Patricia M. Wald

Interview conducted 12 December 2014 in Washington, D.C., by David P. Briand and Susana SáCouto.

headshot of patricia m. waldBackground

Interview Content

In this interview, Judge Patricia M. Wald reminisces about her early life and education; her early law career in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s and 1970s; her D.C. Circuit Court confirmation hearings; her work in the former Soviet Union with the Central and Eastern European Law Initiative (CEELI); her recruitment and decision to become a International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judge; experiences in Sarajevo following the Dayton Accords; adjustments to a hybrid system of international law; and discussions with fellow judges on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

She discusses the influence of partisanship in federal courts; language barriers among international judges and staff at the ICTY; working alongside other judges with different legal backgrounds and methods; issues of translation in witness testimony; due process at the ICTY; and reflections on ICTY defendants.

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Biographical Information

Patricia M. Wald has held a number of legal and judicial positions that prepared her for her judgeship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She was appointed U.S. assistant attorney general for legislative affairs in 1977 and served in this post until her appointment by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1979.

Wald became the first woman appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court, often referred to as the nation's second most important court after the Supreme Court. She remained on the court for 20 years and authored more than 800 opinions. In 1986, she became chief judge.

In addition to her responsibilities as a federal judge,Wald became active in 1994 in the American Bar Association's Central and Eastern European Law Initiative, designed to provide technical advice for establishing new judicial structures in the democracies emerging from the former Soviet Union. When she retired from the federal bench in 1999, she was appointed as judge at the ICTY, where she served a two-year term. Since leaving the ICTY, Wald has continued to serve in many capacities in both the public policy and human rights arenas.