United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit hears appeals from decisions issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the United States Tax Court and many Federal agencies. A high percentage of the Court’s cases involve the U.S. Federal government in some way.
Opinions: Opinions are available free online from Google Scholar (1920s-present), FindLaw (February 1995-present), Justia (1950-present) and, by date only, from the Court web site (September 1997-Current). Opinions are also available back to 1993 on FDsys. For older cases and better searching use Lexis, Westlaw, LOIS, Fastcase and/or VersusLaw.
Court Rules: Court Rules and related materials are posted free on the Court’s Court Rules & Operating Procedures page. For print editions and searchable databases see the separate entry for “Federal Court Rules” and/or “Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure” in this legal Encyclopedia.
Docket Sheets and Case Files: Docket sheets and case files are available through the PACER system; for better searching, use the commercial databases discussed in the separate entry for “Docket Sheets.” In addition, Westlaw has briefs filed since 1976 (CTADC-BRIEF). Lexis has selected briefs and motions filed since 2000 in the Federal Briefs and Motions database (CRTFLS;FDMTBR); add “and Court(Appeals and District of Columbia)” to the end of your search to retrieve only filings from the D.C. Circuit.
Copies of older case files are available at the National Archives/Washington National Records Center. Hire a document retrieval service if you aren’t in the area.
Oral Arguments: Check the oral arguments calendar for upcoming dates. The Court’sCase Files & Records page provides rules and procedures for purchasing recordings and/or transcripts of oral arguments.
Practice Materials: The Court’s Court Rules & Operating Procedures page provides aHandbook of Practice and Internal Procedures and an extensive compilation ofFrequently Asked Questions.
History: The Court was created in 1801 with both Federal and state-level jurisdiction for the District of Columbia. The Court’s state-level jurisdiction was transferred to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 1970, but the Circuit Court’s decisions prior to 1971 still have precedential value in state-level D.C. courts.
For a good introduction to the history and nature of the court see, What Makes the D.C. Circuit Different? A Historical View by Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John G. Roberts, Jr., 92(3) Virginia Law Review 375 (2006). For more information, see Calmly to Poise the Scales of Justice: A History of the Courts of the District of Columbia Circuit(Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit, 2001) by Jeffrey Brandon Morris, History of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the Country’s Bicentennial Year (U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 1977) and/or the oral histories from the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit.
Background: The District of Columbia Courts
Acting under its power (Article I, Section 8, Clause 17) to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District … as may … become the Seat of the Government of the United States,” Congress has set up a judicial system for the nation’s capital. Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia hear many local cases as well as those they try as constitutional courts. Congress has also established two local courts, much like the courts in the States: a superior court, which is the general trial court, and a court of appeals.
Federal Court Rules
United States Court of Appeals
United States Courts, generally