Leon Jaworski

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Leon Jaworski
Leon Jaworski.jpeg
Special Prosecutor for the
United States Department of Justice
In office
November 1, 1973 – October 25, 1974
Appointed by Robert Bork
Deputy Henry Ruth Jr.
Preceded by Archibald Cox
Succeeded by Henry Ruth Jr.
Personal details
Born
Leonidas Jaworski

(1905-09-19)September 19, 1905
Waco, Texas, U.S.
Died December 9, 1982(1982-12-09) (aged 77)
Wimberley, Texas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Education Baylor University (LLB)
George Washington University
(LLM)

Leonidas "Leon" Jaworski (September 19, 1905 – December 9, 1982) was an American attorney and law professor who served as the second special prosecutor during the Watergate Scandal. He was appointed to that position on November 1, 1973, soon after the Saturday Night Massacre of October 19–20, 1973, that resulted in the dismissal of his predecessor, Archibald Cox.

Background

Jaworski was born in Waco in central Texas. His mother, Marie (Mira), was an Austrian immigrant, and his father, Joseph Jaworski, was a Polish immigrant who was an evangelical minister.[1] He was named after ancient Spartan king Leonidas, and had a brother named Hannibal. An earnest student who studied at night by the light of oil lamps, he was a champion debater at Waco High School, and graduated from Baylor Law School and received his master's degree in law at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

Legal Career

In 1925, he became the youngest person ever admitted to the Texas bar. After starting out defending bootleggers during Prohibition, in 1931, he joined the Houston law firm that became Fulbright & Jaworski, one of the largest law firms in the United States. Jaworski served as President of both the Texas Bar Association (1962–1963) and the American Bar Association (1971–1972) prior to his appointment as Special Prosecutor. He was also President of the Houston Chamber of Commerce in 1960 and served on many corporate and civic boards. [2]

World War II

During World War II, Jaworski prosecuted the Johannes Kunze murder trial, where five German prisoners of war were accused of beating a fellow prisoner to death for being a "traitor".[3]

Fort Lawton court-martial

On the night of August 14, 1944, the Fort Lawton Riot between African-American U.S. soldiers and Italian prisoners of war at Fort Lawton near Seattle resulted in the lynching of Italian prisoner of war Guglielmo Olivotto. Thereafter, Jaworski prosecuted forty-three African-American soldiers, of whom twenty-eight were convicted, in what was the longest U.S. Army court-martial of World War II. In 2005 the U.S. Army Board for Correction of Military Records ordered all those convictions reversed on the grounds that Jaworski had committed "egregious error".

War crimes prosecutor

After the war, Jaworski served as a war crimes prosecutor in Germany. He was involved in a case where eleven German civilians were accused of murdering six American airmen forced down over Germany in the Rüsselsheim massacre. However, he declined to participate in the Nuremberg Trials on the grounds that the prosecution there was based on laws that did not exist at the time of the culpable acts.[4]

Political connections

He was a friend of fellow Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson, whom he successfully represented in a 1960 lawsuit filed to prevent Johnson from campaigning for the U.S. Senate against Republican John Tower at the same time that Johnson was running for Vice President of the United States on the John F. Kennedy ticket. However, Jaworski did not always support Democratic candidates. He supported Richard Nixon and voted for him twice, contributed to George H.W. Bush in his campaign for the presidency in 1980, and after Bush conceded the nomination he became treasurer of "Democrats for Reagan" during the 1980 general election campaign.

Having been convinced of his integrity, in 1980, Jaworski aided former Nixon staffer Egil "Bud" Krogh, whom he had sent to prison in 1973, in Krogh's request to be reinstated to the bar in Washington State.

Watergate

Jaworski's greatest fame came from his tenure as Watergate Special Prosecutor, when he assumed leadership of a protracted contest with President Nixon to secure evidence for the trial of former senior administration officials on charges relating to the Watergate cover-up.

