Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Mr. Joseph Sahid on October 13, 2015, in New York, New York, with Shaun Illingworth. Thank you very much for having me here today. To begin, could you tell me where and when you were born?
Joseph Sahid: Paterson, New Jersey, February 14, 1944. That, of course, was Valentine's Day and the nurse in the hospital encouraged my mother to name me Valentine. Fortunately, she did not. [laughter]
SI: What were your parents' names, for the record?
JS: Helen Vitale, of Italian background, and Joseph Sahid, who was Lebanese, of Lebanese background. Both of them lived in Paterson, New Jersey.
SI: Your father had been born in Lebanon.
JS: He had. He came here when he was about two years old. My mother was born here.
SI: Do you know anything about your father's family background in Lebanon?
JS: Almost nothing. All the family I knew about was here. They lived in Clifton. All I knew was that they came from near Beirut. I've since learned, by the Internet, searches since then, that they came from a town in Lebanon that was known for silk-making and the fact is that they moved to Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson was known as the Silk City, and so, I've made a connection in my mind--I have no idea whether it's real or not.
SI: On your mother's side of the family, do you know how the family came to the US?
JS: My grandfather came alone in 1905. My grandmother and one of my uncles, who had been born, came several years later, because the boy had been sick. They then had many more children here.
SI: What part of Paterson were your parents living in when they met?
JS: They were living in a section near Jersey Street, which had later become a pretty bad part of town. When they were there, it was an immigrant community. A lot of Irish and Italians were there.
SI: What was your father doing for a living around that time when they married, when he was starting his family?
JS: Most of his life, he owned small stores, fruit and vegetable stores. He got pretty much wiped out by the supermarkets when they came along and he ended up working as a laborer in one of the warehouse places. My mother was a worker from the time she was sixteen years old in the textile mills in Paterson. Of course, she grew up in the height of the Depression.
SI: Did your mother continue to work after getting married and starting a family?
SI: Did she ever talk about the conditions in the silk mills?
JS: Not really. She last worked in a factory that was housed in the Colt building in Paterson. Colt had made his famous guns starting in Paterson and she happened to be working in the textile mill that had been his factory. She didn't talk about it much. She certainly didn't complain. It was just a job and it was important for the money.
SI: You have an older sister, I believe.
JS: Yes, she's three years older. She went to Paterson State and is now retired. She was a teacher for a while; she worked at other jobs for a while. She got married late and is still married and retired.
SI: Did your parents ever talk about the impact of the Depression on their lives?
JS: Absolutely. I still remember that my mother's father, during the Depression, made eight dollars a week and they had eight children, which was one of the reasons that she left school at sixteen and started working in the factories. They had a plot of land outside of Paterson in which my grandfather grew vegetables that they ate, and also grapes, so, he made wine. I still remember seeing the wine barrels and the apparatus, even though he had died before I was born.
SI: When you were growing up, were any of your grandparents still living?
JS: Three of them were. Both of my father's parents were still living and my mother's mother was still living. In fact, we lived in a house, a two-story house, we had the first story and my grandmother lived in the second story. For a short time when I was very young, several of my mother's siblings also lived there with my grandmother and one of my aunts had her first child there.
SI: Were you growing up still in this neighborhood that your parents had grown up in?
JS: No. By then, they had first moved to Clifton, New Jersey, where my father's family had moved, and then, we moved back to Paterson, on Madison Street, which was near 21st Avenue and Straight Street. It was a largely Italian neighborhood then. It has since changed.
SI: What are your earliest memories of growing up in this neighborhood?
JS: Well, I had my sister and a couple of neighbors who were girls about my sister's age and there were two boys that lived around the corner that I played with and we played a great deal around the house. I went to PS 15, which was the school on Sandy Hill that [comedian] Lou Costello had attended. That was a fifteen-minute walk or so from the house, and then, I went to Eastside High School, which was another ten or fifteen minutes beyond that. I played in the neighborhood, fortunately, never got hit by a car going by. [laughter] I had a pretty relaxed and pleasant time.
SI: Through your grandparents, maybe, or just through your community, did you see any traditions from Italy or Lebanon being continued on in your house?
JS: Absolutely. The answer is both. My father's family lived not far away and we visited them frequently and my mother learned to cook Lebanese food. My grandmother, as I said, lived upstairs, and so, we were close to her and her children, who were mostly living in and around Paterson. My mother also cooked Italian food. So, my Thanksgivings were interesting, in which they were a combination of Italian food and Lebanese food, all served together.
SI: What kind of dishes do you remember from your childhood?
JS: Well, of course, spaghetti and meatballs and sausage and, of course, the sausage had to be purchased at a special store where they made it by hand. At the same time, we ate tabbouleh, grape leaves and kibbeh, which were all Lebanese dishes, and I enjoyed it all.
SI: Did your parents ever talk about the impact of World War II on their lives?
JS: Yes. Almost all of my uncles had been in the service. They were in just about every branch of service there was and they talked very little about what they had done. I just knew that they were Marines, Army, but I didn't know very much about what their duties had been, just a little bit. They simply didn't talk about it. My father was about the only one who had not been in the service and that was because he had one child at the beginning of the war and two children by 1944, so, he was excluded from the draft, but he was the only one. The others, I got pieces of their uniforms and other mementos that they had brought home with them. I've since learned, I knew my one uncle had been a Marine and they said he was in every island but Iwo Jima, because he had malaria. I have since learned that his sister's husband had been in the Navy. He was also stationed in the Pacific, on an aircraft carrier, and he also was in the hospital with malaria at the time of Iwo Jima. That's how the two men met, which is how the one uncle became my uncle, but I've just learned that recently.
SI: It sounds like you had a pretty close-knit family, everyone living close together.
JS: Absolutely. There were relatives that stopped by for coffee or a dinner just about every day, partly to see my grandmother and just partly to see us. So, it was almost a daily basis that I saw one or another of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on.
SI: Were there any other languages spoken in the household?
JS: My grandmother could speak broken English, but she and the aunts and uncles spoke Italian to each other frequently, when they didn't want us to understand what they were saying. So, when they started talking in Italian, we knew that the subject was sensitive. My father's parents spoke broken English, but, also, in their household, frequently spoke Arabic. I heard the language and my sister actually learned to understand it, but I never even could understand it.
SI: When you were growing up, what kind of activities were you involved in, whether it was organized activities, like Boy Scouts, or just pick-up games, sandlot baseball, that sort of thing?
JS: When I was very young, it was just games around the house. By the time I was about eight or nine, I guess, I joined the Boy Scout troop in a church that was about a fifteen-minute walk from my house. It was a mostly Polish church, and so, most of the Boy Scouts with me were Polish. I stayed there through the Explorers when I was at high school age, and then, started to spend a great deal of my time on high school activities, CYOs at various places around the city and high school activities. I became class president and remained class president for three-and-a-half years.
SI: What were your favorite subjects in school? What interested you the most?
JS: Well, I really enjoyed history, but I happened to be very good in all subjects, including math and science. This was 1957, when Sputnik had been launched, and the country was in a tizzy. The guidance counselors at school saw that I had gotten good grades in math and science and said I had to be an engineer. So, I went to college and got a degree as an engineer. It wasn't particularly my favorite subject, but because that was the spirit of the times. [Editor's Note: The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. The National Defense Education Act of 1958, a result of post-Sputnik fears that the United States was falling behind the USSR in the sciences, mathematics and other fields of study, included provisions for the National Defense Student Loan program, which provided low-interest loans to lower-income students.] By the time I was a senior in college, I had pretty much concluded that I wanted to be a lawyer, and so, I applied to law school. I've never practiced engineering. On the other hand, most of the cases that I've worked on since becoming a lawyer have involved some element of technology. So, I have been very familiar with the technology. I have recommended to others that if they're interested in law school, to take a degree in science or engineering, rather than a political science college degree.
SI: It is interesting that that all came out of the post ...
JS: Oh, Sputnik was the dominant feature.
SI: In general, how aware were you of what was going on in the world when you were in high school, the growing Cold War and that sort of thing?
JS: Well, still in grade school, I remember seeing the newspaper, walked to school with a neighbor when I was very young and her father was reading a Daily News when I got to their apartment. The headline was that the Russians had just exploded a hydrogen bomb. I remember being very much aware of the bomb scares. [Editor's Note: The Soviet Union successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb on November 22, 1955.] I don't remember ever doing a duck-and-cover in school. I've asked my classmates if they remember doing it and some of them said they did, but they were in other grade schools. So, in mine, I really don't remember doing any duck-and-cover exercises, but I was very much aware of the Cold War and what that meant. My grade school, PS 15, was on a hill. Immediately next to the hill had been a Curtiss-Wright airplane construction factory. During the war, I was told that there were gun emplacements on the roof of my grade school, ready to shoot down any Japanese planes that happened to come that way. Of course, none did, but we were very much aware of that during the Cold War and believed that the grade school was a likely target.
SI: Was religion important to your family growing up?
JS: Yes, Roman Catholic. Everyone was Roman Catholic. Most people didn't bother with church very much, but I went to church. I became an altar boy and I worked as an altar boy for a number of years. I've always felt religious and have never regretted being a Catholic, but, in later years, I have certainly fallen away from church visits. I still regard myself as a Catholic and I'm trying to raise my daughter as a Catholic, but I don't really attended church anymore.
SI: When the Kennedy campaign for President emerged, was that something you and your family followed?
JS: Oh, absolutely. It was interesting. I was very supportive of Kennedy. He, in fact, came to Paterson and gave a speech during the election, and so, I got to see him, from a distance anyway. It was interesting that one of my uncles, who was of Italian background, hated the Kennedys. He said that they disliked the Italians and he and his friends were very much against Kennedy's election. It surprised me and I have not seen very much written about that in subsequent days, but I gather that it was a feeling that cost him a lot of votes. I also remember one of my classmates at Eastside who was Jewish--there were many Jews in high school--who said, at the time, that if a Jew was running, they would get every Jewish vote in the country. She was convinced that Kennedy was going to get every Catholic vote in the country. I later on became a Robert Kennedy supporter and, while I was in law school, worked on his campaign of '68, prior to his assassination. [Editor's Note: On June 5, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President and having just won the California primary, was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in a hotel kitchen in Los Angeles, California.]
SI: Going into Eastside High School in Paterson, can you tell me a little bit about what the school was like then?
JS: It was a wonderful school. They made a movie called ...
SI: Lean on Me. [Editor's Note: The 1989 film Lean on Me was loosely based on the efforts of Eastside High School Principal Joe Louis Clark (played by Morgan Freeman) to improve the school in the late 1980s.]
JS: Lean on Me, right, and the first few minutes in that movie show a classroom where everybody had coats and ties on, which was nonsense. We didn't have any such thing. It was true that the school, when I got there, was about one-third Jewish, one-third Italian and the rest miscellaneous, with a handful of blacks. It was dominated by the Jewish contingent, who happened to have money, were the sons and daughters of the lawyers and doctors in town. They dominated the environment of the school. By the time I graduated, it was still pretty much the same way. Immediately thereafter, it changed. I talked to a teacher who stayed there and she described, year by year, how it disintegrated, as is portrayed in the movie. So, I was delighted to see that Joe Clark had changed the school around. I don't know what it's like today. I went there for a fiftieth reunion a couple of years ago and we toured the school. It looked totally different from what I remembered of it. When I was there, it was truly a campus. It had an adjoining stadium, an adjoining park, and it was really quite lovely. When I returned a couple years ago, they had destroyed the gardens and turned them into buildings and had converted the stadium into a building. So, it had totally lost the feel it had when I went there. So, that was a great disappointment. The only thing that remained the same was the auditorium. It turned out that when they made the movie, the movie people decided to restore the auditorium to what it had looked like originally. As a result, they did a great job of converting it back into what it looked like when I was there. So, the rest of the school had become different, but the auditorium was the same.
SI: You became very active in activities at Eastside. You were in student government.
JS: I was class president for three-and-a-half years and was very active in all kinds of activities, including the student council.
SI: What did that entail at that time?
JS: Many hours of my work. I think I did a pretty great job. We had a great deal of class enthusiasm. Our class is still very close and has reunions and has a Facebook page. I thought I did a good job as a president. We had pretty spectacular proms and parties and fundraising events and I think that most people had a pretty good time in Eastside. We still keep in touch with each other.
SI: What other clubs or activities were you involved in?
JS: Too far back. [laughter]
SI: It sounds like a lot of your classmates also went to college. Were they pushing everybody towards college?
JS: Yes, that was the dominant message, "Go to college." Probably forty or fifty percent of the class did, maybe a little more. Many of them went to the local colleges, Paterson State, Montclair State. Some of us went to Rutgers. A very few went to grander colleges. They were certainly the select.
SI: You mentioned all these different groups, the two dominant groups being the Jews and Italians. How did everybody get along?
