United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
(D.C. Cir.)
LocationE. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
Appeals from
EstablishedFebruary 9, 1893
Circuit JusticeJohn Roberts
Chief JudgeSri Srinivasan

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (in case citations, D.C. Cir.) is one of the thirteen United States Courts of Appeals. It has the smallest geographical jurisdiction of any of the U.S. courts of appeals, and it covers only one district court: the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.[a] It meets at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington, DC.

The D.C. Circuit's status and prestige among American federal courts is generally considered to be second only to the U.S. Supreme Court. Its geographic jurisdiction contains the U.S. Capitol and the headquarters of many U.S. federal executive departments and government agencies. As a result, the D.C. Circuit tends to be the main federal appellate court for issues of American administrative law, constitutional law, and other related areas.[2] Four of the nine current Supreme Court justices were previously judges on the D.C. Circuit: Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Past justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Warren E. Burger, Fred M. Vinson, and Wiley Blount Rutledge also served as judges on the D.C. Circuit before their appointments to the Supreme Court.

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.

Current composition of the court

As of January 16, 2024:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
58 Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan Washington, D.C. 1967 2013–present 2020–present Obama
49 Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson Washington, D.C. 1944 1990–present G.H.W. Bush
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
64 Circuit Judge Justin R. Walker Washington, D.C. 1982 2020–present Trump
66 Circuit Judge J. Michelle Childs Washington, D.C. 1966 2022–present Biden
67 Circuit Judge Florence Y. Pan Washington, D.C. 1966 2022–present Biden
68 Circuit Judge Brad Garcia Washington, D.C. 1986 2023–present Biden
38 Senior Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards Washington, D.C. 1940 1980–2005 1994–2001 2005–present Carter
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 inactive 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
51 Senior Circuit Judge Judith W. Rogers Washington, D.C. 1939 1994–2022 2022–present Clinton

List of former judges

# 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)[b]
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[c]–1937 1937–1939 T. Roosevelt death
7 Josiah Alexander Van Orsdel WY 1860–1937 1907[c]–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
10 William Hitz DC 1872–1935 1931–1935 Hoover death
11 Duncan Lawrence Groner VA 1873–1957 1931–1948 1937–1948 1948–1957 Hoover (associate);
F. Roosevelt (chief)[b]
12 Harold Montelle Stephens UT 1886–1955 1935–1955 1948–1955 F. Roosevelt (associate);
Truman (chief)[b]
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 Rutledge KY 1894–1949 1939–1943 F. Roosevelt elevation 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[c]–1979 1962–1978 1979–1993 Truman death
23 Charles Fahy GA 1892–1979 1949[c]–1967 1967–1979 Truman death
24 George Thomas Washington OH 1908–1971 1949[c]–1965 1965–1971 Truman death
25 John A. Danaher CT 1899–1990 1953[c]–1969 1969–1990 Eisenhower death
26 Walter Maximillian Bastian DC 1891–1975 1954[c]–1965 1965–1975 Eisenhower death
27 Warren E. Burger MN 1907–1995 1956–1969 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 1981–1987 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
33 George MacKinnon MN 1906–1995 1969–1983 1983–1995 Nixon death
34 Roger Robb DC 1907–1985 1969–1982 1982–1985 Nixon death
35 Malcolm Richard Wilkey TX 1918–2009 1970–1984 1984–1985 Nixon retirement
36 Patricia Wald DC 1928–2019 1979–1999 1986–1991 Carter retirement
37 Abner Mikva IL 1926–2016 1979–1994 1991–1994 Carter retirement
39 Ruth Bader Ginsburg NY 1933–2020 1980–1993 Carter elevation to Supreme Court
40 Robert Bork CT 1927–2012 1982–1988 Reagan resignation
41 Antonin Scalia IL 1936–2016 1982–1986 Reagan elevation to Supreme Court
42 Kenneth Starr VA 1946–2022 1983–1989 Reagan resignation
43 Laurence Silberman PA 1935–2022 1985–2000 2000–2022 Reagan death
44 James L. Buckley NY 1923–2023 1985–1996 1996–2000 Reagan retirement
45 Stephen F. Williams CO 1936–2020 1986–2001 2001–2020 Reagan death
48 Clarence Thomas GA 1948–present 1990–1991 G.H.W. Bush elevation to Supreme Court
52 David S. Tatel DC 1942–present 1994–2022 2022–2024 Clinton retirement
53 Merrick Garland IL 1952–present 1997–2021 2013–2020 Clinton retirement
54 John Roberts MD 1955–present 2003–2005 G.W. Bush elevation to Supreme Court
55 Janice Rogers Brown CA 1949–present 2005–2017 G.W. Bush retirement
56 Thomas B. Griffith UT 1954–present 2005–2020 G.W. Bush retirement
57 Brett Kavanaugh MD 1965–present 2006–2018 G.W. Bush elevation to Supreme Court
65 Ketanji Brown Jackson DC 1970–present 2021–2022 Biden elevation to Supreme Court


as Chief Justice
Alvey 1893–1905
Shepard 1905–1917
Smyth 1917–1924
Martin 1924–1937
Groner 1937–1948
Stephens 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
Robinson 1981–1986
Wald 1986–1991
Mikva 1991–1994
Edwards 1994–2001
D. Ginsburg 2001–2008
Sentelle 2008–2013
Garland 2013–2020
Srinivasan 2020–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, 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their circuits, and preside over any panel on which they serve, unless the circuit justice (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, with seniority determined first by commission date, then by age. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years, or until age 70, whichever occurs first. If no judge qualifies to be chief, the youngest judge over the age of 65 who has served on the court for at least one year shall act as chief until another judge qualifies. If no judge has served on the court for more than a year, the most senior judge shall act as chief. Judges can forfeit or resign their chief judgeship or acting chief judgeship while retaining their active status as a circuit judge.[3]

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.[4]

Succession of seats

The court has eleven seats for active judges after the elimination of Seat 8 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.

See also


  1. ^ In some circumstances, it may also handle appeals that originate in American Samoa, which has no local federal district court or territorial court, by way of the D.C. District court; the Ninth Circuit may also handle such cases by the District of Hawaii.[1]
  2. ^ a b c Prior to 1948, the court consisted of a Chief Justice and up to five Associate Justices. Much like with the Supreme Court of the United States, 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Recess appointment, confirmed by the Senate at a later date.


  1. ^ https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1124T Archived 2019-10-16 at the Wayback Machine GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office. AMERICAN SAMOA: Issues Associated with Some Federal Court Options. September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  2. ^ Turner, Julia (February 7, 2003). "Explainer: What's So Important About the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals?". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on February 12, 2021. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  3. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 45
  4. ^ 62 Stat. 871, 72 Stat. 497, 96 Stat. 51