The American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights and the ABA’s International Criminal Court (ICC) Project join in expressing great sadness at the passing of the Hon. Patricia Wald, a long-time member of the ICC Project’s Board of Advisors. Judge Wald’s extraordinary career as a lawyer and federal judge was grounded on protecting the human rights and human dignity of every person and the legal profession’s responsibility in serving the public interest.
Throughout her life Patricia Wald was a fighter, for fairness and justice for all. Her exemplary career as lawyer and judge spanned early career battles to protect the legal rights of disadvantaged persons and under-served populations, and later as a pioneer in becoming the first woman to serve on and as Chief Judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Judge Wald participated in deciding more than 800 cases—the more noteworthy of which protected constitutional rights and civil liberties, and demonstrated her integrity and faith in the law’s importance in future societal progression. She had intellectual prowess and was generous with her legal and judicial expertise, sharing and exchanging her experience with judiciaries within and outside the U.S., and particularly with young lawyers. In 2008 she received the American Bar Association Medal (the ABA’s highest honor) for “exceptionally distinguished service to the cause of American jurisprudence.” President Obama described her as “one of the most respected appellate judges of her generation” when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Judge Wald also demonstrated her passion for justice internationally as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), where she brought essential courtroom experience and participated in formative decisions that included that Tribunal’s historic first conviction for genocide as well as recognitions of gender-based crimes. Far beyond her time on the ICTY bench, Judge Wald remained an ardent proponent of international criminal law and its importance in the elimination of impunity, accountability for atrocity crimes, and the achievement of global justice. These values were evident in her strong support for and advice to the ABA’s ICC Project, as well as the many initiatives to which she provided counsel, from criminal justice to civil liberties oversight. She was a staunch advocate of women’s inclusion and empowerment through the law, and her inspirational impact on the law as lawyer, judge and role model for generations of lawyers is unmistakable. Throughout her life she possessed great grace, a warm personality, a respectful and joyful sense of humor, and a generous spirit.
Judge Wald’s life-long passion for justice, her unwavering belief in the law’s importance in redressing injustices, and her good judgment will continue to inspire and motivate the work of lawyers and judges in the United States and abroad. She will be greatly missed. Godspeed, Patricia Wald.
- Michael S. Greco, ABA’s ICC Project Chair