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Theodore V. Wells, Jr.

Attorney Theodore V. Wells, Jr. has made a mark on the legal world as one of the most sought-after white collar criminal lawyers. Ted Wells was born Theodore Von Wells, Jr. on April 28, 1950 in Washington, D.C. to Phyllis and Theodore V. Wells, Sr., and grew up in a small rowhouse in Northwest, Washington, D.C. Wells was raised by his mother, who worked in the U.S. Navy’s mailroom. Wells became known for his academic focus, and by the time he attended Calvin Coolidge High School was known for his grades as well as his prowess on the football field.

In 1968, Wells graduated from Calvin Coolidge High School and attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. While attending Holy Cross, Wells was mentored by Reverend John E. Brooks and Edward Bennett Williams and became head of the black student union. One classmate, also a member of the union, was current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with whom Wells participated in a walkout because of the school’s racially motivated unfair practices. In 1971, Wells married his high school girlfriend, Nina Mitchell, in Washington, D.C. The following year, he returned to school and received his B.A. degree.

After graduation, Wells attended Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School simultaneously, receiving both his J.D. and M.B.A. degrees in 1976. Wells was one of only forty-three black students then enrolled in Harvard Law School. He then worked as a law clerk for Judge John J. Gibbons, a Third Circuit judge, where he worked alongside another current Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito. The following year, after a very brief clerkship at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Los Angeles, Wells joined the Lowenstein Sandler law firm in New Jersey and worked doing pro bono criminal defense work under mentor Matthew Boylan. There, he would hone his trial room technique.

In 1982, Wells became partner at Lowenstein Sandler. The following year, he won his case for Hudson County Prosecutor Harold Ruvoldt, then on trial for bribery and extortion and in 1987 successfully defended Raymond Donovan, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, his first high profile case. In 1993, Wells was elected Fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers, and, in 1994, he was chosen as one of the most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal, a title he earned again in 1997 and 2000.

In 1998, Wells won a case for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Espy in U.S. v. Espy, and the following year, Wells effectively defended Franklin L. Haney, a Tennessee financier who had become involved in a campaign finance controversy for the 1996 presidential elections. In 2000, Wells became Bill Bradley’s National Campaign Treasurer during his unsuccessful presidential run. That year, he also joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, becoming partner and litigation department co-chair. Since then, Wells has defended a number of major corporations in a variety of cases, and his clients have included Johnson & Johnson, Mitsubishi Corporation, Philip Morris, ExxonMobil and the Carnival Corporation, as well as the first RICO case on Wall Street. Most recently, Wells defended Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff “Scooter” Libby in the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal.

Wells was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 15, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.175

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/15/2007 |and| 6/7/2007 |and| 7/25/2007

5/15/2007

6/7/2007

7/25/2007

Last Name

Wells

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Calvin Coolidge Senior High School

Rudolph Elementary School

Keene Elementary School

Paul Public Charter School

College of the Holy Cross

Harvard Law School

Harvard Business School

First Name

Theodore

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

WEL02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Boy, Boy, Boy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

4/28/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

French Fries

Short Description

Litigator Theodore V. Wells, Jr. (1950 - ) was partner and litigation department co-chair at the law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Employment

National Park Service

Pricewaterhousecooper (PwC)

Arnold and Palmer

Alston, Miller and Gaines

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Seton Hall University School of Law

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Favorite Color

Aqua Green

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Theodore V. Wells, Jr.'s interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the Northwest neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his early pastimes

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his early interest in literature

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his best friend from childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his relationship with his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his father's shooting

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes segregation in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his civil rights activities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the severity of segregation in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the influence of his best friend's father

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Kent B. Amos and A. Barry Rand

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers successful individuals from his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his high school football career

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his college recruitment as a football player

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his decision to attend College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the athletic recruitment process

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his athletic scholarship offers

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his arrival at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his first semester at the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the political climate at the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers dating his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his African American peers at the College of the Holy Cross'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to quit the football team

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the platform of his Black Student Union

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes Clarence Thomas' involvement with the Black Student Union

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the protest movements of the early 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his academic interest in economics

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his employment during college

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. narrates his photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Slating of Theodore V. Wells, Jr.'s interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the aftermath of the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his sophomore year at College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers John E. Brooks

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon the success of his peers from the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to pursue a graduate degree

