Professor Richard Bonnie, U. Va. Law School, moderated the panel discussion.

Professor Richard Bonnie, U. Va. Law School, moderated the panel discussion.

Judge Paul Friedman discusses the challenges he faced in deciding on Hinckley's release.

Judge Paul Friedman discusses the challenges he faced in deciding on Hinckley’s release.

The expert panel included Kacie Weston, Barry Levine, Judge Paul Friedman, Raymond Patterson and Carrie Johnson.

The expert panel included Kacie Weston, Barry Levine, Judge Paul Friedman, Raymond Patterson and Carrie Johnson.

On June 27, 2024, the Society presented an in-person program entitled “The Road to the Release of John Hinckley” in the Ceremonial Courtroom. This was the Society’s 25th program overall, and the third in its series of Judge Patricia M. Wald Programs on Life and Law in the Courts of the D.C. Circuit.

For forty years, the District Court handled one of the most challenging criminal cases in federal court history. In June 1982, Judge Barrington Parker presided at the trial of John Hinckley for the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. The trial ended in a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, which in turn led to significant changes in the law on the insanity defense. Following the verdict, Hinckley was confined at or under the supervision of St. Elizabeths Hospital until 2003, when Judge Paul L. Friedman released him for weekend visits with his parents in the metropolitan D.C. area, over the government’s objection. Judge Friedman incrementally expanded Mr. Hinckley’s privileges outside the Hospital, again over the government’s objection. Then on September 30, 2021, Judge Friedman signed a consent order unconditionally releasing Hinckley from custody and judicial supervision. The post-verdict litigation spawned multiple opinions by the District Court, and at least one by the Court of Appeals, in an unprecedented context, unlikely to be repeated.

This program featured Professor Richard J. Bonnie, Harrison Foundation Professor Emeritus of Law, Medicine, and Public Policy, Director Emeritus, Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, University of Virginia School of Law, who set the stage by providing an overview of the Hinckley litigation. Raymond F. Patterson, M.D., one of the government’s expert witnesses in the post-verdict release litigation, provided background on the mental health issues considered by the Court in advance of lengthy evidentiary hearings and oral arguments in 2011 – 2012 on whether and under what conditions Hinckley could be released. Judge Paul L. Friedman then presided over a reenactment of the 2012 oral argument, presented by Barry Wm. Levine and Kacie M. Weston. The argument was one of several pivotal arguments leading to the unconditional release of Hinckley, following a consent order in 2021. After the reenactment, Professor Bonnie moderated a panel consisting of Judge Friedman, Levine, Weston, Patterson and NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson. The panel engaged in a lively discussion of the case, the challenges presented, and the road to Hinckley’s final release.

The program was recorded by the Federal Judicial Center, and will be available for viewing later this summer.

On March 1, 2024, Chief Judge Srinivasan welcomed 165 D.C. high school students and their teachers for the Nineteenth Annual Mock Court Program hosted by the Historical Society. After his welcoming remarks, the students went to assigned courtrooms in the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse and the Bryant Annex, to present arguments to participating judges, followed by an opportunity to discuss the law and legal profession with the judges.

For a copy of this year’s Program brochure, click here.

Students from Georgetown Day School appear in Judge Christopher Cooper’s Courtroom

19th Annual Mock Court

Judge Mehta with his Outstanding Advocate, Riley Gayle, from School Without Walls