Oral history interview with Clint Bamberger available online

bamberger_ohThe 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.


Press conference announcing the Houston Legal Services Program, April 1966: Sargent Shriver with Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and Clinton Bamberger (front). Photographer unknown. Clinton Bamberger photo collection, National Equal Justice Library, Georgetown Law Library.

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.

Katharina Hering

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