United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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 the U.S. Courts of Appeals, are heard on a discretionary basis by the Supreme Court. It should not be confused with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which is roughly equivalent to a state supreme court in the District of Columbia, or with the Federal Circuit, whose jurisdiction is limited only by subject matter.
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.
A judgeship on the D.C. Circuit is often thought of as a stepping-stone for appointment to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are alumni of the D.C. Circuit. In addition, the Reagan Administration put forth two failed nominees in 1987 from the D.C. Circuit: former Judge Robert Bork, who was rejected by the Senate, and former (2001–2008) Chief Judge Douglas H. 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. Before the 1980s, Chief Justices Fred M. Vinson and Warren Burger, as well as Associate Justice Wiley Blount Rutledge, served on the D.C. Circuit before their elevations to the Supreme Court.
Unlike the Courts of Appeals for the other geographical districts where home-state senators have the privilege of holding up confirmation by the "blue slip" process, because the D.C. Circuit does not represent any state, confirmation of nominees is often procedurally and practically easier. However, in recent years, several nominees were stalled and some were ultimately not confirmed because senators claimed that the court had become larger than necessary to handle its caseload.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit meets at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, near Judiciary Square in downtown Washington, D.C.
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 instead assigned to the Ninth Circuit, with the assignment taking effect on January 21, 2009).
The D.C. Circuit is the only U.S. Court of Appeals that publishes its cases in its own official reporter. All decisions of the other U.S. Courts of Appeals are published only in the Federal Reporter, an unofficial reporter from Thomson West.
Current composition of court
# Judge Duty station Born Appointed Chief Appointed by 47 David B. Sentelle DC 1943 1987 2008–present Reagan 49 Karen L. Henderson DC 1944 1990 —— G.H.W. Bush 51 Judith Ann Wilson Rogers DC 1939 1994 —— Clinton 52 David S. Tatel DC 1942 1994 —— Clinton 53 Merrick B. Garland DC 1952 1997 —— Clinton 55 Janice Rogers Brown DC 1949 2005 —— G.W. Bush 56 Thomas B. Griffith DC 1954 2005 —— G.W. Bush 57 Brett M. Kavanaugh DC 1965 2006 —— G.W. Bush - Vacant (Seat 6) - Vacant (Seat 9) - Vacant (Seat 2)
Vacancies and pending nominations
Seat Seat Last Held By Vacancy Reason Date of Vacancy Nominee Date of Nomination 6 John Roberts Elevation to Supreme Court September 25, 2005 Caitlin Halligan September 29, 2010 9 A. Raymond Randolph Senior status November 1, 2008 —— —— 2 Douglas H. Ginsburg Senior status October 14, 2011 —— ——
The following judges continue to serve on senior status:
# Judge Duty station Born Active Chief Appointed by 38 Harry T. Edwards DC 1940 1980–2005 1994–2001 Carter 43 Laurence H. Silberman DC 1935 1985–2000 —— Reagan 45 Stephen F. Williams DC 1936 1986–2001 —— Reagan 46 Douglas H. Ginsburg DC 1946 1986–2011 2001–2008 Reagan 50 A. Raymond Randolph DC 1943 1990–2008 —— G.H.W. Bush
List of former judges
# Judge State Born/Died Active service Term as Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Richard Henry Alvey MD 1826–1906 1893–1905 1893–1905 (none) Cleveland retirement 2 Martin Ferdinand Morris DC 1834–1909 1893–1905 (none) (none) Cleveland retirement 3 Seth Shepard TX 1847–1917 1893–1917 1905–1917 (none) Cleveland (associate);
T. Roosevelt (chief)
