The D.C. Circuit is one of the thirteen federal court circuits and consists of the U.S. District Court (a federal trial court) and the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Circuit covers the smallest geographic area of any of the circuits - its jurisdiction extends only to Washington D.C. - but it historically has had an outsized influence on the law as a frequent forum for litigation involving federal government agencies. The Historical Society, which was started in 1990, brings the Circuit's rich legacy to life through articles and oral histories, reenactments, displays and publications, archival preservation, and a mock appellate argument program for area high school students.

What's New


Judge Raymond Randolph on Clerking
Read the oral history of Judge Raymond Randolph as he remembers clerking for Judge Friendly, writing the brief on Bivens, and his many Supreme Court arguments.


Judge Harry Covington On display in the Courthouse: The Portrait of Judge J. Harry Covington
J. Harry Covington, lawmaker, jurist, and founder of one of the oldest D.C. law firms, was born in 1870 on Maryland's eastern shore. He studied law at the University of Pennsylvania and upon graduation in 1894 entered private practice in Easton, Maryland. After running unsuccessfully for state senate, he won a seat in the U.S. Congress in 1908 representing Maryland's first District. He resigned from Congress when President Woodrow Wilson nominated him to the United States District Court in 1914. In 1917, President Wilson asked Judge Covington to spearhead a special investigation into the International Workers of the World (IWW), a union under suspicion for its socialist, radical, and suspected anarchist elements that Wilson believed was a threat to the American war effort. Federal attention to these so-called Wobblies, including Judge Covington’s investigation, culminated in simultaneous raids in two dozen cities nationwide in September 1917. Judge Covington resigned from the bench in 1918 to co-found Covington & Burling on January 1, 1919. He died in 1942, and the law firm that bears his name today consists of more than 800 lawyers. Learn more!


Save the Date: The Reporter's Privilege and National Security

February 14, 2017     4:30 p.m.
E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse

The Reporter's Privilege and National Security:
The Case of In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller

Judges David S. Tatel and David B. Sentelle, two members of the original panel, will preside over a re-enactment of the argument in In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller. Laura R. Handman of Davis Wright Tremaine will represent Ms. Miller, and Amy Jeffress of Arnold & Porter, the Government. The program will explore if the right balance has been struck between the public's right to know and the Government's need to secure information in the national interest.

Professor David Pozen, Columbia Law School, will set the stage for the program (see the piece in the December 19 & 26, 2016, issue of The New Yorker discussing his article in the Harvard Law Review on "leaks"). Former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who led DOJ's 2014 revision of the rules for subpoenaing reporters to testify before grand juries, will join Professor Pozen and our two advocates as participants in a panel discussion following the re-enactment. Society Board member Stuart Taylor will moderate the discussion.


Newsletter Read the Society's Newsletter
Read the Society's latest newsletter to learn about the Society's sponsorship of a biography of Chief Judge William B. Bryant that is being written for young adults by award-winning author Tonya Bolden, Judge Robert L. Wilkins' involvement in efforts to create the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, the Society's upcoming programs, and much more.


Robert L Wilkins Robert L. Wilkins , Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Advocate for a National Museum for African-American History and Culture
When efforts to create a national museum dedicated to African-American history and culture seemed hopelessly stalled, after decades of effort, Robert Wilkins saw a way forward. Quitting his job in the Public Defenders Office so that he could dedicate all of his time and energies to making the museum "happen," he researched, maneuvered, and ultimately joined forces with Senators Sam Brownback and Max Cleland and Long Road to Hard Truth Congressmen John Lewis and J.C. Watts and others, helping to get a Commission established to develop an actionable plan. Joining the Commission, he served as the Chair of its Site and Building Committee, which fought successfully to have the Museum placed on the national Mall "in America's front yard." Read more about Judge Wilkins' efforts on our web site and in his book, Long Road to Hard Truth.


Law Clerk Reception Celebrating our Law Clerks and their Judges
A talk by former Solicitor General Paul Clement - in addition to the law clerks themselves - was the highlight of the Society's third reception for more than 300 current and former law clerks of the D.C. Circuit Courts who gathered in the William Bryant Atrium to renew acquaintances and reminisce on November 3, 2016. Mr. Clement, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, shared his memories and described formative experiences Law Clerk Reception while serving as law clerk first for Judge Laurence Silberman and later for Justice Antonin Scalia. Chief Judge Merrick Garland welcomed the crowd, Judge Brett Kavanaugh introduced Mr. Clement, and Chief Judge Beryl Howell thanked everyone for attending, urging clerks to join the Historical Society and participate in its programs.


Reggie B. Walton The portrait of Judge Reggie B. Walton was presented to the U. S. District Court on November 4, 2016, and now appears in the Society's on-line portrait exhibit. The portrait was painted by Bradley Stevens.


E. Barrett Prettyman In Memoriam
E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., President (2001 - 2003) and Chair (2003 - 2008) of the Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit, died Friday, November 4, 2016. The following statement by Stephen J. Immelt, Partner and CEO of Barrett's law firm, HoganLovells, elegantly describes the man we knew and loved.


Roger E Zuckerman Selling Shoes, Selling Justice. If someone should ask, 100 years from now, what the phrase "Washington lawyer" meant, they surely will be referred to Roger Zuckerman's oral history. If it were a movie, it would be called a classic. Trial practice, he says, is like selling shoes only you're selling justice. Zuckerman has a gift for relating "war stories" from his career and yet seeing himself and the Washington legal scene as future historians may. He has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney, white-collar crime lawyer, sole practitioner, law firm founder (Zuckerman Spaeder), rain-maker, and managing partner. He talks among other things about hostile judges, mock juries, branch offices, his criminal client friends (only some were accused of murder), the excitement of holding a client's life in his hands, and betting-the-ranch cases. But rather than waiting 100 years, this oral history might best be read before going to law school.