The D.C. Circuit covers the smallest territory of the geographically-based circuits, but it wields outsize significance due to its strong influence on federal action. Many environmental laws provide for appeals exclusively to the D.C. Circuit, and the court reviews actions of almost all federal agencies. In addition, the D.C. Circuit is a traditional stepping-stone to the U.S. Supreme Court, with four of the current justices having previously sat on the D.C. Circuit.
The D.C. Circuit is especially important for Coloradans because:
- The D.C. Circuit is vital to protecting Colorado’s land, water and air. It is often the first court to hear environmental cases, including cases that challenge nationwide standards adopted under the Clean Air Act, decisions of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and national primary drinking water regulations.
- The D.C. Circuit has jurisdiction over federal agencies that protect employees’ rights in the workplace. It has upheld federal protections against discrimination and plays an important role in labor relations because it hears appeals from the National Labor Relations Board, including cases involving Colorado workers resolved by the NLRB.
- Colorado has a large federal presence both in land ownership and employment. The D.C. Circuit’s jurisdiction over all federal agencies guarantees its decisions have an impact on Colorado.
At the start of 2013, four of the D.C. Circuit's eleven judgeships were vacant, including one that had been open since its previous occupant, John Roberts, was confirmed Chief Justice of the United States in 2005. President Obama was the first President since Truman not to have named a D.C. Circuit judge in his first term. In May 2013, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan as the first new D.C. Circuit judge in the Obama administration and the first federal appellate judge of South Asian heritage in the nation.
In June 2013, President Obama announced nominations to fill the three remaining vacancies on the D.C. Circuit: (1) Judge Robert L. Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; (2) Professor Cornelia T.L. “Nina” Pillard from Georgetown University Law School; and (3) Noted Appellate Attorney Patricia Ann Millett.
In October and November 2013, all three of these nominations were filibustered when the Senate failed to reach the prior 60-vote threshold to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down confirmation vote. Thanks to the rules reform supported by a majority of Senators - including Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet - each nominee was again considered, given a floor vote, and confirmed: Patricia Millett (December 10, 2013), Nina Pillard (December 12, 2013), and Judge Wilkins (January 13, 2014). Now the D.C. Circuit has a full bench of judges to consider these important issues for Colorado and our nation for the first time since 2006.
More on the D.C. Circuit
August 28, 2015
Robert Barnes (Washington Post) - Protesters do not have a First Amendment right to congregate on the grand marble plaza in front of the Supreme Court, only on the sidewalk in front of it, a unanimous federal appeals court panel ruled Friday. Read More ›
July 7, 2015
Sam Hananel (AP) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ban on government contractors donating money to federal candidates or political parties, a prohibition that has been on the books for 70 years. Read More ›
April 15, 2015
Timothy Cama (The Hilll) - Regulations at the center of President Obama’s climate change initiative face a crucial test this week when opponents will attempt to block them before they’re even made final. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., will hear oral arguments Thursday in a high-stakes legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed emissions limits for existing power plants. Read More ›
November 14, 2014
Irin Carmon (MSNBC) - The Obama administration won a significant court victory Friday over whether employees of some religious nonprofits will have insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act – or, as the plaintiffs put it, whether signing the opt-out form to such coverage is a “permission slip” for “abortion.” Read More ›
September 4, 2014
Think Progress (Ian Millheiser) - In July, two Republican judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed down a decision defunding much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This effort to implement Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) top policy priority from the bench was withdrawn on Thursday by the DC Circuit, and the case will be reheard by the full court — a panel that will most likely include 13 judges. Read More ›
August 6, 2014
Andrew Zajac (Bloomberg News) - A Tea Party-linked group seeking to loosen restrictions on corporate political action committees was handed a defeat by a Washington appeals court, marking a rare win for advocates of campaign finance controls. Read More ›
July 29, 2014
Politico (Brett Norman) - A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected yet another legal challenge to Obamacare, ruling that it did not violate a constitutional provision that requires tax laws to be written in the House. Most of what became the Affordable Care Act was written in the Senate. Read More ›
July 23, 2014
Politico (Josh Gerstein) - Last fall, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid deployed the “nuclear option” to help get three liberal judges onto the D.C. Circuit appeals court. Tuesday’s ruling on Obamacare is a dramatic example of why they forced the issue. Read More ›
July 22, 2014
Los Angeles Times (David C. Savage) - President Obama's healthcare law was dealt a severe blow Tuesday as a federal appeals court panel ruled that government subsidies should be cut off for the majority of low- and middle-income residents currently receiving help with their insurance premiums under the program. Read More ›
July 11, 2014
Associated Press - A federal appeals court is declining to stand in the way of the Obama administration's efforts to block water pollution from mountaintop removal coal mining. Read More ›
July 5, 2014
National Journal (Sam Baker) - A federal appeals court might be on the verge of blowing a massive hole in the foundation of Obamacare. Read More ›
April 16, 2014
Roll Call (Niels Lesniewski) - Advocates asking the judiciary to declare the filibuster unconstitutional were dealt a major setback Tuesday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Read More ›
January 13, 2014
Edward-Issac Dovere (Politico) - Monday's confirmation of Robert Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit Court is the latest judicial win for the White House - not just because he's the third of three nominees Barack Obama announced in June to increase pressure on Senate Republicans but because he is the 41st African-American the president has gotten confirmed for the bench. Read More ›
November 22, 2013
Laura Chapin (U.S. News) DENVER – If you care about reproductive rights, the environment or worker rights, the decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the chamber's Democrats – including courageous votes by this state's senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet – Thursday to reform the filibuster on presidential appointments matters. Read More ›
November 20, 2013
Peg Perl (Huffington Post Politics) - Last June, President Obama nominated three exceptionally qualified individuals to fill three vacant judgeships on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit: a jurist, a professor, and a litigator. At the time, I wondered, "will they get a vote?" It seems now, the answer is No. Read More ›