Judge Judith Rogers takes senior status and expands Biden’s influence

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Judge Judith W. Rogers of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals will assume senior status in September, giving President Biden the opportunity to appoint a fourth judge to the influential court.

Rogers was nominated for the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She has left significant marks throughout her career. She was one of 15 women in her class at Harvard Law School, the third woman in the criminal division of the DC federal attorney’s office, the first woman in a DC mayor‘s cabinet, and the city’s first female chief legal officer. She was closely involved in the development of DC‘s semi-autonomous “Home Rule” after nearly 200 years of federal control, including the legislation that shaped the local court system. She was the first woman judge on the city’s Court of Appeals, nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Rogers wrote statements affirming the DC Metro’s rejection of religious advertising, allowing construction of the Purple Line, and advocating patient access to experimental drugs. (Opinion on experimental drugs was upheld by the entire circle.)

During the battles between the Trump administration and Congress during the impeachment trial, she noted that lawmakers must have access to some grand jury evidence and the right to enforce subpoenas in court. Just this March, she ruled in favor of an LA Times bid for search warrant documents from an investigation into stock sales by Sen. Richard Burr (RN.C.), citing “the strong public interest.”

In the past three years, three paralegals walked out of their chambers last month, saying they had been belittled and caned by the judge, according to a Washington Post report last month. She did not respond to requests for comment on this story; former legal trainees defended them as demanding but fair. After a staff survey on workplace conditions in DC federal courts and appellate courts, court officials planned training this spring, including for judges, although some have objected.

The influential district court is often a stepping stone to the US Supreme Court. Biden’s first nominee for the DC circuit, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has already been confirmed for a seat on the nation’s highest court. Florence Pan, a DC District Court judge, was nominated to fill Jackson’s seat on the appellate court. Michelle Childs, a South Carolina federal judge who has also considered Biden for the Supreme Court, is awaiting a Senate vote on her DC Circuit nomination. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination in May by a vote of 17 to 5.

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