a little more than a year, and then at the
critical time, right at the end, after we’d finally gotten
things through both Houses, here was the imminence of
Nixon’s departure. But fortunately, in the White, then in
the White House was the ex-Secretary of War, he’s now
President of Burning Tree.
Well, that’s another name that’s easy to get because I don’t know
that one.
He’d been very prominent in Congress and then Nixon
made him Secretary of Defense.
McNamara? No, that was Kennedy.
Secretary of Defense.
Laird. Mel Laird.
– 107 –
And Mel Laird quit at the end of Nixon’s first
administration but then before he got settled into, oh,
the Reader’s Digest and the later things that he was
doing, he was on a kind of a special basis helping the
White House as though, virtually as though he were on the
White House staff and some, and, of course, Mel Laird was
at Burning Tree. And I knew Mel Laird. And it turned out
that he got, that he was very interested in legal aid when
what was going on was explained to him, what this was all
about. And he knew damn well that there were right-wing,
dangerous people who would seek to sabotage anything of
that sort. And Mel Laird, God bless him, gave me real
help. And if it hadn’t been for Mel Laird, there never
would have been a, there would have been a veto by Nixon,
I’m convinced, of the federal legislation that set up the
National, the . . .
Legal Services Corporation?
The Legal Services Corporation. I’m sure that he
would have been persuaded to veto it. Mel Laird took care
of that. Nixon signed it and in about two days he was on
an airplane, he had resigned from the presidency.
[Laughter] Mind you, we did, we pulled this off in that
last critical period of the Nixon Administration.
Well, that was quite a victory.
It was really, and it never could have been done
unless I had been, divorced myself completely from all
– 108 –
these left-wing organizations and all the formal
organizations on legal aid and so on and had presented the
matter simply on its own merit, individually, to these
guys on and in connection with the White House with whom I
was able to get access.
That really was quite a victory. Why don’t we stop for today.
Mr. Westwood, it’s April 17, 1992. We’re back together after a
two-month or so hiatus and, again, I appreciate your taking the
time to spend with me and this project. We left off when we
last broke off at the point where you had described your
involvement in Legal Aid. That was in the period roughly in
the early to mid-1970s and, what I would like to focus on a
little bit this morning, if we could, is your practice after
that period of time.
Okay. It’s a little difficult because I find that my
memory has really gone to pieces and we’re talking now
about a time, it was about 20 years ago.
I must say that your comments that I’ve taped so far don’t
reflect a memory that has gone to pieces.
[Laughter] Well, maybe that’s because I was always
more interested in the things I was talking about than the
practice of law. [Laughter] After I got through the