Welcome!

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

JAN
15

Two more articles from the Bar Association Journals:

Communists were the enemy during the Cold War. On appeal from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Supreme Court ruled in 1958 that regulations denying passports to Communists were invalid. But rather than expel these perceived enemies, the government wanted to keep them in the country. The Bar Association of DC chimed in with the 1960 article entitled "Committee on UnAmerican Activities, Passport Control" in the Bar Journal. [Bar Association 1960 stance]

Concerns with a nuclear attack were so pervasive during the Cold War that even the lawyers of the Bar Association of DC felt the need to take a position on the issue. In "Report of the Committee on Atomic Attack" in the Bar Journal, the Board of Directors outlined its views on preparation and the maintenance of civilian control. [Bar Association Report on Atomic Attack]











JAN
11

"I felt like Indiana Jones stumbling upon a sealed tomb," Jim Johnston, the Society's Communications Chair said when discovering an archive of Journals published by the Bar Association of the District of Columbia over a 41-year period. The articles, digitized by Heinonline, highlighted historical material, some of it written by judges of our courts. Many will be posted regularly on this website with Association permission; the first two are mentioned below:

Years before he began writing his popular last-page column for the DC Bar's Washington Lawyer magazine, Jake Stein wrote for the Journal of the Bar Association of DC, eventually becoming its editor. In "$100,000 Awarded Plaintiff for False Imprisonment-in 1882," he and Arthur Stambler look at the winning arguments to the jury on how to calculate damages for 45 days of wrongful incarceration in a carpeted jail cell.

Frederick Tyler takes us back to the early 1900s in "The Attorney General's Pants." When the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia urgently needed to hire a private detective to chase a miscreant but had no appropriation to pay one, he turned to Attorney General Philander C. Knox for help with surprising results.
















JAN
03

Newsletter Read the Society's latest newsletter to learn about historical materials soon to appear on the Society's website, to read or download histories of our Court of Appeals and District Court, to read Judge Charles Richey's oral history -- just released --, to learn about upcoming and recent Society programs, and more.









DEC
27

Judge Richey District Judge Charles Richey's oral history has been released some twenty years after his death, as provided in his agreement with the Society. It is a hardscrabble tale. His parents were so poor that the best they could afford for Christmas was a used basketball. In his first year at Case Western Reserve Law School, he worked five jobs, including at a funeral home, to make ends meet. He only took courses whose books he could afford. Poverty shaped him. Learn how he coped during his early years and how he overcame challenges and fashioned a career in the law in this colorful oral history.











DEC
18

Over 240 D.C. area students filled the Ceremonial Courtroom on December 14 to witness a re-enactment of the landmark First Amendment case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, that protected the freedom of expression rights of public school students. In the courtroom with them was Mary Beth Tinker, who, over 50 years ago, had been suspended from school because she and other students had worn black arm bands in class protesting the Vietnam War. Their law suit was ultimately heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the case re-enacted in the federal courthouse.

In the re-enactment, Judge David S. Tatel sat as the Chief Justice, joined by colleagues Judges Sri Srinivasan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Judge Tatel's law clerks presented the arguments that had been made before the Supreme Court.

The high school and middle school students from across the city and Prince George's County listened intently to the legal arguments and to Mary Beth Tinker as she urged them to stand up for their rights. They were eager to question the judges about the case and to pepper Ms. Tinker with questions about her experiences and their relevance to students today - questions that continued long after the formal program concluded. Photos of the event to follow.

















DEC
11

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.







DEC
06

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.










NOV
27

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.









NOV
15

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]





















NOV
06

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.