John M. Ferren is a Senior Judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, where he
served as an active judge for twenty years, appointed by President Jimmy Carter.
Judge Ferren is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He practiced
law in Chicago with Kirkland & Ellis, and then taught at Harvard Law School, where in 1966 he
established and directed a federally funded neighborhood law office program to serve the low
income community and provide clinical training for students. In 1970, he was invited to join
Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C. as a partner charged with creating and directing a
Community Services Department, which functions today as one of the nation’s largest law firm
pro bono programs. After his years of active service on the court, Judge Ferren retired to become
Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia, from 1997 to 1999, and then returned to the
court in senior status.
Judge Ferren has published numerous articles in the fields of clinical legal education and
professional responsibility and, more recently, has written a biography, Salt of the Earth,
Conscience of the Court: The Story of Justice Wiley Rutledge, published by the University of
North Carolina Press in 2004. It received the annual book prize awarded by the Langum Project
for Historical Literature for the best book of legal history or biography that is “accessible to the
educated general public,” and it shared the H, George Pendleton Prize awarded by the Society
for History in the Federal Government.
Other honors include the Hughes-Gossett Prize for 2004, awarded by the Supreme Court
Historical Society for the best article of the year in the Journal of Supreme Court History, and in
1999 the William J. Brennan, Jr. Award by the District of Columbia Bar for “outstanding efforts
and dedicated service in the public interest.” In 2000-2001, Judge Ferren was a Fellow at the
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and in 2007 he was awarded an honorary
doctor of laws degree from Maryville College in Tennessee.
Judge Ferren has chaired the court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, as well as
various committees of the American Bar Association and the Judicial Conference of the District
of Columbia concerned with making legal services more available to low-income clients. In
1964, through the Church Federation of Greater Chicago, he started a program of volunteer
lawyers to aid indigent clients, which continues today as Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Inc.
And, before joining the court, he served on many boards, including the Washington Lawyers’
Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Prison Project of the ACLU Foundation,
the Migrant Legal Action Program, the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing,
the Center for Law and Education, the National Resource Center for Consumers of Legal
Services, and the Council for Legal Education for Professional Responsibility, Inc. He also is a
member of the American Law Institute and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
With his son Peter, Judge Ferren wrote We The People, a musical celebration of the
Constitutional Convention of 1787, which had several performances in 1991 in Washington,
D.C. and Williamsburg, Virginia. Judge Ferren is married to Linda J. Ferren, formerly Circuit
Executive for the U.S. Courts of the District of Columbia Circuit. They each have two children
and share six grandchildren