Is This the Greatest Judge You've Never Heard Of?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 29, 2017 | Last updated on February 06, 2023

The legal profession is full of lionized legal minds. Most anyone who attended law school could rattle off a quick canon of great jurists: John Marshall, Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Clarence Thomas, etc. But that list may be missing at least one name, the Sixth Circuit's Judge Damon Keith, who, at 94 years old, still serves on the bench. A new documentary, "Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith" shows Keith as both a civil rights hero and a significant legal mind.

Meet Judge Keith

The film tells the tale of Judge Keith's childhood, growing up in Detroit during the height of segregation. He went on to attend West Virginia State College, then earn his J.D. from Howard University and an LLM from Wayne State. He became a civil rights leader and was appointed as a U.S. district court judge in 1967. Ten years later, President Jimmy Carter bumped him up to the Sixth Circuit. Though Keith is not a household name, he's decided several noteworthy cases, including United States v. Sinclair, ruling that Nixon's attorney general had to disclose transcripts from illegal wiretaps. That case made it to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the government could not wiretap citizens without a warrant. The case is known as "the Keith case."

Walking With Judge Keith

"Walk With Me," describes Keith's life as "the greatest story you never heard." The film covers Judge Keith's civil rights struggles, his groundbreaking cases, and his impact on Michigan and beyond. Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith Official Extended Theatrical Trailer from The Damon Doc on Vimeo. The film is currently screening in Cleveland, as part of the 41st Cleveland International Film Festival and will play throughout New England this April. If you can't make it to Vermont or Ohio, though, you'll have to hope for a wider release. Meanwhile, Judge Keith's time on the bench isn't over yet. He may be nearing his centennial birthday, but he still hears the occasional case. Related Resources:
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