X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
I had the privilege of knowing both Archibald Cox and Samuel Dash, who died on the same day in one of those coincidences with which history sometimes surprises us. They will be forever linked to Watergate. But each had a distinguished career in the law long before and long after Watergate brought them together at a critical moment in our national life. And they were very different men. Scholars by vocation and temperament, they each stepped up to play starring roles on a larger stage. In so doing, they heeded Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s famous dictum: “As life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he share the passion of his time at the peril of being judged not to have lived.” Neither is in any peril. Cox was the first Watergate special prosecutor, who stubbornly pressed for the release of the White House tapes, the existence of which had been revealed during the hearings of the Senate Watergate Committee. Cox’s actions thereby ignited the “Saturday night massacre,” involving in the short term his own dismissal from office, but leading ultimately to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin and counseled by Sam Dash, helped to create the climate of public, legal, and congressional opinion that transformed Watergate from a “third-rate burglary” dismissed by the White House into a national scandal. THE HIGHEST STANDARDS I was a student of Archibald Cox in his course on labor law at Harvard Law School in the 1950s. He was an intellectually demanding teacher, who held his students to the highest standards. It was no accident that I received my lowest grade in law school from him. Cox was also a rather stiff and forbidding figure in the classroom. Some of us called him “Starchy Archie,” although not to his face. He displayed an occasional flash of humor, sometimes at the expense of a hapless student. Once one of my classmates, rising to the bait of a Cox hypothetical, made an impassioned plea for the rights of labor, to which Cox responded, “Come on, this isn’t the Fourth of July — or Labor Day!” He then chuckled at his own joke, while the rest of us silently vowed never to volunteer in his class. “Such, such were the joys of life” at Harvard Law in the 1950s. In fact, this is the only event from Cox’s class — other than my unfortunate grade — which I can recall at a distance of almost half a century. A few years ago, at a class reunion, I moderated a panel discussion on Watergate in which Cox vigorously participated. He was then in his 80s and was quite deaf. I had to shout the questions from the floor into his ear. But his mind was as clear and sharp as ever. And he continued to project that spirit and sense of absolute rectitude that had served him so well throughout his long life. Cox was forced to retire from teaching at Harvard in 1984, while still at the height of his powers. The school had a compulsory retirement policy in those days before the anti-age discrimination act was passed. Boston University was delighted to gain from Harvard’s loss. The university offered him a place, and Cox set his rigorous example for yet another generation of law students. FOR THE DEFENSE Sam Dash was a different persona. The word that I would apply to him is the Yiddish expression haimisher — not fully translatable, but meaning informal, cozy, and warm. No one would have ever called Archie Cox haimisher, despite his many virtues. I was a colleague of Sam’s at Georgetown University Law Center for many years. He was an ornament to the faculty, one of its leading teachers of criminal law and professional responsibility. He also maintained an active law practice, of which I was an occasional beneficiary because of his generosity in bringing me into cases as his co-counsel. Two matters we worked on together stand out in my mind. One involved a 1971 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court by Carmine De Sapio, the leader of Tammany Hall and a power in the politics of both New York City and New York state for many years — until a federal criminal prosecution brought him down. De Sapio had been convicted of a violation of the act prohibiting Interstate Travel in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises because he had made an automobile trip from the city to a farm in upstate New York, at which bribery of a public official was supposedly discussed. The interstate travel element of the offense consisted of the fact that De Sapio’s driver crossed the George Washington Bridge and drove in New Jersey for a few miles on the way to the farm. Through Sam, I met a fascinating cast of characters — Roy Cohn, De Sapio’s behind-the-scenes lawyer who had hired Sam on the theory that Sam’s respectability and reputation would serve the client better than if Cohn appeared openly as his lawyer; Morris Ernst, an old-time civil libertarian with mysterious connections to J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who was somehow supposed to help out; and De Sapio himself, whom I came to respect for the silent stoicism and courage with which he met his fate. The Supreme Court refused to hear his case, and he served time in a federal prison. In the second case, Sam and I represented a father and son called to testify before a congressional committee investigating organized crime, also in the early 1970s. Our clients dutifully pleaded the privilege against self-incrimination to all questions except their names. A know-nothing congressman from Arizona proceeded to berate Sam and me for representing clients who took the Fifth Amendment. He called us a disgrace to the bar. It was sad and hilarious. Sam was head of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section at the time. If he was a disgrace, I was glad to be in such good company. Another congressman came to our support and launched into an eloquent defense of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment right to silence, and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. It almost brought tears to my eyes to hear him extol Sam and me for nobly representing these people. Our gratitude to our defender was somewhat tempered a few years later when the same congressman was convicted of taking a bribe from one of our former clients in an unrelated matter. I need hardly add that Sam and I did not represent him in that transaction. The congressman, it seems, had more than an academic interest in upholding the rights of criminal defendants. Life and law practice with Sam were never dull. Men who are determined to do right when it would be easier and more congenial to go along are not common. A rare pair died on May 29. Daniel A. Rezneck is a senior trial counsel in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. The views expressed in this article are his own.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.