The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (in case citations, D.C. Cir.) known informally as the D.C. Circuit, is the federal appellate court for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Appeals from the D.C. Circuit, as with all U.S. Courts of Appeals, are heard on a discretionary basis by the Supreme Court. It should not be confused with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is limited in jurisdiction by subject matter rather than geography, or with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which is roughly equivalent to a state supreme court in the District of Columbia, and was established in 1970 to relieve the D.C. Circuit from having to take appeals from the local D.C. trial court.
While it has the smallest geographic jurisdiction of any of the United States courts of appeals, the D.C. Circuit, with eleven active judgeships, is arguably the most important inferior appellate court. The court is given the responsibility of directly reviewing the decisions and rulemaking of many federal independent agencies of the United States government based in the national capital, often without prior hearing by a district court. Aside from the agencies whose statutes explicitly direct review by the D.C. Circuit, the court typically hears cases from other agencies under the more general jurisdiction granted to the Courts of Appeals under the Administrative Procedure Act. Given the broad areas over which federal agencies have power, this often gives the judges of the D.C. Circuit a central role in affecting national U.S. policy and law. Because of this, the D.C. Circuit is often referred to as the second-most powerful court in the United States, second only to the Supreme Court.
A judgeship on the D.C. Circuit is often thought of as a stepping-stone for appointment to the Supreme Court. As of October 2018, four of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are alumni of the D.C. Circuit: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Brett Kavanaugh. Associate Justice Elena Kagan was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the same seat that Roberts would later fill, but was never given a vote in the Senate. In addition, Chief Justices Fred M. Vinson and Warren Burger, as well as Associate Justices Wiley Blount Rutledge and Antonin Scalia, served on the D.C. Circuit before their elevations to the Supreme Court. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan put forth two failed nominees from the D.C. Circuit: former Judge Robert Bork, who was rejected by the Senate, and former (2001–2008) Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg (no relation to Ruth Bader Ginsburg), who withdrew his nomination after it became known that he had used marijuana as a college student and professor in the 1960s and 1970s. Likewise, in 2016 President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland from the D.C. Circuit to replace the late Scalia, but the Senate controversially did not give Garland a full vote.
Because the D.C. Circuit does not represent any state, confirmation of nominees can be procedurally and practically easier than for nominees to the Courts of Appeals for the other geographical districts, as home-state senators have historically been able to hold up confirmation through the "blue slip" process. However, in recent years, several nominees to the D.C. Circuit were stalled and some were ultimately not confirmed because senators claimed that the court had become larger than necessary to handle its caseload. The court has a history of reversing the Federal Communications Commission's major policy actions.
From 1984 to 2009, there were twelve seats on the D.C. Circuit. One of those seats was eliminated by the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 on January 7, 2008, with immediate effect, leaving the number of authorized judgeships at eleven. (The eliminated judgeship was assigned to the Ninth Circuit effective January 21, 2009).
