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


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.


A Memorial Service for Judge Abner J. Mikva
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Former colleagues and friends of Judge Abner J. Mikva are celebrating his life of public service on Wednesday, November 16, 2016. Judge Mikva served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1979 until 1994, and as Chief Judge of that Court from 1991 until his retirement in 1994.

The Memorial will begin at 4 p.m. at:

The National Education Association
1201 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Everyone is welcome to attend. Please RSVP by November 11 to sandy@mikvachallenge.org and include your full name and the names of any guests who will be attending with you.


Announcing the Eighth Annual Judge Thomas A.Flannery Lecture

Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States,
will deliver the Eighth Annual Judge Thomas A.Flannery Lecture
Additional Remarks will be presented by Avis E. Buchanan,
Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.
Ceremonial Courtroom, United States Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

A reception will follow in the Courthouse Atrium


Two judicial portraits were recently presented to the U.S. District Court and now appear in the Society's on-line portrait exhibit. Take a look: Judge Ricardo Urbina's portrait was painted by Bo Bartlett; Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle's portrait was painted by Bradley Stevens.


J Skelly Wright Helen Wright recalls J. Skelly Wright and his life as a district Judge in New Orleans and then on the D.C. Circuit. Read more of his oral history.


Judge Bryant The Historical Society has entered a contract with award-winning author Tonya Bolden to write a biography of former Chief Judge William B. Bryant targeted toward young adults.

Born in Wetumka, Alabama, in 1911, and raised in segregated Washington, D.C., Judge Bryant faced the barriers and challenges erected to keep African-Americans from pursuing higher education. Undaunted, Judge Bryant applied to law school, ignoring warnings from family and the community about the dearth of jobs available to black attorneys as well as the inability of likely clientele to pay legal fees.

Judge Bryant worked his way through Howard University School of Law to become one of the District's top criminal lawyers before President Johnson named him to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia where he served for 40 years. He is an excellent model for today's youth.

Following a broad-reaching search for a well-qualified author, the Society selected Tonya Bolden to bring Judge Bryant to life for high school students. Ms. Bolden has authored 30 books for children and young people, including her most recent book, How to Build a Museum, the story of the creation of the "magnificent and monumental" National Museum of African-American History and Culture.


Bruce Terris Read Bruce Terris's oral history as he talks about his experiences with Solicitor General Archibald Cox and working with Attorney General Robert Kennedy on his only Supreme Court argument.


Judge Gasch Read Judge Oliver Gasch's oral history and learn about Antonin Scalia's pioneering use of the personal computer to write the Gramm-Rudman opinion in 1985.