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.
Separation of Powers and the Independent Counsel: Morrison v. Olson Revisited
4:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 28, 2015 Ceremonial Courtroom
The Society is proud to present our next program, featuring a reenactment of the D.C. Circuit argument in Morrison v. Olson. Senior Judge Laurence Silberman will preside over the argument, with Theodore B. Olson (representing himself) and Catherine E. Stetson (representing the Independent Counsel). They will be joined by Professor Amanda Frost of American University, who will set the stage, and former Chief Judge Patricia M. Wald, who will moderate a panel discussion on the separation of powers doctrine, the influence of the Court of Appeals and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, and the case's legacy today.
Everyone is welcome; no attendence charge.
Official Photographs of the U.S. District Courts and their Predecessor Courts -
A new on-line exhibit
The Society is proud to present an exhibit of the official photographs of the U.S. District Courts for the District of
Columbia and their predecessor courts from the Cartter Court in 1863 until the Lamberth Court in 2013. Click here to view
the Court photos and to see the judges who have sat on each of the courts and read their bios.
Gentlemen-lawyers are hard to find these days, and it is not just because women are now in the practice.
Bill Sinclair honors David Isbell by bestowing the appellation on him in a new article summarizing the Covington partner's oral history.
candid critique of everything about the practice of law in Washington, nothing beats Joe diGenova's oral history.
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.