Norton Statement on Death of Barbara Babcock, Legendary Lawyer: A Remembrance

May 13, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today issued the following remembrance upon learning of the passing of Barbara Babcock on April 18. Babcock had an unequaled career as a public official, law professor, and lawyer dedicated to justice for poor defendants.

“I have just learned of the passing of one of America’s great lawyers, Barbara Babcock,” Norton said. “She happened to be my law school roommate and one of my best friends since, but I had not seen her for several years. Any survey of her accomplishments as a lawyer would verify my evaluation of her life and accomplishments.

“Barbara spent her life as a criminal law practitioner and as a Stanford law professor transforming criminal law to more equitably treat people accused of crimes. She began in the District of Columbia, the region where she was born, remaking legal services for the poor by establishing the D.C. Public Defender Service, which she made into the premier agency in the country representing indigent criminal defendants, a reputation it has maintained ever since.

“Barbara led her public defenders in getting 12,000 Vietnam War protestors free from jail and from criminal arrest records following mass arrests found to be unconstitutional. Her reputation led President Carter to appoint Barbara to head the Justice Department’s largest division, the Civil Division. Her accomplishments in the law were enhanced by other breakthroughs – as one of the first female tenured law professors and her efforts at scholarship advancing women in the legal profession. Barbara Babcock’s career earned her reputation as a legendary lawyer. I will always remember Barbara and our lasting friendship.”