retirement 4 Charles Holland Duell NY 1850–1920 1905–1906 (none) (none) Cleveland resignation 5 Louis Emory McComas MD 1846–1907 1905–1907 (none) (none) T. Roosevelt death 6 Charles Henry Robb VT 1867–1939 1906–1937 (none) 1937–1939 T. Roosevelt death 7 Josiah Alexander Van Orsdel WY 1860–1937 1907–1937 (none) (none) T. Roosevelt death 8 Constantine Joseph Smyth NE 1859–1924 1917–1924 1917–1924 (none) Wilson death 9 George Ewing Martin OH 1857–1948 1924–1937 1924–1937 1937–1948 Coolidge death 10 William Hitz DC 1872–1935 1931–1935 (none) (none) Hoover death 11 Duncan Lawrence Groner VA 1873–1957 1931–1948 1937–1948 1948–1957 Hoover (associate);
F. Roosevelt (chief)
death 12 Harold Montelle Stephens UT 1886–1955 1935–1955 1948–1955 (none) F. Roosevelt (associate);
death 13 Justin Miller CA 1888–1973 1937–1945 (none) (none) F. Roosevelt resignation 14 Henry White Edgerton 1888–1970 1937–1963 1955–1958 1963–1970 F. Roosevelt death 15 Fred M. Vinson KY 1890–1953 1938–1943 (none) (none) F. Roosevelt resignation to become Director of
the Office of Economic Stabilization
16 Wiley Blount Rutledge 1894–1949 1939–1943 (none) (none) F. Roosevelt elevation to Supreme Court 17 Thurman Wesley Arnold WY 1891–1969 1943–1945 (none) (none) F. Roosevelt resignation 18 Bennett Champ Clark MO 1890–1954 1945–1954 (none) (none) Truman death 19 Wilbur Kingsbury Miller KY 1892–1976 1945–1964 1960–1962 1964–1976 Truman death 20 E. Barrett Prettyman DC 1891–1971 1945–1962 1958–1960 1962–1971 Truman death 21 James McPherson Proctor DC 1882–1953 1948–1953 (none) (none) Truman death 22 David L. Bazelon IL 1909–1993 1949–1979 1962–1978 1979–1993 Truman death 23 Charles Fahy 1892–1979 1949–1967 (none) 1967–1979 Truman death 24 George Thomas Washington 1908–1971 1949–1965 (none) 1965–1971 Truman death 25 John Anthony Danaher CT 1899–1990 1953–1969 (none) 1969–1990 Eisenhower death 26 Walter Maximillian Bastian DC 1891–1975 1954–1965 (none) 1965–1975 Eisenhower death 27 Warren E. Burger MN 1907–1995 1956–1969 (none) (none) Eisenhower elevation 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 (none) (none) L. Johnson death 31 Harold Leventhal DC 1915–1979 1965–1979 (none) (none) L. Johnson death 32 Spottswood William Robinson III VA 1916–1998 1966–1989 1981–1986 1989–1998 L. Johnson death 33 George MacKinnon MN 1906–1995 1969–1983 (none) 1983–1995 Nixon death 34 Roger Robb DC 1907–1985 1969–1982 (none) 1982–1985 Nixon death 35 Malcolm Richard Wilkey TX 1918–present 1970–1984 (none) 1984–1985 Nixon retirement 36 Patricia Wald DC 1928–present 1979–1999 1986–1991 (none) Carter retirement 37 Abner J. Mikva IL 1926–present 1979–1994 1991–1994 (none) Carter resignation to become White House Counsel 39 Ruth Bader Ginsburg NY 1933–present 1980–1993 (none) (none) Carter elevation to Supreme Court 40 Robert Bork CT 1927–present 1982–1988 (none) (none) Reagan resignation 41 Antonin Scalia NJ 1936–present 1982–1986 (none) (none) Reagan elevation to Supreme Court 42 Kenneth Starr VA 1946–present 1983–1989 (none) (none) Reagan resignation to become Solicitor General 44 James L. Buckley DC 1923–present 1983–1996 (none) 1996-2000 Reagan retirement 48 Clarence Thomas GA 1948–present 1990–1991 (none) (none) G.H.W. Bush elevation to Supreme Court 54 John Roberts MD 1955–present 2003–2005 (none) (none) G.W. Bush elevation to Supreme Court
Chief as Chief Justice Alvey 1893–1905 Shepard 1905–1917 Smyth 1917–1924 Martin 1924–1937 Groner 1937–1948 Stephens 1948–1948 as Chief Judge Stephens 1948–1955 Edgerton 1955–1958 Prettyman 1958–1960 W. Miller 1960–1962 Bazelon 1962–1978 Wright 1978–1981 McGowan 1981–1981 Robinson 1981–1986 Wald 1986–1991 Mikva 1991–1994 Edwards 1994–2001 D. Ginsburg 2001–2008 Sentelle 2008–present
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, just like the Supreme Court. Just like 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 they 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 chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.
Succession of seats
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.
