(updated on Aug. 5th, 2014)
The interview with Clinton (“Clint”) Bamberger was conducted by Christopher Brown on June 4, 2002 on behalf of the National Equal Justice Library Oral History Project. After graduating from Loyola College (Baltimore) in 1949 and from Georgetown University Law Center with a J.D. in 1951, Bamberger worked for the Baltimore firm of Piper & Marbury, where he became a partner in 1960. While at Piper & Marbury, he was involved in insurance litigation and also served as the attorney for death row inmate John L. Brady in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), in which the Supreme Court ruled that withholding exculpatory evidence from the defendant violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bamberger recalls how he became involved in the case through a friend, a Jesuit priest who served as chaplain in the Maryland penitentiary, who asked him to look into the case a few weeks before John Brady’s execution had been scheduled. It was the first time Bamberger argued a case before the Supreme Court. While he lost the case (the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals of Maryland), Brady’s life was saved, and the precedent for the Brady disclosure established.
In response to the question how he got from the small Baltimore law firm of Piper and Marbury to become the director of the national legal services program, Bamberger remarks that, “it was kind of a different time than it is now; that major lawyers, leaders of major law firms, were publicly involved in the… major social questions of that time – which was civil rights.” Bamberger had done some public interest and legal aid work in Baltimore, and been following the effort to establish a federal program to provide financial support for civil legal services to the poor. He decided to attend the ABA meeting in 1965, where part of the program was focused on discussing the federally funded legal services program. There, he met Kenneth Pye, who was then associate dean at Georgetown. Pye introduced him to Howard Westwood, who was then a partner at Covington & Burling, who was very involved in the legal aid movement, who helped recruit Bamberger to become the first Director of the Legal Services Program (LSP) within the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). What the program needed was “somebody who would disarm any opposition in the organized bar,” he said. While at OEO/LSP Bamberger spent much time delivering speeches, attempting to garner support for the new government program at various Bar meetings. “While the ABA was supportive there was a lot of opposition at the local level.” Some of the opposition came from some of the older legal aid societies, who were concerned about the effects of the new program on their established structures, and troubled by the grassroots components of the Community Action Programs, especially the provision in the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act that programs should be developed with the “maximum feasible participation of residents of the areas and members of the groups served.” Under his leadership, the OEO-LSP expanded rapidly. In mid-1966, Bamberger left the program to run for State Attorney General of Maryland. That campaign was unsuccessful and Bamberger returned to Piper & Marbury until 1969. There, he continued to be active in legal services work and was on the recruitment committee for the Reginald Heber Smith fellowships.
In 1969, Bamberger became Dean of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, where he established one of the first clinical programs in the country, and taught Civil Procedure and Professional Responsibility. In 1975, Bamberger left Catholic University to become the Executive Vice President of the Legal Services Corporation. Maintaining that he had spent much time as a legal services bureaucrat and advocate, and never as a legal services attorney, Bamberger left the Legal Services Corporation in 1979 to become a staff attorney and clinical instructor at the Legal Services Institute (LSI) in Boston, where he worked closely with Gary Bellow and Jeanne Charn. Controversy and politics surrounding LSI forced Bamberger’s departure. In 1982, Bamberger became Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Education at the School of Law of the University of Maryland. While at the University of Maryland, he served as the attorney for Denise Sampson in Ronald Fishkind Realty v. Sampson, 306 Md. 269, 286, 508 A.2d 478, 487 (1986). Bamberger became very involved in international legal aid, especially in South Africa, Australia, Nepal, and the Netherlands, and frequently traveled abroad, lecturing about international legal aid and clinical education. He retired emeritus from the University of Maryland in 1991.
In addition to the oral history interview, the NEJL collections include the Clinton Bamberger Papers, a rich resource of many unique materials documenting Bamberger’s career, as well as the development of legal services since the 1960s.
In the 2002 oral history interview with Edgar Cahn, which Alan Houseman conducted on behalf of the National Equal Justice Library Oral History Project, Edgar Cahn recalls how he met Jean Camper at Swarthmore. She was the daughter of Dr. John E. T. Camper, a prominent African American physician in Baltimore who had founded the city’s first chapter of the NAACP. The two married, and Edgar Cahn eventually followed Jean at Yale Law School after he received his PhD in English (she graduated in 1961 and he graduated in 1963).
Cahn’s involvement with legal services started during his first year of law school, when he worked as an intern for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) with Wilbur Cohen, David Hackett and Robert Kennedy. During his second year of law school, he worked as a speech writer for Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. In the meantime, New Haven had been tapped by the Ford Foundation as a city for one of the first Gray Area programs (the Cahns knew the Ford Foundation’s Paul Ylvisaker from their studies at Swarthmore). Jean Camper Cahn started to work as associate counsel for the Redevelopment Agency in New Haven and was asked to draw the corporate papers for the Community Progress Inc., a community development organization funded by the Ford Foundation that undertook the development of different neighborhoods. “These were days when law was being used as a means of social development, at the same time, obviously, that the civil rights movement was going on full tilt in the ‘60s,” says Cahn. One of the central questions they were concerned with was how they could “amplify the voices of those who are powerless and who are disenfranchised,” says Cahn. “Couldn’t we create a neighborhood law office that could act as a vehicle to amplify those voices?” Because it wouldn’t be the lawyer’s voice. It would be the client’s voice, but it would be the lawyer using a constitutionally protected role.”
The Cahns’ work on legal services in disadvantaged communities and on neighborhood law offices formed the basis of their landmark 1964 article for the Yale Law Journal, “The War on Poverty: A Civilian Perspective,” which laid out a vision for legal services for the subsequent generations, and proposed a national system of legal services to the poor. Edgar Cahn recalls how they completed their work on the article after they had moved to Washington, D.C., where Edgar Cahn worked as special counsel to the attorney general, and Jean Cahn worked at the State Department as the first African American woman at the Africa desk. Edgar Cahn recalls their close collaboration with Gary Bellow while they were working on the article. Bellow had called him up after reading one of the Xeroxed underground copies of the draft that were circulating. “And so we sat down around the table many nights trying to think through what an institution that hadn’t been born would look like: What kinds of decisions it would have to make about cases it would take. What kinds of functions it would play. Would it get involved in criminal law or just in civil law? Would it get involved in test case? Would it be a corporate lawyer, so to speak, for groups of poor people who wanted to incorporate in tenants associations? And we benefited enormously from his insights, his experience, and just sort of the brainstorming that went back and forth,” says Cahn. (Cahn invited Bellow to serve as a co-author, but Bellow declined.) Edgar Cahn continued to work as special counsel to Sargent Shriver, and wrote speeches for Shriver, Robert Kennedy, and Nick Katzenbach, which gave him the unique opportunity to give a public voice to the discussion about a federally funded legal services program.
Cahn also discusses the preparation of the 1964 HEW conference on the Extension of Legal Services to the Poor, and its significance. He touches on controversies with the American Bar Association and the NLADA over legal aid funding, and recalls the process of establishing the Antioch School of Law in 1972, which emphasized public interest law. The school was closed in 1988, but its legacy continues at the University of the District of Columbia’s Clarke School of Law where Edgar Cahn is Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Jean Cahn died in 1991.