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Last Wishes Still Unfulfilled

Lawyer Wayne Eig with the Bethesda firm Paley Rothman, surrounded by documents in the Green estate case. He represents Nassif.
Lawyer Wayne Eig with the Bethesda firm Paley Rothman, surrounded by documents in the Green estate case. He represents Nassif. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

Green described the litigation as an "ordeal" but said he feels compelled to carry out what he says were his father's wishes. "I want it to be right," he said. "I don't want it to be a penny more or a penny less than she's entitled to."

Boxes of documents from the case more than fill a room at the Bethesda firm Paley Rothman, which represents Nassif, and another room in the College Park law office of Carlton Green, who was designated by his father as executor of the estate. Compromise is nowhere in sight.

Nassif has accused Carlton Green of intentionally protracting the battle, in part to limit his tax burden.

But Green says that settling the estate, which included businesses in seven states and millions of dollars due to creditors and taxes, was such a complex task that it could not have been accomplished until at least 2004.

The elder Green carved out a distinguished legal career: He established a law practice in Hyattsville in 1931, and from 1939 to 1945, he served as a magistrate trial judge -- then the equivalent of a district court judge -- in Prince George's.

But he made an even greater mark as a businessman and banker. He helped found banks in Prince George's, Montgomery and Fairfax counties. He bought hotels and developed office buildings. He was a founder of Allied Capital Corp., described in his obituary as one of the nation's largest small-business investment corporations.

Vincent J. Femia, a retired circuit court judge who hears cases from time to time, said Green was a key player in the county's transformation from "a rural, tobacco-based economy to a modern, business-oriented economy."

One prominent example of Walter Green's impact on Prince George's is the four-story federal courthouse in Greenbelt. For decades, the state's only federal courthouse was in Baltimore. In 1966, as president of the Prince George's Bar Association, Green was among the early advocates for establishing a federal courthouse for the southern section of the state.

In 1988, after years of political wrangling, President Ronald Reagan signed off on the project, and six years later, the $41 million building was dedicated.

Nassif said she and Green met at a D.C. Bar Association dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in the mid-1950s, when she was a stenographic law clerk. Green motioned for Nassif and her date to sit at his table. Nassif, in her 30s, and Green, in his 50s, talked through the night.

A few months later, Green called her and said he was thinking of buying a hotel at 10th and H streets NW, near the firm where Nassif worked. Green said he wanted Nassif's opinion on the hotel and took her to the building.

After advising him on the purchase and later the management of the hotel, Nassif says she told him that she merited a salary for her work as an informal consultant. He agreed to pay her $25 a month, plus lunches.

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