John Sirica

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John Sirica
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
1971–1974
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
March 28, 1957 – October 31, 1977
Personal details
Born John Joseph Sirica
(1904-03-19)March 19, 1904
Waterbury, Connecticut
Died August 14, 1992(1992-08-14) (aged 88)
Washington, DC
Resting place Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Silver Spring, Maryland
Spouse(s) Lucile Camalier Sirica
Children 1 son, 2 daughters
Alma mater Georgetown University (JD)

John Joseph Sirica (March 19, 1904 – August 14, 1992) was the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where he became famous for his role in the trials stemming from the Watergate scandal. He rose to national prominence during the Watergate scandal when he ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over his recordings of White House conversations.

Sirica's involvement in the case began when he presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars. He did not believe the claim that they had acted alone, and through the use of provisional sentencing, strongly encouraged them to give information about higher-ups before final sentencing. One defendant, James W. McCord, Jr., wrote a letter describing a broader scheme of involvement by people in the Nixon administration. For his role in uncovering the truth about Watergate, Sirica was named TIME magazine's Man of the Year in 1973.

Early life

John Sirica was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, to Ferdinand (Fred), an immigrant from Italy, and Rose (Zinno) Sirica, whose parents were from Italy. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1918, where he attended Emerson Preparatory School and eventually transferred to Columbia Preparatory School.[1] He went directly from high school to law school, which was possible in the District of Columbia at the time, and, after two false starts, entered Georgetown University Law Center and received his J.D. in 1926.[2]

Between 1910 and 1918, the Sirica family lived in various cities across the United States where Fred worked as a barber and tried his hand, unsuccessfully, at a number of small business operations. In 1922, Fred was running a two-lane bowling alley and poolhall which was raided by the police for violation of the Prohibition-era Volstead Act when liquor was found in the restroom. Fred was arrested but the charges were dropped. He soon sold the business and moved away.[3]

Career

John Sirica fought as a boxer in Washington and Miami in the 1920s and 1930s. He was torn between a career as a fighter and the career in law that he followed after earning a law degree and passing the bar. Boxing champion Jack Dempsey became a close friend.[4]

Sirica was in private practice of law in Washington, D.C. from 1926 to 1930. He was an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1930 to 1934, and subsequently returned to private practice from 1934 to 1957. He also served as general counsel to the House Select Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission in 1944; his appointment was opposed by the two Republican members of the committee.[5] However, Sirica resigned in protest over the committees's handling of the WMCA scandal that year, and re-entered private practice. In 1947, he joined the law firm of Hogan and Hartson in Washington, D.C. (now called Hogan Lovells).[6]

He was a Republican and was appointed to the Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 25, 1957, to a seat vacated by Henry A. Schweinhaut. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 26, 1957, and received his commission on March 28, 1957.

Sirica served on the bench, handling criminal and civil cases emanating from the District of Columbia. He was one of approximately 14 judges on the bench. Plain spoken and without fanfare, Sirica served on the bench without fanfare. Author Joseph Goulden wrote a book about federal judges called The Benchwarmers and mentioned that many lawyers appearing in Sirica's courtroom thought he could be short-tempered and would make careless legal errors. He was nicknamed "Maximum John" for giving defendants the maximum sentence guidelines allowed.

Sirica served as chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia from 1971 to 1974, and assumed senior status on October 31, 1977. In 1979, Sirica published a book, co-authored with John Stacks, detailing his participation in the Watergate cases under the title To Set the Record Straight. [7] [8][9]

Death

Sirica suffered a severe heart attack in 1976 while at a speaking engagement on February 5,[10] and survived.

In the final years of his life, Sirica suffered from a wide range of ailments, both minor and severe.[citation needed] In the last few weeks of his life, he came down with pneumonia. He fell and broke his collarbone a few days before his death, and was hospitalized at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C..[4] He died in the hospital of cardiac arrest at 4:30 p.m. on August 14, 1992.[10][11]

He was interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland.[12] Sirica was survived by his wife, Lucile Camalier Sirica, and his three children, John Jr., Patricia, and Eileen.[11]

References

  1. ^ Barnes, Bart (August 15, 1992). "John Sirica Obituary". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 1, 2007. 
  2. ^ Barnes, Bart (August 15, 1992). "John Sirica Obituary". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  3. ^ Sirica, John (April 1, 1979). To Set the Record Straight: The Break-In, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc. ISBN 0393012344. 
  4. ^ a b "Sirica, 88, Dies; Persistent Judge In Fall of Nixon". The New York Times. August 15, 1992. 
  5. ^ "Sirica New House Probe Counsel". Broadcasting and Broadcast Advertising. Washington, D.C.: Broadcasting Publications, Inc. 26 (14): 14. April 3, 1944. 
  6. ^ Mason, Howard (November 4, 1973). "Sirica likes his country the way immigrants' sons do". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Review: To Set the Record Straight". KirkusReviews.com. Kirkus. Retrieved December 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ Muller, Henry. "John Stacks". Time. Time. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Sirica, John (April 1, 1979). To Set the Record Straight: The Break-In, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc. ISBN 0393012344. 
  10. ^ a b "Watergate Judge John Sirica Dies of Cardiac Arrest". Los Angeles Times. August 16, 1992. 
  11. ^ a b Barnes, Bart (August 15, 1992). "John Sirica, Watergate Judge, Dies". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ Franscell 2012, p. 92.

Bibliography

  • Franscell, Ron (2012). The Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Washington, D.C. Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 9780762773855. 
  • Sirica, John (April 1, 1979). To Set the Record Straight: The Break-In, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc. ISBN 0393012344. 

External links

  • Washington Post biography
  • "New York Times" biography
  • Time Magazine 1973 Man of the Year Biography
  • Watergate trial sketches, with Judge Sirica
  • John Sirica at Find a Grave
Legal offices
Preceded by
Henry Albert Schweinhaut
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
1957–1977
Succeeded by
Harold H. Greene
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