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Damon Jerome Keith (born July 4, 1922) is a Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.



Keith grew up in Detroit, where he graduated from Northwestern High School in 1939; Keith then moved on to West Virginia State College (B.A. 1943), Howard University School of Law (J.D. 1949), and Wayne State University Law School (L.L.M. 1956).

Keith's wife, Dr. Rachel Boone Keith, and he were married in 1953 and had three daughters. She died on January 4, 2007.

In 1964, Keith was elected co-chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission with John Feikens, and was a key player in the tumultuous times following the Detroit race riots.

In 1967, Senator Philip Hart suggested Keith to President Lyndon Johnson, who nominated Keith to his seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Keith eventually rose to Chief Judge of the District Court. And in 1977 he was nominated to the Sixth Circuit by President Jimmy Carter where he has remained.

Keith is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans.

In 2008, Keith received an honorary doctorate in law from Harvard University.

Notable Cases

In United States v. Sinclair (1971), Keith famously ruled that Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell had to disclose the transcripts of illegal wiretaps that Mitchell had authorized without first obtaining a search warrant. Keith's decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's landmark decision in United States v. U.S. District Court (1972) (also known as "the Keith case") contributed in 1978 to the president signing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). That decision is commemorated as a "Michigan Legal Milestone" called "the Uninvited Ear" and erected by the State Bar of Michigan.[1]


He has been called a father-figure to current Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, who once served as his law clerk, and administered the oath of office to her in both 2002 and 2006.

In addition to Governor Granholm, other former law clerks to Judge Keith include: Lani Guinier, first African-American woman to gain tenure at Harvard Law School; The Honorable Eric L. Clay, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; David Simmons, Chief Administrative Law Judge at the DC Commission on Human Rights; Constance L. Rice, prominent civil rights activist and co-founder of the Advancement Project; Robert H. Giles, Assistant Prosecutor in Oakland County, Michigan; Jocelyn F. Benson, an Assistant Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School and 2010 candidate for Michigan Secretary of State; and Derrick Lopez, an educator who now serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools with the Pittsburgh Public Schools.


External links



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