JS: Beautifully. One of the six blacks in our class was an athletic star and was also the vice president of the class. He was beloved by others. Everybody got along wonderfully well. What I did with the class committees was, I made a co-leader, co-chair, to each committee. One person was Jewish, one person was Italian and every committee was comprised of that kind of set up and it worked beautifully, because everybody had a say in what was going on. The third element of the class was also represented on each of the activities. So, as a result, everybody felt that they were part of what was going on and no one clique dominated proceedings. Of course, as the movie made clear, that very much changed in coming years.
SI: When you were in high school, did you have to work part-time, weekends or summers?
JS: Yes. I knew that to go to college, I was going to need money. At that time, my sister had started at Paterson State, because it was the only school the family could afford. I knew that if I wanted to go away to school, I was going to have to get some money. So, I had been working since I was twelve. I had a paper route, and then, by the time I was sixteen and was able to get working papers, I worked for stores in downtown Paterson, who were very nice to me and continued working in summers. By the time I went to college, I was no longer working during the week and during the weekends. By college, I worked only in the summers and had some scholarships and that was the way I got through that schooling, but I had been saving my money since I was twelve. Fortunately, I had a State Scholarship, which covered the four hundred dollars' tuition, and the room and board was all I had to pay for. I was able to do that with a little bit more scholarship money. To my great disappointment, I only got a relatively small scholarship in law school, even though I was first in my class every semester. So, in retrospect, I feel that they could have done better, given my financial condition.
SI: I just want to get a sense of what Paterson was like, what the area was like, before you went off to Rutgers. Did you have the freedom to go all over the town?
JS: Well, there was a part of town where we didn't go. That was the black section. River Street had a bad reputation. It was where that bar was that the killing took place that became so famous in Paterson history and we pretty much didn't go to that part of town, but where I lived was extremely safe. [Editor's Note: In 1967, Boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and a friend were convicted of a multiple-homicide committed at the Lafayette Bar in Paterson in 1966. The conviction was later overturned in 1985.] I walked continuously, day and night, all around to visit people, without any fear. Certainly, the street where I lived was extremely safe. Nothing ever happened there. So, it wasn't until much later that things changed.
SI: In your neighborhood, did all the groups get along well?
JS: Oh, yes. There were primarily the Italians and there were a lot of Italian-born people still living there, older people, and the younger generation, which still lived there. People there got along very well.
SI: Were there community activities, like feast days for saints or other things?
JS: The big event every year was the church street festival, which occurred one block away from me. For a week, the streets were blocked off and it was like the San Gennaro Festival. That was the highlight of the year. Beyond that, many of the activities took place in the churches. So, we had an Italian church a block away from me and a great deal of activity going on there. The next closest church was the Polish church I talked about before, which was maybe ten minutes away. In other parts of town, there were other Catholic churches, many Italian, which was primarily what it was. A very few Puerto Ricans had come by that time, but they were very few in number.
SI: In interviewing other people from your generation who grew up in the urban areas of New Jersey, some said that local clergymen would go around and bless food in people's homes on holidays like Easter. Was that still happening that you recall?
JS: Not for me. I don't remember me or my neighbors having priests in our houses, but we were only a block away from the church and were frequently at the church. The priests at that time were, by and large, old Italians who had come over from the "old country." There were almost no young priests. There was also, maybe fifteen minutes away, the Arabic Catholic Church, St. Ann's. That was filled with Lebanese Catholics, like my father's family.
SI: Did you ever attend there?
JS: Yes, occasionally, but not as a member of the parish. There was an odd rule when I was growing up, that may still be the same, related to the fact that my mother, an Italian Roman Catholic, was marrying my father, who was a Lebanese Roman Catholic. At that time, it required permission from the Lebanese Church. Now, why that was so, I know it had to do with the fact that, in the old days in Lebanon, there weren't very many priests, and so, when the Lebanese Catholics had to get married, they needed to have the approval of the bishop. As a result, this anachronistic rule still existed. The Lebanese Catholic required permission to marry the Italian Catholic. So, the priest at St. Ann's never gave the permission. So, my parents were forced to get married at the Lebanese Catholic Church, which upset my mother's parents tremendously. [laughter] Actually, that rule was sustained through the time of my first marriage. I married in the Italian Catholic [Church] and was required to get the permission of the Lebanese Catholic [Church] to do so, which it did at that point, so, at least the priests had changed. I have no idea what the rule is now. So, that's a long answer. [laughter] The other oddity is that when I was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, I had already been confirmed. Normally, the confirmation occurred when you were about thirteen years old, but, because of this Lebanese Catholic influence, somewhere in the Middle Ages, a rule had grown up that said that Lebanese Catholics would be confirmed at the same time as they were baptized. Again, that related to the fact that there weren't very many priests around. So, I happened to be confirmed when I was being baptized. I never even knew that, but that's what the paperwork showed. As a result, when I studied to be confirmed when I was thirteen and when I went to be confirmed, they found from the paperwork I had already been confirmed. So, as a result, they gave me a special blessing rather than a confirmation.
SI: Before you went to Rutgers, had you traveled much beyond the Paterson area?
SI: You got a scholarship; I would imagine that was a big part of why you came to Rutgers.
JS: Well, actually, Rutgers was the only school I applied to. I knew perfectly well that I couldn't afford to go anywhere else. As I said, the tuition was four hundred a year at that time and I knew I could afford that. Fortunately, I got the scholarship, so, I didn't have to [pay tuition], but I knew there was no other school I could afford away from New Jersey, so, I didn't bother to apply. At the very end, at the tail-end, before they accepted me, I got extremely nervous and started to say, "What if Rutgers wouldn't accept me?" because I really hadn't applied anywhere else. Fortunately, I got accepted at Rutgers, so, I didn't have to worry about it. That was the main reason, by the way, that I applied to law schools where I did, because I applied to Rutgers Law School, assuming I could get in there, but I figured, "What if I couldn't?" So, I sent my application to a few other schools, Virginia being one of them. Virginia rapidly accepted me and gave me a scholarship, which is why I went there instead of Rutgers.
SI: Tell me about coming to Rutgers, your impressions of your first few weeks on campus.
JS: Oh, I loved it. I had a motor-scooter at the time to get around and living away from home was absolutely wonderful. I had a great time living there with the people I met and I thoroughly enjoyed being at Rutgers. I enjoyed the four years there. I can't imagine having gone anywhere else.
SI: Where did you live when you first came to Rutgers?
JS: In Demarest, and then, in the later years, I lived in the other dormitories as a preceptor. So, I got free room and later board, even though I was a fraternity member and ate my meals at the fraternity house, but I lived in the dormitories as a preceptor, in Clothier and several of the other dormitories.
SI: As a freshman coming in, did they still do freshman hazing?
JS: They threatened to do it in the brochures. In fact, I remember wearing the beanie the first week it was there, believing I was required to do so. I immediately saw that nobody was paying attention, and so, I quickly abandoned wearing the beanie and otherwise worrying about hazing. The one thing I remember very clearly doing as a tradition was, in the first snowfall, the tradition was that the freshmen raided the dormitories at Douglass and I remember going over as part of the mob to do a panty raid. I think it was the last panty raid that was ever done, but I certainly had a good time doing it. The other thing that we did was to pledge fraternities at the beginning of the second semester, which I did.
SI: What attracted you to Beta Theta Pi?
JS: I had at first joined another fraternity, that there's no reason to mention, because my roommate and I and some of our friends joined there. Within minutes of having joined there, I regretted it, and so did my roommate. He jumped to Chi Psi and I decided, since I knew George Fosdick, who was then a Beta and who was on the Student Council, which had already become part of my world, that I really wanted to join Beta. He took me there and introduced me around and they said they would take me, and so, I switched pledging to Beta. Beta, at the time, was, of course, called "the Animal House." Most of the pledges were sports people. I had nothing to do with sports, and so, I was sort of a loner, but I got along extremely well with my classmates and never regretted being a Beta.
SI: I have heard from alumni that Beta Theta Pi was one of the more traditional fraternities.
JS: As I say, it was called "the Animal House." We had wonderful parties, lots of beer drinking. We were after girls all the time and the people who lived in the fraternity house partied almost all the time. Because I was living in the dormitories and I was much more interested in being a student, I studied in the library, although some of my fraternity mates did extremely well academically and have gone on to very successful jobs since then. Our president later became a corporation president and others became investment bankers and other very profitable jobs.
SI: When you would have your meals, would you have to wear a jacket and tie? Would there be a housemother that would come down?
JS: Yes, we had a housemother and she was there all the time. I had dinner there, I didn't have lunch. Dinners were not coat and tie. I think maybe once a week, we wore coat and ties, but that was all. Occasionally at the dinners, we had guests, including women, but that was rare. Occasionally at the dinners, once or twice a semester, the Betas would have a food fight, which was wonderful. Before they started the food fight, the housemother would get up and leave. [laughter] So, I saw a few food fights, but, otherwise, we were well-behaved.
SI: You said you already knew George Fosdick before going to the fraternity. Were you involved in student government right away?
JS: Yes. I was involved in the Freshman Student Council, so, somehow, I had gotten--I don't even remember how--had gotten to know Fosdick and the other members of the regular council, including Ed Stern, who later became the president of the council. I knew them in my freshman year, which was mostly responsible for me going to Beta.
SI: What did student government entail in those days?
JS: A lot of work, with very little results. We constantly tried to get the school to do things, which they didn't do, but, on the other hand, we got to work very closely with Dean Boocock and the dean who replaced him, whose name slipped my mind--Crosby. [Editor's Note: Cornelius B. Boocock served as Dean of Men/Director of Student Life at Rutgers from 1949 to 1963.]
SI: Yes, Crosby.
JS: George Fosdick had gotten to know them extremely well, as had Ed Stern, and they and me and others would frequently talk to those deans privately and they would pay attention. So, while the Student Council as a body had very little input into school policies, in fact, some of us had a great deal of say-so with those deans. Mason Gross was the President then. We revered him, but had very little to do with him. [Editor's Note: Dr. Mason W. Gross served as Rutgers University President from 1959 to 1971.]
SI: When you say you had some input with Boocock, and then, Crosby, do you remember any issues where you tried to sway them one way or the other?
JS: Many times, mostly about the sensitive issues. For example, the question of alcohol on campus was ever-present. When I was a freshman, we were allowed beer and no more, which was actually a wonderful solution. We certainly abused the beer drinking, but grew up out of that. So, by the time we had been there a couple years, we were very grown up in dealing with beer and we drank a lot of it. At parties on Saturday, on big weekends at my fraternity, we would go through eighteen or twenty half-kegs. So, there was no shortage of beer. On the other hand, no one drank liquor. We adhered to the rule and didn't bother to drink liquor, which was terribly important, because there was no real overdosing. It was pretty hard to get drunk on beer and the hangovers from beer were not that bad, but, during the time I was in school, there was a question about eliminating beer entirely. The school had come under criticism by the community; alternatively, legalizing limited use of alcohol, for example, allowing wine at meals. So, I spent many hours talking to the deans privately about what they should do about that policy. Ultimately, they left the beer policy and did not allow the limited use of wine, but that was all not through public meetings, but through one-on-one conversations. Also, there was time to time where they were trying to block the fraternities from having as guests girls from the community. They were trying to stop that, because of prudish reasons. It was never stopped, in part because of these private conversations they were having.
SI: At that time, were the fraternities still religiously segregated?
JS: No, they were starting to change. There were no black fraternities, because there was almost no blacks in the school. There were Jewish fraternities, but they would occasionally take non-Jews. There were fraternities, like Beta, that took very few Jews, but took some Jews. They were changing. They had stopped black-balling Jews or other minorities and they would consider them one-on-one. So, Beta at that time, for example, was mostly Caucasian, non-Jewish, but there were a couple of Jews, just like the fraternity next door was a Jewish fraternity, but which had a few non-Jews. So, things were starting to change. The black-ball policy was pretty much dead.
SI: I know a lot of chapters at Rutgers were having issues with their national organization because the national would be segregated, but the chapter at Rutgers would want to do something about it. Was that an issue at Beta?
JS: No. It never arose to that level. We were never told by the national what we could do. There was just silence.
SI: I want to come back to student life in a bit, but tell me about your classes. Do any courses or particular professors stand out in your memory?
JS: I mostly had to take science and math courses because of my major. I got to take very few liberal arts courses and I really looked forward to them. I took one at Douglass and I enjoyed them and, generally, got wonderful grades in the non-scientific courses. The first year, I did well in the math and science courses; in later years, I didn't do as well. So, my overall graduation grades were okay, but not great. They were very good in non-math and sciences courses, the few I was allowed to take. I had nothing to dislike about the classes. I thought the professors were good. It was just that I wasn't terribly interested in the math and science stuff. So, I just got by.
SI: Was there any particular reason why you chose ceramic engineering?
JS: I had chosen engineering at the beginning. When I got there the first year, they spent a lot of time talking about the different professions and I got a presentation on ceramics that sounded extremely interesting at the time, although there were only thirteen colleges in the country that offered majors in ceramic engineering. It sounded pretty interesting, involving electronics and glass and rocket nose-cones, which at the time was pretty exciting. Given the fact that only thirteen colleges offered majors in it and that Rutgers was highly regarded in ceramic engineering, I chose that; pretty much enjoyed the ceramics work. When I became a lawyer, the first thing I worked on in a major way was the IBM antitrust cases, which involved a great deal of ceramic engineering technology. All the chips were ceramics. So, I had that kind of entrée into the legal work.
