Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 44

A LEGACY OF
DISCRIMINATION

T

he legal landscape of 1950s and 1960s
Washington is far from distinguished.
Washington was a city where whites and
blacks attended different public schools; shopped
at different stores; ate at different restaurants; and
functioned in separate, parallel legal communities.
In fact, the agonizing legacy of the District's Jim
Crow past contributed to rioting and the violent
racial strife of the 1960s.
The District's history of bitter racial segregation
was reflected in the legal community as well. Two
of the most prominent voluntary bars were the Bar
Association of the District of Columbia (BADC),
founded in 1871 and known as the "white" bar, and
the Washington Bar Association, founded in 1925
and served as the "black" bar.

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44 WASHINGTON LAWYER

* JULY 2017 *

Black and white trial lawyers knew one another
because everyone appeared in the same federal
courthouse, but they didn't share it equally. Among
trial lawyers, the definitive symbol of segregation
was the courthouse's law library. The BADC
operated the law library, which was only open
to BADC's white membership. Ultimately, the law
library opened its doors to black lawyers as the
result of a successful lawsuit filed by the legendary
Aubrey E. Robinson Jr.
Shortly thereafter, and despite vocal opposition,
the BADC voted in 1956 to adopt an amendment
to its constitution that struck the word "white"
from the criteria for membership. Gradually, the
District's largest voluntary bar was integrated, but
its race-affiliated past shadowed it through the
1960s.There was some discussion among
members of the Washington Bar Association
about discontinuing the black bar association
after BADC desegregated, but many felt the
BADC would never fully represent black lawyers.
For female attorneys, the question of whether
they could join the District's largest voluntary bar
association or use the law library was never tested.
By the time the library had been integrated by
race, women lawyers had already been using it
for years, and they were welcome to enlist as
members of the BADC provided, of course, that
they were white.
Nevertheless, former federal appellate judge Patricia
M. Wald, who graduated from Yale Law School in
1951, recalled in a 2002 interview that women
lawyers had to battle "the cold winds of gender
stereotyping and discrimination."
Few female attorneys practiced law in Washington.
If they did, they were generally working in federal
agencies, and if they were part of a firm, they often
were the lone women there. While welcome to
participate in BADC affairs, women tended to gravitate toward the Women's Bar Association, which
was founded in 1917 to "advance and protect the
interests of women lawyers."

A NEED FOR LAWYER
DISCIPLINE

I

n addition to addressing racial and gender discrimination, reform-minded advocates urging the
creation of a unified bar also felt it was imperative
that a system of lawyer discipline be established.
"The impetus behind the creation of the mandatory
bar," former D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Frank Q.
Nebeker recalled in a 2002 Washington Lawyer interview, "was the need for a more uniform and effective disciplinary mechanism. Without a unified bar,
the court had no way to deal with its lawyers. The
voluntary associations had no official disciplinary
capacity."
Prior to the founding of the D.C. Bar, the U.S. District
Court relied on its Committee on Admissions and
Grievances to administer disciplinary action. The
crux of the problem was that its resources were
severely limited; there were just two paid staff
members, and they had to oversee admissions
as well as disciplinary action.
Such an ineffective system was widely condemned.
Cases of unethical conduct and incompetence
that cried out for disciplinary action were ignored.
Charles R. Work, a senior counsel at McDermott Will
& Emery LLP and an active participant in the
creation of the mandatory bar, recalled in a 2002
interview that prior to the Bar's founding, "the
disciplinary system was very lax, difficult to operate,
and not well funded."
In addition to the court committee, the BADC also
maintained a standing committee on ethics and
grievances, but since the BADC was voluntary, it
had no authority over nonmembers and no substantive jurisdiction. James A. Hourihan observed in
the July-October 1971 issue of the D.C. Bar Journal
that the unified Bar would "ensure the prompt and
efficient operation of the grievance machinery and
would greatly enhance the probability that professional misconduct by attorneys practicing in the
District would not go unpunished."

MAKING THE
MANDATORY BAR
A REALITY

T

he social tumult of the 1960s prompted legislative proposals to broadly reform the local
justice system. Reform-minded activists such
as the late Harold H. Greene, who was named chief
judge of the D.C. Court of General Sessions in 1966,
favored transferring federal jurisdiction over local
civil and criminal matters to the local courts.
Greene was a principal architect of the Court
Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970. The
statutory language in the proposed legislation
called for the creation of the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia and the District of Columbia
Court of Appeals, and the transfer of jurisdiction


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - July 2017

Your Voice
From Our President
Calendar of Events
The Bar at 45
Annual Report 2016-17
1970s: Bar Beginnings
1980s: Reagan Reigns, Women Rise
1990s: Re-Envisioning & Expanding
2000s: Strength in the Face of Adversity
2010s: Solidifying the Bar's Future
The Founding of the D.C. Bar
A Conversation with Robert J. Spagnoletti
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 1
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 2
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 3
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 4
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 7
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 9
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 10
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 11
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 12
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 13
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - The Bar at 45
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Annual Report 2016-17
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 16
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 17
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 18
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 19
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 20
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 21
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 1970s: Bar Beginnings
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 23
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 24
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 25
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 1980s: Reagan Reigns, Women Rise
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 27
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 28
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 29
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 1990s: Re-Envisioning & Expanding
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 31
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 32
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 33
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 2000s: Strength in the Face of Adversity
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 35
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 36
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 37
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 2010s: Solidifying the Bar's Future
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 39
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 40
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 41
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - The Founding of the D.C. Bar
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 43
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 44
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 45
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - A Conversation with Robert J. Spagnoletti
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 47
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 48
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 49
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 51
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 53
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - 55
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - July 2017 - Cover4
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