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The Honorable Eric Washington

Chief Judge Eric Tyson Washington was born on December 2, 1953, in Jersey City, New Jersey to Gloria Simkins Washington, a social worker, and Eleby Rudolph Washington, a surgeon. He was raised in Newark, New Jersey and attended high school in Maplewood, New Jersey. Washington graduated from Tufts University in 1976 and received his J.D. degree from Columbia University’s School of Law in 1979. Washington began his law career in 1979 at the offices of Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston, Texas. The company is one of the largest law firms in the United States with nearly 1,000 attorneys in over fifty different practice areas. Washington soon relocated to Washington, D.C. to serve as Legislative Director and Counsel to U.S. Congressman Michael A. Andrews of Texas, before assuming a position in the Washington, D.C. branch of Fulbright & Jaworski.

In 1987, Washington served as Special Counsel to the Corporation Counsel, and later as Principal Deputy Corporation Counsel in Washington, D.C. After stepping down from this position in 1989, Washington became a partner at Hogan & Hartson, the oldest major law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., and remained there until 1995, when he was appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. As an associate judge in the Superior Court, he presided over various criminal trials as well as cases from the Drug Court, Domestic Violence Unit, tax and probate matters on certification from other judges, and cases involving children who were victims of abuse and neglect. Washington was appointed to the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton in 1999, and six years later, the District of Columbia Judicial Nominations Commission designated Washington to serve a four-year term as Chief Judge of the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals, preceding Judge Annice Wagner.

Washington has previously served as Co-Chair of the Strategic Planning Leadership Council for the District of Columbia Courts and is also a member of the Standing Committee on Fairness and Access to the Courts. Washington serves on many civic organizations as well, including the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Boys and Girls Club Foundation.

Chief Judge Eric Washington was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 26, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.274

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/26/2007 |and| 5/23/2014

Last Name

Washington

Maker Category
Middle Name

T.

Schools

Madison Elementary School

Newark Academy

Columbia High School

Tufts University

Columbia Law School

First Name

Eric

Birth City, State, Country

Jersey City

HM ID

WAS04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

It Is What It Is.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

12/2/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cajun Food

Short Description

Chief appellate judge The Honorable Eric Washington (1953 - ) was appointed to the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals by President Clinton in 1999. He became chief judge in 2005.

Employment

District of Columbia Court of Appeals

Superior Court for the District of Columbia

Hogan & Hartson

Fulbright & Jaworski

Delete

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eric Washington's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eric Washington lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eric Washington describes his maternal family history, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eric Washington describes his maternal family history, pt.2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eric Washington describes his maternal family history, pt.3

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eric Washington recalls his paternal family history, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eric Washington recalls his paternal family history, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eric Washington talks about his father, Eleby Washington, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eric Washington talks about how his parents may have met

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eric Washington describes his parents' personalities and how he takes after them

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eric Washington talks about his father's medical practice

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eric Washington describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eric Washington talks about his father's decision to practice medicine in New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eric Washington describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eric Washington describes his childhood neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Eric Washington describes his elementary school years in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Eric Washington describes his youthful passion for tennis

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Eric Washington describes his childhood sports heroes, Arthur Ashe, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Eric Washington recalls his parents' attempts at musical training

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Eric Washington recalls the influence of television on his values and aspirations as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Eric Washington remembers professional role models as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Eric Washington talks about his middle school years at Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey, pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eric Washington talks about his middle school years at Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey, pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eric Washington describes his time in the Boy Scouts and the development of black consciousness

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eric Washington recalls his family's involvement with the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eric Washington describes his memories of the 1967 Newark Riots and moving to Maplewood, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eric Washington describes playing sports and the development of his social conscience at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eric Washington remembers role models from his youth like Gus Heningburg

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eric Washington describes his experience at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Eric Washington talks about his decision to become a lawyer and his father's view of lawyers

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Eric Washington recalls his decision to attend Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eric Washington remembers living in the Africana House at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eric Washington describes volunteer efforts to connect citizens of Boston, Massachusetts' Roxbury and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods to local universities

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eric Washington talks about playing basketball at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eric Washington describes how his experience at Tufts University propelled him toward a legal career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eric Washington recalls how racial animus in Boston, Massachusetts led him to attend Columbia Law School in New York City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eric Washington describes his studies at Columbia Law School and the impact of Professor Kellis E. Parker

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eric Washington talks about why he joined Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston, Texas after graduating from Columbia Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eric Washington describes Houston, Texas in the late 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Eric Washington talks about his work at Fulbright & Jaworski

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Eric Washington talks about his decision to work for U.S. Congressman Michael A. Andrews in 1983