Seat 1 Established on February 9, 1893 as Chief Justice by 27 Stat. 434 Alvey 1893–1905 Shepard 1905–1917 Smyth 1917–1924 Martin 1924–1937 Groner 1937–1948 Stephens 1948–1948 Seat redesignated on June 25, 1948 as Circuit Judge persuant to 62 Stat. 869, 62 Stat. 985, and 68 Stat. 1245 Stephens 1948–1955 Burger 1956–1969 Wilkey 1970–1984 Williams 1986–2001 Brown 2005–present Seat 2 Established on February 9, 1893 as Associate Justice by 27 Stat. 434 Morris 1893–1905 McComas 1905–1907 Van Orsdel 1907–1937 J. Miller 1937–1945 Prettyman 1945–1948 Redesignated on June 25, 1948 as Circuit Judge by 62 Stat. 869, 985 Prettyman 1948–1962 Wright 1962–1986 D. Ginsburg 1986–2011 (vacant) 2011–present Seat 3 Established on February 9, 1893 as Associate Justice by 27 Stat. 434 Shepard 1893–1905 Duell 1905–1906 C. Robb 1906–1937 Vinson 1938–1943 W. Miller 1945–1948 Redesignated on June 25, 1948 as Circuit Judge by 62 Stat. 869, 985 W. Miller 1948–1964 Leventhal 1965–1979 R. B. Ginsburg 1980–1993 Tatel 1994–present Seat 4 Established on June 19, 1930 as Associate Justice by 46 Stat. 785 Hitz 1931–1935 Stephens 1935–1948 Redesignated on June 25, 1948 as Circuit Judge by 62 Stat. 869, 985 Proctor 1948–1953 Danaher 1953–1969 R. Robb 1969–1982 Scalia 1982–1986 Sentelle 1987–present Seat 5 Established on June 19, 1930 as Associate Justice by 46 Stat. 785 Groner 1931–1937 Edgerton 1937–1948 Redesignated on June 25, 1948 as Circuit Judge by 62 Stat. 869, 985 Edgerton 1948–1963 McGowan 1963–1981 Bork 1982–1988 Thomas 1990–1991 Rogers 1994–present Seat 6 Established on May 31, 1938 as Associate Justice by 52 Stat. 584 Rutledge 1939–1943 Clark 1945–1948 Redesignated on June 25, 1948 as Circuit Judge by 62 Stat. 869, 985 Clark 1948–1954 Bastian 1954–1965 Tamm 1965–1985 Buckley 1985–1996 Roberts 2003–2005 (vacant) 2005–present Seat 7 Established on August 3, 1949 by 63 Stat. 493 Bazelon 1949–1979 Edwards 1980–2005 Seat Eliminated on January 7, 2008 by Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 Seat 8 Established on August 3, 1949 by 63 Stat. 493 Fahy 1949–1967 MacKinnon 1969–1983 Starr 1983–1989 Henderson 1990–present Seat 9 Established on August 3, 1949 by 63 Stat. 493 Washington 1949–1965 Robinson 1966–1989 Randolph 1990–2008 (vacant) 2008–present Seat 10 Established on October 20, 1978 by 92 Stat. 1629 Wald 1979–1999 Griffith 2005–present Seat 11 Established on October 20, 1978 by 92 Stat. 1629 Mikva 1979–1994 Garland 1997–present Seat 12 Established on July 10, 1984 by 98 Stat. 333 Silberman 1985–2000 Kavanaugh 2006–present
- Federal judicial appointment history#DC Circuit
- ^ a b c Prior to 1948, the court consisted of a Chief Justice and up to five Associate Justices. Much like in the United States Supreme Court, the Chief Justice would be separately nominated and subject to a separate confirmation process, regardless of whether or not he was elevated from an associate justice position. In 1948, the positions of Chief Justice and Associate Justice were reassigned to Circuit Judge positions and the position of Chief Judge was assigned based on seniority.
- ^ a b c d e f g Recess appointment, confirmed by the Senate at a later date.
- "Standard Search". Federal Law Clerk Information System. https://lawclerks.ao.uscourts.gov/web/jobSearch. Retrieved 2005-06-02.
- source for the duty station for Judge Williams
- "Instructions for Judicial Directory". Website of the University of Texas Law School. Archived from the original on 2005-11-11. http://web.archive.org/web/20051111193332/http://www.utexas.edu/law/depts/career/downloads/judicial_listing.html. Retrieved 2005-07-04.
- source for the duty station for Judges Silberman and Buckley
- data is current to 2002
- "U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit". Official website of the Federal Judicial Center. Archived from the original on 2005-04-04. http://web.archive.org/web/20050404132238/http://www.fjc.gov/history/home.nsf/usca_dc_frm?OpenFrameSet. Retrieved 2005-05-26.
- source for the state, lifetime, term of active judgeship, term of chief judgeship, term of senior judgeship, appointer, termination reason, and seat information
- United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- Recent opinions from FindLaw
- What Makes the DC Circuit so Different? A Historical View - Article by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
United States courts of appeals
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