District of Columbia Court of Appeals

District of Columbia Court of Appeals
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals is located in the former D.C. City Hall, a National Historic Landmark.
LocationDistrict of Columbia City Hall, Judiciary Square, Washington, DC
Composition methodPresidential nomination with Senate confirmation
Authorized byDerived from the United States Congress
Appeals toSupreme Court of the United States (in matters of federal law only)
Appeals fromSuperior Court of the District of Columbia
Judge term length15 years
Number of positions9
Chief judge
CurrentlyAnna Blackburne-Rigsby
SinceMarch 17, 2017

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals is the highest court of the District of Columbia, the capital city of the United States. Established in 1970, the court is located in the former District of Columbia City Hall building at Judiciary Square. The D.C. Court of Appeals and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia comprise the District's local court system.

The D.C. Court of Appeals is the equivalent of a state supreme court. But because the District of Columbia is not a U.S. state, the court's authority is derived from the U.S. Congress rather than from the inherent sovereignty of the states.

Because of its name, the D.C. Court of Appeals is sometimes confused with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is the federal U.S. court of appeals that covers the District of Columbia.


For much of the history of the District of Columbia, appeals in local matters were adjudicated by federal courts: first the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia (1801–1863), then the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia (1863–1893) (later renamed the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia), and finally the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (1893–1970) (later renamed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit).[1] The first local appellate court was established in 1942 when Congress created the Municipal Court of Appeals to hear appeals from the D.C. Municipal Court and the Juvenile Court. Consisting of a Chief Judge and two Associate Judges, the Municipal Court of Appeals acted as an intermediate appellate court, its decisions reviewable on a discretionary basis by the D.C. Circuit. In 1962, Congress renamed the court the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and in 1967 its membership was enlarged to six judges.[1]

Federal and local jurisdiction in the D.C. remained entangled until 1970, when Congress enacted the District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act. In addition to establishing the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the Act established the District of Columbia Court of Appeals as the "highest court for the District of Columbia," expanded its size to its present composition of nine judges, and broadened its jurisdiction to hear all appeals from the Superior Court and review decisions of the city's mayor and administrative agencies.[1]


As the court of last resort for the District of Columbia, the Court of Appeals is authorized to review all final orders, judgments, and specified interlocutory orders of the associate judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, as well as decisions of certain D.C. agencies. The court also has jurisdiction to review decisions of administrative agencies, boards, and commissions of the District government, as well as to answer questions of law presented by the Supreme Court of the United States, a United States court of appeals, or the highest appellate court of any state. As authorized by Congress, the court reviews proposed rules of the trial court and develops its own rules for proceedings.

Cases before the court are determined by randomly selected three-judge divisions, unless a hearing or rehearing before the court sitting en banc (with all judges present) is ordered. A hearing or rehearing before the court sitting en banc may be ordered by a majority of the judges in regular active service, generally only when consideration by the full court is necessary to maintain uniformity of its decisions, or when the case involves a question of exceptional importance. The en banc court consists of the nine judges of the court in regular active service, except that a retired judge may sit to rehear a case or controversy if the judge heard the original hearing. The Chief Judge may designate and assign temporarily one or more judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to serve on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals when required.

Members of the court are empowered to adjudicate the oath of office ceremony for the executive cabinet of the president.

In the exercise of its inherent power over members of the legal profession, the court established the District of Columbia Bar and has the power to approve the rules governing attorney disciplinary proceedings. The court also reviews the rules of professional conduct and has established rules governing the admission of members of the District of Columbia Bar and the resolution of complaints concerning the unauthorized practice of law in the District of Columbia.