SI: You were there from 1961 to 1965, before the heavy radicalization of student bodies later in the 1960s, but historians note that period as a time when student bodies were becoming more politically aware and active. Do you remember seeing a shift on the Rutgers Campus?
JS: Absolutely. It was the hot subject of the day. For example, the subject was, "Should we be concerned about things that weren't necessarily related to school?" for example, the Civil Rights Movement, the national political scene. That was a time when the Civil Rights Movement was really getting its start. I was the Rutgers delegate to the National Student Association, which was at the time a body that was made up of all the schools in the country. We didn't know it at the time, but it was being financed by the CIA. The Cold War, of course, was a big subject. I went to, I think, four of the McGill University Student Conferences that were held in Montreal. Representatives from all over the country and Canada went there. I met, starting at the first one, blacks who were then very much involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Stokely Carmichael was one of them. At the time, he had no national reputation. He was just getting arrested in the South, which we thought was astounding, that people were getting arrested. "My god," we thought, "what would happen to their college resumes if they had to admit they had been arrested?" [Editor's Note: The United States National Student Association (NSA) operated from 1947 to 1978. Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) served as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s and later advocated black power, and then, Pan-Africanism.] So, through the NSA, primarily, and through the liberal environment that was coming onto the campus, we had liberal, very liberal, and radical societies being organized, including Socialists and Communists. So, as a result, the people on the Student Council, some of them, were trying very hard to get the student government focused on national and international issues, in addition to whether we ate beans or not in the cafeteria, and that was a hotly debated subject. There were, at the same time, many conservative Republican groups organizing on campus, trying to stop that trend. At the time, there were very few in number who made up that group of people, but they formed maybe twenty organizations, all of which had the same members, but the organizations had many different names and they were the conservative groups. So, the debate was very prevalent, about whether it was appropriate for the students to care about what was happening in the rest of the world. It was never answered. There were just activities in both directions.
SI: I know one of the big cases during your time there involved Don Harris, who was arrested down in Georgia in 1963. He had graduated from Rutgers that year, and then, organized voters in the South. Do you remember that being a major cause célèbre on campus? [Editor's Note: In August 1963, Donald S. Harris, Rutgers College Class of 1963, was arrested in Americus, Georgia, while trying to register African-American voters. Working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Harris and two others were charged with insurrection, a capital offense in Georgia. The case stirred support on the Rutgers campus and across New Jersey in the Fall of 1963. Harris was released in November after a federal court declared the law under which he was charged to be unconstitutional.]
JS: No. I remember the generality of the Civil Rights Movement itself. It was very prevalent. For example, if a black had been nominated in my fraternity, there was no doubt that we would have considered that black on the merits. It was like that throughout the school. In 1962, the night before I was to leave to go to Montreal for this conference was the night that Kennedy made the Cuba speech. I sat in the fraternity with the entire fraternity listening to him give the Cuba speech. We all talked at the time and said, "Oh, well, war is inevitable," and we all expected to be drafted. I left that night to drive to Montreal, woke up the next morning in Montreal with students from all over the country. Some of the students were French Canadians and they had a French Montreal newspaper. The headline was all about the Kennedy speech and about how the Russians were evacuating their major cities. That was what it said in the French papers. Fortunately, it turned out to be wrong, but that's what I believed. So, the day after the Cuba speech, I believed that the Russians were evacuating their major cities. So, very much, we were aware of what was going on, but not the incident you mentioned. [Editor's Note: In October 1962, the United States demanded that the Soviet Union remove its nuclear missiles from Cuba. The United States placed a naval blockade around the island nation, creating a tense standoff between the superpowers that many feared would lead to nuclear war. The crisis was averted when the Soviet Union agreed to remove their nuclear missiles from Cuba in exchange for the United States, agreeing not to invade Cuba and quietly removing its nuclear missiles from Turkey.]
SI: You also had to take ROTC while you were an undergrad.
JS: Yes, I did. I took three years of Air Force ROTC. I did that because I assumed I was going to be an engineer. The Air Force was a good place for engineers and for ceramic engineers in particular. At the beginning of my senior year, the law changed. It said that people who are in ROTC could get out. Up until then, we couldn't get out. So, I decided, at that time, by then, I had decided I no longer wanted to be an engineer, I wanted to be a lawyer and I figured the last thing that I wanted to do was to go in the Air Force for three or four years, I forget what the commitment was, after I graduated, which is what I had agreed to do. So, I withdrew from the Air Force ROTC. So, when I graduated, I was not in an ROTC program.
SI: What did the training consist of?
JS: We had a wonderful time marching once a week in the park, Buccleuch Park. I even wrote an article that was in the Targum in my freshman year about those marches. We had a class and I had to go to the summer camp. After the summer of my junior year, I went to Air Force ROTC camp in Langley, Virginia, and spent ten weeks or so in this summer camp playing soldier. Many of my classmates remained in Army or Air Force ROTC. Several of them, of course, went to Vietnam.
SI: How aware were you becoming of what was happening in Vietnam, particularly towards the end of your time at Rutgers?
JS: Pretty vaguely. In the years at Rutgers, there was limited activity related to the war, very limited. It really hadn't become an issue. There were some people who were antiwar, but they were kind of regarded as weirdos. Most people just said, "Well, there's a war going on and I guess we have to support it." It was part of the Cold War. The Cold War was being waged and nobody thought too much about whether it was a good idea to be in Vietnam. It wasn't until later years, when I was in law school, that Vietnam became a real issue. So, for example, I had one classmate who knew he was going to Vietnam in 1964 as a Marine and he was happy to do it, didn't seem to him that it was anything other than an opportunity to get promoted.
SI: In your senior year, the teach-ins had started.
JS: Not really. In '65, I don't remember any teach-ins. There were a few people who were advocating that position, but they were among the very few and most of the students didn't even think about it.
SI: Do you remember hearing about the Genovese ...
JS: That came later. I was already at Virginia then. [Editor's Note: On April 23, 1965, at a teach-in at Rutgers University's Scott Hall, Professor of History Eugene D. Genovese declared, "...I do not fear or regret the impending Viet Cong victory in Vietnam. I welcome it." A firestorm of controversy ensued and became a focal point in the 1965 New Jersey gubernatorial race, but Rutgers University President Mason W. Gross, with the support of the faculty, resisted public pressure to dismiss Genovese, on the principle of academic freedom.]
SI: What would you do for fun in general? Did they have concerts? Did they have things for students to do on the weekends?
JS: It was primarily through the fraternity. There were other activities, but they were secondary. Most of the social life was oriented around the fraternities. We had parties, dances--that was pretty much what we did. There were a handful of mixers with other colleges, but most of the ones I remember were in my freshman year. I don't remember mixers after that. So, most of the non-academic life was through the fraternity.
SI: You were not involved in the Newman Club or anything like that.
JS: I think I was a member of a number of clubs, but the activities were not very significant.
SI: Did you ever go to The Ledge?
JS: Occasionally. The Ledge had just been built and a friend from Paterson and from Rutgers, my original roommate, became president of The Ledge, Sam Dizzia. So, I attended many functions at The Ledge, including the Hootenanny show that was conducted there, but, again, it was secondary. It was just a place to grab a hamburger now and then, but not much else.
SI: You mentioned Hootenanny; that was the folk song show [on ABC, broadcast from April 1963 to September 1964].
JS: Yes, it was the television show called the Hootenanny that was being filmed weekly at different colleges around the country. One show on April 15, 1963, was at Rutgers, featuring The Smothers Brothers, who at that time were totally unknown. Nobody ever heard of them and they became the superstars. Everybody loved them, but it wasn't until that Hootenanny that we even heard of them.
SI: Did you work at all while you were at Rutgers or in the summers?
JS: I had some scholarship money and I worked hard in the summers. For the summer after my--well, I had basically two jobs each summer. My aunt had found a job as a waiter in a Paramus, New Jersey, fancy restaurant. I worked there in the evening and I worked, starting the second year, only the second year, I worked part-time at a law firm in New Brunswick. Excuse me, that was after the third year. I also worked as a waiter in the evening, because the first job paid little and the waiter job paid a lot. The last year, I worked in the restaurant. So, I worked hard in the summers, but not during the school year, other than being a preceptor.
SI: What did being a preceptor entail then?
JS: Oh, we were the father figure to a floor of students. Always, I think, I remember they were first-year students, and so, I had a group, each year, of first-year students that were just wonderful. I got to know a great number of the first-year students each year because of being a preceptor.
SI: You said father figure. From what I have read ...
JS: We were like the house father. We lived on a floor and the rest of the floor was the students and we were supposed to make sure they didn't do anything improper.
SI: I have seen records, from a little earlier than when you were there, where the preceptors were actually sending back detailed reports to deans on individual students. Did you have to do that?
JS: No. I don't believe I ever talked to the deans about what was happening with the students. Most of the time, I was just giving the students advice, how to study, how not to fool around too much, make sure they didn't bring liquor or girls into the dormitory.
SI: Did they pull a lot of pranks in the first-year dorms?
JS: There were a lot of pranks, very little improper conduct. They would have parties during the week, and so on, but nothing untoward.
SI: You had your sights set on law school. Was there anybody guiding you towards that, helping you make decisions about where to apply, or did you just do it on your own?
JS: Well, I didn't think about law school in college until the beginning of my senior year. I was attending a series of lectures offered in the ceramic engineering course about different ways to do the profession. One of the lectures was about engineering salesmen and I had thought that that's what I would end up doing; I would go into engineering sales. During the course of the lecture, I had concluded in my own mind that I did not want to be an engineering salesman, and so, at that time, in that class, I decided to go to law school. I decided that I really wanted to be a lawyer. So, I came out of that class believing that I was going to apply to law school. One of my fraternity brothers had been accepted the year before to the University of Virginia Law School. So, I said, "A-ha, that's a law school and he was a pretty good guy," so, I applied there. I also applied to Rutgers Law School and I sent a few more applications out; I hardly remember to where. I got the early acceptance from Virginia together with news of a scholarship, and so, I said, "Great, I'll go there." That ended my search.
SI: Tell me about going down to Virginia and getting settled in law school.
JS: Well, I thought that Virginia was as far south as anyone could go. I had never been to that part of the world. When I got there, I realized that most of the classmates were from the Deep South or from Virginia and only a very few were from the North. So, I got to learn a great deal about the South, realizing that I had not gotten as far south as I could go. I spent law school learning a great deal about the rest of the South, as well as about some of the North's very good schools. The people who went there, to the law school, were people who had gone to the very good Northern schools, as well as the very good Southern schools. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I loved law school, I loved being there. I couldn't believe that I ever thought about being an engineer. By the time I graduated, I knew exactly that I wanted to be a lawyer and I was one of the few people that thoroughly enjoyed law school. I don't think I ever had a bad day in law school. Especially compared to the engineering courses, I just loved the law school. It was also the case that when we graduated, of the top ten in my law school class, seven had been engineering students, which astounds me to this day. I have since seen that pattern repeated elsewhere, that people with engineering degrees tend to do very well in law school. Why that's so, I have hypotheses, but I don't really know, but I believe that if you did a statistical study, it would confirm what I said. There's something about the undergraduate engineering training that helps law school.
SI: A lot of people who go to law school from the humanities say they have to change their way of thinking about issues. Is there less of that when you are an engineer?
JS: Yes. Science and math consisted mostly of very small books, course books, a very limited amount of reading and a great deal of thinking. Political science and the other liberal arts classes required a great deal of reading and not so much thinking. Law school turned out to require a very limited amount of reading and a great deal of thinking, and so, the pattern of reading a law school textbook was just like reading a physics textbook and not at all like reading a liberal arts textbook.
SI: At that time in law school, was there any opportunity to specialize in an area of the law?
JS: Oh, yes, although the specialization didn't start until after the first year. In the first year, nobody cared. The courses were the same. By the second year, you could start choosing courses. So, I spent the first year not really knowing what I wanted to do. I went to work after that year. The first job I took was with the New Brunswick lawyer. The New Brunswick lawyer had taught a course at Rutgers, which I had taken, called "Engineering and the Law," because he was an engineer who had become a lawyer. He asked me to work for him after my first year of law school, so, I did. I also had the job as a waiter to make money. He was paying me thirty-five dollars a week, so, I needed more. I worked for him that summer and loved it. He was a litigator and I pretty much decided that summer that I wanted to be a litigator and that explained what I did thereafter.
SI: In law school, do any professors stand out in your memory?
JS: Many. Several professors told me I was the best student they ever had and I remember them clearly. I will save them the embarrassment by not naming them, but some of them were the best professors I ever had. I had one professor who had been the Dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School and was spending a year at Virginia. He was terrific and just about every professor I had there was really first class. I never had [US Supreme Court] Justice [Antonin] Scalia. He was teaching in the law school while I was there, but I never had him. Most of the professors I had have since died, but I admired them just about universally. I don't think there was a law professor I had who I didn't like. As I said, I was always first in my class, and so, they all liked me, too. At least by their grades, they did.
