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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
Chief:Richard RobertsJudges:14
Active judges
Senior Judges
Magistrate Judges
Former Judges
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
More than 40%
1 Court
1.1 Vacancy warning level
1.2 Jurisdiction
1.2.1 Cases heard
1.2.2 Case load
1.3 Clerk's office
1.4 History
1.4.1 Court history
1.4.2 Judicial posts
1.4.3 Notable cases
1.4.4 Federal courthouse
1.5 See also
1.6 External links
1.7 References
2 Judges
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 (Washington, D.C.), over which federal courts have original jurisdiction. 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 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, with around 250 AUSAs.

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 currently set at yellow. The court currently has two vacancies for the 16 posts. However, one post is temporary.


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

Cases heard

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.

Case load

Federal Court Case Load 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
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.
DC Terminations Filed.jpg DC Median Times.jpg

Clerk's office

The Clerks office is open from 9a.m. - 4p.m. on all business days. You can contact the clerks office via the websites form. The mission statement of the clerk's office reads:

"The mission of the Clerk's Office is to assist in the administration of justice by providing accurate, impartial and timely information as well as excellent service to all of our customers."[2]

The contact information for the court is as follows:

U. S. District Court (or U.S. Bankruptcy Court) for the District of Columbia
333 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 354-3080


Court history

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 courts 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.[3]

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.[3]

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 U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and as a result the justices of the court were to be called judges.[3]

Even with these decisions the court still utilized a combination of federal and local jurisdiction until 1971, after which, due to the creation of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals which handled local matters similar to state courts, it exercised federal jurisdiction exclusively.[3]

Judicial posts

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

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

Notable cases

Guantanamo detainee cases

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

A complete list of the court's opinions can be found here.

Federal courthouse

  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays.

The court is located on 333 Constitution Avenue Northwest in Washington, D.C.[11] The court is accessible through the Judiciary Square or Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro stations.[12]

The court bans visitors from bringing in liquids, aerosols, and gels that in excess of 3.4 ounces into the building. Visitors are allowed to carry into the courthouse up to three liquid containers weighing 3.4 ounces or less. The policy has been in effect since April 5, 2010. Building tenants, judges, court staff, and jurors with their jury summons are exempt the ban.[13]

Also, the court provides an array of technological devices that are available in most courtrooms.[14]

Historical Significance

The land for the court house was originally obtained by the U.S. 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.plans In August of 1949 ground was broken 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 1945-1971.[15] To read the full history of the court building, see the Official Courthouse History.

See also

External links


District of Columbia
District of Columbia Circuit
Seal of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.png
Chief:Richard RobertsJudges:14
Active judges
Senior Judges
Magistrate Judges
Former Judges
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
More than 40%
1 Court
2 Judges
2.1 Active Judges
2.1.1 Article III judges
2.1.2 Pending appointments
2.1.3 Senior judges
2.2 Past judges
2.2.1 Former Chief judges
2.2.2 Former judges

Active judges

Article III judges

JudgeBornHomeAppointed byActiveChiefPreceededBachelorsLaw
Judge Emmet Sullivan1947Washington, DCClinton 6/16/1994 - PresentLouis OberdorferHoward University '68Howard University '71
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly1943New York, NYClinton 3/26/1997 - PresentHarold GreeneCatholic U. of America '65Catholic U. of America '68
Chief Judge Richard Roberts1953New York City, NYClinton 6/23/1998 - Present2013 - PresentCharles RicheyVassar College '74Columbia Law '78
Judge Ellen Huvelle1948Boston, MAClinton 10/26/1999 - PresentJohn PennWellsley College, 1970Boston College, 1975
Judge Rosemary Collyer1945Port Chester, MDW. Bush 11/15/2002 - PresentThomas JacksonTrinity College '68U. Denver College of Law '77
Judge Reggie Walton1949North Charleroi, PAW. Bush 9/24/2001 - PresentStanley SporkinWest Virginia State College '71American U. Law '74
Judge John Bates10/11/1946Elizabeth, NJW. Bush 12/14/2001 - PresentStanley HarrisWesleyan University '68U. Maryland School of Law '76
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 3/14/2011 - PresentThomas HoganYale, B.A., 1985Yale Law, J.D., 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 3/22/2012 - PresentRicardo UrbinaFlorida State U., B.S., 1984U. of Pennsylvania Law, J.D., 1991
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson1970Washington, DCObama 3/23/2013 - PresentHenry KennedyHarvard, B.A., 1992Harvard Law, J.D., 1996
Judge Christopher Reid Cooper1966Washington, D.C. 3/26/2014-PresentRoyce LamberthYale, B.A., 1988Stanford Law, J.D., 1993