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eric Washington talks about working for U.S. Congressman Michael A. Andrews, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Eric Washington talks about working for U.S. Congressman Michael A. Andrews, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Eric Washington describes how he became Principal Deputy Corporation Counsel in Washington, D.C. under Frederick Cooke

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Eric Washington describes why he decided to return to Fulbright & Jaworkski after working for U.S. Congressman Michael A. Andrews

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Eric Washington talks about Texan politicians Mickey Leland and Barbara Jordan

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Eric Washington talks about HistoryMaker Lee P. Brown's tenure as Houston, Texas' chief of police

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Eric Washington recalls George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign against Ronald Reagan in 1980

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Eric Washington talks about the impact of the Reagan Administration on judicial office in Texas and President Lyndon B. Johnson

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Eric Washington talks about his tenure as Principal Deputy Corporation Counsel

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Eric Washington talks about joining Hogan & Hartson and his increasing involvement with the Democratic Party in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Second slating of Eric Washington's interview

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Eric Washington describes corruption charges brought against HistoryMaker Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Eric Washington contrasts the administrations of Mayors Marion Barry and Walter Washington

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Eric Washington describes the role of the Corporation Counsel in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Eric Washington talks about Herbert O. Reid, Sr., legal counsel to HistoryMaker Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Eric Washington talks about working at Hogan & Hartson

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Eric Washington talks about his work as Chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee during President Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Eric Washington talks about HistoryMaker President Barack Obama's political appointments

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Eric Washington describes President Bill Clinton's reputation as the first black president

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Eric Washington talks about the financial difficulties in Washington, D.C. created by the city's limited tax base, pt.1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Eric Washington talks about the financial difficulties in Washington, D.C. created by the city's limited tax base, pt.2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Eric Washington recalls African American judges from his childhood who inspired him to become a judge

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Eric Washington describes his nomination process to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Eric Washington describes the declining trends in presidential judicial appointments

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Eric Washington describes his duties as a judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Eric Washington talks about the history of African Americans in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Eric Washington talks about his service on the Standing Committee on Fairness and Access to the District of Columbia Courts

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Eric Washington talks about his focus on domestic violence as a judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Eric Washington talks about drug sentencing in the District of Columbia

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Eric Washington recalls his appointment to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 1999

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Eric Washington talks about his work on the Strategic Planning Leadership Council, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Eric Washington talks about his work on the Strategic Planning Leadership Council, pt.2

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Eric Washington talks about his work on the Strategic Planning Leadership Council, pt.3

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Eric Washington talks about Annice Wagner, Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Eric Washington talks about the Access to Justice Commission headed by Peter Edelman

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Eric Washington talks about his appointment as Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2005

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Eric Washington describes his vision as the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Eric Washington talks about using open court cases to promote transparency with the public and educate law students

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Eric Washington discusses the pros and cons of live streaming oral arguments

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Eric Washington talks about judicial process on the D.C. Court of Appeals, pt.1

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Eric Washington talks about judicial process on the D.C. Court of Appeals, pt.2

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Eric Washington talks about appellate judges on the D.C. Court of Appeals

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Eric Washington compares the D.C. Court of Appeals to two-tiered trial courts in other states

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Eric Washington talks about the use of DNA evidence in trial courts

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Eric Washington talks about his work as President of the Conference of Chief Justices, pt.1

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Eric Washington talks about his work as President of the Conference of Chief Justices, pt.2

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Eric Washington talks about how to reform the American criminal justice system, pt.1

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Eric Washington talks about how to reform the American criminal justice system, pt.2

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Eric Washington talks about his hopes for his third term as Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Eric Washington reflects upon whether he would do anything differently as a judge

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Eric Washington describes the history of the Historic Courthouse in Washington D.C., pt.1

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Eric Washington describes the history of the Historic Courthouse in Washington D.C., pt.2

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Eric Washington describes the history of the Historic Courthouse in Washington D.C., pt.3

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Eric Washington describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Eric Washington reflects upon his professional legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Eric Washington talks about his family

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Eric Washington talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