The court consists of a chief judge and eight associate judges. The court is assisted by the service of retired judges who have been recommended and approved as senior judges. Despite being the District's local appellate court, judges are appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for 15-year terms.[2]

Active judges[edit]

As of May 17, 2023:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
29 Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby Washington, D.C. 1961 2006–present 2017–present G.W. Bush
32 Judge Corinne A. Beckwith Washington, D.C. 1963 2011–present Obama
33 Judge Catharine F. Easterly Washington, D.C. 1970 2012–present Obama
34 Judge Roy W. McLeese Washington, D.C. 1959 2012–present Obama
35 Judge Joshua Deahl Washington, D.C. 1981 2020–present Trump
36 Judge John P. Howard III Washington, D.C. 1984 2022–present Biden
37 Judge Loren L. AliKhan Washington, D.C. 1983 2022–present Biden
38 Judge Vijay Shanker Washington, D.C. 1972 2022–present Biden
39 Judge vacant Washington, D.C.
17 Senior Judge John M. Steadman Washington, D.C. 1930 1985–2004 2004–present Reagan
23 Senior Judge Vanessa Ruiz Washington, D.C. 1950 1994–2011 2012–present Clinton
25 Senior Judge Stephen H. Glickman Washington, D.C. 1945 1999–2022 2022–present Clinton
26 Senior Judge Eric T. Washington Washington, D.C. 1953 1999–2017 2005-2017 2017–present Clinton
28 Senior Judge John R. Fisher Washington, D.C. 1946 2006–2020 2020–present G.W. Bush
30 Senior Judge Phyllis D. Thompson Washington, D.C. 1952 2006–2021 2021–present G.W. Bush

Vacancies and pending nominations[edit]

Seat Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
Kathryn A. Oberly Retirement November 1, 2013
Loren AliKhan Elevation TBD

Former judges[edit]

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Catherine B. Kelly 1917–1995 1967–1973 Johnson resignation
2 Austin L. Fickling DC 1914–1977 1968–1977 Johnson death
3 John W. Kern III 1928–2018 1968–1984 1984–2012 Johnson retirement
4 George R. Gallagher DC 1915–2007 1968–1981 1981–2001 Johnson retirement
5 Frank Q. Nebeker UT 1930–present 1969–1987 1987–2021 Nixon retirement
6 Hubert Pair DC 1904–1988 1970–1974 1975–1988 Nixon death
7 Gerard D. Reilly DC 1906–1995 1970–1976 1972–1976 1976–1995 Nixon death
8 J. Walter Yeagley DC 1909–1990 1970–1979 1979–1984 Nixon retirement
9 Stanley S. Harris DC 1927–2021 1972–1982 Nixon Appointment as U.S. attorney
10 Julia Cooper Mack NC 1920–2014 1975–1989 1989–2001 Ford retirement
11 Theodore R. Newman Jr. AL 1934–2023 1976–1991 1976–1984 1991–2016 Ford retirement
12 John M. Ferren DC 1937–present 1977–1997 1999–2023 Carter retirement
13 William C. Pryor DC 1932–2020 1979–1988 1984–1988 1988–2019 Carter retirement
14 James A. Belson WI 1931–present 1981–1991 1991–2017 Reagan retirement
15 John A. Terry DC 1933–2021 1982–2006 2006–2016 Reagan retirement
16 Judith W. Rogers DC 1939–present 1983–1994 1988–1994 Reagan elevation
18 Frank E. Schwelb DC 1932–2014 1988–2006 2006–2014 Reagan retirement
19 Michael W. Farrell DC 1938–present 1989–2008 2009–2019 G.H.W. Bush retirement
20 Annice M. Wagner DC 1937–present 1990–2005 1994–2005 2005–2013 G.H.W. Bush retirement
21 Warren R. King DC 1937–present 1991–1998 1998–2016 G.H.W. Bush retirement
22 Emmet G. Sullivan DC 1947–present 1992–1994 G.H.W. Bush elevation
24 Inez Smith Reid DC 1937–present 1995–2011 2011–2017 Clinton retirement
27 Noël A. Kramer DC 1945–2018 2005–2011 2011–2017 G.W. Bush retirement
31 Kathryn A. Oberly DC 1950–present 2009–2013 G.W. Bush resignation

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Newman, Theodore R. (1978). "The State of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals". Catholic University Law Review. 27 (3): 453–468.
  2. ^ "Judicial Selection in the States: District of Columbia". American Judicature Society. Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2012-09-12.

External links[edit]