Pending appointments

Tanya S. ChutkanGeorge Washington U., B.A., 1983U. of Pennsylvania School of Law, J.D., 1987
Randolph D. MossHamilton College, A.B., 1983Yale Law, J.D., 1986

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 '60Goergetown Law '66
Senior Judge Gladys KesslerClinton 6/16/1994 - 1/22/20071/22/2007 - PresentCornell '59Harvard Law '62
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

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.
Magistrate Judge John Facciola1997 - PresentCollege of the Holy Cross, A.B.Georgetown U. Law, J.D.

Past judges

Former Chief judges

Former Chief JudgesTerm
John Lewis Smith1981-1982
John Sirica1971-1974
Aubrey Robinson1982-1992
David Pine1959-1961
John Penn1992-1997
Matthew McGuire1961-1966
Richmond Keech1966
William Jones1975-1977
Norma Johnson1997-2001
George Hart1974-1975
Edward Eicher1942-1944
Edward Curran1966-1971
William Bryant1977-1981
Bolitha Laws1945-1958
Fred Dickinson Letts1958-1959
Alfred Adams Wheat1930-1941
Thomas Hogan2001-2008
Royce Lamberth5/1/2008 - 7/15/2013
Walter Irving McCoy1918-1929
James Harry Covington1914-1918
Harry Clabaugh1903-1914
Edward Franklin Bingham1888-1903
David Kellogg Cartter1863-1887

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.[1][2]

Former judges

  1. Michael Boudin
  2. Thomas Anderson
  3. William Matthew Merrick
  4. David Kellogg Cartter
  5. George Purnell Fisher
  6. Abram Baldwin Olin
  7. Andrew Wylie
  8. David Campbell Humphreys
  9. Arthur MacArthur
  10. Walter Smith Cox
  11. Alexander Burton Hagner
  12. Charles Pinckney James
  13. Edward Franklin Bingham
  14. Martin Montgomery
  15. Andrew Coyle Bradley
  16. Charles Cleaves Cole
  17. Louis Emory McComas
  18. Thomas H. Anderson
  19. Job Barnard
  20. Harry Clabaugh
  21. Ashley Mulgrave Gould
  22. Jeter Connelly Pritchard
  23. Wendell Phillips Stafford
  24. Daniel Thew Wright
  25. Thomas Jennings Bailey
  26. James Harry Covington
  27. William Hitz
  28. Walter Irving McCoy
  29. Frederick Lincoln Siddons
  30. Adolph Hoehling
  31. Peyton Gordon
  32. Louis Oberdorfer
  33. James Robertson
  34. Ricardo Urbina
  35. Henry Kennedy
  36. Harold Leventhal
  37. Alfred Adams Wheat
  38. Jesse Corcoran Adkins
  39. Joseph Winston Cox
  40. Oscar Raymond Luhring
  41. Fred Dickinson Letts
  42. Daniel William O'Donoghue
  43. James McPherson Proctor
  44. Bolitha Laws
  45. Thomas Goldsborough
  46. James Morris
  47. Thomas Penfield Jackson
  48. Walter Bastian
  49. Edward Tamm
  50. William Bryant
  51. Howard Corcoran
  52. Edward Curran
  53. Edward Eicher
  54. Thomas Flannery
  55. Oliver Gasch
  56. Gerhard Gesell
  57. June Green
  58. Harold Greene
  59. Stanley Harris
  60. George Hart
  61. Norma Johnson
  62. Alexander Holtzoff
  63. William Jones
  64. Richmond Keech
  65. James Kirkland
  66. Burnita Matthews
  67. Joseph McGarraghy
  68. Matthew McGuire
  69. Charles McLaughlin
  70. John Penn
  71. David Pine
  72. John Pratt
  73. George Revercomb
  74. Charles Richey
  75. Aubrey Robinson
  76. Spottswood Robinson
  77. Henry Schweinhaut
  78. John Sirica
  79. John Lewis Smith
  80. Stanley Sporkin
  81. Joseph Waddy
  82. Leonard Walsh
  83. Luther Youngdahl
  84. Barrington Daniels Parker, Sr.
  85. James Proctor
  86. Robert Leon Wilkins

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