8$3

DATitle
Eric Washington talks about his decision to become a lawyer and his father's view of lawyers
Eric Washington describes how he became Principal Deputy Corporation Counsel in Washington, D.C. under Frederick Cooke
Transcript
So, when you were on the verge of graduation from high school, did you have an idea of what you wanted to pursue, career-wise?$$No, I was still torn, I was, you know, torn between that, that real, you know, I--desire to be a, a social engineer, sort of, you know, be involved in helping, which was again, consistent with what my dad [Eleby Washington, Jr.] had done but much more. I was, I was much more of wanting to be out front of that issue, as opposed to being sort of behind the scene, working at, you know. I was, I was much more willing--not much more willing, but much more, you know, much more interested in sort of being on the front line, I think, and working with groups and, and (unclear) primarily antipoverty organizations. I would work the New York City youth services agency, and, and tried to work with, you know, different groups of young people and, and so, sort of be a part of the antipoverty movement and the anti-, and, and try to uplift as much as many people as I could. And so, I sort of had leanings in that way, but I was still the son of a doctor. And still, my brother was going to go to medical school, you know, and he turned out--he, he's an orthopedic surgeon now, like my father was. And, frankly, he freed me up because once my dad got one orthopedic surgeon, I think he was okay with, with me doing something else, although a lawyer is not what an orthopedic surgeon would want his son to be necessarily. You never, never thought, you know, other than those, he, he thought highly of lawyers. But he loved judges and he had good friends who were judges and he, he would draw these distinctions between lawyers and judges in his own mind because he saw lawyers as those individuals who would manufacture malpractice cases against good doctors who had done all they could do to help somebody, and because they hadn't put them together like God--they, that they were somehow negligent in their actions. And so, he thought lawyers somehow were the reason why people brought these lawsuits, as opposed to these people believing they were wrong. And, as I told him, as there being doctors who would testify that they hadn't done everything perfectly 'cause I said, without, without another doctor testifying that you, that you didn't do everything right, they could never find you guilt, you know, they could find you negligent of doing anything right. And then, my father was not talking from personal experience. I don't remember my dad ever being sued, but and maybe once or twice in, in his career, that it might have happened. But I don't remember any of them, but, but he was talking more generally about the medical profession and, and his colleagues and friends who had to, had to endure these unreasonable depositions, and take them away from their patients and go to court, and defend themselves when somebody decides to crash a motorcycle into a wall going 80 miles an hour, break every bone in their body, spend 75 hours in a row putting them back together. And when they're finished, their little pinkie can't straighten up all the way, and they sue you for malpractice. That was, that was--used the classic sort of a story about why lawyers are bad. But my dad, I think, ultimately is very proud that, you know, and, and understood, really did understand and appreciated the important role lawyers played as social engineers, and so I think was very supportive.$$Okay.$$I did promise him I'd never practice malpractice. I'd never be a plaintiff's lawyer doing malpractice work but other than that--$$Okay.$All right, all right. Now, in '87 [1987], you were Special Counsel to the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia?$$Right.$$Now, how did that happen?$$One of my good friends, Fred Cooke [Frederick Cooke], who was a partner in another law firm here in town [Washington, D.C.] and, and someone whom, with whom I developed a relationship, was a native Washingtonian, had been put in charge of a search committee for the new Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia which is akin to an Attorney General in most states. And he had--was, you know, was part of this--leading the search committee when, of course, they, they turned around and asked him, would he be interested in taking the job? So, he calls me up and we have lunch, and he starts saying, ahh, they're asking me to take the job. And I spent probably an hour and a half convincing him that it was the great, it was a great opportunity. It was 300 lawyers. He was going to be in charge of basically his own law firm. They represented municipal corporations that had litigation, legislation, that they, they advise the legislative, you know, advising role. They had all these different roles, and he was going to be the top lawyer in charge of that office. I said, you gotta take that. You know, what a great chance, what a great opportunity for you. And then, at the end of this, like impassioned-hour speech to him, about why he should take it, he looked at me and said okay, well, if I take it, you gotta come. And I couldn't argue against it 'cause I just spent an hour arguing for him to do it. So, I, I agreed to come. And, and the interesting story about why I was Special Counsel, because that was not what I anticipated going in as. I was supposed to be--Fred had wanted me to be his deputy immediately, but I didn't know the mayor. I had not had any real contact with Mayor [Marion] Barry [HM], and I didn't know a lot about the city government. And they didn't know, more importantly, from his perspective, a lot about me. And to be in the second, the second ranking legal officer in the district, I think the mayor wanted to feel comfortable that he at least knew who I was. And so, while Fred had wanted to bring me in as the Deputy Corporation Counsel, it's my understanding that the Mayor was little reticent to do that without having an opportunity to work with me first for a few years to know, to know me, and for his staff that could let, you know, deputy mayors and other staff, getting comfortable with me. So, for the first year and a half or so, I was Special Counsel, and then worked closely with all of the Deputy Mayors and others, and helped run the office. And there was no deputy corporation, Principal Deputy Corporation Counsel. Then I ultimately, apparently, got the word. Fred got the word--oh, it's okay, you can move him up now, and I became the Principal Deputy. So, I always acted as the Principal Deputy, but for the first year and a half, I was given the title of Special Counsel.$$Okay.