Annual Gedid Lecture Looks at Judicial Papers of Federal Judges
Brent Johnson and Web Editor - Published: April 7, 2014
On Thursday, April 3rd, Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus hosted Professor Kathryn A. Watts, the Garvey Schubert Barer Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law, for the 6th Annual John L. Gedid Lecture.

Professor Watts focused her remarks, “Judges and Their Papers,” on the working papers of federal judges and indicated that such documents should be public property. To this point in history, Congress has been silent on what should happen to the memos, draft opinions, and other documents that go into the behind-the-scenes history of a Court’s opinion. Such material has traditionally been treated as the private property of each individual judge.

Following the death of Supreme Court Justices or other ranking federal judges, some collections have been given to libraries or to surviving family members. Individual judges have even destroyed such collection. Watts argued that this treatment of Judges’ working papers is wrong and at odds with the treatment of Presidential papers. Following the Nixon administration, Congress deemed presidential papers to be public property.

Private ownership, stated Watts, does not lend itself to a coordinated policy of how and when such papers should be released. She proposed that a better solution would be to have the judiciary take an active role in shifting these documents to public ownership so that valuable pieces of judicial history could be preserved.

Kathryn A. Watts joined the University of Washington faculty in 2007 and teaches in the areas of administrative law, constitutional law and Supreme Court decision-making. She graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University School of Law, where she earned the John Paul Stevens Prize for Academic Excellence for graduating first in her class and the Raoul Berger Prize for her senior research paper on the history of general rulemaking grants. She clerked for Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court. Her research focuses on interactions between federal courts and other governmental actors, with an emphasis on the judiciary and administrative agencies.

The Gedid Lecture series honors John L. Gedid, one of the founders of the Harrisburg campus and the first vice-dean. He also founded the school's Law & Government Institute. The series showcases the work of nationally recognized young scholars much in the same way Professor Gedid has fostered, encouraged and applauded the work of those who joined the school he helped to found.