United States District Court for the District of Columbia

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District of Columbia
District of Columbia Circuit
Seal of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.png
Judges: 16
Posts: 16
Vacancies: 0
Active judges
Chief: Richard Roberts
Senior Judges
Magistrate Judges
Former Judges
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
More than 40%

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia is the United States district court that hears cases originating in the District of Columbia with jurisdiction in the federal courts. Cases dealing with the laws of the District of Columbia are heard by this court only under the same circumstances that would cause a case under state law to come before a federal court. Appeals from this court are heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The court sits in the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse located on Constitution Avenue NW. The District has no local district attorney or equivalent, and so local prosecutorial matters also fall into the jurisdiction of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Assistant United States Attorneys are tasked with the prosecution of not only federal crimes, but also crimes that would normally be left to the state prosecutor's discretion. Because of this, the District has the largest U.S. Attorney's Office in the nation.

The United States Attorney for the District of Columbia represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. The current district attorney is Ronald C. Machen.[1]

Vacancy warning level

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacancy warning level is green. The court currently has no vacancies out of its 16 posts. However, one post is temporary.

Pending nominations

There are no pending nominations for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Active judges

Article III judges

JudgeBornHomeAppointed byActiveChiefPreceededBachelorsLaw
Judge Emmet Sullivan1947Washington, DCClinton 06/16/1994 - PresentLouis OberdorferHoward University, '68Howard University, '71
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly1943New York, NYClinton 03/26/1997-PresentHarold GreeneCatholic U. of America, 1965Catholic U. of America, 1968
Chief Judge Richard Roberts1953New York City, NYClinton 6/23/1998 - Present2013 - PresentCharles RicheyVassar College, 1974Columbia Law, 1978
Judge Rosemary Collyer1945Port Chester, MDW. Bush 11/15/2002-PresentThomas JacksonTrinity College, 1968University of Denver College of Law, 1977
Presiding Judge Reggie Walton1949North Charleroi, PAW. Bush 9/24/2001-PresentStanley SporkinWest Virginia State College, 1971American University Law, 1974
Judge John Bates10/11/1946Elizabeth, NJW. Bush 12/14/2001 - PresentStanley HarrisWesleyan University, 1968U. Maryland School of Law, 1976
Judge Richard Leon1949South Natick, MAW. Bush 2/19/2002 - PresentNorma JohnsonHoly Cross, A.B., 1971Suffolk Law School, J.D., 1974
Judge James E. Boasberg1963San Francisco, CAObama 03/14/2011 - Present'Thomas HoganYale, 1985Yale Law, 1990
Judge Amy B. Jackson1954Baltimore, MDObama 3/17/2011-PresentGladys KesslerHarvard '76Harvard Law '79
Judge Beryl A. Howell1956Fort Benning, GAObama 12/27/2010 - PresentPaul FriedmanBryn Mawr College '78Columbia University '83
Judge Rudolph Contreras1962Staten Island, NYObama 03/22/2012 - PresentRicardo UrbinaFlorida State U., 1984University of Pennsylvania Law, 1991
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson1970Washington, DCObama 3/23/2013 - PresentHenry KennedyHarvard, B.A., 1992Harvard Law, J.D., 1996
Judge Christopher Reid Cooper1966Washington, D.C.Obama 3/26/2014-PresentRoyce LamberthYale, B.A., 1988Stanford Law, J.D., 1993
Judge Tanya S. Chutkan1962Kingston, JamaicaObama 6/4/2014-PresentGeorge Washington U., B.A., 1983University of Pennsylvania School of Law, J.D., 1987
Judge Randolph D. Moss1961Springfield, Ohio Hamilton College, 1983Yale Law, 1986
Judge Amit Priyavadan Mehta1971Patan, Gujarat, IndiaObama 12/16/2014-PresentEllen HuvelleGeorgetown University, 1993University of Virginia School of Law, 1997

Senior judges

JudgeAppointed byActiveChiefSeniorBachelorsLaw
Senior Judge Royce LamberthReagan 11/13/1987 - 7/15/20135/1/2008 - 7/15/2013U. Texas, Austin '65U. Texas, Austin '67
Senior Judge Thomas HoganReagan 8/20/1982-5/1/20082001-20085/1/2008-PresentGeorgetown University, 1960Georgetown Law School, 1966
Senior Judge Gladys KesslerClinton 6/16/1994 - 1/22/20071/22/2007 - PresentCornell '59Harvard Law '62
Senior Judge Ellen HuvelleClinton 10/26/1999-6/3/20146/3/2014-PresentWellsley College, 1970Boston College, 1975
Senior Judge Paul FriedmanClinton 6/16/1994 - 12/31/200912/31/2009 - PresentCornell '65SUNY Buffalo Law '68
Senior Judge Joyce GreenCarter 5/11/1979 - 7/1/19957/1/1995 - PresentUniversity of Maryland '49George Washington University '51
Senior Judge Patricia A. WynnH.W. Bush 1990-PresentRadcliffe CollegeYale University

Magistrate judges

Magistrate Judge Alan Kay9/1991 - PresentGeorge Washington U., B.A., 1957George Washington U. Law, J.D., 1959
Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson07/18/1988 - PresentMorgan State U.Emory U. Law, J.D.


The District Court for the District of Columbia has original jurisdiction over cases filed in the District of Columbia. These cases can include civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.

The D.C. District Court hears federal cases within the District of Columbia. Its appellate court is the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.




