Legends of the White Collar Bar: Sidley Austin’s Tom Green
By David Stout | November 14, 2021 10:00 am

The trial was dramatic even before a defense lawyer collapsed in the courtroom.

When Thomas C. Green tells the story, the years seem to fall away. The time was late 1974, and the scene was the Watergate cover-up trial presided over by U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica in Washington D.C.

Green was assisting his friend and mentor David G. Bress in representing Robert Mardian, one of the five defendants. One day without warning, Bress, who was in his mid-60’s, sprawled across a table, obviously seriously ill.

Bress’s collapse prompted a quick conference in the judge’s chambers. Green half-expected that Mardian’s case would be severed from the main trial, to be retried later.  Moreover, prosecutor James Neal said, he had no objection to such a move, given that Mardian no longer had the lawyer of his choice.

But Sirica was unpersuaded. “Mr. Green has tried a number of cases in front of me,” the judge said, making it clear that he had been favorably impressed.

That moment was a big step in Tom Green’s journey to becoming a partner at Sidley Austin and a nationally known trial lawyer who specializes in white-collar defense work.

Although Mardian, a former Assistant Attorney General, was convicted along with former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and top Nixon aides H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, his conviction was eventually overturned by an appeals court in part because Mardian’s right to have the counsel of his choice had not been observed.

Most of the main players in the Watergate drama are gone now, including David Bress. His collapse was a prelude to the illness that would kill him less than two years later.

And while Green has represented members of Congress, executive branch officials, state governors and other politicians, he doesn’t expect the Watergate cover-up trial to be surpassed: “It was the most amazing criminal prosecution ever in the United States.”

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