Interview with Steven S. Reed, April 30, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:01 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Well, thank you Steve for once again sitting down with me. Um, this is an oral history interview with Steven S. Reed the former United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Anu Kasarabada introduces Steven S. Reed and outlines the major subjects of the interview.

00:00:46 - Changes in prosecutor role over time

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Partial Transcript: Alright, so, um--well, you were in the role--you were a prosecutor for six and a half years?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about the changes in the office during his six years in the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District. He mentions changes regarding the War on Drugs and the transition from a Democratic to a Republican presidential administration during his final months in office.

Keywords: Clinton administration; Federal prosecutors; Prescription fraud

Subjects: United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District); War on Drugs

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
00:10:45 - Minorities in the U.S. Attorney's Office

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Partial Transcript: Were there other line prosecutors that were people of color?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about minority representation in the Western District offices, and the relative representation of these groups with the public they served.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; Race relations; Representation

Subjects: Louisville (Ky.); Minorities; Paducah (Ky.); Representative government and representation; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Paducah (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.086556, -88.599777
00:26:06 - Becoming United States Attorney

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Partial Transcript: Um, let's talk about moving from being a prosecutor into becoming United States Attorney.

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about his decision to apply for the U.S. Attorney position in the Western District, including his talks with Judge Johnstone before doing so. He also mentions the uncertainties inherent in the position and his talks with Attorney General Janet Reno about them.

Keywords: Judge Ed Johnstone; Prosecution; U.S. Attorney

Subjects: Reno, Janet; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. Department of Justice

GPS: Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
Map Coordinates: 38.893299, -77.025015
00:41:56 - Meetings with politicians

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Partial Transcript: So at this time, you know, the, the president is a Democrat, but the, um, the Kentucky senators are Republicans.

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about his meetings with Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Jim Bunning, and other politicians during his confirmation process.

Keywords: Nominations; Politicians; Senators; U.S. Attorney

Subjects: Bunning, Jim, 1931-2017; Louisville (Ky.); McConnell, Mitch; United States Attorney’s Office

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
00:47:44 - Continuing the nomination process

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Partial Transcript: So what, uh--where does the process go from there for you?

Segment Synopsis: Reed describes the vetting process he went through with the White House and the Senate.

Keywords: Background checks; Prosecution; U.S. Attorney; Vetting

Subjects: McConnell, Mitch; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District); White House

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
00:52:58 - Uncertainty of U.S. Attorney position

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Partial Transcript: Did you have any qualms about the fact that, you know, this was--you're nearing the end of, um, the Clinton presidency...

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about the uncertainty that comes with accepting the U.S. Attorney position near the end of a presidential term. He grappled with the decision as a father to young children, but ultimately came to the conclusion that achieving his goal was worth the increased risk.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; Job security; Presidential terms; U.S. Attorney; Western District

Subjects: Clinton, Bill, 1946-; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
00:56:16 - First weeks as U.S. Attorney

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Partial Transcript: So, okay, you get the position.

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about the early stages of his tenure as U.S. Attorney. He describes his refusal to get his office renovated, and his appointment of Kent Wicker, his co-clerk, as his first assistant.

Keywords: Federal allowances; Federal prosecutors; Judge Ed Johnstone; Kent Wicker; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Louisville (Ky.); United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:00:59 - Establishing priorities

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Partial Transcript: Being U.S. Attorney seems--it's a primarily managerial or administrative role, right?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about his transition from a role based on prosecuting cases personally to a more managerial role. He says that he embraced the opportunity to establish policies and priorities. He talks about cases of cross-county spousal abuse in particular. He also mentions the establishment of a staffed office in Paducah to more adequately represent the needs of that community legally.

Keywords: Domestic abuse; Federal prosecutors; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office; Violence Against Women Act

Subjects: McConnell, Mitch; Paducah (Ky.); Reno, Janet; United States Attorney’s Office

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:10:19 - Working with the Department of Justice

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Partial Transcript: Um, were there other ways that--I guess, in, in what other ways was, uh, the DOJ really involved?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about the ways that he interacted with the Department of Justice as a U.S. Attorney. He comments on instances where he'd notified the Department before prosecuting, such as cases against prominent political figures.

