Even as the tenth anniversary of the June 17, 1972, Watergate break-in approaches, the wheels of justice grind slowly on in a Watergate-related case still in U.S. District Court here.
The case involves Watergate burglar James McCord Jr., who eight long years ago sued his lawyers, F. Lee Bailey and Gerald Alch, for legal malpractice and for violating his civil rights.
The case has been dismissed once, appealed and sent back to the trial court. It now sits in Chief Judge John Lewis Smith's chambers, along with a motion by Bailey and Alch's lawyers to dismiss it once again.
No trial date has been set, but if Smith doesn't dismiss the case, Watergate aficionados may get one last chance to see and hear some of the famous names of yesteryear, including John Mitchell, E. Howard Hunt, Jeb Stuart Magruder and John Dean.
In his court papers, McCord, who spent nearly a year in prison for the burglary, has claimed that he was the victim of a conspiracy between his lawyers and Mitchell and other White House officials to intimidate him from testifying to the grand jury or at his trial and telling what he knew of high-level involvement in the break-in.
He also claimed that his principal attorney, Alch, "concealed . . . the critically important fact that the federal prosecutors handling his case had made two substantial plea-bargain offers intended to induce McCord to become a witness."
Bailey and Alch have denied the allegations of intimidation or inadequate representation. In papers filed last month asking Smith to dismiss the case once again, they point out that the D.C. Court of Appeals "saw no legal defect in the quality of McCord's legal representation." The lawyers argue that the facts McCord raises are "stale," have already been litigated, and claim that McCord himself told the Senate Watergate Committee that he "voluntarily decided to remain silent at his trial."
If McCord, who is now in the fuel business in Colorado, gets his day in court, it will be in the last of what U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Edward A. Tamm has called "another canto in the seemingly ceaseless saga of Watergate."