Jaworski's predecessor as Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox, initially believed that only Nixon's aides had committed misconduct. Because of testimony from Nixon's deputy assistant Alexander Butterfield, Cox learned that Nixon had discussed the Watergate cover-up with the accused on numerous occasions and that these conversations had been recorded by the White House taping system. This discovery caused Cox to subpoena tapes of sixty-four presidential conversations as evidence for the upcoming criminal trial, but Nixon refused to release them, citing executive privilege.

Nixon offered Cox what became known as the Stennis Compromise: instead of supplying the tapes, he would supply Cox with transcripts of the recordings, subject to Nixon's discretion, and allow one senator to listen to the recordings and verify the transcripts' accuracy. Cox rejected the compromise, whereupon Nixon fired Cox in the Saturday Night Massacre.

Under extreme criticism for the firing, Nixon appointed Jaworski to replace Cox. Jaworski subsequently subpoenaed sixty-four taped conversations. Nixon appealed on two grounds: first, that the office of Special Prosecutor did not have the right to sue the office of President; and second, that the requested materials were privileged presidential conversations. Aware that an important constitutional issue was at stake, and unwilling to wait any longer, Jaworski asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, bypassing the Court of Appeals.

Nixon Oval Office meeting with H.R. Haldeman "Smoking Gun" Conversation June 23, 1972 Full Transcript

On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled that the Special Prosecutor did have the right to sue the President; and that the "generalized assertion of [executive] privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial". Nixon was forced to give the unedited tapes to Jaworski, including the so-called Smoking Gun Tape which included a compromising discussion of June 23, 1972. The President's remaining support waned, and he resigned on August 9, 1974.

In the summer of 1982, seven members of the grand jury choose to break their oath of silence because "they [were] convinced justice was not done" and discussed their 30-month service with the ABC news show "20/20." They stated they wanted to bring an indictment against Pres. Nixon after hearing the batch of tapes released the Summer of 1974. One grand juror stated that in a straw vote, "There were 19 people in the grand-jury room that particular day, and we all raised our hands about wanting an indictment -- all of us. And some of us raised both hands." However, Jaworski did not favor an indictment, even going so far as saying he would not sign one. In discussions with the grand jury, Jaworski cited "the trauma of the country," and prior to Nixon's resignation, the lack of precedent for indicting a sitting president.[5]

Later years

Jaworski resigned as special prosecutor on October 25, 1974, once the cover-up trial had begun, and a new special prosecutor was appointed. Jaworski was a close friend of Dean Ernest Raba of St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, where he taught as an adjunct professor for several years.

In 1977, Jaworski reluctantly agreed to serve as special counsel to a House Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether members had indirectly or directly accepted anything of value from the government of the Republic of Korea. The investigation, known as Koreagate or the Tongsun Park investigation, potentially involved hundreds of members of Congress and their families and associates, and included charges of bribery and influence-peddling via envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.

Jaworski died on December 9, 1982, while chopping wood at the Circle J Ranch near Wimberley in Hays County, Texas. His wife died in 1999.

Publications

References

  1. ^ Ely Jr., Editor, James W. (2008). The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 10: Law and Politics. The University of North Carolina Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-8078-3205-9. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  2. ^ https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fja31
  3. ^ *Tulsa World Centential
  4. ^ Jaworski, Leon. Confession and Avoidance: A Memoir. with Mickey Herskowitz. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979, pp. 112-116.
  5. ^ The Watergate grand jury tried relentlessly to indict Richard..., UPI Archives, June 17, 1982 [This date is the tenth anniversary of Watergate burglary].

Further reading

  • Doyle, James (1977). Not Above the Law: the Battles of Watergate Prosecutors Cox and Jaworski. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-03192-7.
  • Hamann, Jack (2005). On American Soil. Chapel Hill/New York: Algonquin Books. ISBN 0-295-98705-7.

External links

  • Jaworski on JRank
  • NNDB Profile of Leon Jaworski
  • Leon Jaworski at Find a Grave
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