History of the Courts Publications

Calmly to Poise the Scales of Justice:
A History of the Courts of the District of Columbia Circuit 

by Jeffrey Brandon Morris

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or send a check for $30 to:

The Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit
Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 4714
Washington, D.C.  20001-2866

Discover the history of how the Court of Appeals became the chief tribunal for administrative law and where Presidents look when appointing Supreme Court justices, and why the District Court became principal venue for overseeing the federal government’s executive branch.

Anecdotal History Essay

An Anecdotal History of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia

By Matthew F. McGuire

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District Court Judge Mathew F. McGuire produced a labor of love in 1976, which he called an “anecdotal history” of the District Court. According to the preface, this is “not a dry recording of detailed minutiae” but rather a readable and exciting story of “the human drama of court trial.”

See pictures of the early chief judges and courthouses, and original documents written by by those who helped shape our legal system. Read stories that went down in infamy, like that of Mary Surrant and her part in conspiracy of John Wilkes Booths’ assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

History Essay

History of The United States Court of Appeals for The District of Columbia Circuit in The Country’s Bicentennial Year

By E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr.

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Another history sheds a light on the Court of Appeals. It was written and published in 1976 with the assistance of the Young Lawyers Section of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

Read how in 1893 the first case ever before the Court of Appeals, Bush v. District of Columbia, began a tradition of the court that the first decision was not unanimous,  or how in 1923, Justice Van Orsdel wrote the standard assessing the admissibility of polygraph testimony and expert scientific evidence in Frye v. United States.

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

History of the CourtsCreated 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.

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

The Contribution of the D.C. Circuit
to Administrative Law

40 Ad. L. Rev. 507 

The 1987 program that examined the special role and contribution the D.C. Circuit has made to the development of administrative law with keynote by Judge Patricia Wald and contributors Professor Jeremy Rabkin, Lloyd Cutler and Paul Verkuil.

Read the transcript here.

View the Timeline of the Courts’ History