Wald, Patricia Mcgowan
Wald, Patricia Mcgowan
In July 1999, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Judge Patricia M. Wald to serve on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Wald, who had served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for 20 years and as vice president of the American Law Institute for ten years, had the necessary background and experience to tackle the difficult task of determining the guilt or innocence of those accused of crimes committed during the war between Serbians and Croatians in the early 1990s.
Born Patricia McGowan on September 16, 1928, and raised in the manufacturing town of Torrington, Connecticut, Wald spent her summers working in the brass mills. Through this experience, she became involved in her first cause—the protection of working class people. Later, after graduating first in her class from Connecticut College for Women, she decided she could better help people if she obtained a law degree. She enrolled in Yale University's Law School. At a time when female law students were rare, she was among fewer than a dozen other women in her class.
After graduating from Yale in 1951, Wald accepted a clerkship with Judge jerome n. frank of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She was the first female clerk in the circuit court. In 1952, she married Robert Wald, a U.S. Navy reservist stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and moved to Washington, D.C., to be closer to her new husband. Wald went to work as an associate attorney with the firm of Arnold, Fortas, and Porter. She took leave of the firm in 1953, however, when she was eight-months pregnant. While the firm told her that she could return when she was ready, she chose to stay home to care for her child.
Ten years and four more children later, Wald returned to the practice of law. She quickly became involved in several research projects, including the Kerner Commission Report on the cause and prevention of violence, as well as the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia. In 1963, Wald gave a presentation at the National Conference of Bail and Criminal Justice challenging the bail system of the time. She argued for additional factors to be considered in determining bail, apart from the mere ability of the accused to pay the amount set by the court. One factor Wald suggested was ties the accused had to the community. One year later, her ideas became a book, Bail in the United States (1964), and the bail system was reformed.
That same year, Wald became an attorney with the Justice Department's Office of Criminal Justice, but soon thereafter she left to join the innovative Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C. This position exposed her for the first time to litigation, which she would later say was helpful in making her a more understanding judge. In 1972, she became an attorney for the Mental Health Law Project where, between 1975 and 1977, she served as director.
In 1977, jimmy carter took office as U.S. president and appointed Wald to the Justice Department position of assistant attorney general for legal affairs. Only two years later, Wald made it to the top of President Carter's list again and was appointed to a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She was the first woman to serve as a judge on a U.S. Court of Appeals. The D.C. Circuit is often referred to as the country's second-most important court—the Supreme Court of the United States being the first—because it hears many issues of national importance due to its location in the nation's capital. Wald served as chief judge of the court between 1986 and 1991.
In 1997, Wald sat on a three-judge panel to hear part of the Justice Department's antitrust case against Microsoft. The panel was to review a lower court order that prohibited Microsoft from forcing computer makers to purchase the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser as a condition of buying Microsoft Windows, which was a necessary standard for most computers. Microsoft argued that the two products were integrated, therefore, they were not in violation of the order. The panel decided 2–1 in favor of Microsoft. Wald gave the dissenting opinion, arguing that the products were not integrated. Her opinion was later echoed by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who ruled that Microsoft did indeed violate the antitrust laws. By the end of her career on the court of appeals, Wald had authored more than 800 opinions.
In 1999, Judge Wald left the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to join the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The tribunal was created by the United Nations in 1993 to judge those accused of crimes against humanity during the massacres in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia. This new position would entail her leaving behind her family and moving to The Hague, The Netherlands, in order to serve a two-year term on the bench. The position meant a great deal to Wald, however, because she had served for the past five years on the Executive Board of the American Bar Association's Central and Eastern European Law Initiative and had aided in the monitoring of elections and the creation of new constitutions in Eastern Europe.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is made up of 16 judges from various nations. The process is based on two legal systems: British Common Law and European Civil Law. There are two official languages: French and English. Wald faced a large and complex caseload, much of which involved such disturbing acts as murder, rape, and torture. In addition to presiding over trials, she sat in on a number of appeals including a reversal of the convictions of three Bosnian Croats due to a dearth of reliable evidence. In 2002, when Wald looked back on the work of the tribunal, she commented that despite the fact that there were several judges with diverse cultural backgrounds and languages, she generally was satisfied with the work that was accomplished during her two-year appointment.
In April 2002, because of her lifelong commitment to Human Rights, Judge Wald was honored by the International Human Rights Law Group. Wald continued her work as a human rights advocate into the 2000s, as a speaker and panelist, and serving on the steering committee of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. She also is chair of the Open Society Justice Initiative, an international coalition that designs and implements legal initiatives to guarantee human rights in countries outside the United States.
"From the Circuit to the Hague." Interview with Judge Patricia M. Wald. 2002. In The Third Branch (March). Available online at <www.uscourts.gov/ttb/mar02ttb/interview.html> (accessed July 28, 2003).
Schwartz, Herman, and Patricia M. Wald. 2002. The Struggle for Constitutional Justice in Post-Communist Europe. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.