History of the Courts2020-12-07T13:56:55-05:00

The History of the D.C. Circuit Courts

1905

1914

1917

1918

1921

Batter Up

Washington, D.C. had a significant impact on baseball's major leagues long before the Nationals winning season.

1922

Timeless Elements of a Great Closing Argument: Lessons from the Teapot Dome Trials

In July 2009, Almost 200 people listened intently as Roger M. Adelman and William D. Nussbaum made closing arguments drawn directly from the transcripts of two of the Teapot Dome trials (United States v. Albert Fall and United States v. Edward Doheny), arguments that were actually made by defense counsel Frank Hogan and Special Prosecutor and future Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts years ago.

1924

1930

1933

  • Thirty-one year old Robert Martin of Little Elm, Texas, doesn't remember what he paid for them. As a teenager, he bought two presidential documents at a thrift shop near Houston that no one else seemed to want - one bearing the signature of Franklin Roosevelt and the other, of Harry Truman.

A Texas-sized Mystery

Thirty-one year old Robert Martin of Little Elm, Texas, doesn't remember what he paid for them. As a teenager, he bought two presidential documents at a thrift shop near Houston that no one else seemed to want - one bearing the signature of Franklin Roosevelt and the other, of Harry Truman.

1937

1937

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.

1938

Path to a Judgeship

Being an active member of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia was Bolitha "Bo" Laws' path to a judgeship in the U.S. District Court in 1938. The Association's Journal carried his photograph after he became Bar President.

1939

Invitation to Red Mass

Each fall near the beginning of the Supreme Court's term, several Justices and other members of the Washington legal community attend the Red Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral. "An invitation to a Red Mass" published in the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia in 1939 sheds light on the origins and history of the service and its association with the judiciary.

Justice Wiley Rutledge: Court of Appeals Years – and After

In 1939, Wiley Blount Rutledge, Jr. -- the runner-up that year to Felix Frankfurter, then William O. Douglas, for a seat on the Supreme Court – was nominated by Franklin Roosevelt to a newly created sixth seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The Attorney General’s Pants

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.

1940

  • The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit didn't always give unconditional obeisance to the U.S. Supreme Court when it believed an injustice would result.

Doing Justice

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit didn't always give unconditional obeisance to the U.S. Supreme Court when it believed an injustice would result.

On the Docket: Flapjacks and Underwear

The post-World War One Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia was vastly different than the federal circuit court we know today. In its 1918-19 term, half of its cases involved local disputes and the remainder were almost entirely patent and trademark appeals.

1941

Times Have Changed!

By the mid-20th century, it had become apparent that the United States District Court for the District of Columbia had long outgrown its "completely outmoded and cramped" accommodations. A new courthouse was desperately needed, argued F. Regis Noel in a January 1941 article in the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

1942

1942

Journal of the Bar Association October 1942

"Something has gone wrong with the world of our day" - a "strange and disordered darkness of spirit" had descended upon humanity. So intoned Solicitor General Charles Fahy in early 1942, in an address before the Georgia Bar Association. In his speech, Fahy - who later served for nearly thirty years on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit - surveyed the globe, from Poland to Greece, from Denmark to England.

1943

The Short Unhappy Judgeship of Thurman Arnold

Thurman Wesley Arnold was one of the most intriguing individuals ever to serve on the D.C. Circuit although the vast majority of his accomplishments occurred before and after his brief service on the D.C. Circuit from 1943-45.

1944

Judge Prettyman on Administrative Law

In his article "Administrative Law - Problem Child" in the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, Court of Appeals Judge E. Barrett Prettyman in 1944 advanced the decidedly non-judicial proposition that many problems in administrative law can be solved by cooperation between the bar and the agencies.

1945

1946

An Historic Judicial Smackdown

As the nation moved from World War II to a peacetime economy, industry sought the removal of wartime price and production controls. Labor, freed from a freeze on pay and a ban on strikes, sought wage increases averaging 30 percent. Strikes broke out like a contagion. Within a year, five million workers were involved in work stoppages.

1947

1948

1950

“Axis Sally,” 1950

American Mildred Elizabeth Gillars achieved infamy by broadcasting Nazi propaganda over the radio airwaves from Germany to audiences in Europe and America during World War II.

1950

Dedication of the US Courthouse for the District of Columbia

Only two days after tens of thousands of troops from the North launched the surprise invasion that would become the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman helped lay the cornerstone for what would become the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse.

1950

Now On Exhibit:
The History of the Courts of the D.C. Circuit

History of the Courts

Created amidst the controversy over President John Adams’s appointment of the so-called “Midnight Judges,” the Courts of the District of Columbia Circuit have been transformed and transformative over the two centuries of their existence.

Visit the exhibit to learn how the D.C. Circuit Courts were formed and the challenges overcome in their creation.

visit the exhibit

Calmly to Poise The Scales of Justice:
A History of the Courts of the D.C. Circuit

Purchase the book now for $30

or send a check to:

The Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit
Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
333 Constitution Ave NW, Room 4714
Washington, D.C.  20001

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