SI: Were you able to get involved in any activities, like student government?
JS: There were clubs, but the only one that I really devoted a lot of time to was The [Virginia] Law Review. I was selected for The Law Review after the first year. They picked the top people in the class to be on The Law Review. I then spent an enormous amount of time working on The Law Review. It was the best time that I had. I was delighted that I did that. It taught me how to write, which is something I think I'm pretty good at today, mostly because of the lessons that I learned on The Law Review. I was a member of other clubs, honorary societies, and so on, but they were an afterthought.
SI: What did your articles for The Law Review focus on?
JS: In my last year, I became the notes and decisions editor. That made me responsible for all of the student-written pieces that appeared. So, each Law Review edition was about half written by other people, like law professors, and half generated by the students themselves. So, I was responsible for editing the student portion. So, I got to work on many different subjects that they were working on during the year.
SI: You mentioned that you learned a lot about life in the South from your classmates. You were there during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. How much did that influence your life and your classmates?
JS: It was very, very much a topic of conversation. Some of the classmates had gone to the Southern, segregated private schools that were put in place after the Brown decision by the Supreme Court. They closed down, in many cities in the South, the public school system and created, quote, "private schools" that were solely white and a number of my classmates had gone to those schools. [Editor's Note: Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, decided by the US Supreme Court in May 1954, legally desegregated public schools in the United States.] Some of them were quite biased, some of them were not. They had concluded that segregation was a bad thing, but some of them firmly believed in it. There were a handful of blacks, maybe, I think there were only two in my class, but they were not very important. In fact, the one I remember flunked out early on. There were only two women in my class. They were superstars, both from the South, both went on to become judges. It wasn't until after 1968 that a large number of the women were admitted to the law school. It wasn't until after 1968 that a sizeable number of blacks were admitted to the law school. They weren't segregated legally by the time I went there, but, as I say, there were only, I think, one or two in my class at the beginning. The Northerners had many different backgrounds. Some of them were anti-Civil Rights, some of them were in favor of it, and so, there was a real mix of opinion. There were some from the South; I remember one from the South, whose father was a minister, who was a strong Civil Rights advocate. So, there was a great variety of views. By the way, totally aside from this, the woman who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird [(1960)] has just written a book that was published this year. Some people have gotten very critical of that book, because it describes a Southern town in the 1950s and has her father, Atticus, and some others as being opposed to the Brown decision and somewhat bigoted in their views, not completely, but somewhat. She's been criticized for having written that book. I have sent a letter to her and her lawyer, who is also her agent, saying I thought the book was wonderful, because it described what people were really like in the '50s. People in the '50s, including my mother, did not think the Brown decision was a good one and didn't like the fact that the Civil Rights [Movement] was coming along. It wasn't until later that people changed their mind. It was the dramatic incidents that occurred in Birmingham and Selma and elsewhere that caused people to realize that the Brown decision was right. So, her book, Watchman [Go Set a Watchman], which described the South of the '50s, I thought was marvelous, because it was accurate. All I thought that was needed was another book about what had happened in the South by the '80s and the way Atticus had changed, as he truly did, not because they believed in the Brown decision, but because of the violent events that occurred in Selma, Birmingham and elsewhere, that were so highly publicized. By the way, I got a reply from her lawyer thanking me for my views and saying she was going to share them with Harper Lee.
SI: In law school, was anybody trying to organize in support of the Civil Rights Movement?
JS: Yes, but to a limited degree. The Civil Rights Movement was starting, but hadn't yet reached a crescendo. It was 1968 that caused the big change. Everything happened in 1968. Martin Luther King was assassinated and the riots came. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The summer was filled with riots. In the summer, the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago took place. That was all occurring at the time I was graduating and it had an unbelievable influence on the whole country. Virginia changed the following year, after my graduation, largely because of those events, and I changed very much because of those events. So, 1968, the spring was earth-shaking. Up until the spring, it had pretty much gone on as before, but, by the spring, everything was changing and, by June, the world had changed, but my graduation was in June. It was black-and-white after that.
SI: Many point to 1968 as a year of change; one of the first changes was the shock of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. [Editor's Note: The Tet Offensive, a series of offensives conducted from January 30, 1968, to September 30, 1968, by the Viet Cong against every major city in South Vietnam, is seen as the point when American public opinion began turning against the war.]
SI: How aware were you by that point of what was going on there?
JS: Extremely aware; within days of the time this Tet Offensive occurred, President Johnson revoked all draft deferments. Up until then, I had had a deferment. Deferments were granted routinely to people who were going to be law clerks for judges and people who were teaching in law schools. They had an automatic deferment. At that time of the Tet Offensive, I had already gotten a job--I had gotten jobs--I was invited to clerk for judges. I was also invited to teach at several law schools, at the University of Mississippi and the University of Alabama, that were in the process of making enormous changes because of the Civil Rights Movement. They invited me to teach and I had clerkships. So, I assumed I was deferred. Immediately after the Tet Offensive, the deferments were revoked by Johnson. So, I no longer had a deferment. I had to tell the judges and the law schools that I was no longer deferrable and I started to assume I would be drafted. I called my draft board in the spring and they said, "You will be drafted by August." So, I graduated from law school believing I was going to be drafted by August. I immediately started to apply to law programs. I decided to pass the Virginia Bar, so [that] I would be a member of the bar, so that when they drafted me, I was a member of the bar. I studied three days for the Virginia Bar and passed it. It was really a joke to me. I remember going to Roanoke to take the exam, which was three days long. Everybody taking the law exam in Roanoke was wearing a coat and tie. Because it was hot, I wore shorts and a T-shirt. I was the only one taking the bar that did. I left the bar early each session of the three days, because I didn't care that much, and I passed the Virginia Bar, which made me very happy. The only question that I remember about the bar exam was that the theft of a hog in Virginia was a felony regardless of the value of the hog. [laughter] That's the only thing that I remember about the bar exam. While I was studying for the bar exam, I think I studied three days for it, Bobby Kennedy got shot and I got a call right after he was shot from a partner at the firm I had worked for the previous summer. His name was Tom Barr. Tom Barr had been appointed by Lloyd Cutler, who was at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, partner in a Washington law firm, by the President, Johnson, to run a committee studying violence after Bobby Kennedy's assassination. Lloyd Cutler later became a member of Clinton's cabinet. [Editor's Note: Lloyd Cutler served as White House Counsel to President Jimmy Carter and President William Clinton. He practiced with Cravath, Swaine & Moore beginning in the 1940s before co-founding Wilmer Cutler & Pickering in 1962. President Lyndon B. Johnson named him Executive Director of the US National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (known colloquially as the Violence Commission). The Violence Commission was formed in June 1968 in response to the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert Kennedy. Tom Barr practiced with Cravath from 1958 to 2000.] So, Lloyd Cutler, having gotten the call from Johnson's staff, called Tom Barr at Cravath and asked him to be Cutler's assistant on the Violence Commission and Barr called me, because I had worked for him the prior summer, and asked me if I would come to Washington to be his assistant to work on the Violence Commission. I told him that I was going to be drafted in August. He said, "That's okay. So, come down until you get drafted," and I agreed. So, I picked up right after I passed the Virginia Bar, right after I took that bar, I moved to Washington to work on the Violence Commission, believing I was going to get drafted in August. Do you want me to go on?
SI: You are rolling along. My next question was going to be how you got involved in the Commission and the Coast Guard.
JS: Yes. So, I was now working in Washington on the Violence Commission. I was on the Violence Commission while the Chicago Democratic Convention was occurring. I watched that on television from my house in Washington where I was staying. I watched the Convention and what became called the Police Riot. I was shocked at what I saw. The next morning, I walked into my office at the Violence Commission and my boss immediately called me on the phone and said come to his office. I went to his office and he said, "Prepare subpoenas for the people at the Democratic Convention," Mayor Daley and the others. So, I went back to my desk and started preparing subpoenas. During the course of the day, Lloyd Cutler had been in Chicago at the convention and saw what was happening and called Tom Barr and said, "We are going to study the convention," the Violence Commission. So, we began studying the Chicago Convention in connection with the Violence Commission. A man was retained, a practicing lawyer in Chicago whose name was Dan Walker, to run that commission. Dan Walker later became the Governor of Illinois, and then, later, after that, went to jail, [laughter] but, while he was a practicing lawyer in Chicago, who happened to be known to us, Cutler and Barr, and that's why he got to be the head of the commission that was sent to investigate the Chicago Convention. He published a study that was called Rights in Conflict that became very famous, labeling the Chicago Convention a police riot. The report, published by the Violence Commission, strongly attacked the police for what happened in Chicago. [Editor's Note: Dan Walker served as Governor of Illinois from 1973 to 1977 and was later convicted and sentenced on fraud charges related to the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s. He led the Violence Commission's Chicago Study Team, which published Rights in Conflict: Convention Week in Chicago in 1968.] Not long after that, still believing I was going to be drafted in August, I got a call from the Coast Guard. I had sent in an application to the Coast Guard legal program months before, never heard a word. I had applied quickly to a number of military legal programs after Tet. I applied to the Navy, I applied to the Air Force, I applied to the Army and I applied to the Coast Guard. Each of those, except the Coast Guard, immediately after Tet, raised their commitment for lawyers that they would take to four and five years. It had been three or four, they raised the commitment to four and five years. The Coast Guard was the only service that didn't; it still had a three-year commitment. The call I got was from the Coast Guard, a lieutenant commander, who said, "I can offer you a direct commission as a full lieutenant, which is the equivalent of an Army captain, no boot camp, no indoctrination camp, and you will be stationed in Boston for the next three years." That came as a shock, compared to what I believed at the time, which was that I was going to be drafted in August and likely sent to Vietnam. I went to my boss, the guy from Cravath who was then on the Violence Commission, and I told him what had happened. I say, "What should I tell him?" because he wanted me to go right away. He said he wanted me to go to Boston immediately; they had a slot to fill. So, I said to the Cravath guy, I said, "Well, I've gotten this offer--what should I do?" He was very busy, he was running around and he said, "We'll talk about it later." So, I went back to my desk. He then called the man who was the administrative officer of the Commission, who was an active duty Air Force officer, a colonel, who was the administrative head of the Commission. This was a guy who knew his way around Washington. He called the White House and he said he talked to Joe Califano. I recently met Joe Califano and he, of course, has no memory of this. [Editor's Note: Joseph Califano, Jr., served as Special Assistant to President Johnson from July 1965 to the end of his term and later served as US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Carter.] Nobody got back to me. We were having dinner that night at a restaurant in Washington, a group of the people from the Commission. So, I went to that dinner. Barr was there, Cutler was there, the Colonel was there and I was there and other people were there. We sat and had dinner and nobody was very interested in talking about me. Somewhere towards the end of the dinner, when my name hadn't come up, I leaned over to the Colonel and I said, "What about me?" He said, "Call that lieutenant commander tomorrow and tell him you're turning it down." That was all that was said. Everyone else was devoted to talking about other things, like the Chicago Convention. So, I went to work the next morning not having a clue what was going on and I called the Lieutenant Commander and I said, "Oh, I have to turn down the offer." He said, "Oh, I know," [laughter] and we hung up. That was all I knew. Later that day, I finally got around to talking to the Colonel and the Colonel said, "What Califano has arranged is that someone else will fill the Boston spot. You will fill the next Coast Guard slot that comes up in Washington and you will be assigned by the Coast Guard to continue working on the Violence Commission for a year, after which you will be in the three-year Coast Guard legal program as a lieutenant." That made me, of course, feel better, although I had no idea this was going on when I turned down the Coast Guard offer, which was spending three years in Boston as an officer, as opposed to going as a draftee to Vietnam.
SI: Would the year on the Commission count towards one of your three years?
JS: Just like the Colonel, who was on Air Force active duty and assigned to the Violence Commission as his job, was nevertheless being paid by the Air Force and serving his time. So, that became exactly what I did. I stayed on the Violence Commission for a year, after which, when I thought I was going back to the Coast Guard, instead, I got assigned by the White House to another Presidential commission, called the Presidential Commission on ...
SI: Campus Unrest?
JS: Campus Unrest, that Governor Scranton was heading. [Editor's Note: William Scranton served as Governor of Pennsylvania from 1963 to 1967. President Richard Nixon appointed Scranton to head the President's Commission on Campus Unrest in June 1970, following the student strike protests against the Cambodian Incursion and the Kent State and Jackson State College shootings. The Scranton Commission issued its report in September 1970.] I was assigned to them for about a month, and then, I was just about finished with them and I got a call from a Congressman who said, "I want you to come to my committee, which is studying the legalization of marijuana." This sounded pretty interesting. Because of the work I'm doing on the Violence Commission, he thought I would be good for that. He also happened to know the Cravath people as a result of litigation that was going on involving Cravath. So, the Coast Guard, at that time, put their foot down and said, "No way," even though this Congressman happened to be the head of the Congressional committee that concerned itself with the Coast Guard. They said no to the Congressman. So, at that point, I went to the Coast Guard in Washington, rather than go to work on this Congressional committee.
