Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 40

TAKING THE STAND

SITUATIONAL
PRINCIPLES
AREN'T REALLY

PRINCIPLES

iStock

By N. Richard Janis

I

graduated from law school in
June 1972, and a few months
later I began my legal career
as an assistant U.S. attorney in
Washington, D.C. In 1973, my office
in the Appellate Division of the
U.S. Attorney's Office was on the
third floor of the U.S. courthouse,
right around the corner from the
grand jury handling the Watergate
case. Since journalists covering
Watergate often camped out in
the hallway in front of the grand
jury room, it was not unusual for
witnesses who had been called
to testify to seek refuge from the
media by hiding out in one of
our offices.

40 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

Like most of my friends and law school classmates, I harbored an abiding dislike of Richard
Nixon and those working for his administration.
Consequently, I took a great deal of pleasure
in watching the press disclose the misdeeds
of those working for President Nixon and his
campaign, and my schadenfreude extended
in particular to those who were indicted and
tried before Judge John Sirica, the chief judge
for the U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia. Like most of my peers and virtually
all of the media, I was delighted by Judge
Sirica's no-nonsense and aggressive determination to "get to the bottom" of the case and to
pressure those who appeared as defendants
in his courtroom to roll over on those higher
up the food chain. Sure, I was well aware that
Judge Sirica was known as "Maximum John"
around the courthouse for his propensity to
impose lengthy sentences on criminal defendants, but in this case, he was on the side of
the righteous.
Then I read something that had a profound
effect on me, both at the time and throughout
my legal career. On June 2, 1973, a commentary
written by Joseph L. Rauh Jr. appeared in the
Washington Post. Rauh was a former national
chairman of Americans for Democratic Action
and a prominent civil rights, civil liberties, and
labor lawyer - an icon of liberalism. Rauh, who
I am quite sure held President Nixon and his
acolytes in utter contempt, took to task those
who were lionizing Judge Sirica for the manner
in which he conducted the Watergate legal

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020

proceedings. He noted that "[e]veryone,
including dedicated civil libertarians, was so
busy enjoying the administration's discomfiture
over the Watergate affair, that the unfairness
of the trial conducted by Sirica went quite
unnoticed." After citing the American Bar
Association's standards for the conduct of trials
by judges, Rauh observed: "It seems ironic that
those most opposed to Mr. Nixon's lifetime
espousal of ends justifying means should now
make a hero of a judge who practiced this
formula to the detriment of a fair trial for the
Watergate Seven."
Rauh remained consistent. A number of years
later, in a May 26, 1979, New Republic review of
a book written by Judge Sirica, Rauh expressed
dismay at the statement of the D.C. Circuit that
Judge Sirica's conduct of the Watergate trial
"was in the highest tradition of his office as a
federal judge." Rauh observed that the statement of the court "is more a commentary on
anti-Watergate hysteria than a justification for
Sirica's misuse of judicial power. This same
hysteria brought spokesmen for the greatest
civil-liberties organization in the history of the
nation (American Civil Liberties Union) . . . to
applaud Sirica's conduct. But all of this cannot
alter the end-justifies-the-means philosophy
that surrounded Sirica's actions."
I remember thinking when I read Rauh's commentary that here was truly a man of principle.
Notwithstanding the fact that I am sure Rauh
loathed President Nixon and the actions of



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Family Law Assistance Network feature
An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Qualified Immunity feature
Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Family Law Assistance Network feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Qualified Immunity feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 54
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 57
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 58
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 59
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 60
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 61
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 62
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 63
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 64
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 65
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 66
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 67
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover4
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