Judge Patricia M. Wald 

Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Interviewed by Nancy Morawetz '81

Watch the full video or read the transcript (PDF: 403.15 KB)

About the Interview

The interview was held on February 9, 2018, in Washington, DC. It was conducted by Nancy Morawetz '81, Professor of Clinical Law, NYU School of Law.


Judge Patricia Wald

Patricia M. Wald (1928-2019) was appointed judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Jimmy Carter on April 30, 1979, where she served as chief judge from 1986 to 1991. She was the first woman to be appointed to the District of Columbia Circuit and the first woman to serve as its chief judge. Judge Wald was also a justice on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001. 

Judge Wald was born in Torrington, Connecticut. She graduated from Connecticut College for Women in 1948, and Yale Law School in 1951, where she was an officer of the Yale Law Journal and Order of the Coif. She was married to Robert Wald and is the mother of five children and a grandmother of 10. 

Prior to her judicial service, Judge Wald was the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legislative Affairs in the Department of Justice in the Carter administration, and prior to that, the litigation director of the Mental Health Law Project, a Legal Services attorney, and an associate at Arnold, Fortas & Porter. She was a member of the President’s Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia, and also served on the ABA’s Executive Committee for the Central and European Law Initiative. She was a council member and vice president of the American Law Institute.

After her retirement from the bench in 1999, Judge Wald was a member of the board of directors of the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative, promoting human rights and rule of law abroad, a co-chair of the advisory board to DLA Piper's New Perimeter, which engages in global pro bono work, and a board member of the American Constitution Society and the Center for Constitutional Accountability. In 2008, she received the ABA Meal of Honor, its highest award. In 2004, President Bush appointed her to the President’s Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United Sates with regard to Weapons of Mass Destruction. In 2012, President Obama appointed her to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. In 2013, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Judge Wald passed away on January 12, 2019.

Video Excerpts

On getting her first law job


How her experience working for Legal Services prepared her to be a judge

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