SI: What impact did being in the Coast Guard have on your work? Did you have to wear a uniform? Was there any reporting that you had to do?
JS: I was in the Coast Guard in Washington for two full years. We were told not to wear a uniform. Nobody in Washington at that time wore a military uniform, because of the antiwar sentiment that was there. We were instructed to wear our uniform one day a week. That was the only day. So, I had to get a uniform, which I wore one day a week. I worked in an office that was partly Coast Guard Legal, partly Department of Transportation. It had first been a Coast Guard building, which was then torn down, and the Coast Guard moved into the Department of Transportation, which it had become a part of. So, all around me were civilians. The few Coast Guard people I worked with were the headquarters people, mostly the admirals, and about eleven lawyers who wore uniforms one day a week. The Department of Transportation had just gotten a new lawyer, a new general counsel, who had been a Cravath partner, whom I knew. So, when I was a lieutenant in the Coast Guard, assigned to the Department of Transportation building, the boss of the Coast Guard was this former Cravath partner whom I knew. As a result, the work I got was pretty good. As I say, I spent two years, really, working for the Coast Guard. One of the things I remember happening was that my boss, the general counsel of the Coast Guard, got a message one day from the commander of a ship, a Coast Guard ship, that was stationed in Vietnam, who said, "Seventy-five of my sailors have been arrested for using marijuana--send lawyers for the courts-martial." My boss, who was an admiral, wrote back and said, "Assuming we convict them all, who's going to sail your ship back here?" As a result, they never had any courts-martial. That was typical of what was going on in the military in those days. Shortly after that, I got assigned to represent a Coast Guard person, an enlisted man, who was stationed in Virginia and he was assigned to the Presidential Honor Guard. So, the Presidential Honor Guard consisted of representatives from all of the [Armed] Services, including the Coast Guard, and they attended to the President. This was one of the members of that Honor Guard who happened to be in the Coast Guard. He got arrested for selling marijuana and I think he was selling marijuana to other members of the Presidential Honor Guard. I was assigned to be his lawyer. As a result of my actions, he was discharged from the service and not sent to jail and not given a court-martial and, therefore, none of this ever became public.
SI: Was that a directive, "Make sure this does not get out in public," or was that just something you were aiming for?
JS: There was just an order that did that.
SI: Did he get a dishonorable discharge or a general?
JS: No, he did not get an honorable discharge, but he did not get a dishonorable discharge. There was an in-between discharge for administrative purposes. So, he had no bad record. It never became public and none of the other Presidential Honor Guard people were ever tried, but that, again, was typical of what was happening in the military. The other thing that I remember was, maybe the following year, a Coast Guard lifetime officer, a commander, who had been in the Coast Guard forever, walked into my office and closed the door and apologized because his son was seeking to be declared a conscientious objector. He asked me, as the Coast Guard lawyer, if I could help him or direct him to lawyers who could, because he wanted to help his son get the deferment, which I did, but this was a lifetime military person who was helping his son get a CO exception. Again, I thought that was quite typical of what was happening at the time.
SI: It sounds like he was embarrassed about that.
JS: He didn't particularly want his buddies to know that he was helping his son. It's not that he was embarrassed about it, he just didn't want them to know it.
SI: Another aspect that comes up frequently in the military at this time is people going AWOL. Did you deal with any of those cases?
JS: I had AWOL cases, none of them for political reasons. I had AWOL cases for the strangest reasons and worked hard on those, but nobody in the Coast Guard ever did anything very bad. The worst offense was this guy who was selling drugs to the Presidential Honor Guard people. That was the worst that I encountered. I also had one appeal that involved an enlisted man who was accused of stealing from the non-commissioned officers' mess. I got his conviction reversed by the Department of Transportation and his conviction was invalidated.
SI: You were with the Violence Commission for a year. What was your daily routine like?
JS: I had to write stuff. I wrote a book and a report that was published. Because I was who I was, I was mostly assigned to worry about student activities. So, I was dealing with what was happening at the universities and the antiwar movement generally. There was a demonstration in Washington at the time, at the Pentagon, and, also, one occurring at the time of Nixon's inauguration. There was a protest at his inauguration by antiwar people. I was assigned to deal with those subjects. So, I got to know some of the people in the Civil Rights Movement, but, primarily, got to know people who were in the student movement, including Tom Hayden. Tom Hayden testified. He was the head of SDS at the time, a very key player, who shortly thereafter married Jane Fonda and has since become a Congressman, but, at the time, he was an antiwar "bad guy." He was one of the people convicted as part of the Chicago conspiracy group. I got to meet him. He testified in Washington at a hearing I was responsible for. He came to me from the airport on the way to the hearing room. He came in very apologetic and said he had no money to pay the taxi driver, could I give him some money to pay the taxi driver? which I got it from the Cravath partner that I worked for and they paid the taxi driver. He testified in front of the Commission about the student antiwar movement. I met other people who were also in that movement, including people who were violent people and was asked about them by the FBI later. My instructions were not to answer the FBI's questions. [Editor's Note: Tom Hayden served as president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) from 1962 to 1963 and wrote the Port Huron Statement. He helped organize the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and was later convicted of crossing state lines to incite a riot as part of the "Chicago Eight;" the conviction was subsequently appealed and reversed. He served in the California State Assembly from 1982 to 1992 and the State Senate from 1992 to 2000.]
SI: Many branches of the government were opposed to the antiwar movement, violently so in some cases. What was the Commission's attitude towards the student and antiwar movement?
JS: All our writing was to the effect that, "Watch out, don't overreact." So, we criticized the police handling Chicago, we criticized the handling of the demonstrators at the antiwar demonstrations. We simply said, "All violence is bad, whether that be violence committed by police or violence committed by protesters. So, we're against all that and we want the country to get away from that, to learn how to deal with protests in a non-violent way." That was our message and that was the message that was published as the public message of the Commission. Our studies, the Violence Commission studies, were widely available and were used in many classrooms as part of curricula after they were published. So, my books were, in fact, used in many college courses and law school courses as part of the work of the Commission.
SI: Do you want to take a break?
JS: I can continue a little bit. You reminded me that our message, the message of the Violence Commission, really became the way things were done and are done today. When I was in the Coast Guard, I was also working part-time, with the Coast Guard's permission, for a man who was dealing with violence, a man named Wes Pomeroy. Pomeroy had been with the police in California and had been the person who was responsible for security at Woodstock. He was, at the time, fully employed as a consultant in law enforcement and I worked for him spreading the Violence Commission message about how policemen should do things. [Editor's Note: Wesley Pomeroy served as a California Highway Patrol state trooper and, later, an officer in the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. He rose to prominence for organizing security at the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco and continued to head security for high-profile events, including the 1969 Woodstock Festival, into the 1990s. He served as an Assistant US Attorney General in the Johnson Administration.] I went to a convention of police chiefs and mayors of Massachusetts. It was held in Hyannis, a three-day retreat to teach the police chiefs and the mayors how to handle protest marches using the methods advocated by the Violence Commission. As Pomeroy's assistant, we went, during that time, with the police chief of Hyannis to the Kennedy compound and went into the Kennedy compound, but the police chiefs, we had a great time with them, but they were all taught the lessons that had been learned about dealing with violence. As a result, police departments throughout the country have been using those lessons ever since. The major protests that have occurred since then have been done following the lessons we learned. One of my reports about the Nixon Inauguration said that. It said that the police in Washington were using the right methods during that demonstration and, today, it's just routine. Police departments all over the country are using those techniques.
SI: How did you find out what the methodology should be?
JS: I guess now is time [to break].
SI: We were talking about your years with the Coast Guard.
JS: I should tell you there was one day when I was actually in Vietnam. I had been working for a while and one of my friends, a lawyer in the Coast Guard, realized he could take trips for free, as long as [he was] flying on military planes. Because we were in Washington, we were surrounded with airports. Andrews was a key place. So, he had gotten a trip to Europe on an Air Force plane and thought it was wonderful. So, I said, "A-ha, what an opportunity." [laughter] So, I called them, I said, "Well, what do you have flying?" He says, "Well, we're going to Hawaii." "Hey, that sounds pretty good." [laughter] So, I went down to Andrews. They gave me leave for, I think, thirty days, it was going to be my vacation, went to Andrews, got on the plane. The first stop was California, okay. So, now, I get there, in California, on a plane to Guam and Okinawa and, finally, to Bangkok. The plane ended up going to Bangkok.
JS: Then, I fly from Bangkok back to Hawaii, because that's where the plane was going. So, now, I'm in Hawaii and just about running out of leave time. So, I go to the desk in the Air Force place and I said, "I've got to get out of here. I'm going to Washington," and they said, "Well, we have a plane that could take you right now to Da Nang." I said, "Oh, that's interesting." I said, "All right, yes, put me on that plane." So, I went to Da Nang, wearing a naval blue winter uniform, because, when I left Washington, that's what I was wearing. It's a winter uniform and I get off the plane in Da Nang and there's sort of a line of servicemen doing different things. So, I get on the line and there's a sergeant, an Air Force sergeant, and he says, "Well, Chief, where are you going?" They had never seen a winter uniform; [laughter] they were all wearing khakis. So, I said, "I'm a lieutenant, not chief, and I'm trying to get to Washington, DC." He said to me, "Are you trying to get back to your ship?" I said, "No, I'm trying to get back to Washington, DC." He looked at me, he says, "I think you should see my sergeant." He called his boss, he came and they went through the same routine. He said, "I think you'd better see the Lieutenant." So, I went and I sat in an empty office, because the Lieutenant was out doing something--at least it was air-conditioned. He came in, he said, "What the hell are you doing?" [laughter] and I said, "My headquarters is in Washington. I need to get there." He looked at me, he said, "Okay." [laughter] So, they put me on a plane. Now, while I was there, when I first got there in Da Nang, I was terribly hungry. So, there was an Air Force officer, he was going to the officers' mess, so, I said, "Take me." So, I got with him in the truck, the Air Force truck, and we start driving and we drove about five miles on a two-lane dirt road. On either side of the road are these little shacks; they're not houses, they're shacks. Every one of them was inhabited by a prostitute, hundreds of them. That's all it was. We got to the base and, while we were going, while we were driving, he said--I had my arm out the window--he said, "Pull your arm in, they'll take your watch." So, I'm in Da Nang, at the officers' mess. I said, "Oh, great, I just want anything to eat, I'm hungry, I haven't eaten," and I had a dollar, whatever money I had, and he said, "Oh, we don't take that. We only use script." I said, "I don't have any script. Where do I get script?" They said, "Well, you have to go to your commanding officer." I said, "He's in Washington." [laughter] I said, "I'm hungry. I'm an officer and I'm hungry. Can I eat a candy bar or something?" Guy says, "Nope." My sense, being there for about ten hours, was that the servicemen who were there hated it, hated every minute of it and hated everybody else and hated anybody who was an American officer. There were blacks and whites and they hated each other, and so, my conclusion from the ten hours there was that these guys hate being here, hate everything about the Army, hate Vietnam, "What the hell are they doing here?" We got to the airport--that was leaving, there were different airports--and we got out, sat in a waiting room. The guy at the desk said to me, "Every once in a while, there are rockets that come here from the mountain next door. Don't worry about them." [laughter] I then got on this plane filled with servicemen, all of whom were going to have R&R in Hawaii. They're all in civilian clothes, just khakis or whatever, shorts, shirts, and most of them were going to Hawaii to meet their wives. It was the only place where married people could get together with their spouses. There were other places that they could go on a vacation. They could go to Tokyo, Sydney, Hong Kong, Taiwan, but the only place they could see their wives was in Hawaii. So, these were mostly people who were married and who were going to meet their wives. The stewardess on the plane made some announcements, said, "Most of you have recently been married. Don't be surprised if your wife doesn't recognize you. Wear something distinctive or don't be afraid if she doesn't recognize you." There was no talking on the plane--it was just quiet, deadly quiet. The flight took about eleven hours. They served steak three times. So, everybody is eating steak for the third time and the stewardesses on the plane are sort of telling jokes and being funny. By the time they had the third steak, they start talking. Now, there's laughter and words. We landed in Hawaii and the people were there greeting the plane with leis around their neck, mostly consisting of the wives, and I watched--most of them didn't recognize their husbands. They'd been away for ten months or so and these were nineteen, twenty-year-old guys. The total attitude had changed from this kind of depressed nothingness into, all of a sudden, happy. I thought back to World War II and I said, "They never did this in World War II. They had to get on ships and sail for a couple weeks before they could see society. Here, these guys are coming from a base where they're subject to be bombarded with rockets. Eleven hours later, they're in Honolulu, people wearing leis. In seven days, they'll be back in Vietnam," and I said, "What an incredible shock to the system. Nobody in World War II had to do that."
SI: That is an interesting observation.
