SHE WAS SHORT, tiny is probably the best word and she took her spot in the middle of the room with judge to her right. She started to tell what it was like to be arrested. It was all some sort of mistake - "I was an innocent victim" - and then she went on to tell all about how the cops had hauled her in during a peace demonstration and how she had come before the judge who was standing next to her at the moment. She looked up at him and said, "We have been friends ever since."
The judge was Charles W. Halleck who last week was denied reappointment after 12 years on the Superior Court bench. This was a party in his honor. It was held months ago, back when there was ice on the ground and I went because I have never been able to make up my mind about Halleck. The party didn't help any.
I knew a lot of people at the party, knew their politics and their commitment, at any rate, and I knew that they were firm in their admiration for Halleck. They would always start by conceding that he had a short fuse, that he said things that he probably shouldn't have said, but when he flew off the handle, it was always at prosecutors or marshals or the court bureaucracy - never at defendants.
Anyway, they were mostly lawyers talking and they were talking about a judge and what they said was just one side of the story. The prosecutors had a different story to tell and that was about a judge who harangued them, who treated them with contempt, who berated them and who so tied their hands that they found it impossible to deal with him. The prosecutors had their point. It was Halleck, after all, who told a U.S. marshal to return a document to a prosecutor with the directions to "shove it . . ." About all you can say about this incident is that Halleck didn't say it on the bench. It was in a hallway. He was also accused of verbally abusing a St. Elizabeths Hospital employee and of one time placing a car theft defendant on five minutes of unsupervised probation. This is not what you would call judicial temperament, even if you take into consideration Halleck's contention that he was sometimes baited by the prosecutors.
Anyway, when the time came for Halleck to be reappointed he ran into opposition before the D.C.Commission on Judicial Disabilities. The commission found him "qualified" - a finding that left the reappointment to then President Ford. The president sent Halleck's nomination to the Senate which refused to vote after learning of disciplinary actions pending against the judge. Finally, last week the Carter administration announced Halleck would not be renominated.
All of this would not be worth commenting on had it not been for one thing - the role of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Although it took no official position on the reappointment of Halleck and although certain prosecutors even favored his reappointment, the prosecutor's office in general fairly bristle with anti-Halleck sentiment. In fact, the anti-Halleck fight was led by the third-ranking prosecutor, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry F. Grene Jr., whose zealousness and energy was something to behold. He submitted to the Senate a 75-page, case-by-case listing of every published Court of Appeals opinion regarding cases heard by Halleck for a 10-year period. Halleck himself said this report reflected about 100 hours of work. Greene said he did it all on his own time.
Maybe he did.Maybe he took time-owed or vacation time and maybe he never used the Xerox machine in his office and maybe he never used a typewriter but the impression persists that the prosecutors' office here had a hand in the downfall of Judge Halleck - that they, in short, got him. That does not appear to be the case. If anything, Halleck probably "got" himself.
But still, you have to question, as many are doing, the role the prosecutor's office played in the eventual decision by the Carter administration not to reappoint Halleck. The prosecutors, for instance, found no real objection to Judge Alfred Burka who received automatic reappointment even though he ran Halleck a close second when it came to questionable judicial temperanment. The prosecutors' office, though, apparently couldn't careless about Burka. In general he saw things their way.
Anyway, the fight is over now, Halleck has lost and I suppose you can say the prosecutors won. The sides were clearly drawn on this one and maybe it would be prudent of sitting judges to be nice to prosecutors if they hanker for reappointment. I don't know about that, but I do know the prosecutors' office had had its impact.
I'm not sure you could say the same thing about little women who get arrested by mistake.