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Louis F. Oberdorfer

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Louis F. Oberdorfer

Louis Falk Oberdorfer (February 21, 1919 – February 21, 2013) was a United States Supreme Court clerk, attorney, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Tax Division, civil rights worker, and district court judge.

Early life and education

Oberdorfer was born in Birmingham, Alabama to A. Leo Oberdorfer, an attorney and author, and Stella Falk Oberdorfer. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1939. He then attended Yale Law School from 1939 until fall 1941, when he was drafted to serve in the United States Army. After four years of military service during World War II, he returned to Yale and graduated in 1946. Oberdorfer served as a clerk for Justice Hugo L. Black, an Alabaman who was a friend and law colleague of Oberdorfer's father, in the Court's October Term 1946 (1946-1947).

Professional career

After working as Justice Black's sole law clerk during 1946-1947, Oberdorfer went into private practice in Washington D.C. with the firm Paul, Weiss, Wharton & Garrison as a tax attorney until his friend and law school classmate Deputy Attorney General Byron White asked him to join the Robert Kennedy Justice Department in 1961. He was appointed Assistant Attorney General, Tax Division but, because the division was largely well-organized and self-sustaining, he focused his energies on many legal issues, particularly civil rights.

He returned to private practice in 1965 with Wilmer, Cutler, & Pickering. Oberdorfer remained friendly with the Kennedy family and personally represented Jacqueline Kennedy in a 1966-1967 public legal battle with historian William Manchester over the ownership of interview materials and their publication in his book The Death of a President about the John F. Kennedy assassination. In 1968, Oberdorfer was elected co-chairman of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He served as president of the District of Columbia Bar Association in 1977-1978. When Griffin Bell became attorney general in 1977, Oberdorfer was considered for the deputy position, but was instead appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. As a judge, he opposed mandatory sentencing policies, especially with respect to drug offenders. He assumed status as a senior judge in 1992. He also taught part-time at Georgetown Law Center from 1993 until his death.


Oberdorfer died on his 94th birthday, February 21, 2013, according to an announcement to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.[1]



  • Federal Judicial Center.
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