Judge Thomas A. Flannery, the District’s U.S. attorney in the late 1960s who went on to serve for more than 30 years on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, died Thursday morning, according to a court spokesman. He was 89.
Flannery assumed senior status in 1985. Here is an interview the judge gave to the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit in Feb. 1992 in which he describes his experiences growing up in the District (he lived about four blocks from the federal courthouse), serving as an intelligence officer in Europe during WWII and rising through the ranks in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And, of course, he discusses his time on the bench, during which he heard hundreds of cases, including the controversial civil rights trials in North Carolina involving the Ku Klux Klan (Chief Justice Warren Burger asked him to parachute in, after the local judges recused themselves) and the Exxon Corporation oil-price scamming case in the 80s. The government won, and Flannery ordered the company to pay back $1.5 billion in overcharges.
Flannery graduated from Columbus Law School, now part of Catholic University, in 1940, and was drafted to serve in the Air Force in early 1942. Upon his return from the war, he joined the Justice Department in the Lands Division. He was hired into the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1950, which he described as “the turning point in my legal career.” He left the office in 1962, taking a job at Hamilton and Hamilton. He was named U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in 1969. and two years later, he was nominated to the federal bench.
"Judge Flannery was a highly respected judge of this Court and a beloved member of the Court family. He will be missed greatly," said Acting Chief Judge James Robertson.