Gerhard Gesell

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Gerhard Gesell
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
January 22, 1993 – February 19, 1993
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
December 12, 1967 – January 22, 1993
Appointed byLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded bySpottswood William Robinson III
Succeeded byPaul L. Friedman
Personal details
Gerhard Alden Gesell

(1910-06-16)June 16, 1910
Los Angeles, California
DiedFebruary 19, 1993(1993-02-19) (aged 82)
Washington, D.C.
EducationYale University (A.B.)
Yale Law School (LL.B.)

Gerhard Alden Gesell (June 16, 1910 – February 19, 1993) was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Education and career[edit]

Born in Los Angeles, California, Gesell received an Artium Baccalaureus degree from Yale University in 1932, and a Bachelor of Laws from Yale Law School in 1935. He was a trial attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1935 to 1940, and then technical advisor to the Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman from 1940 to 1941. He was in private practice in Washington, D.C. from 1941 to 1967. In 1945 and 1946, he served as Chief Assistant Counsel for the Democrats' side during the Pearl Harbor hearings. He chaired the President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces from 1962 to 1964.[1]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On November 29, 1967, Gesell was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated by Judge Spottswood William Robinson III. Gesell was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 7, 1967, and received his commission on December 12, 1967. Gesell assumed senior status on January 22, 1993 and served in this status until his death on February 19, 1993, in Washington, D.C.[1]

Watergate trials[edit]

In 1973, Gesell ruled illegal the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, by acting attorney general Robert Bork, under orders of President Richard Nixon, in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre.[2]

In 1974, Gesell presided over trials of the so-called Watergate Seven, arising from dozens of felony charges in the Watergate scandal. All the defendants had held cabinet rank or senior staff positions in the White House of President Richard Nixon. Those convicted or pleading guilty in these trials were: John N. Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Charles Colson, Gordon Strachan, and Robert Mardian. Kenneth W. Parkinson was acquitted. Judge Gesell later was to rule that the office tape recordings of President Nixon were in the public domain because they had been played during a Watergate trial, a finding upheld by the Supreme Court.[3]

Iran-Contra trial[edit]

In 1989, Gesell was the presiding judge in the government's case against National Security Adviser Oliver North, who was convicted of aiding and abetting obstruction of a congressional inquiry into the Iran-Contra arms sale. North also was convicted of ordering the destruction of documents and accepting an illegal gratuity. On July 5, 1989, Gesell probated North's three-year prison sentence, but fined him $150,000, sentenced him to 1,200 hours community service and placed him on two years' probation. These convictions, however, were subsequently vacated by an appeals court, because North had been granted immunity for his testimony to Congress. After further hearings on the immunity issue, Judge Gesell dismissed all charges against North on September 16, 1991.[4]


  1. ^ a b Gerhard Alden Gesell at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ Nader v. Bork, 366 F. Supp. 104 (D.D.C. 1973)
  3. ^ Levy, Claudia (February 21, 1993). "District Judge Gerhard Gesell Dies at Age 82". Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  4. ^ "Walsh Iran/Contra Report – Chapter 2 United States v. Oliver L. North". Retrieved June 23, 2011.


Legal offices
Preceded by
Spottswood William Robinson III
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
Paul L. Friedman