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 Royce Lamberth Judge Royce C. Lamberth's portrait, painted by artist Simmie Knox, was presented to the U.S. District Court on November 17, 2017. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell presided at the ceremony. Judge Lamberth's portrait appears in the Historical Society's on-line portrait exhibit.


Jodie Bernstein Jodie Bernstein remembers her time in front of Justice Scalia when he was a member of the D.C. Circuit. Read her oral history and learn more.


Attridge Portrait of Judge Emmet G. Sullivan
The portrait of Judge Emmet G. Sullivan was presented to the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia on October 27, 2017, in a ceremony presided over by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. A photo of the portrait now appears in the Society's on-line portrait exhibit. Bradley Stevens is the portrait artist.


Law Clerk Initiative
Law Clerk InitiativeOver 225 current and former law clerks and judges from the D.C. Circuit Courts gathered for the 4th reception hosted by the Society's Law Clerk Initiative on October 26, 2017 in the Courthouse Atrium. The highlight: remarks from a family trio with deep roots in the District Court - Judge Christopher "Casey" Cooper, William H. "Bill" Jeffress, Jr. (Judge Cooper's father-in-law), and Amy Jeffress (Judge Cooper's spouse and Bill's daughter.) The three shared memories of Judge Gerhard Gesell, the legendary District Court jurist who hired both Bill (1970-71) and Amy (1992-93) as law clerks, including his work on the Pentagon Papers case and other First Amendment matters.

Law Clerk InitiativeThe Law Clerk Initiative, chaired by Judges Kavanaugh and Huvelle, Betsy Wanger and Linda Ferren, encourages law clerks to participate in various Society activities. Previous receptions featured remarks by Justice Elena Kagan and former Solicitors General Donald Verrilli and Paul Clement. [Pictured right: Amy Jeffress, Judge Casey Cooper and Bill Jeffress]


Newly Available Books
We have two new book offerings about the history of the D.C. Circuit Courts in digital format on our site. One is An Anecdotal History of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, written by Judge Matthew McGuire. Judge McGuire had long been interested in the District Court's history, and over a period of years, penned articles on the history for the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. In 1976, he put his work into book form, which the Court published. The other book, History of The United States Court of Appeals for The District of Columbia Circuit in The Country's Bicentennial Year, was prepared by E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. and the Young Lawyers Section of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. You can read or download these two new digital books.

A later history, Calmly to Poise the Scales of Justice: A History of he Courts of the District of Columbia Circuit, written by Jeffrey Brandon Morris in 2001, while not available on-line, can be ordered.


Bench and Bar of Montgomery County, Maryland
The Montgomery County Historical Society just published Bench and Bar of Montgomery County, Maryland, Early Lawyers of Montgomery County before 1900, a compilation of short biographies of more than 200 of the county's legal lights. Lawyers in families like the Keys and Taneys were notables in Washington D.C. as well. The biographies generally cover birth, education, career, political activities, marriages, children, death, and any military service. Reading the law was the usual form of legal education in the 19th century, and the route to practice was typically a family affair. Marriage to a lawyer's daughter was not an uncommon way to get admitted to the bar. Seventeen volunteers spent twenty years pulling it all together. The book is available from Laura Riese at the Montgomery County Historical Society or directly from the publisher.


Attridge Read about Magistrate Judge Patrick Attridge
An insider perspective on the DC Circuit from Magistrate Judge Patrick Attridge. Learn more by reading his oral history.


Judge Flannery The Ninth Annual Judge Thomas A. Flannery Lecture
Presented by Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General of the United States with additional remarks by Robert E. Morin, Chief Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 5:00 p.m.
United States Courthouse, Ceremonial Courtroom
333 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

A reception will follow in the Courthouse Atrium.
RSVP here for the event.


Newsletter Read our Latest Newsletter
Read the Society's latest newsletter to learn about upcoming events -- our reception for Law Clerks, our Tinker and Mock Court programs for D.C. high school students --, oral history news, and much more.


Robert Kapp, Esq. Oral History of Robert Kapp, Esq.
Legal careers don't follow straight, predictable lines as Robert Kapp's new oral history demonstrates. After learning his trade as a litigator in the Tax Division of the Justice Department, he went to Hogan & Hartson (Hogan Lovells) to continue doing tax work. He became partner, but involvement with the ACLU, representation of Abbie Hoffman and the firm's nonprofit clients, and participation in Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1968 changed him. He became active with the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, and the International Human Rights Law Group. Still later, he helped found International Senior Lawyers to mobilize volunteer lawyers to work on human rights and economic development overseas. Little wonder American Lawyer gave him a lifetime achievement award in 2012. Looking back over almost 60 years of practice, Kapp says it was less money-driven when he started. Irv Nathan was Kapp's interviewer


Judge Kollar-Kotelly.jpg Portrait of Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
The portrait of Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly was presented to the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia on September 15, 2017, in a ceremony presided over by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. A photo of the portrait now appears in the Society's on-line portrait exhibit. Danni Dawson is the portrait artist.