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his law school applications

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his wedding and honeymoon

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls moving to Somerville, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his enrollment at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the J.D./M.B.A. degree program at Harvard University

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his first year at the Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his classmates at the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his professors at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his work on the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the African American faculty of the Harvard Law School

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his summer internships while at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the integration of corporate law firms

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his judicial clerkship

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls obtaining a clerkship under Judge John Joseph Gibbons

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes Judge John Joseph Gibbons' former law clerks

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his clerkship under Judge John Joseph Gibbons

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the state of minorities in the courts in the 1970s

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his duties as a judicial clerk

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his clerkship at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Raymond A. Brown

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Lowenstein Sandler LLP, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Lowenstein Sandler LLP, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls working on a Soviet Union espionage case

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his casework at Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers defending Al Dickens

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his position under Matthew P. Boylan at Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers defending Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr., pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers defending Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr., pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls defending Raymond J. Donovan

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his political involvement in New Jersey

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the U.S. Senate campaigns in New Jersey

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers meeting Bill Bradley

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls Bill Bradley's presidential campaign

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his professional aspirations

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his decision to turn down judicial appointments

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Judge Herbert Jay Stern

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his political activities in New Jersey

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers becoming a partner at Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his compensation as a trial lawyer

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his relationship with Bill Bradley

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his roles in the Democratic Party

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls being offered a position as a U.S. attorney

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes how he came to represent Mike Espy

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the case of United States v. Espy

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his defense strategy for the case of United States v. Espy

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his federal casework

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his defense of Calvin Grigsby

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the chronology of his federal casework

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the case of United States v. Lauersen

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, pt. 1

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the mentorship of Arthur L. Liman and Edward Bennett Williams

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, pt. 2

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his preference to work solo

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the case of United States v. Flake

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the importance of research for trial lawyers

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his defense of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the process of deferred prosecution

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the case of Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his legal casework

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the case of United States v. Libby

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his most influential legal casework

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his political ideologies, pt. 1

Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the role of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his political ideologies, pt. 2

Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the role of African Americans in politics

Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

6$9

DAStory

4$7

DATitle
Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, pt. 2
Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls working on a Soviet Union espionage case
Transcript
And we held a meeting that night after the decision was rendered that the students would be expelled, held a meeting of the black student's union [Black Student Union]. And I was the vice president of the BSU at that juncture. And there were a lot of discussions about what we should do, including whether we should take over an administration--over the administration building. And someone, I don't--do not recall whose idea it was, someone at some point in the meeting stood up and said, "You know what? This is so wrong, so fundamentally wrong and speaks so loudly about the college's attitude towards black students and towards issues of fairness. We should just leave. We should quit school and just leave and start over somewhere else." And it was an idea that just caught on like wildfire. It just went through the room, and suddenly you had in this room of forty or fifty people, people said, "You know what? We don't need to take over any administration building, occupy anybody's property, engage in trespassing. I mean the best way to send the message as to how we feel is just to leave and we'll find another college." And we took a vote, and we decided we were gonna--we were all gonna quit school the next day. And I informed the college president who was Father Swords [Raymond J. Swords] that night that the black students had decided to resign. And Father Swords, I'll never forget, looked at me in a fairly cold fashion, and he said, "Well, that's your right, but we're not changing our mind." And I said, fine. So I went back to the, what was called the black corridor. Most of the black students lived in the third and fourth floor of the Healy dormitory [Healy Hall]. And I went back and everybody came out into the halls, and I advised them that I had met with Father Brooks [John E. Brooks], and that he basically said, if you're gonna resign, resign. And we went on--I remember I went on the college radio station that night and announced that at ten o'clock tomorrow morning, each and every black student at Holy Cross [College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts] would be leaving school, and we would have a press conference at ten that morning. And we spent the night calling our parents, and it was one of the most traumatic nights of my entire life because as one of the leaders, I not only had to tell my mother [Phyllis Wells] I was quitting school, where I had a full scholarship, but I had to get on the telephone with the parents of some of the other students, who wanted to understand what was going on. And I was, at that time, nineteen years old and being put in a spot of trying to explain to a number of parents why their young sons--it was an all-male school at that time--why their young sons were giving up their scholarship because almost all of us were on some type of financial aid or, or scholarship.$I started at Lowenstein [Lowenstein, Sandler, Brochin, Kohl, Fisher and Boylan; Lowenstein Sandler LLP], and about two months later--well, I started, I was in the slash litigation corporate department, cause I still am confused, whether I'm gonna be a litigator or corporate lawyer. And I'm still trying to feel my way, but I've been there about sixty days, and the--two Soviet spies were arrested, charged with espionage, a guy named Enger [Valdik Enger] and a guy Chernyayev [Rudolph Chernyayev], and Matt [Matthew P. Boylan] was retained by the Soviet Union [Russia] to represent Chennai. And Matt said, "Okay, this is what I hired you for." He said, "Come on, you're gonna be my main associate on this case." And it was a huge national case. It was a show trial. It was right after Watergate. I guess, probably Webster [William H. Webster] had become head of the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], and they were trying to increase the prestige of the FBI. And they made a--a very conscious decision was made to have, what I'll call a show trial. And there were fascinating legal issues, diplomatic immunity because there was a wiretap. It was this big sting operation, and I'm only a few months out of my clerkship [with John J. Gibbons], and I'm in one of the biggest cases in the country, huge espionage case. And as life would have it, Sam Alito [Samuel Alito], who was co-clerk with me, Sam had gone to the U.S. attorney's office and Bob Del Tufo [Robert Del Tufo] was the U.S. attorney then, and he grabbed Sam. He said, "Well, come on, you're gonna be on the spy case with me." So Sam and I are truly ninety days, you know, four months, something like that out of our clerkships, and we're now going against each other in this huge espionage case. And it was a sting, so nothing really got stolen. The alleged thing was whether they were stealing secrets with respect to the Trident [missile] submarine system. But it was, it was a fascinating representation. I mean we truly were retained by the Soviet Union. Both of these, both of the defendants were employees of the Soviet mission [Consulate General of Russia in New York City] in New York [New York], and Enger, who was the equivalent of a colonel in the KGB, he was presented by a guy named Marty Popper [Martin Popper] and Don Ruby [Donald N. Ruby], and Popper, the way he got connected with the Soviets was he had been an assistant prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials. And he worked on Justice Roberts' [ph.] staff. And he worked with, I guess, the Soviet prosecutors during the Nuremburg trial, and when he set up his practice, he started representing the Soviet mission. So he was a natural choice to represent Enger and Matt, Matt had no connections or anything to do with the Soviet Union. But Matt was just viewed as one of the top trial lawyers. And they asked Matt would he come in and represent Chernyayev, who was like a sergeant in the KGB. And we did so, but then Matt had a terrible falling out 'cause they--the Soviets were always concerned that Matt--that Chernyayev might defect. And they didn't trust us either 'cause we--they had no connections with us. So we never got to talk to our client by himself, you know, in an entire eighteen months of representing him. There was always a senior diplomatic official, I assume, another KGB guy. But they never let him out of their sight. And we went to trial in front of--Fred Lacey [Frederick Bernard Lacey] was the federal district court judge. And that was my, that was my first big case. And we picked that jury in two days, but we impaneled the jury like three o'clock in the morning. And Lacey told them finally at three in the morning that they were gonna be sequestered. And it was, it was a fascinating case. They were, they were convicted, never did a day in prison. Lacey gave them both thirty years, but they were swapped for maybe three or four Soviet dissidents. And I remember Sam and I, we had written the--the conviction had taken place. They were out on bail pending appeal. And I remember Popper called me one day and said, "Well, we just cut the deal with the White House, but you have to go to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] in the morning," meaning me, "to withdraw the appeal." And I remember--and he said, "Come to New York right away." And I was a little suspicious of, of Marty--I mean he's dead now. I thought Marty might swap me, if it would help (laughter). And I told everybody, I said, "I'm going over to Marty. If I don't show up or something," (laughter), "this is where I am." And I went to the Third Circuit [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit] the next morning, and I signed a bunch of papers with ribbons on them, and then they did the swap at a--somewhere, maybe at some airport around D.C. [Washington, D.C.]. That afternoon, went on national TV. So they never did any time. Then we were actually supposed to go to the Soviet Olympics [1980 Summer Olympics, Moscow, Russia], and then, but then Carter [President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.] boycotted the Olympics. So we were, we were invited to go to the Olympics as their guests, but we never, never went 'cause the, because the U.S. boycotted the Olympics. But that's how I started doing criminal law. I mean, it, it--with the Soviet spy case.