The Watergate Girl: Joining the Team

Posted on March 11, 2021

by Jill Wine-Banks

Obstruction of justice, the specter of impeachment, sexism at work, surprising revelations: Jill Wine-Banks takes us inside her trial by fireplace in The Watergate Lady as a Watergate prosecutor. Learn an excerpt under.

Watergate Prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks (Photograph by Julie Kaplan Pictures)

Like the remainder of the nation, I’d been gripped by the Watergate scandal from the second—lower than a 12 months earlier—when information broke of a gaggle of males in enterprise fits and surgical gloves, carrying fancy cameras and hundred-dollar payments, who had been caught breaking into the Democratic Celebration’s headquarters. I’d adopted the beautiful reporting on the case by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, of the Washington Submit, with awe and a contact of wistfulness. My authentic ambition had been to be a journalist, and I nonetheless considered information reporters as shining protectors of democracy. I’d been a information junkie for so long as I may keep in mind. I majored in journalism on the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and because the chapter president of my sorority, Iota Alpha Pi, I began a rotation among the many freshman pledges: each evening at dinner one among them needed to get up and ship a abstract of the day’s Headlines.

The pioneering and glamorous TV journalist Nancy Dickerson was my idol. I met her when she spoke to the group of freshmen being honored for our achievement in campus actions. Firstly of her profession within the early Fifties, Dickerson had turned down a job as the ladies’s editor of the Washington Every day Information as a result of, as she wrote in her memoir Amongst These Current, she wished to alter the world and it was not possible to do this writing “purchasing and meals columns.” She went on to cowl Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I, too, wished to keep away from the so-called ladies’s pages. Earlier than assembly her, a lot of the working ladies I knew had been lecturers and social employees. Dickerson made me see different potentialities.

I bought the concept a legislation diploma could be a stepping-stone to severe journalism from a e book I learn for a political science class, Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis of the New York Instances. Once I learn on the again of the e book—a couple of landmark case involving the rights of defendants to counsel—that Lewis had attended Harvard Legislation College I made a decision, not very logically, that legislation college would assist me in journalism, too.

I hated my first 12 months at Columbia Legislation and took a go away to attempt working in journalism. To some extent, I used to be proper about legislation college serving to me obtain that objective: I used to be employed to put in writing a political publication and assist foyer the US Congress on behalf of the Meeting of Captive European Nations (ACEN), an anti-communist coalition representing 9 nations that had come beneath Soviet domination after World Struggle II. The work wasn’t as stimulating as I’d hoped—although it might have made me an oblique rent of the CIA, as funding for the ACEN got here from the Free Europe Committee, which was later revealed to be a CIA entrance group. Additionally, I don’t like leaving something unfinished, so after a 12 months I made a decision to return to Columbia.

On my return, I warmed to the legislation, not less than the advocacy a part of it. Although I by no means excelled in tutorial authorized research, I gained the nationwide moot courtroom competitors for finest temporary and thrived in a course on trial follow, the place I found I had a expertise for pondering on my toes and for organizing and constructing the proof that favored my shopper.

Profitable circumstances in the actual world thrilled me. I beloved my job on the Division of Justice. Nonetheless, when James Vorenberg known as, I used to be very . In a single day, I weighed the professionals and cons. The Watergate break-in might be the beginning of a spectacular political crime reaching all the way in which to the president, or it may develop into nothing greater than an odd housebreaking. However even when the investigation fizzled, my participation would probably quantity to not more than a minor disruption within the circulate of my profession, and the timing was proper for making a change. For aspiring trial legal professionals like me, it was widespread to work on the Justice Division for 5 years to get nice courtroom expertise, after which to make the transition to personal follow. After 5 years, the legislation of diminishing returns kicked in. For those who waited too lengthy to affix a agency, the companions would see you as overqualified to be an affiliate.

By morning, I’d determined. I wished the job as an assistant Watergate particular prosecutor.

Copyright © 2021 by Jill Wine-Banks

Jill Wine-Banks is an MSNBC authorized analyst, showing recurrently on the community’s primetime and daytime reveals. She started her profession as an organized crime prosecutor on the U.S. Division of Justice, which led to her choice as one among three assistant Watergate particular prosecutors within the obstruction of justice trial towards President Nixon’s prime aides. She has additionally served as normal counsel of the U.S. Military, solicitor normal and deputy legal professional normal of the state of Illinois, and chief working officer of the American Bar Affiliation. In every case, she was the primary girl to carry the place. A graduate of the College of Illinois and the Columbia Legislation College, she lives in Chicago.

Tags: Jill Wine-Banks, supreme courtroom, The Watergate Lady, Watergate

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