|United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit|
|Location||E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse|
|Established||February 9, 1893|
|Circuit Justice||John Roberts|
|Chief Judge||Merrick Garland|
As of March 18, 2019, the judges on the court are as follows:
|#||Title||Judge||Duty station||Born||Term of service||Appointed by|
|53||Chief Judge||Merrick Garland||Washington, D.C.||1952||1997–present||2013–present||—||Clinton|
|49||Circuit Judge||Karen L. Henderson||Washington, D.C.||1944||1990–present||—||—||G.H.W. Bush|
|51||Circuit Judge||Judith W. Rogers||Washington, D.C.||1939||1994–present||—||—||Clinton|
|52||Circuit Judge||David S. Tatel||Washington, D.C.||1942||1994–present||—||—||Clinton|
|56||Circuit Judge||Thomas B. Griffith||Washington, D.C.||1954||2005–present||—||—||G.W. Bush|
|58||Circuit Judge||Sri Srinivasan||Washington, D.C.||1967||2013–present||—||—||Obama|
|59||Circuit Judge||Patricia Millett||Washington, D.C.||1963||2013–present||—||—||Obama|
|60||Circuit Judge||Cornelia Pillard||Washington, D.C.||1961||2013–present||—||—||Obama|
|61||Circuit Judge||Robert L. Wilkins||Washington, D.C.||1963||2014–present||—||—||Obama|
|62||Circuit Judge||Gregory G. Katsas||Washington, D.C.||1964||2017–present||—||—||Trump|
|63||Circuit Judge||Neomi Rao||Washington, D.C.||1973||2019–present||—||—||Trump|
|38||Senior Circuit Judge||Harry T. Edwards||Washington, D.C.||1940||1980–2005||1994–2001||2005–present||Carter|
|43||Senior Circuit Judge||Laurence Silberman||Washington, D.C.||1935||1985–2000||—||2000–present||Reagan|
|44||Senior Circuit Judge||James L. Buckley||inactive||1923||1985–1996||—||1996–present||Reagan|
|45||Senior Circuit Judge||Stephen F. Williams||Washington, D.C.||1936||1986–2001||—||2001–present||Reagan|
|46||Senior Circuit Judge||Douglas H. Ginsburg||Washington, D.C.||1946||1986–2011||2001–2008||2011–present||Reagan|
|47||Senior Circuit Judge||David B. Sentelle||Washington, D.C.||1943||1987–2013||2008–2013||2013–present||Reagan|
|50||Senior Circuit Judge||A. Raymond Randolph||Washington, D.C.||1943||1990–2008||—||2008–present||G.H.W. Bush|
|#||Judge||State||Born–died||Active service||Chief Judge||Senior status||Appointed by||Reason for|
|1||Richard Henry Alvey||MD||1826–1906||1893–1905||1893–1905||—||Cleveland||retirement|
|2||Martin Ferdinand Morris||DC||1834–1909||1893–1905||—||—||Cleveland||retirement|
|3||Seth Shepard||TX||1847–1917||1893–1917||1905–1917||—|| Cleveland (associate);
T. Roosevelt (chief)
|4||Charles Holland Duell||NY||1850–1920||1905–1906||—||—||T. Roosevelt||resignation|
|5||Louis E. McComas||MD||1846–1907||1905–1907||—||—||T. Roosevelt||death|
|6||Charles Henry Robb||VT||1867–1939||1906–1937||—||1937–1939||T. Roosevelt||death|
|7||Josiah Alexander Van Orsdel||WY||1860–1937||1907–1937||—||—||T. Roosevelt||death|
|8||Constantine Joseph Smyth||NE||1859–1924||1917–1924||1917–1924||—||Wilson||death|
|9||George Ewing Martin||OH||1857–1948||1924–1937||1924–1937||1937–1948||Coolidge||death|
|11||Duncan Lawrence Groner||VA||1873–1957||1931–1948||1937–1948||1948–1957|| Hoover (associate);
F. Roosevelt (chief)
|12||Harold Montelle Stephens||UT||1886–1955||1935–1955||1948–1955||—||F. Roosevelt (associate);
|13||Justin Miller||CA||1888–1973||1937–1945||—||—||F. Roosevelt||resignation|
|14||Henry White Edgerton||DC||1888–1970||1937–1963||1955–1958||1963–1970||F. Roosevelt||death|
|15||Fred M. Vinson||KY||1890–1953||1938–1943||—||—||F. Roosevelt||resignation|
|16||Wiley Blount Rutledge||KY||1894–1949||1939–1943||—||—||F. Roosevelt||elevated to Supreme Court|
|17||Thurman Arnold||WY||1891–1969||1943–1945||—||—||F. Roosevelt||resignation|
|18||Bennett Champ Clark||MO||1890–1954||1945–1954||—||—||Truman||death|