Federal Court Caseload Statistics*
YearStarting case load:Cases filed:Total cases:Cases terminated:Remaining cases:Median time(Criminal)**:Median time(Civil)**:3 Year Civil cases#:Vacant posts:## Trials/Post
2013 3495269761922902 329014.18.7381 (17.2%)23.19
2012 4459281772763102 417413.59.2448 (17.9%)16.19
2011 4378323876163087 452910.97.2490 (18.2%)24.211
2010 4498305675543129 442512.37.9418(16%)4510
2009 4594312577193141 457812.79410(14.6%)3310
2008 4482313576173042 457517.88.5473(16.7%)1713
*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website and reflect the calendar year through September.    **Time in months from filing to completion.
#This statistic includes cases which have been appealed in higher courts.    ##This is the total number of months that any judicial posts had spent vacant that year.

Notable cases

For a searchable list of decisions from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, please see: D.C. District Court Searchable Opinions

Guantanamo detainee cases

The D.C. District Court took an important role in the Guantanamo Bay detainee cases.


The first federal district court for the District of Columbia was originally established in 1801 as the U.S. District Court for the District of Potomac. This court had federal district court style jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, parts of Maryland and parts of Virginia. The court's existence was brief, however, as it was abolished the following year and instead the chief judge of the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court was instructed, by the Judiciary Act of 1802, to hold two sessions a year as a district court. This ad hoc court exercised the same jurisdiction as a federal district court during these sessions.[15]

The court existed in this form up until 1863, during which the courts for the District of Columbia underwent massive reorganization. That year, Congress, partly concerned about the loyalty of one of the circuit court's judges, passed Act 12 Stat. 762, which abolished both the federal circuit and district court. They were replaced, by the same act that abolished them, with the Supreme Court for the District of Columbia, which possessed the same powers of jurisdiction as a federal circuit court. This court was created with four justices, one of them being designated the chief judge, and any of which could convene a U.S. district court or a local criminal court.[15]

The court, as it was, handled matters primarily of local jurisdiction, but its mix of federal and local jurisdiction made the court's status and relationship to other federal courts unclear. The Supreme Court of the United States, in decisions made in 1927 and 1933, declared that the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia was comparable to U.S. district courts. In 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court changed the name of the Supreme Court for the District of Columbia to the District Court for the District of Columbia, and again in 1948, to the name it carries today, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Following that transition, justices of the court were to be called judges.[15]

Even with these decisions, the court still utilized a combination of federal and local jurisdiction until 1971. At that time, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals were created to handle local matters.[15]

Judicial posts

The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the District Court for the District of Columbia:[15]

Year Statute Total Seats
March 3, 1863 12 Stat. 762 4
June 21, 1870 16 Stat. 160 5
February 25, 1879 20 Stat. 320 6
December 20, 1928 45 Stat. 1056 7
June 19, 1930 46 Stat. 785 9
May 31, 1938 52 Stat. 584 12
August 3, 1949 63 Stat. 493 15
2013 Temporary Post 16

Former chief judges

In order to qualify for the office of chief judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy in the office of chief judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a chief judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion.[16][17]

Former judges

For more information about the judges of the District of Columbia, see former federal judges of the District of Columbia.

Federal courthouse

The court is accessible through the Judiciary Square or Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro stations.[18]

Historical significance

The land for the courthouse was originally obtained by the federal government for the creation of the District of Columbia. It was originally assigned to hold the U.S. Mint, but was later changed when the Mint remained in Philadelphia. The site was sold by the U.S. government on May 7, 1822, and developed as a commercial and residential district. The current court building was commissioned in 1949 to local architect Louis Justement for his original building.[19] Building commenced in August 1949, and the building was finally opened in 1952. In March 1977, the courthouse was renamed the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse. Prettyman was a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1945 to 1971.[20]

See also

External links


  1. Offices of the United States Attorneys, "U.S. Attorneys Listing," accessed on September 27, 2014
  2. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. 3.0 3.1 New York Daily News, "Justice Department challenges proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways," August 13, 2013
  4. Wall Street Journal, "Airline Judge a Familiar Face in Antitrust," August 14, 2013
  5. Third Branch News, "Shutdown, Holdup for the Courts," October 7, 2013
  6. CNN Money, "US Air and American Airlines reach deal with Justice to allow merger," November 12, 2013
  7. Dallas Morning News, "Federal Judge gives final approval to settlement between DOJ, American Airlines and US Airways," April 25, 2014
  8. Star-Telegram Sky Talk Blog, "Federal judge approves American-DOJ settlement agreement," April 25, 2014
  9. Courthouse News Service, "AARP Trademark," January 17, 2014
  10. Washington Post, "Judge declines to block D.C. school closures," May 15, 2013
  11. Courthouse News Service, "Judge won't stop public school shuttering in D.C.," May 20, 2013
  12. MLB.com, "Clemens acquitted on all counts in perjury trial," June 18, 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Chicago Tribune, "Roger Clemens not guilty on all counts in perjury trial," June 18, 2012
  14. SportingNews MLB, "Roger Clemens verdict: Not guilty on all six counts in perjury trial," June 18, 2012
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Federal Judicial Center, "History of the Federal Judiciary," accessed on September 27, 2014
  16. United States Courts, Frequently Asked Questions
  17. United States Courts, "On Being Chief Judge," February 2009
  18. Google Maps, "United States District Court for the District of Columbia," accessed on January 27, 2011
  19. United States District Court for the District of Columbia, "Courthouse Design," accessed on September 27, 2014
  20. United States District Court for the District of Columbia, "Courthouse History," accessed on September 27, 2014