Charles Robert Richey
Charles Robert Richey (October 16, 1923 – March 19, 1997) was a United States federal judge. When fairly new to the federal bench, he presided over the civil case related to Watergate and embroiled himself in controversy for his communications with the Nixon Administration and the judicial decisions that followed.
Early life, education, and career
Born in Logan County, Ohio, Richey was in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. He received an A.B. from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1945 and an LL.B. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1948. He was a legislative counsel to U.S. Representative Frances P. Bolton from 1948 to 1949. He was in private practice in Washington, D.C. and Chevy Chase, Maryland from 1949 to 1971, also working as a speech and debate coach for American University from 1954 to 1955. He was special counsel to Montgomery County, Maryland, on Council Redistricting from 1965 to 1966, and was a member of the Montgomery County Board of Appeals, Maryland from 1965 to 1967, serving as chairman from 1966 to 1967. He was general counsel to the Maryland Public Service Commission from 1967 to 1971.
Federal judicial service
On April 14, 1971, Richey was nominated by President Richard Nixon to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated by Edward Matthew Curran. Richey was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 29, 1971, and received his commission on May 5, 1971.
Between the Watergate break-in and the run-up to the presidential election of 1972, Richey presided over the civil case brought by the Democratic National Committee seeking monetary damages from the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, given the derisive shorthand of "CREEP". His administration-friendly rulings seemed designed to delay the case until after the election and drove many interested parties, not the least of which was the Washington Post, to a state of near apoplexy. Many suspected and it was later confirmed that Richey was in communication with the Nixon White House. In his book about Watergate and his personal role, John Dean related that "the case looked under control" and that Judge Richey had been "sending encouraging signals through our contacts". In fact, the Judge "had been so accommodating as to urge Stans to file a counter-suit against O’Brien for libel".
During this time, Joseph Califano was representing both the DNC and the Washington Post and, as he relates in his own memoirs, was increasingly astonished at Richey's unorthodox behavior behind the bench. When Richey asked all parties to join in a press release announcing that all legal activity would be postponed until after the election, Califano refused, and claimed that "Richey was furious". This episode was witnessed by a veteran criminal attorney, Harold Ungar, who told Califano, "Joe, in my thirty years of practice, I've never seen anything like this. Never! Pacing in circles, he mumbled over again, 'Never, never, never'".
In addition to his judicial activities, Richey was an Adjunct professor, Georgetown University Law Center from 1975 to 1997. Richey assumed senior status on January 23, 1997, and served in that capacity until his death later that year in Washington, D.C.
- Dean, John, Blind Ambition, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976, 136.
- Califano, Joseph, Inside, A Public and Private Life, New York: PublicAffairs, 2004, 273-74.
- Charles Robert Richey at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.