JS: From this hundreds of prostitutes on a dirt road, all of a sudden, Honolulu, and I'm back again. [laughter]
SI: Your observations, did you talk to anybody or could you just tell?
JS: The enlisted men were un-talkative. I talked to some of the officers, who were kind of experiencing the same thing I was. I didn't find one enlisted man who seemed like he was happy.
SI: By this time, how did you feel about the war?
JS: By this time, I was in-between. I said, "It's a war, it's patriotic to fight. The cause is good. On the other hand, the regime is terrible. There's no real democracy. So, the people we're supporting are pretty shmucky, but the alternative is Communism." So, that's where I was. I was kind of opposed to everything. I thought the war was wrong and should stop, but I didn't feel the extremely liberal view that said, "We should not be here." I just said that, "Maybe we shouldn't be here, but it's a good cause that they're fighting." So, I was in-between.
SI: Because of your age and background, you were put on the Student Unrest Commission.
JS: Yes, I was older than the ...
SI: Yes, the antiwar protesters. How did you feel about what they were trying to do?
JS: I thought, mostly, they were stupid. I mean, I liked Tom Hayden, he was smart, but the run-of-the-mill demonstrator was, I thought, a jerk. They were just doing it out of boredom. Instead of the panty raid, they were doing the equivalent of the panty raid, that these demonstrations were just social events. People would go because they were bored and not because they truly believed that the war was bad. That's where the girls were, you could smoke dope and get high, have a good time, and that's the way I thought most of the demonstrators were. I didn't think they were terribly serious. Tom Hayden was serious, but I don't think the run-of-the-mill students were.
SI: In working on the Commission and writing your books, did you work with academics, sociologists, people like that, policymakers?
JS: On the Violence Commission, yes, almost entirely. They were people from around the country who were specialists in that field. By the time I got to the Coast Guard, it was mostly military people.
SI: You only worked for a short time on the Student Unrest Commission.
SI: What were your daily activities like then?
JS: It was almost the same; it was trying to get them set up. They were re-discovering the wheel and I just said, "Well, look, call A, B, C and D, rather than the tedious way." That was about the extent of it, because, after about a month, I said, "I've done this before."
SI: At the Violence Commission, you seemed to be working mostly with the two people you knew through Cravath.
JS: Well, they were my bosses.
SI: Did you have any interaction with any of the Commission members?
JS: Oh, yes. Eric Hoffer was the most colorful, the guy who wrote a book called The True Believer, which was very popular at the time. This guy was a longshoreman. He had no education. He was from Sweden, he barely spoke English. He was one of the commissioners. He got me aside at one of the meetings we were in, he said, "You know," he said, "these people, they're all college people. They make me nervous." He said, "When I know I'm coming to Washington, I can't go to the bathroom. [laughter] It's not until I get back to San Francisco that I can move my bowels, because these people are strange." [laughter] I remember him very well. There was Leon Higginbotham, who was a black judge, a very smart guy, Pat Harris, who was a black, female dean of the Howard Law School, who was smart, a couple Congressmen and Senators, who were decent, the Cardinal of New York, [Terence] Cooke, who had been appointed, some of the people who became famous later in the Watergate thing, who were, at the time, not as important, but who became more famous later. They were all decent people who were trying to do good things. None of them were crazy. So, it was actually, I thought, productive. The Commission was sound and they basically relied on the social scientists who were staffing it, mostly professors, who were doing the actual writing and stuff. So, it pretty much went along with what those people were saying.
SI: It was broken up into these subcommittees and you were focusing on student activity. Was there any interaction between the subcommittees, the assassinations group and the group violence group?
JS: [Referring to materials on his bookcase] Yes, there's a whole row--this is one of the reports. They published a series of reports that looked like this.
JS: This one is mine.
SI: You wrote Rights and Concord and Law and Order Reconsidered.
JS: Yes, and there were three of us that put this together. This was what my tasks were. It later was published this way.
SI: Was there any interaction with those working on other aspects of the Commission's work?
JS: Oh, yes, we all worked in the same office, there was a great deal of interaction and, when it came time to put together the final report, we all worked on it. So, the taskforces published their own thing, and then, the Commission published everyone's work.
SI: While you were still with the Coast Guard, you were working with this other person, trying to publicize what the Commission had done.
JS: Yes, it was really part-time. It was a couple hours a week, but I got to know the people.
SI: Were there any other places you traveled besides the Hyannis convention?
JS: The Coast Guard sent me to New Orleans, New York, Governors Island, and I think that's it, because, see, we were the headquarters people, and then, they had lawyers spread around the country in the different major cities, but, basically, we didn't travel much. The only time was traveling when there was no lawyer to handle something.
SI: It sounds like the group in Massachusetts was pretty receptive to the findings.
JS: Oh, absolutely. They were great. I remember, we were sitting around a piano Saturday night, singing songs. Most of them were Irish and they listened to this guy Wes Pomeroy, because he had such incredible credentials. He had been not only a policeman, but he was the first Presidential appointee to a commission that was in place to study crime, set up after the President's Crime Commission, which was also known as the Kerner Commission, and he had been one of three chairs of that group. So, he was one of them and, when he talked, you listened. He wasn't a long-haired radical. [Editor's Note: President Lyndon B. Johnson created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders on July 28, 1967, to investigate the causes of civil unrest in Los Angeles' Watts section in 1965, Chicago's Division Street in 1966 and Newark and Detroit in 1967. Chaired by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr., the Commission issued "The Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders" on February 29, 1968, which named white racism and a lack of economic opportunity as a major cause of frustration in the African-American community.]
SI: Yes, I was thinking I could see law enforcement officials dismissing these things, but I guess they saw ...
JS: I believe I was in my Coast Guard appearance. I think I had a mustache, that was all. [laughter] They wouldn't have let me have anything else.
SI: When were you discharged from the Coast Guard?
JS: In early '72, because I took terminal leave at the end, so, through the end of '71 to the beginning of '72, I was on leave and my commission ran out around January or February.
SI: How did you decide what to do next in your career? I would imagine you were already making moves before you got discharged.
JS: I had worked at Cravath the summer after my second year of law school and said I would accept a job there. They knew that I had the military commitments, just sort of said, "Call us when you're ready." So, I pretty much knew that I was going to New York. While I was in Washington, I got offers from people I knew in Washington to stay in Washington. I decided I didn't want to, I'd rather go to New York. I remember calling this guy Barr and saying, "Look," I said, "I get a couple of months off, I get leave and I'm just going to take vacation. So, I want to come, but I don't know when." He said, "Well, give me a call when you're ready." So, I left Washington, traveled around the world. Somewhere in February, I came home and went to work.
SI: Where did you go?
JS: Thailand, Singapore, Australia and about seven islands in the Pacific, New Caldonia, New Hebrides, Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa. I just made a casual trip, at the beginning on military planes, afterwards, on civilian planes, and I spent four months doing that, had a great time.
SI: That was quite an experience. Do any memories stand out?
JS: Oh, hundreds. [laughter] One place where I visited was every place the soldiers had gone for R&R. So, either while I was in the service or afterwards, I went to all those places. I was in Tokyo, Sydney, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hawaii, and what I saw was something that I think has never been written about. The story should be told. In Vietnam, after six months of being there, they gave you a week at a place of your choosing for R&R, rest and recreation. It was any one of those places I named. I was in all of them and I experienced all of them the way a military person would experience them. People who were in Vietnam only talk about this with other people who shared the experience. Everybody I've talked to from Vietnam, there's no mention of this, but, if you say, "Oh, were you in Hong Kong on R&R?" or, "Were you in Bangkok on R&R?" they open up with stories that are incredible. Every one of the places was loaded with women, many of whom were prostitutes. So, in Bangkok, for example, there were several hundred thousand prostitutes. The going rate was five dollars and the going rate was cheap all over. There were many, many, many prostitutes. In addition, in Australia, for example, there weren't prostitutes, there were just girls who were dying to meet American servicemen. There was a quote from the Bible that says, "And the Aholah played the harlot," [Ezekiel 23: 5, 6] and it's about prostitutes functioning around young men who were tourists or on vacation and that's what was happening. There were guys who had been in Vietnam for six months, who had one week and had been just given a fat paycheck, and they landed in these cities with seven days, knowing they were going back to Vietnam. They spent wildly. They were incredibly healthy, [in] incredibly good condition, handsome, in attractive uniforms, and there were thousands of women, girls, who had nothing, had absolutely nothing, who would sell or give their bodies for a couple bucks. The guys took full advantage of it and no one ever talks about it. The girls were dying to be asked to marry. They would love an invitation to come back to the States and they really, really had nothing. There were no jobs, there was little food and they saw these guys who were healthy and rich and out for a good time. It changed the world. Every one of those cities changed. The men in those cities changed, too. They grew terribly resentful. All their girls were unavailable. They had flocked to the American servicemen. So, the Okinawans, the Japanese, the Thais all had this growing resentment towards America.
SI: Could you see the impact of drug use and the drug trade in those areas as well?
JS: I saw a lot of marijuana, but that's all, but marijuana was all over. It was just routine. I remember, I had a court-martial of a marijuana guy and I had called as an expert witness a doctor from the Public Health Service, who was a civilian. He testified as an expert that anybody in that age group that did not use marijuana was abnormal, that, at that time, if you were not using marijuana and you were in that age group, there was something wrong with you. [laughter] That was pretty much what I saw, but not the hard stuff.
SI: You also went to some places Americans do not usually go, like India and Nepal.
JS: Oh, and they were filled with hippies, hundreds and hundreds of hippies all over that part of Asia. They had come there in Volkswagen buses from Europe and they had driven across through Afghanistan. They all had horror stories to tell about Afghanistan. People there would throw rocks at them. Every one of them was using marijuana and hashish, which was all over the place, anyplace. I remember, in Thailand, I was in the northern city of Chiang Mai. Thailand is not that strange, but, in Chiang Mai, there was a post-it thing on the board about a tourist trip that you could take for five bucks, a bus ride to the hill tribes. I said, "Sure, great." So, I got on this, it was a Land Rover, over a very bouncy road up a mountain and there was a hill tribe growing opium. They were selling opium for fifty dollars a kilo and you could just buy it and they were all smoking it. The men didn't work; they sat around a campfire. Four or five of them were at a campfire. They were each married to multiple women. The women did all the work; the men did nothing but smoke opium. Every day, they'd just go to this place, sit and smoke opium and they had wives taking care of them. It was fifty dollars a kilo. I remember, I went back to Bangkok and was reading the American newspaper in Bangkok and they said, "The US Government is trying to stamp out the opium trade. They just can't find where the opium is," and I laughed. [laughter] Well, yes, that was [typical].
SI: Tell me about adjusting to civilian life, getting into work.
JS: Yes. I had just flown back from this trip. I went to New York, I went into the office and just sat down, just having been in the South Pacific, Tahiti, South Asia, Washington, DC. I went to my boss's office and his secretary was there. She said, "Go rent a car and drive to White Plains." So, I did. I got to White Plains and he said, "Okay," this guy Barr had been put in charge of the IBM antitrust cases. They were massive. There were 150 lawsuits, including international actions. I worked on that for thirteen years and I worked pretty much out of White Plains for about eleven years, never got to my office in New York. These were the biggest cases that ever were tried. They involved millions of pieces of paper, thousands of witnesses. The government trial that started went on for four years before it was--Reagan threw it out, stopped it. So, for four years, I was in court. Before that, I was in some of the largest trials that had ever been tried around the country. So, that's what I did when I got back; it was this total change. [Editor's Note: The US Justice Department began its antitrust investigation into IBM in January 1969, a legal challenge that continued until 1982 when the case was dismissed.]
SI: From about 1972 to 1985.
JS: Yes, '72 to '81. In '81, the US Government case ended and I worked on the European case for about a year, and then, I went and did other things.
SI: Before we get into the trials, what were your daily activities like in investigating and building the case?
JS: In White Plains? We didn't wear coats and ties; we wore shorts, whatever. We worked out of offices that IBM had set up for us. There were about thirty Cravath lawyers and we worked with multiple law firms around the country, because this was nationwide. So, there were probably four or five firms around the country that we were always dealing with. I traveled all over and I'd go into my office and slog for fifteen, sixteen hours. There were no weekends--I worked every Saturday and Sunday. I worked every night. I worked until about nine o'clock at night, and then, quit. Half of the time, I lived in a hotel in Westchester. I kept a room in the hotel, so that I didn't have to drive back to New York, because I had an apartment in New York, but, for months at a time, I never went there, just slogging away, doing the work, getting the facts, and then, presenting them in a way that convinced judges. It was an experience that I don't think has ever been duplicated. No other case has ever been like that. We were doing it at a time before the computer had become an integral part of the litigation. We made it--we got a hundred people who were IBM employees, who knew all about computers and who were assigned to help us. They created software to help litigation that has now become standard. Every law firm in the country has it. At the time, we were the only ones that did, because the guys we were working with were inventing it. So, we were the first ones to work with computers in the context of litigation. Today, any sizeable case is dominated by computer use. We had, for example, something like twenty million pieces of paper that might be relevant to the issues in the lawsuit. Today, it's easy--you just take a computer and figure out what to do. Then, there was nothing. It was just bodies who could read pieces of paper. We implemented the system by which all of that could be done in the computer and the computer would do the work. So, for example, when I was taking somebody's deposition, let's say a vice-president of one of the companies, the old way was to go through ten thousand documents that might be related to the guy and find the ones he used. The computer way was, all that stuff was part of the computer and you'd just press a button and the stuff about this guy was there. So, we had created that. We started that manually; by the time we were finished, the computer had done everything. So, I don't think anybody else has had that experience.
