Saturday, June 19, 2010

On Doing Your Own Investigation -- The Late Professor Charles Alan Wright

Charles Alan Wright (September 3, 1927 - July 7, 2000) was the foremost authority in the United States on constitutional law and federal procedure, and was the coauthor of the 54-volume treatise, Federal Practice and Procedure with Arthur Miller and Kenneth W. Graham, Jr., among others.

Born in Philadelphia in 1927, Wright earned his undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University in 1947 and law degree from Yale in 1949. Wright taught at the University of Minnesota Law School from 1950 to 1955 and at the University of Texas School of Law from 1955 until his death in 2000.

Professor Wright was a popular, if somewhat eccentric, educator, conducting class without lecture notes or even a copy of the casebook. He had a photographic memory of the materials and would often answer student questions with a correct citation, by specific page, of a case different from the one the class was studying. He always refused to call on women students, unless they volunteered, considering the traditional Socratic approach ungentlemanly to women. In response to accusations of sexism, he simply stopped requiring any student to recite unless he or she volunteered. Professor Wright's icy reserve with students disappeared completely after they graduated and joined the Bar. Many of them were pleasantly surprised to experience his warmth, kindness, gentle humor and interest in their families.

He was elected a member of the American Law Institute at the age of 30, and served as its president for the last seven years of his life, from 1993 to 2000.

Professor Wright organized an effective boycott of the Faculty Club at the University of Texas at Austin when operators failed to live up to their promise that the club would not be racially segregated.

Wright was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Wright represented President Richard Nixon on constitutional issues growing out of the Watergate investigations by Congress and the special prosecutor. For a time he clearly appeared to be the President's lead lawyer, but then there was a shuffling of responsibilities, and he did not argue the case in the Supreme Court.

Wright was an active litigator before the U.S. Supreme Court. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once described Wright as "a Colossus standing at the summit of our profession." A former student teasingly suggested the diminutive Ginsburg was actually referring to Wright's 6-3 height. The politically liberal Ginsburg also referred to Wright, a Republican, as "the quintessential friend." By the end of his life, Wright was on a first-name basis with all nine justices.

At the University of Texas, Wright's achievements extended beyond the classroom and courtroom: Wright led the Legal Eagles – a stunningly successful intramural football team – to 330 wins during his 45 year involvement as coach and athletic director. He was also a member of the committee that was formed to hire a new head football coach of the University of Texas in 1997, eventually hiring Mack Brown.

Bob Strauss had earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas, the Harvard of the Southwest.

April 22, 1998
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-4530

Professor Charles Alan Wright
University of Texas School of Law
727 East 26th Street
Austin, TX 78705-3224

Dear Professor Wright:

During the period June 1988 to October 1991 I was employed in the capacity of legal assistant ("paralegal") at the Washington, DC office of the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. My employment was terminated in late October 1991: the employer determined that a complaint of job harassment I made to senior management was the product of a psychiatric symptom that rendered me not suitable for employment. A lawsuit I filed against the firm is currently on appeal before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Coincidentally, as you may know, the founding partner of Akin Gump, Robert S. Strauss, Esq., is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.

The enclosed computer disc contains the pleadings I filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals in the above-referenced appeal. I thought you might have an academic interest in precisely how an individual diagnosed as suffering from a disabling psychotic mental disorder (paranoid schizophrenia) might go about applying the law of employment discrimination to the facts of a job termination.

I know that one of your avocations is the reading and reviewing of mystery novels, and that you served as Special Counsel to former President Richard M. Nixon, for Watergate. The disc also contains a creative piece I prepared that transforms the factual issues of the above-referenced litigation into a kind of novel and contains references to Watergate matters that may interest you.

Supervisory Special Agent David M. Bowie at the Washington Field Office of the FBI is familiar with this matter. The telephone number of the FBI Washington Field Office is 252-7801.


Gary Freedman



April 28, 1998

Mr. Gary Freedman
3801 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20008

Dear Mr. Freedman:

Professor Wright received your letter of April 22nd and is sorry to hear of the problems that you have been experiencing.  He has had no contact, however, with the law of employment discrimination and therefore your case is far removed from anything that he knows about.  For that reason he has asked me to return the computer disk that you enclosed.

Very truly yours,


Colleen D. Kieke
Assistant to Professor Charles Alan Wright


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