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. The court was established in 1942 as the Municipal Court of Appeals, and it has been the court of last resort for matters of D.C. local law since 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 of Columbia's court system.

The D.C. Court of Appeals is the equivalent of a state supreme court. Because the District of Columbia is not a U.S. state, however, the court's authority derives from the U.S. Congress rather than from the inherent sovereignty of the states. 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] In 2011, the district's judicial conduct entity, the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, gained the ability to reappoint judges that it deems "well qualified" for subsequent 15-year terms without input from the president or senate. If the commission deems the judge "qualified," the president has the option of renominating them, but if the commission deems the judge "unqualified," they are ineligible for reappointment.[3] In 2021, the commission reappointed Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby to a new 15-year term.[4]

Active judges[edit]

As of December 13, 2023:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
36 Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby Washington, D.C. 1961 2006–present 2017–present G.W. Bush
39 Judge Corinne A. Beckwith Washington, D.C. 1963 2011–present Obama
40 Judge Catharine F. Easterly Washington, D.C. 1970 2012–present Obama
41 Judge Roy W. McLeese III Washington, D.C. 1959 2012–present Obama
42 Judge Joshua Deahl Washington, D.C. 1981 2020–present Trump
43 Judge John P. Howard III Washington, D.C. 1984 2022–present Biden
45 Judge Vijay Shanker Washington, D.C. 1972 2022–present Biden
46 Judge vacant Washington, D.C.
47 Judge vacant Washington, D.C.
24 Senior Judge John M. Steadman Washington, D.C. 1930 1985–2004 2004–present Reagan
30 Senior Judge Vanessa Ruiz Washington, D.C. 1950 1994–2011 2012–present Clinton
32 Senior Judge Stephen H. Glickman Washington, D.C. 1945 1999–2022 2022–present Clinton
33 Senior Judge Eric T. Washington Washington, D.C. 1953 1999–2017 2005–2017 2017–present Clinton
35 Senior Judge John R. Fisher Washington, D.C. 1946 2006–2020 2020–present G.W. Bush
37 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 Joseph R. Palmore April 18, 2024
Loren AliKhan Elevation December 13, 2023 Carmen Iguina González

Former judges[edit]

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 William E. Richardson DC 1881–1945 1942–1945 1942–1945 F. Roosevelt death
2 Nathan Cayton DC 1899–1977 1942–1956 1946–1956 1956–1972 F. Roosevelt retirement
3 Andrew M. Hood DC 1900–1979 1942–1972 1961–1972 F. Roosevelt retirement
4 Brice Clagett MD 1889–1951 1946–1951 Truman death
5 Thomas D. Quinn DC 1898–1975 1951–1966 Truman retirement
6 Leo A. Rover DC 1888–1960 1956–1960 1956–1960 Eisenhower death
7 Frank H. Myers DC 1897–1974 1962–1969 Kennedy retirement
8 Catherine B. Kelly DC 1917–1995 1967–1983 Johnson resignation
9 Austin L. Fickling DC 1914–1977 1968–1977 Johnson death
10 John W. Kern III MD 1928–2018 1968–1984 1984–2012 Johnson retirement
11 George R. Gallagher MD 1915–2007 1968–1981 1981–2001 Johnson retirement
12 Frank Q. Nebeker VA 1930–2024 1969–1987 1987–2021 Nixon retirement
13 Gerard D. Reilly DC 1906–1995 1970–1976 1972–1976 1976–1995 Nixon death
14 Hubert Pair DC 1904–1988 1971–1974 1975–1988 Nixon death
15 J. Walter Yeagley VA 1909–1990 1971–1979 1979–1984 Nixon retirement
16 Stanley S. Harris MD 1927–2021 1972–1982 Nixon resignation
17 Julia Cooper Mack DC 1920–2014 1975–1989 1989–2001 Ford retirement
18 Theodore R. Newman Jr. DC 1934–2023 1976–1991 1976–1984 1991–2016 Ford retirement
19 John M. Ferren DC 1937–present 1977–1997 1999–2023 Carter retirement
20 William C. Pryor DC 1932–2020 1979–1988 1984–1988 1988–2019 Carter retirement
21 James A. Belson DC 1931–present 1981–1991 1991–2017 Reagan retirement
22 John A. Terry DC 1933–2021 1982–2006 2006–2016 Reagan retirement
23 Judith W. Rogers DC 1939–present 1983–1994 1988–1994 Reagan elevation
25 Frank E. Schwelb DC 1932–2014 1988–2006 2006–2014 Reagan retirement
26 Michael W. Farrell DC 1938–present 1989–2008 2009–2019 G.H.W. Bush retirement
27 Annice M. Wagner DC 1937–present 1990–2005 1994–2005 2005–2013 G.H.W. Bush retirement
28 Warren R. King DC 1937–present 1991–1998 1998–2016 G.H.W. Bush retirement
29 Emmet G. Sullivan DC 1947–present 1992–1994 G.H.W. Bush elevation
31 Inez Smith Reid DC 1937–present 1995–2011 2011–2017 Clinton retirement
34 Noël A. Kramer DC 1945–2018 2005–2011 2011–2017 G.W. Bush retirement
38 Kathryn A. Oberly DC 1950–present 2009–2013 G.W. Bush resignation
44 Loren AliKhan DC 1983–present 2022–2023 Biden elevation

Chief judges[edit]

The first three chief judges of the Municipal Court of Appeals were nominated and confirmed specifically as chief judges. However, in 1961, the Department of Justice determined that the relevant law was ambiguous enough that President Kennedy could elevate sitting judge Andrew M. Hood as chief judge without submitting a nomination to the Senate for that purpose, as President Truman had done when elevating Nathan Cayton as chief judge in 1946. The Library of Congress issued a legal opinion calling the Department of Justice's determination into question, but Hood remained as chief judge.[5] Since 1973, the chief judge has been selected by the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission for renewable four-year terms.[6]

Chief judge
Richardson 1942–1945
Cayton 1946–1956
Rover 1956–1960
Hood 1961–1972
Reilly 1972–1976
Newman 1976–1984
Pryor 1984–1988
Rogers 1988–1994
Wagner 1994–2005
Washington 2005–2017
Blackburne-Rigsby 2017–present

Succession of seats[edit]

The court has nine seats for active judges, numbered in the order in which they were initially filled. Judges who assume senior status enter a kind of retirement in which they remain on the bench but vacate their seats, thus allowing the U.S. President to appoint new judges to fill their seats.

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.
  3. ^ "Statute Reestablishing the Commission". Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure. January 6, 2011.
  4. ^ "Evaluation of the Honorable Anna Blackburne-Rigsby" (PDF). District of Columbia Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure. June 14, 2021.
  5. ^ "Congressional Record: Vol. 108, Part 12". August 9, 1962. pp. 16107–16108.
  6. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 93–198

External links[edit]