SI: When you say everything was worked through the computer, do you mean you would get a document and give it a reference number and some index terms, something like that?
JS: It changed over time, as the technology changed. At the beginning, there were no scanners, and so, everything had to be typed in. So, there were reams of secretaries who would sit with these documents and type in the key information, who wrote them, what date, what they were about, what important subjects were discussed. Some secretary would type it all up. Today, it's not done that way. Now, it's just documents and you automatically scan them, so [that] it all goes in the computer. So, again, when you're looking for somebody's name, I'd say, "I want all documents that have his name," you just press a button and they come up.
SI: At that point, they had full-text ability.
JS: That's all we had, and so, we created systems for dealing with them, until the technology became what it is now. Now, it's easy.
SI: Even with the help of the computer, you were still dealing with tens of millions of documents and depositions.
JS: Sure, and we were working--I wasn't the only one--I mean, I was billing, and we kept records of our hours that we were billing to the client, for two years, I was billing more than four thousand hours. Now, the norm is two thousand. That's what most people working hard bill, two thousand. I was billing four thousand. Sunday, I could take off early. I'd leave about five o'clock on Sunday and go visit my mother, but the rest of the time was work. I worked Fourth of Julys. I remember getting time off to go outside and watch the fireworks. [laughter]
SI: How many other people would you say were working as you were?
JS: [Editor's Note: Mr. Sahid is pointing to a photograph.] Well, these were the partners, who were there most of the time. This is Tom Barr, now, that's David Boies. You've heard about David Boies, he has become famous. We were running it.
SI: There are six of you in the photo, for the record.
JS: Yes, and that changed over time. Some people came in and some people left, but it was pretty much that group. There were, at any one time, about thirty Cravath lawyers working on it and maybe sixty lawyers from firms around the country working on it, in addition to some hundreds of IBM-ers who were working as paralegals. It went on like that for years. I mean, it was an enormously expensive undertaking. They had no choice, because the government was trying to break up IBM. That was the game. It was fascinating. At the time the cases ended, Microsoft, Apple didn't exist.
SI: When it got to the trial phase, was that your first time operating in a courtroom?
JS: The first time I got in a courtroom, I'd been in a courtroom occasionally in the Coast Guard, not very much, but from time to time. These were done under military rules, so, it wasn't exactly a court. I started to work in February of '72. By June, the first trial [Greyhound v. IBM] had started in Phoenix and I spent two months in Phoenix working on this trial, just a few months after I got there. That was the first real experience, two months in a trial.
SI: In doing that, were you mostly entering things into evidence?
JS: At that time, I'm a young guy; I'm helping a more senior lawyer. So, I'm not talking in court, I'm just handling the paper and telling him what to do. By about a year later, I started to actually talk in court and play a more lead role.
SI: It is kind of mind-boggling.
JS: And they were recruiting. At the time, it was the hardest thing to recruit, because you'd say to a law student, "Oh, by the way, I'm going to assign you to one case on which you may work for a couple of years." People would say, "Forget it, I want a variety." So, it became very difficult for a while.
SI: What attracted you to this? You said that you were assigned here initially.
JS: Oh, yes, when I came in the first day, I was assigned. I had no choice, I was just told and that was it. I suppose I could've gotten out of it later on, but I never wanted to. I thought the work was wonderful.
SI: You were working sixteen hours a day--why keep doing it?
JS: I loved it, loved every minute of it.
SI: You just loved it.
JS: Many of the lawyers working on it hated it because it was just a big [case]. It reminded me of, I could be, say, a military person running a battle or I could be a military person running the war and this was more like that. It was massive and it was all over and I felt much more gratified than I would be working on some insignificant case. That case, and every other case I worked on at Cravath, was front-page New York Times news. Everything I worked on was front-page New York Times, compared to, the alternative was to work on somebody's divorce or something, which had no appeal to me. Many of the lawyers thought I was nuts, didn't want to do it, would beg to get off the case. They just hated it.
SI: How does an antitrust case work in the court?
JS: The first step is to develop the evidence; that's the hardest part. At the time, IBM was huge. To say IBM was a monopolist, that didn't surprise people. Everybody believed they were a monopolist. We had to go out and figure out how to prove that they were not and it required enormous amounts of work. I took depositions, which are examinations under oath that are transcribed, of people all around the country. We would search through thousands of pages of documents to find one document that said the right thing. For example, one of the issues was, "What is a general purpose computer?" Well, I must've spent years looking at documents and had found, ultimately, a couple of documents that said, "Here are a whole bunch of things that are general purpose computers that nobody else thought were." It took me years to get that. So, by the time of the trial, I now had some documents that said, "Here is what a general purpose computer is." So, it was just lots and lots of time. We had to create the arguments, "Why was IBM not a monopolist?" Who knew? Most people thought it was. So, we had to come up with an economic argument that made sense that they weren't. It wasn't very hard, in retrospect; at the time, it was hard. We'd say, "This industry is changing." At that time, the Japanese were just beginning to enter the computer market. They hadn't made computers. We said, "Look, that's competition. Don't just look at IBM, look at the future." We said, "There are going to be companies that you've never heard of that are going to be huge." Look at Microsoft, look at Apple--they didn't exist, but they were potential competition. They now swamp IBM. For a while, people thought IBM was going out of business because it couldn't compete--and this was after the lawsuits ended. So, we had to create an economic argument explaining why they should win. We didn't succeed until Reagan became President, and then, he appointed as head of antitrust a guy who understood what we were saying and who believed it. That was the way it ended. There were a number of jury trials and we actually convinced juries. So, no matter how complex it seems, we were able to make this clear to ordinary jurors around the country. Barr died a few years ago, but there's no doubt that he was a genius and Boies, that's where Boies was trained.
SI: How different was it moving over to the European case?
JS: It involved going to [Europe]. I started to fly on the Concorde, about once a week. I'd leave here on Sunday and stay until Wednesday or Thursday, mostly in Paris, sometimes in Brussels, working with the lawyers who were European. They were mostly British barristers. So, I go on Sunday afternoon, eat dinner there, having flown in on the Concorde, which was wonderful, and then, Wednesday or Thursday, I'd come home. The barristers were responsible for doing the work and my job was to sort of avoid having them say something inconsistent with what we were saying in New York or in the country. So, it was constantly reviewing what they were doing to make sure they weren't going off the reservation. They were very interesting. [Pointing to his office wall] The thing up there is a British barrister's wig bag and the man who was running the operation gave me this after I was leaving, saying great job. The British barristers used a blue bag. If you were special, you were called a Queen's Counsel. There were only four hundred Queen's Counsel in the British Empire. They got red bags. So, he gave me the red bag as a memento. Now, working with the barristers was fascinating. They were very, very smart, but different. American lawyers look for practical things, but British barristers looked for highly logical arguments. So, they would create fabulous arguments that were completely logical. The American lawyers would skip that and just say, "What makes sense?" That was the biggest contrast. They also didn't work nearly as hard as we did. By about one o'clock every day, we'd stop, go have lunch in a first-class restaurant. Lunch would take two hours, and then, we'd come back and work until four o'clock when we'd break for tea. Later on in the evening, we'd go out to a big dinner. Now, here, we didn't eat lunch, we had lunch catered; they brought in sandwiches. Dinner was usually eaten at our desk. We didn't go out, we certainly had no tea. [laughter] I remember, weekends would come and they were gone--they didn't work on weekends. I remember, one time, the commission that was in charge, the European commission, scheduled a hearing for August, a couple weeks in August. The barristers went crazy. They wrote protests, said, "This is absurd. August is a vacation time. How could you possibly have done this to us?" We all said, "August, what's the big deal?" [laughter] So, they were different in some respects, but they were very good lawyers. At the time, Cravath also had--this is abridged--when the hostages were taken by Iran in 1979, Carter was in the White House and Lloyd Cutler was his lawyer. [Editor's Note: Iranian students, supporters of the Iranian Revolution, took over the US Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, and held over sixty Americans hostage for 444 days until January 20, 1981.] Cutler called Barr once again and said, "They're threatening to put the hostages on trial as spies. You've got to represent them." So, the team that was working on the IBM cases stopped. We went to the judge, we told him in confidence what had happened. He just paused the proceedings. All of us, roughly thirty or forty, started to work on the hostages, getting ready for the threatened trials. The first question we asked was, "Give us a list of the hostages." The White House refused. We said, "How in the world can we prepare a defense for people if you don't tell us who they are?" We scoured the newspapers--there wasn't a single report of who the hostages were. They were told there were hostages; nobody ever published the list. My boss, Barr, went to the White House and screamed and said, "How can we possibly do this?" They said, "We ain't telling." Months later, we found out why and it had to do with the people who were in the Canadian Embassy. They didn't want to disclose the names of the hostages because, then, people would realize that those six were not there. So, we never knew who our clients were. We prepared as if we were going to be representing them. We knew perfectly well that lawyers flying into Tehran were not exactly going to be welcomed, but we said we were doing it and they leaked to the press stories that said we were doing it. The Iranians, shortly thereafter, within a month or so, their foreign affairs guy was giving an interview and they said, "What about these trials?" He said, "Oh, we're not going to do that." He said, "All that would happen would be some of your lawyers from the big cities would come here and make a big fuss. So, we're not going to do it," but, for a while, we thought they were and we didn't know what their names were. So, we started preparing a defense. My job was to go to London--I was already working on the IBM thing--and to deal with London, to see if we could find an Iranian lawyer or a Muslim lawyer in London who could possibly be the front man. So, I did that and, on that trip, there was a lawyer in Washington who had just argued our case in front of the World Court in The Hague and I met him in London. We sat and talked about this subject and I met various lawyers in London who could conceivably work on the Iranian hostage trial. Of course, they never went ahead, the trials, but we were ready. [laughter]
SI: I am just trying to get the timeline right. You were working on the American case, and then, it was thrown out in 1981 when Reagan came in.
SI: Had you already switched over to the European case before that?
JS: Yes, somewhere around, let's see, '81 was when the government case here ended and it was at that point that I went to the European cases. So, from '81 until, let's see, '82, '83, I was working on the European cases and doing other things by the end of it.
SI: Did you just leave the case or did the case end at that point?
JS: It pretty much ended. Once the government case ended and we won two of the trials--two cases that had actually got to trial, we ended up winning--at that point, it sort of stopped. All these 150 plaintiffs, who were suing all over the country, decided it wasn't worth it and everything pretty much came to an end. The Europeans continued until, I think, '82, maybe '83. Their attention kind of slowed down after '81; it didn't end for a year or two. That was purely political. They were out to help European computer companies, as simple as that, and this was an American computer company that had dominated the business. They were going to look for ways to put IBM in its place, so that the European companies could get a start. It was pretty simple. I mean, their motivation was clear.
SI: Now that this part of your life that you focused on for thirteen years is over, what was your next move?
JS: [Recalling something else] Sorry--we had a hearing in Brussels in front of the European commission and one of our witnesses was a Swedish guy who made computers. So, he started to testify and the commission is like the UN--they had the translation done through dozens of languages. So, they said to him, "Look," he was talking English, "look, you can speak in Swedish. It's okay, we can translate it." He said, "The words are English words in the computer industry, so, I'm going to be talking English anyway." That has retained; it's remained that way. You look at the computer business around the world, it's still pretty much conducted in English.
SI: Tell me about your next career move.