Keywords: Department of Justice (DOJ); Federal prosecutors; Judges; Political figures; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Judges--United States; Probation officers; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. Department of Justice; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:20:01 - Interacting with Western District judges

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Partial Transcript: So, when the judges have, you know, particular, uh, problems with, um, the prosecutors...

Segment Synopsis: Reed describes his relationship with the judges on the Western District Court as a U.S. Attorney. He describes the change in his outlook towards some of the judges as his position changed.

Keywords: Courtroom relationships; Federal prosecutors; Judges; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Judges--United States; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:26:22 - Interacting with the media

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Partial Transcript: Um, speaking of tough questions, were there any particularly tough questions that, um, you encountered from the press during your tenure?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about his relationship with the press, and how he handled troublesome questions and interactions from the media. He comments on the unconscious biases the media can introduce regarding trials.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; Juries; Media; Public perception; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Bias (Law); Evidence; Jury; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:29:52 - Role of experience as assistant U.S. attorney

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Partial Transcript: So you were--you came up through the ranks, so to speak.

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about how his prior role as an assistant U.S. Attorney affected relationships in his new position as top prosecutor in the Western District.

Keywords: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Federal prosecutors; Kent Wicker; Public prosecutors; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Court administration; District courts--United States—Administration; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:36:14 - Defendants pleading guilty

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Partial Transcript: So, I'm going to jump--I'm going to switch subjects here just for a quick second.

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about the phenomenon of people pleading guilty, despite actually being innocent, due to societal pressures.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; Guilty pleas; Sentencing; U.S. Attorney; Wrongful imprisonment

Subjects: Court decisions and opinions; Pleas of guilty; Sentences (Criminal procedure)--United States; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:40:39 - Day-to-day activities as U.S. Attorney

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Partial Transcript: What else went into your day as--when you were U.S. Attorney? Like what, what, what was a typical day like?

Segment Synopsis: Reed describes daily activities as U.S. Attorney, and a policy initiative he developed regarding public education on methamphetamine.

Keywords: Drug education; Federal prosecutors; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: District courts--United States—Administration; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:45:03 - Reed's views on the U.S. Attorney role

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Partial Transcript: Did you like being U.S. Attorney?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about his feelings on being U.S. Attorney. He says that enjoyed the ability to directly influence the application of justice. He then comments on the challenges involved with the position.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; Prosecution; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Judicial administration--United States; Public prosecutors; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
01:47:01 - Nearing the end of Reed's tenure

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Partial Transcript: So two years, 2000 election happens.

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks the urgency he felt due to the presidential election that began soon after he was confirmed as U.S. Attorney. He describes his involvement in championing the Violence against Women Act and his rationale for doing so. He also speaks about one particular case involving the death penalty.

Keywords: 2000 presidential election; Child exploitation; Death penalty; U.S. Attorney; Violence Against Women Act

Subjects: Bush, George W. (George Walker), 1946-; Capital punishment; Clinton, Bill, 1946-; Presidents--Election; Reno, Janet; Technology

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
02:01:38 - Relationships with other U.S. Attorneys

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Partial Transcript: I'm also wondering, you know, um, do you meet with other U.S. Attorneys around the country?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about interactions with other U.S. Attorneys, particularly in the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; Prosecution; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Jurisdiction; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Eastern District); United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
02:03:20 - Last months as U.S. Attorney

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Partial Transcript: So, um, what are those last few months for you like in the position?

Segment Synopsis: Reed talks about his final days as U.S. Attorney and speaks of his hope that he had increased confidence in the actions of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; U.S. Attorney; Western District

Subjects: United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498
02:04:43 - Last memories of the Western District Court

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Partial Transcript: Any last thoughts you have about, uh, the Western District?

Segment Synopsis: Reed reiterates how memorable it was for him to see Nelson Mandela address a joint session of Congress. He also shares a memory of watching the University of Kentucky men's basketball team play in the NCAA Final Four game with Judge John Heyburn and his wife, Dr. Martha Heyburn.

Keywords: Federal prosecutors; Judge Heyburn; U.S. Attorney; U.S. Attorney’s Office

Subjects: Heyburn, John G. (John Gilpin), 1948-2015; Judges--United States; United States Attorney’s Office; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.246879, -85.762498