The D.C. Circuit was created in 1801 and consists of the two federal courts for the District of Columbia: the U.S. District Court
(a federal trial court) and the U.S. Court of Appeals. Although the Circuit is responsible for the smallest geographic area of any of the
thirteen federal circuits - its jurisdiction extends only to Washington D.C. - it historically has had an outsized influence on the law as
a frequent forum for litigation involving federal government agencies. The Historical Society brings the Circuit's rich legacy to life
through a variety of activities including articles and oral histories, reenactments, displays and publications, archival preservation, and mock
arguments involving area high school students.
The Historical Society began its work in 1990 by commissioning Professor Jeffrey Brandon Morris to write a definitive history of the first 200
years of the D.C. Circuit Courts, Calmly to Poise the Scales of Justice: A History of the Courts of the District of Columbia Circuit. The printed book
is available on request, but most of the Society's archival material is online at this Web site. This includes
a fascinating and expanding collection of oral histories from noted judges and practitioners. In addition, the Web site
houses the Society's burgeoning collection of articles on the Circuit's history contributed by
scholars and lawyers.
This site also includes four significant exhibits the Society has developed -- an informative
exhibit about the historic work of the D. C. Circuit Courts, currently on display on the first floor of the Courthouse,
an exhibit of the portraits of 84 U.S. District Court judges, an exhibit of the
portraits and sculptures of 37 U.S. Court of Appeals judges, and an
on-line exhibit featuring the official photographs of all the
Courts of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit from 1905 until 1977, the final year of the Bazelon Courts.
In a new oral history, Senior D.C. Court of Appeals Judge John A. Terry describes the somewhat maddening transition resulting
from the court reorganization in 1971 when he was Chief of the Appellate Division in the U.S. Attorney's office.
Appeals of cases decided before the reorganization went to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, as they had in the past, but
appeals from cases decided in the new Superior Court went to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Eventually he was appointed to the latter,
handing down 850 opinions over twenty-nine years of service - and he kept count.
Be warned: he says disbarments are interesting. The history was taken by lawyer Silvija A. Strikis.
The trials of arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court as told by Alan Rosenthal of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Division.
Read about Judge William Bryant's Early Years - An Interesting Addition to his Oral History
The oral history of Judge William Bryant, long available on the Society's website, has recently been enhanced by the addition of
two interviews with Judge Bryant about his family and early years and his descriptions of Washington in the 1920s and 1930s.
These interviews were not available at the time the oral history was first published.
David Ginsburg recalls experiences from Professor Frankfurter to the SEC to the White House and all in between.
Learn more and follow us on Twitter.
Two Former District Court Judges Eulogized
Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts delivered a eulogy for Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, and
Judge David S. Tatel delivered a eulogy for Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer at the D. C. Circuit Judicial
Conference on June 24, 2015.
In the Historical Society's July newsletter, you can read Chief Judge Garland's remarks
about the Historical Society and its 25th anniversary, read tributes to Judges Oberdorfer and Jackson, discover what
a Washington lawyer learned from the students he helped prepare for their Mock Court arguments, check out the Society's
social media platforms, and more.
Lloyd N. Cutler
Board member Stuart Taylor has contributed to the Society's website the eulogy he wrote upon Lloyd Cutler's passing in 2005.
It begins: "There will never be another superlawyer on the scale of Lloyd Cutler.... This is not to deny the possibility that
someone, somewhere may replicate the dazzling array of talents that made Cutler the pre-eminent lawyer-statesman of his generation:
intellectual brilliance, wisdom, public-spiritedness, eloquence, genius for grasping the interests of everyone around the table, and
passion for forging consensus solutions to hard problems. But even if more such people walk among us, the political and legal
environments that enabled Cutler to be Cutler no longer exist." Read the eulogy in full
and read Lloyd Cutler's oral history.
Twitter and Facebook
The Historical Society is posting on Twitter and Facebook vignettes from the oral histories it has taken.
Our first post: "Joseph L. Rauh Jr. recalls the battle for civil rights positions at '64 Democratic Convention."
Follow us on Twitter @CircuitHistory and visit our Facebook page.
End of an Era
Regarded as a high water mark of laissez faire capitalism, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1922 nullified a D.C. minimum wage law guaranteeing women hotel and hospital workers at least 34-and-a-half cents an hour or $16.50 a week. Read more...
Did you know that before the Civil War, the Marshal for the District of Columbia was unsalaried but earned large fees by
selling food to prisoners and by engaging in other more heinous acts? See Scandalous Fees