JS: For a number of years, I worked on other Cravath stuff. I did--CBS was a client, Time was a client, ITT was a client. One of the things I worked on was the libel case that Ariel Sharon brought against Time Magazine and there were other [cases]. Each of them was a large case. They were massive projects. Then, I got assigned to Holiday Inns, which had come to us as a client because they had a terrible problem. They had never been a Cravath client, but they came because of this massive case they were having against Donald Trump. So, I was assigned to that. I don't know how many months I spent on that. We ended up beating Trump. It was a court in Camden and we ended up getting out of that. We sold the casino to him, which has since gone bankrupt, but, in the meantime, made a lot of money. Shortly, while this was still going on, Holiday Inns got sued by a former partner in another Atlantic City casino, a guy named Walter from California, who was suing them for a billion dollars, alleging that they had defrauded him in this other casino, which was called Harrah's Marina. Harrah's was the gaming company that Holiday Inn bought, that had been in the casino business in Nevada. Holiday Inns was owned by Baptists from the South and was sort of not like that, but they had bought Harrah's, and so, all of a sudden, they had this gaming operation. So, [after] working on this case against Trump, they said I'm to work now on this case against Walter, which is also in Camden. Because it was in Atlantic City, all the cases were going to Camden. So, I started working on that and worked on that for about eight years. It was a massive case. As I say, they wanted a billion dollars. The fight was over a casino that's still there, called Harrah's Marina. Holiday Inn had been a fifty-fifty partner with Walter. It was Walter's idea to build there; this was in the marina section of Atlantic City. All the casinos had gone up, until then, on the boardwalk. So, this was odd and his belief was that that's the right thing to do. He talked Holiday Inn into helping to finance it. They got the casino built at a period of time when corruption was rampant in Atlantic City. Everybody was on the take. Interest rates went to twenty-one percent during Carter's years. Inflation was out of control. Everything was wild. So, the casino that they were building in Atlantic City exceeded its budget by two, so, it doubled its budget. It took longer than it was thought, because of all this stuff going on. So, at that time, Walter had to put up more money and he didn't have it, so, he sold to Holiday Inn. He later claimed that Holiday Inn defrauded him, because Holiday Inn knew all along that it was going to be profitable and didn't tell him, told him it was going to be unprofitable. So, that's why he sold. So, they wanted half, their half interest back, which was a billion dollars. At that time, Harrah's Marina was contributing forty percent of Holiday Inn's revenues and profits. So, Holiday Inns, which is all around the world, at that time, forty percent of their revenues and profits were coming from this one casino and he wanted his half. So, that, as I said, it went on for years. It ended up with a four-month jury trial, that I did, in Camden and we won. This guy, who had hoped to get a billion, got nothing. That was my prime activity; I was running that case. I suppose that what happened is that winning it was maybe the highlight of my life. I mean, it was really an event. I can still remember hearing the jury deliver their verdict and the thing that made it even better was that I was alone. I had insisted on doing certain things that all the other lawyers working on the case thought I was nuts. So, we'd have these violent fights and I would stick up for my position and, fortunately, the president of Holiday Inns took my advice. So, he took my advice, ignoring all the other lawyers, and that advice was correct--that's why we won. So, it was an experience for me that was incomparable. I came back from that ...
SI: Can you elaborate on that? What were you saying that was different from the other lawyers?
JS: Okay, it'll take a little while; I'll try to simplify it. This guy was an older man, an entrepreneur, self-motivated and financed guy. Holiday Inns was a big corporation. So, the first question was, "What kind of a jury do we want? We're going to get a jury of Camden people--what do we want?" We did a lot of work and concluded that what we needed--everybody, the lawyers all said, "You don't want old, retired men. Don't take them." Excuse me, I said it wrong. Everybody said, "That's what Walter wants. He wants old, retired men who will identify with him. So, we should avoid those people." We did studies, hiring psychologists who experimented and who came back to us and said, "What you want on the jury is old, retired men who gamble. They will rule in your favor." So, we knew, had this information, and the other side didn't. We get to the trial and they pick all the old, retired men who gambled, believing that they were going to be sympathetic and us, having done this work, were delighted and they ended up ruling for us. So, he was totally wrong. That was the first fundamental mistake. The next thing was that, as a defendant, we had the right to seek a unanimous verdict. We could insist that the verdict had to be unanimous. Every one of these tests we did ended up with us winning, but not winning unanimously. There was always one or two people in every group who ruled against us. So, I said, "I will be willing to take less than all." Every one of the lawyers working on the team said, "You're crazy. You're the defendant, you should insist on unanimity, because the worst that happens is that you get a re-trial," and I said, "No, I don't believe it." That was one that we took to the president of the company and he said okay; he went along with me. So, we agreed to accept the votes of, I think, eleven of twelve. The jury deliberated and came back with a verdict in our favor of eleven-to-one. [laughter] There was one woman who hated us and who ruled against us. So, if we had stuck with the unanimity, we would have had a retrial. The second thing was the charge to the jury. Four months of trial, what in the world does the judge tell the jury when they're going to deliberate? I prepared a charge that was about fifty pages long. Every lawyer working on it said, "This is crazy, no chance, forget it. You've got to do something else," and I said, "Nope, this is what I want to do." The judge gave that charge almost exactly the way I wrote it. It was the charge that led to the verdict for us. The charge essentially said we should win. So, those things were probably key, and then, the decision about who do you use, what witnesses, and so on. We found out that this guy, Walter, had a mistress in Atlantic City--no big deal, but, nevertheless, we had this fact nobody knew about. His wife didn't know about it. It turned out that the mistress, they later separated, broke up, and she talked to us. We looked for her and she was perfectly willing to talk. She told us things that were amazing. So, we said before the trial, "We're calling her as a witness." This so scared Lou Walter that he refused to testify. He was the best thing they had going for them, but he was scared about what we were going to do. He didn't want to, knowing that this witness, that this woman, was around. So, he wouldn't testify. Again, that was largely where we won, our witnesses against their lawyers. So, it was things like that that made the difference, besides just lots of hard work. I mean, I looked through thousands of documents to find helpful stuff, thousands.
SI: Was it the same pace as the IBM case, sixteen hours a day, seven days a week?
JS: Yes, even worse, because I was living outside of Camden for four months. When I came home, I was married with two young children, I came home to a divorce.
JS: We can go back. So, I had just emerged from this four-month trial totally victorious and feeling very good; came home to face a divorce. I said to myself it was very important that I start thinking about the rest of my life, said, "I'm now going to be divorced," and I was about forty-nine years old and I said, "I've just tried the most exciting four-month jury trial and won it. So, when's the next time I'll get to do this?" At that time, Cravath, the firm I was with, had about sixty partners, about twenty litigation partners, of which I was one, and, of the sixty partners, three had ever tried a jury case. The practice did not involve jury trials or trials. It involved legal work of an intense nature, but not trials. I was one of the three. I said, "When is the next time I can do this?" and I said to myself, "Never. If I stay here, I will spend the rest of my life not going to court." At the same time, this divorce was upon me and I was making a great deal of money as a partner at Cravath and that was being taken into account in terms of the money I had to spend for the rest of my life. All in all, I ended up leaving Cravath and joining a plaintiffs' class-action firm, headquartered in Philly, who were opening a New York City office. So, I was the resident partner. I did that fully believing that I was going to get to try cases, that, "Plaintiffs' class-action lawyers surely try cases in front of juries, and so, I'll get a chance to do that." I learned, after a year or so, that those plaintiffs' lawyers never tried cases. [laughter] They settled everything, but it took me about two years to find that out. It was then that I left that firm and went into practice for myself, where I have spent most of my time as a litigator, sometimes even in court.
SI: That was about 1996.
JS: Yes. I think I went to the other firm about '95 and left there in '96. I actually enjoyed the work, working on these plaintiffs' class-action suits, but, after a while, they got kind of boring.
SI: Now that you have your own firm, what is it like being your own boss?
JS: Totally different from the firm work. I no longer represent major corporations. They don't want sole practitioners and most of the people I represent now can't afford to pay me anything. I was making a lot of money at Cravath and at the other firm, but having earned a lot of money and having invested wisely, I had become pretty much financially independent. I no longer cared about big pay and that's what greeted me. So, most of my clients either pay me nothing or pay me small amounts of money. Occasionally, I get a paying client, but that's rare. Most of the time, especially in the last years, I've been doing work for free for people who can't afford lawyers and totally different cases. They're not big corporate cases, they are now what individuals and small businesses encounter--small contract disputes, tort cases, partnership disputes, stock investment problems. Most recently, I've gotten into the subject of bitcoins, which are virtual currency meant to replace credit cards and cash, a very new field. I'm working with some other lawyers developing a specialty in that field. Here, we've gotten published, we have a regular column in a magazine. That's us writing legal articles.
SI: The magazine is called Bitcoin.
JS: Yes. It's a free magazine. All you have to do is sign up on the Internet and you get it. It's mostly to serve as a source of advertising for the firms who are in the field.
SI: You have been in this field for a very long time. You have seen many changes. We talked about the impact of the computer; what are the most significant changes you have seen?
JS: What I do today, I could never have done when I got out of law school. Out of law school, I was surrounded by multiple secretaries who worked twenty-four hours a day, dozens of paralegals and many other lawyers. Now, I have no secretary, I do everything, most everything, from my desk, either on the phone or on the computer. I can do legal research, factual research. Every once in a while, I have to go to a library to get the stuff I can't get on the computer, but not very frequently. I no longer have to work with all those other people. Now, for example, writing a brief, which I was doing earlier today, I'm working on it with other lawyers. The other lawyers can be located anywhere. This fellow happens to be in New York, another one happens to be in Connecticut--it doesn't matter where they are, because we exchange drafts by email. So, we can write a brief never getting together physically, just using the computer or the telephone. I can type it myself, which I could never do before. I always needed secretaries to type and on the old-fashioned typewriters, but, now, with the word-processing programs, I just do it myself. So, everything is different. I can do everything in my office without ever seeing another person, including the clients. There are clients that I've never met. There are clients that I've had in Africa and in India and in Pakistan who I've never met. We talk by Skype or by email; another client in Mexico, the same thing. I could never have done that when I started practicing, but, now, it's easy. So, it's changed dramatically. I can work on the same kind of large cases that I worked on then all from my office. I don't have to be with other people. The typewriter changed. When I first started, they were using IBM Selectric typewriters, which required manual changes. To edit them, we had whiteout and scissors and staplers, in order to edit. All of that is history. The word processor now replaces many typewriters and many secretaries and I can do it myself, I don't need somebody else. I can do most of the legal research I need to do from my computer, as opposed to in a library, which means that I can work on small cases or large cases, even though I'm a single practitioner. So, it's been a dramatic change.
SI: I was interested in the Ariel Sharon case. Does anything stand out about that? [Editor's Note: Ariel Sharon served as the Prime Minister of Israel from 2001 to 2006. In 1982, as Minister of Defense, he led Israel's involvement in the Lebanon War. In 1983, the Israeli Government's Kahan Commission found him accountable for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians by Lebanese militias in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The Time Magazine article at the center of the libel suit was published on February 21, 1983.]
JS: He, at the time, had lost his political power in Israel because he was being smeared because of what had happened at the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. He had been accused by Time of having known about the massacres and letting them happen. There were massacres of Lebanese civilians and he was accused of having conspired to be part of that. As a result, he was treated as a loser in Israel. He had been a politician, but was rejected by everybody. He sued Time Magazine for libel, saying that the story that made him look so bad was false, that he had never done it. The case was being tried in New York City in the federal court. It was a huge case. Time's reputation was on the line, his reputation was on the line--it really mattered. So, we worked on that. Tom Barr was assigned to try it; I was one of the lawyers assigned to help. My particular job was to take character witnesses that had been lined up for Sharon and take their deposition and these were character witnesses, including the New York Senator at the time, including people who were quite famous, the former head of the CIA, people who were pretty famous and who were going to say that he was a good guy. My job was to depose these people in anticipation of their testimony at trial, which I did, in the process, getting to work with a good number of these celebrities. He ended up getting a mixed verdict at the trial. Barr, in the middle of this trial, had a stroke and he became unable to continue. Nobody knew it; it was kept private. Another lawyer took over for him in the courtroom. The trial ended in a way like this--the jury had three questions to answer, first, whether the article was false, and they voted that it was false, thereby clearing Sharon of any wrong-doing. The next question was, "Was this done maliciously by Time Magazine?" and the answer was no. So, Time Magazine got off the hook, and so, everybody was sort of happy with the result. Thereafter, Sharon's status was completely reversed. He became very popular in Israel, largely because he had gotten cleared of the accusation. He ultimately became the Prime Minister, and so on, which would never have happened if he hadn't succeeded the way he did in that trial, but, in the meantime, I had a very good time deposing these celebrities.
SI: You said you have two children.
JS: Two children by my first marriage. I have a daughter by my second marriage, who is fifteen, who is presently a student on an exchange trip in Spain. So, she's living in Madrid for a while and doing extremely well.
SI: Is there anything else about your life you would like to add to the record?
JS: I actually think it was a very good way of doing it. Rutgers was terrific for me, Virginia Law was terrific for me, Washington was terrific for me, the Coast Guard was terrific for me, being at the law firms, and then, being on my own has been terrific. I made lots of money early and, now, I can devote myself to trying to help people. I no longer represent the giant corporations, I now represent all kinds of people who can't afford a lawyer, and so, I now, like Warren Buffett, skip to work every day.
SI: I have one other question about Rutgers. You were inducted into Cap and Skull.
SI: What was that like?
JS: Great. We did absolutely nothing. [laughter] We got together, I believe, once for the indoctrination, but, of course, I knew everybody. It was all the people in the class who were active in the various organizations. I was also a member of Crown and Scroll, which was the junior honors society, and the same thing. Again, we did absolutely nothing, but it was a great prestige.
SI: I appreciate all of your time today. This is a great addition to our collection; thank you very much. This concludes the interview.
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Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 2/18/2016
Reviewed by Joseph Sahid 3/9/2016
Reviewed by Molly Graham 3/9/2016