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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

JUL
17

Bail Reform
Articles by lawyers on matters that would later come before them as judges and justices can provide insight into their judicial rulings. In 1966, future judge Patricia M. Wald and co-author Daniel J. Freed wrote on the Bail Reform Act of 1966 in an article reprinted in the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Three years earlier, future Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas and co-author Edward L. Carey addressed the issue of bail reform in "Equal Justice under Law" in a 1963 issue of the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.





JUL
16

The Historical Society has retained Small Bytes LLC to develop and deliver a new WordPress website on the Society's domain www.dcchs.org.

JUL
09

The Society's latest newsletter highlights the release of Robert S. Bennett's oral history; introduces the members of the Society's Executive Committee, the recently selected Board members, and newly trained Oral History interviewers; and announces the Society's October 25 reception for law clerks and their judges and more.








JUN
28

The portrait of Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., was presented to the U.S. District Court on June 22, 2018. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell presided at the ceremony. Take a look at Judge Kennedy's portrait which appears in the Society's on-line portrait exhibit.





JUN
25

Judge Prettyman on Administrative Law

In his article "Administrative Law - Problem Child" in the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, Court of Appeals Judge E. Barrett Prettyman in 1944 advanced the decidedly non-judicial proposition that many problems in administrative law can be solved by cooperation between the bar and the agencies.



JUN
18

In Robert Bennett's long, distinguished resume filled with many litigation highlights, one entry doubtless stands out: the representation of the President of the United States. Bennett's counsel was sought by President Bill Clinton in the lawsuit filed against him by Paula Jones. Despite the obviously unique, challenging, and public nature of the assignment, for Bennett the matter was fundamentally no different than any other. "I treated him like I would treat any other client in terms of a case. And I didn't say, 'Gee, this is the President, I have to treat him differently.' I did not treat him differently - [except] I began every conversation with 'Mr. President.'" Still, for Bennett, "[i]t was very exciting. I'd have to pinch myself sometimes. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn."

Read Bennett's oral history taken by David E. Birenbaum and follow his path from Brooklyn to college and law school at Georgetown where he worked, on the side, for legendary attorney and FDR advisor Tommy 'The Cork" Corcoran to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington to private practice.












JUN
07

Judge Greene on Riots

Harold Greene, Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of General Sessions and later Federal District Court Judge, remarked on the 1968 riots in Washington D. C. to the Judicial Conference of Indiana in this reprint in the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Judge Greene begins by recounting how he and a clerk were almost engulfed by rioters near the Courthouse and then his duty, as judge, to deal with arrested rioters. He compares those events with the civil disorders connected to the Poor People's March later that same year. He argues that a judge should not distinguish between violations of law committed in a civil disorder from those committed as a principled act of civil disobedience.









MAY
31

Judge Curran on Crime

In this 1969 article reprinted in the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, Judge Edward Curran, Chief Judge of the District Court, outlined his views on crime in the District of Columbia. In it, he looks at the causes and victims of crimes as well as the need for fairness in the administration of justice.


MAY
23

See the list of completed oral histories taken by the Society and their availability.


MAY
18

Judge Richard J. Leon's portrait, painted by artist Michael Shane Neal, was presented to the U.S. District Court on May 11, 2018. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell presided at the ceremony. Judge Leon's portrait appears in the Historical Society's on-line portrait exhibit.







MAY
15

Judge Richey on Prison Reform

Federal District Court Judge Charles Richey addressed the need for prison reform in an article by the same name in a 1973 article for the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. In it, he briefly discusses the history of prison reform before turning to then-pending proposals.