Thank you very much for the wonderful Sept. 29 obituary of Constance Baker Motley. She was an inspiration to all of us who were privileged to see her in court.
I first watched Judge Motley, when she was an attorney, make an extraordinary presentation to a three-judge panel in the Heart of Atlanta Motel case, which challenged the constitutionality of the public-accommodations section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The motel was owned by future governor Lester Maddox, a segregationist.
The Justice Department sent its most senior lawyers to argue the case to uphold the statute, but the star of oral argument was this magnificent young woman. The court was complimentary of her presentation.
Later, I had the privilege as federal prosecutor to appear before Judge Motley when she was a U.S. district judge in New York. I had a recalcitrant immunized witness in an investigation of organized crime in New York. The judge had no patience for people who disobeyed court orders or for members of organized crime and said so. The witness testified rather than go to jail.
Judge Motley was an inspiration to those of us who believe in our system of justice, and her contribution to the strength of that system is incalculable.
JOHN M. DOWD