|19||E. Barrett Prettyman||DC||1891–1971||1945–1962||1958–1960||1962–1971||Truman||death|
|20||Wilbur Kingsbury Miller||KY||1892–1976||1945–1964||1960–1962||1964–1976||Truman||death|
|21||James McPherson Proctor||DC||1882–1953||1948–1953||—||—||Truman||death|
|22||David L. Bazelon||IL||1909–1993||1949–1979||1962–1978||1979–1993||Truman||death|
|24||George Thomas Washington||OH||1908–1971||1949–1965||—||1965–1971||Truman||death|
|25||John A. Danaher||CT||1899–1990||1953–1969||—||1969–1990||Eisenhower||death|
|26||Walter Maximillian Bastian||DC||1891–1975||1954–1965||—||1965–1975||Eisenhower||death|
|27||Warren E. Burger||MN||1907–1995||1956–1969||—||—||Eisenhower||elevated to Supreme Court|
|28||James Skelly Wright||LA||1911–1988||1962–1986||1978–1981||1986–1988||Kennedy||death|
|29||Carl E. McGowan||IL||1911–1987||1963–1981||1981–1981||1981–1987||Kennedy||death|
|30||Edward Allen Tamm||DC||1906–1985||1965–1985||—||—||L. Johnson||death|
|31||Harold Leventhal||DC||1915–1979||1965–1979||—||—||L. Johnson||death|
|32||Spottswood William Robinson III||VA||1916–1998||1966–1989||1981–1986||1989–1998||L. Johnson||death|
|35||Malcolm Richard Wilkey||TX||1918–2009||1970–1984||—||1984–1985||Nixon||retirement|
|39||Ruth Bader Ginsburg||NY||1933–present||1980–1993||—||—||Carter||elevated to Supreme Court|
|41||Antonin Scalia||IL||1936–2016||1982–1986||—||—||Reagan||elevated to Supreme Court|
|48||Clarence Thomas||GA||1948–present||1990–1991||—||—||G.H.W. Bush||elevated to Supreme Court|
|54||John Roberts||MD||1955–present||2003–2005||—||—||G.W. Bush||elevated to Supreme Court|
|55||Janice Rogers Brown||CA||1949–present||2005–2017||—||—||G.W. Bush||retirement|
|57||Brett Kavanaugh||MD||1965–present||2006–2018||—||—||G.W. Bush||elevated to Supreme Court|
|as Chief Justice|
|as Chief Judge|
When Congress established this court in 1893 as the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, it had a Chief Justice, and the other judges were called Associate Justices, which was similar to the structure of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justiceship was a separate seat: the President would appoint the Chief Justice, and that person would stay Chief Justice until he left the court.
On June 25, 1948, 62 Stat. 869 and 62 Stat. 985 became law. These acts made the Chief Justice a Chief Judge. In 1954, another law, 68 Stat. 1245, clarified what was implicit in those laws: that the Chief Judgeship was not a mere renaming of the position but a change in its status that made it the same as the Chief Judge of other inferior courts.
Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their circuits, and preside over any panel on which they serve unless the circuit justice (i.e., the Supreme Court justice responsible for the circuit) is also on the panel. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the circuit judges. To be chief, 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 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.
When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire on what has since 1958 been known as senior status or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.
The court has eleven seats for active judges after the elimination of seat seven under the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007. The seat that was originally the Chief Justiceship is numbered as Seat 1; the other seats are numbered in order of their creation. If seats were established simultaneously, they are numbered in the order in which they were filled. Judges who retire into senior status remain on the bench but leave their seat vacant. That seat is filled by the next circuit judge appointed by the President.
