Remarks at the celebration honoring Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan’s 40th anniversary
and Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth’s 35th anniversary on the U.S. District Court for the
District of Columbia
November 4, 2022
This Court, our Court, has had a long and storied history, wonderful traditions,
and a culture unique to the U.S. District Court here in the Nation’s Capital – all of which our
two colleagues whom we honor today have done so much to preserve and enhance for so
many decades and during some very challenging times.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia – then called the
Circuit Court – was created in 1801, the year after the District of Columbia became the seat of
the federal government. The Court originally had only three judges. One was William
Cranch, who served on this Court for 54 years and was Chief Justice of the Court from 1806
until 1855. Remarkably, at the same time, he was the official reporter for the United States
Supreme Court. Judge Cranch’s portrait is right over there between Burnita Shelton Matthews,
the first woman ever appointed to this Court, and Spottswood Robinson, the first AfricanAmerican.
In 1863, the Court was renamed the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia
and, then, in 1948, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The title
Chief Justice was changed to Chief Judge. And I believe Judge Hogan, Judge Lamberth, and I
have known every Chief Judge who served on this Court over the last 50-plus years –
including Judge William B. Jones, for whom Judge Hogan clerked, and Judge Aubrey E.
Robinson, Jr., for whom I clerked. Judge Jones’s portrait is right up there, next to Judge
Hogan’s, and Judge Robinson’s is over here next to mine.
From 1801 until 1970 – when Congress created the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia – the U.S. District Court was both the federal trial court and the local
state-level trial court. So our predecessors tried common law crimes like murders, robberies,
rapes, and burglaries, as well as the kinds of federal cases we have today. Incredibly, they did
so with the same number of active judges – fifteen. I’m sure Tom remembers, as I do, our
judges trying cases virtually all the time. Not typical of this Court in the modern era – at least
not before January 6th
Over the years, this Court in the Nation’s Capital has had some fascinating,
high profile, historic cases. And it has always handled them with great distinction. In 1859,
there was the trial of General (later Congressman) Daniel Sickles for the murder of Francis
Scott Key’s son, Philip Barton Key, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Key was having an affair with Sickles’ wife, so Sickles killed him. Sickles was acquitted by a
jury after less than an hour’s deliberation.
In 1881, Charles Guiteau was tried in our Court for assassinating President
Garfield. His insanity defense was rejected, and he was convicted and sentenced to death.
Between 1926 and 1930, there were eight trials growing out of the Teapot Dome
Scandal – a scandal that arose during the presidency of Warren G. Harding. In Teapot Dome,
Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall had the distinction of being the first Cabinet secretary ever
convicted of a felony.
In the l 950’s, the steel seizure case, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, began in our
court with Judge David Pine issuing an injunction against unlimited and unrestrained
Executive power. The Supreme Court agreed that it was an unconstitutional violation of
separation of powers for the President to take control of the steel companies.
In the 1960’s – when Tom Hogan clerked for Judge Jones and a few years later
when I clerked for Judge Robinson – and into the turbulent 1970’s, some particularly
challenging cases came before the Court: cases involving the Selective Service, civil rights
demonstrations, protests against the Vietnam War, military surveillance of civilians, and the
Pentagon Papers case. Judge Lamberth was in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office
in the 1970’s, and he personally represented the United States in many of these sensitive, high
profile cases involving such hot button issues. And then, of course, there were the Watergate
investigations and prosecutions and ultimately the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
The 1980’s also saw cases involving the breakup of AT&T, the Abscam
prosecutions, and the prosecution of John Hinckley for the attempted assassination of President
Reagan. In the 1990’s, we had the Whitewater investigations. In recent years, some of the
current members of the Court were responsible for handling the Microsoft antitrust case,
challenges to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, the D.C. teachers union prosecutions,
Scooter Libby, the Shelby County and other voting rights cases, the Heller Second Amendment
case, the Black Farmers class actions alleging discrimination by the Agriculture Department,
the Indian Trust Fund litigation, Jack Abramoff, Roger Clemens, Senator Ted Stevens, the R.J.
Reynolds and Philip Morris tobacco cases, Citizens United, Blackwater, Benghazi, Lance
Armstrong, General Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, the merger of
AT&T and Time-Warner, scores of habeas corpus petitions filed by detainees at Guantanamo,
and now, of course, over 800 January 6th cases. The contributions Tom Hogan and Royce
Lamberth made to the management of these cases and the leadership of the Court during this
period cannot be overstated.
When Tom Hogan was appointed to the Court in 1982 by President Ronald
Reagan, he became the youngest judge on the Court. He nevertheless quickly became a
confidante and wise advisor to then Chief Judge Aubrey Robinson. I can only guess it had
something to do with the fact that Judge Jones, for whom Tom had clerked, was a mentor to
Judge Robinson when he was appointed to this Court and Judge Robinson too had become the
youngest judge on the Court at the time. And likely, I have to think, because Judge Jones and
Judge Robinson had chambers right next door to each other. And, as Tom will recall and I can
attest, their respective clerks were in each other’s chambers all the time and got to know each
other’s judges very well. So Judge Robinson knew and respected Tom Hogan long before Tom
became a judge.
Tom became Chief Judge in 2001 at a very challenging time. There was friction
and even some distrust among some of the judges of our Court; I am afraid the Court was not a
very happy place. It took the leadership of Chief Judge Hogan to repair the damage and to
restore collegiality and trust. Tom’s unquestioned integrity, good will, consummate fairness,
and quiet, inclusive leadership style rebuilt the tradition of collegiality among those in the Court
family. Chief Judge Hogan was thoughtful, kind, generous, and inclusive. He took time to talk
to staff throughout the courthouse, asking about their families and their health. Like the best of
leaders, he was and is a good listener.
When Tom was in private practice, he and other lawyers lamented the fact that
even as late as the early 1960’s African-American lawyers were not permitted to use the library
on the third floor of this Courthouse, then owned by the voluntary Bar Association of the
District of Columbia. Attorney William B. Bryant was the most prominent among those
lawyers. When Tom joined this Court, two of his mentors and role models were AfricanAmerican judges, Bill Bryant and Aubrey Robinson.
And so when we got Congressional authorization and funding to build the Annex
to the Prettyman Courthouse, Chief Judge Hogan devoted himself to getting Congress to name
the Annex the William B. Bryant Annex. He quickly got a number of Senate sponsors,
including Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator John Warner, who had worked alongside Bill
Bryant in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And then Tom and I went to visit Delegate Eleanor
Holmes Norton to seek her support. Bill Bryant was an iconic figure in this city, and Delegate
Norton had admired him since her days at Dunbar High School and later as a young law student
at Yale. So she enthusiastically agreed to sponsor the legislation, and she became an
enthusiastic champion for the project. At the dedication of the Annex – and forever after –
Judge Hogan referred to Judge Bryant as the “soul of our Court.”
Royce Lamberth was appointed as a Judge of this Court in 1987. I believe he was
the first person ever to be appointed to this or any other U.S. District Court directly from the
position of Assistant U.S. Attorney. When Royce joined the Court, his judicial role models were
Judges Tom Hogan, Aubrey Robinson, and Stan Harris. He admired them, learned from them, and
passed that wisdom and his own experience on to so many of the rest of us. In fact, he and Tom
held informal weekly training seminars for the four of us who joined the Court together seven
years later.
If Chief Judge Hogan’s leadership style was like Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart,
some might have thought Judge Lamberth’s would be more like Rambo. Royce does not, by
instinct, have the same quiet demeanor and style as Tom Hogan. He was always known as
being straightforward, no-nonsense, sometimes blunt. In fact, Judge Lamberth has probably
held more lawyers and government agencies in contempt of Court and referred more lawyers to
our Court’s Grievance Committee than any of the rest of us – perhaps all the rest of us
combined. But that is because in the Army and as Chief of the Civil Division he demanded
much of the lawyers he supervised, and he believes that all lawyers and government officials
should be held to the highest professional and ethical standards.
When Royce became Chief Judge in 2008, he vowed to maintain the same level
of collegiality and inclusiveness that Judge Hogan – and earlier Judge John Garett Penn – had
fostered when they were Chief Judge. And he succeeded in keeping us on that same steady
path. His efforts expanded to the entire Court family. He quickly became a favorite of our
loyal and dedicated Clerk’s Office staff and probation officers. And he quietly stepped in to
take cases – often substantial numbers of cases – from overworked colleagues and those with
medical emergencies.
With Tom, Royce, and now Chief Judge Howell at the helm, and with Angela
Caesar as our Clerk of Court, today ours is one of the most collegial and respected District
Courts in the country.
Royce and I have known each other for nearly 50 years. We met when I was the
Administrative Assistant U.S. Attorney and Royce was being interviewed for a position in the
Civil Division of the Office in 1974. If I am not mistaken, Royce showed up in his Captain’s
uniform, having recently returned from his JAG service in Vietnam. Royce’s 200 trials as a
JAG officer commended him to the U.S. Attorney. And he proved to be among the finest
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Flannery ever hired.
In a little more than a decade in the Civil Division of the U.S. attorney’s office,
Royce made his mark in a number of high profile cases. And after only a few years he became
Chief of the Division. And what a significant role he played.
During the tense months of the Iranian hostage crisis, the Carter Administration
sought to clamp down on pro-Iran demonstrations around the Capitol, fearful that a violent
backlash against the pro-Iran protestors in the United States could spark fatal reprisals on the
U.S. citizen captives in Tehran. With a combination of diplomacy, creativity, and stubbornness,
Royce devised a compromise parade route along which the protestors would be permitted to
march and then he sold the plan to both the White House and the protesters.
Then Royce and his colleagues dealt with the Reagan Administration’s first major
test – the air traffic controllers’ strike – and dealt with it in a single day. Under Royce’s
leadership, they successfully moved for a temporary restraining order at 3 a.m., a contempt order
at 8 a.m., and were conducting a full-blown contempt trial against the air traffic controllers’
union by 9 a.m.
As Chief of the Civil Division, Royce managed almost 30 lawyers who – believe
it or not – handled nearly half of our Court’s civil docket. Under his leadership, his lawyers
never missed a deadline, and the quality of the work produced was always professional, wellwritten and persuasive. Royce was a demanding boss but also one who fostered a sense of
camaraderie and common purpose. And the high professional standards which he set persist to
this day. His successors – including John Bates and Rudy Contreras – preserved the legacy
Royce had left.
Royce also turned out to be a very accommodating friend after I had left the
Solicitor General’s Office in 1976 to join White & Case. For the first time in my life, I had to
develop clients and business. Royce called me and several other former Assistants to offer each
of us a client in a case captioned Berlin Democratic Club vs. General Harold R. Aaron. Royce
realized that several military officials who had been sued in their individual capacities in this
case he was defending had to have their own lawyers, separate from government counsel, in
order to raise the defense of qualified immunity. The individual defendants would have to argue
for disclosure of classified documents, while the government’s institutional interest, represented
by Royce, was in preserving the confidentiality of the very same documents. So I had to explain
to the powers that be at my law firm that the case was worth taking despite the generous hourly
rate that Royce personally had set – $75 an hour. Even back then a pretty low hourly rate at a
big law firm.
The Berlin Democratic Club case was brought by members of the Berlin
Democratic Club against the United States and a four-star General, whom I represented, and
several other Army officers. The plaintiffs were all United States citizens living in West Berlin.
But Berlin was an occupied city after World War II, no longer governed by Germany, but by the
United States and its allies. The plaintiffs were actively supporting Democrat George
McGovern for President, and they asserted that they had been unlawfully wiretapped and
surveilled and their mail was unlawfully opened.
The case finally settled. The settlement, negotiated by Royce, required the U.S.
Army to obtain a warrant from a federal judge every time the Army sought to wiretap U.S.
citizens overseas. The problem with the settlement became apparent, however, when the Army
sought its first warrant from Judge Harold Greene of this Court. Judge Greene concluded that he
had absolutely no authority to authorize a warrant on U.S. citizens or anyone else outside the
United States. And that, I believe, is what led Congress to create the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court.
And so we come full circle. This decorated Army Captain, Royce Lamberth, with
all of his national security litigation experience, had persuaded the General Counsel of the Army,
the ACLU (plaintiffs’ counsel), and Judge Louis Oberdorfer to approve what turned out to be an
unworkable settlement. So the FISA Court was created, and Chief Justice Rehnquist later
appointed now Judge Lamberth as Presiding Judge.
And how fortuitous it was that someone with Royce’s background was Presiding
Judge of the FISA Court on 9/11. Many of us were in our chambers when we got the word,
turned on our televisions to see the Twin Towers collapse, and watched smoke rising from the
Pentagon. But Royce was driving to the courthouse, stuck in traffic and literally engulfed in the
smoke from the Pentagon building burning nearby. While in his car, Judge Lamberth approved
dozens, perhaps scores, of emergency wiretap applications by phone as he waited for the U.S.
marshals to escort him to his chambers, where he continued to approve more applications
throughout the day.
Today Judge Hogan celebrates 40 years as a Judge of this Court and Judge
Lamberth 35. But each of them first came to work in this building much earlier than that – Tom
in 1966 to clerk for Judge Jones and Royce in 1974 to represent the United States in civil
litigation. They both knew the judges who were here then – some of whom had been around
since the 1940’s. And Royce probably appeared before every judge on the Court during his 13
years in the Civil Division. Tom and Royce both saw so many different styles of judging and
judgment and leadership – many worth emulating when they became judges.
Tom Hogan and Royce Lamberth have always loved this Court as an institution,
as well as the people – past and present – who make it work day in and day out. Their
dedication, care, wisdom, and leadership over the decades has made us a stronger, better
institution with great traditions and a collaborative court culture that makes this place so very
special. Thank you both so very much.