Monday, January 13, 2014

Oral Histories of Three Washington Lawyers Released

[New on the website of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit are the oral histories of “Three Outstanding Lawyers” Here is a description from the Society’s newsletter.]
Daniel “Mack” Armstrong.  If you are looking for a fly-on-the-wall view of government appellate litigation, you will want to read the oral history interviews of Daniel “Mack” Armstrong taken by Matthew Sheldon.  Armstrong served for thirty-eight years in the general counsel’s office of the Federal Communications Commission, mostly as Chief of the Litigation Division, arguing some 65 appellate cases, most of them in the D.C. Circuit.  Although calling himself a “conservative Republican,” Armstrong says he was a civil servant first and gives a lawyerly, nonpartisan assessment of the FCC under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  His oral history is a case study of a federal agency and the judges who oversaw it in a changing regulatory environment.

William H. Jeffress, Jr
.  Displaying a trial lawyer’s wit and story-telling skills, William Jeffress recounts his judicial clerkships and 39 years of trial practice. In his oral history, Jeffress recalls that he missed studying for the bar exam because he was clerking for Judge Gerhard Gesell, who was wrestling with whether to issue a TRO in the Pentagon Papers case, and then missed oral argument of the appeal in the Supreme Court because he was taking the exam. He passed. He tells of hearing a summation so eloquent that even the court reporter cried. Of his representation of former President Richard M. Nixon, Jeffress, a Democrat, proves the consummate Washington lawyer, saying: “Everything, the powers of all kinds of institutions, were arrayed against him. And that’s just the kind of person I like to represent.” This fascinating oral history is the result of several interviews Professor Angela J. Campbell of the Georgetown University Law Center conducted between 2011 and 2013.

Richard E. Wiley
.  In Richard Wiley’s readable oral history, he traces his career from army lawyer at the Pentagon, to general counsel, commissioner, and chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and finally to private practice where he eventually founded one of the most prominent telecommunications law firms in the country.  He capped his career by chairing the advisory committee that made High Definition Television a reality, a fitting accomplishment for a high definition lawyer.  The questions are asked by George Jones, a highly skilled litigator, who makes this oral history seem more like a conversation between friends.   If you want to read two of the best lawyers in the city turn in a peak performance, this oral history is for you.