John Roberts joined the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003, succeeding James L. Buckley. The following are opinions written by Judge Roberts in 2003.2004 United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit opinions of John Roberts
John Roberts served his first and only full year on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2004. The following are opinions written by Judge Roberts in 2004.2005 United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit opinions of John Roberts
John Roberts served his third and final year on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2005. He was nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States by President George W. Bush originally on July 19 for the seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement and later nominated on September 5 to be Chief Justice of the United States after William Rehnquist's death two days prior. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 29 and left the circuit bench. He was succeeded on the D.C. Circuit by Patricia Millett. The following are opinions written by Judge Roberts in 2005.A. Raymond Randolph
Arthur Raymond Randolph (born November 1, 1943) is a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was appointed to the Court in 1990 and assumed senior status on November 1, 2008.American Public Health Association v. Butz
American Public Health Association v. Butz (APHA v. Butz), 511 F.2d 331 (D.C. Cir. 1974) was a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit case argued on January 22, 1974, and decided on December 19, 1974.Azar v. Garza
Garza v. Hargan (Azar v. Garza after Alex Azar's confirmation as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services) is a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding a juvenile undocumented immigrant in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who seeks to have an abortion.Bancoult v. McNamara
Bancoult v. McNamara, 445 F.3d 427 (D.C. Cir. 2006), was a legal case in which Olivier Bancoult sued Robert McNamara, the former United States Secretary of Defense, challenging the removal of Chagosians from Diego Garcia when the United States of America built a military base in the British Indian Ocean Territory. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the case raised nonjusticiable political questions and dismissed the case.Colorado River Indian Tribes v. National Indian Gaming Commission
Colorado River Indian Tribes v. National Indian Gaming Commission, 05-5402 (D.C. Cir. 2006), was a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that was handed down on October 20, 2006.David B. Sentelle
David Bryan Sentelle (born February 12, 1943) is a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.David L. Bazelon
David Lionel Bazelon (September 3, 1909 – February 19, 1993) was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.David S. Tatel
David S. Tatel (born March 16, 1942) is an American jurist and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1994.Derek Lyons
Derek S. Lyons is an American political advisor serving as White House Staff Secretary in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.Douglas H. Ginsburg
Douglas Howard Ginsburg (born May 25, 1946) is an American jurist and academic who serves as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was appointed to that court at age 40 in October 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, and served as its chief judge from July 2001 until February 2008. Ginsburg was nominated by Reagan to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy after the retirement of Lewis F. Powell in October 1987, but soon withdrew from consideration after his earlier marijuana use created controversy.Ginsburg took senior status at age 65 in October 2011, and joined the faculty of New York University School of Law in January 2012. In 2013, he left NYU and began teaching at George Mason University's Scalia Law School. He is the author of numerous scholarly works on antitrust and constitutional law.Parhat v. Gates
Parhat v. Gates, 532 F.3d 834 (D.C. Cir. 2008), was a case involving a petition for review under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 filed on behalf of Huzaifa Parhat, and sixteen other Uyghur detainees held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba.Special Division
The Special Division is a division of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 28 U.S.C. § 49 (1982 ed., Supp. V) (Title VI of the Ethics in Government Act). It consists of three circuit court judges or justices appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States. One of the judges must be a judge of the DC Circuit, and no two of the judges may be named to the Special Division from a particular court. The judges are appointed for 2-year terms, with any vacancy being filled only for the remainder of the 2-year period. Its constitutionality was upheld in Morrison v. Olson.
On December 19, 1986, Lawrence Walsh was appointed Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters by the Special Division.Spottswood William Robinson III
Spottswood William Robinson III (July 26, 1916 – October 11, 1998) was an American educator, civil rights attorney, and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after previously serving as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.Stephen F. Williams
Stephen Fain Williams (born September 23, 1936) is a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.Wilbur Kingsbury Miller
Wilbur Kingsbury Miller (October 9, 1892 – January 24, 1976) was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co.
Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co., 350 F.2d 445 (D.C. Cir. 1965), was a court opinion, written by Judge J. Skelly Wright, that had a definitive discussion of unconscionability as a defense to enforcement of contracts in American contract law. As a staple of first-year law school contract law courses, it has been briefed extensively.It flows from interpretation of the Uniform Commercial Code § 2-302 (1954) and is relevant for the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 208.
Judges of the United States courts of appeals
Senior judges of the United States courts of appeals
Active district judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
Current senior district judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals