U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
About the U.S. District Court
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is a useful resource for both regional and national reporters. The court has hosted recent high-profile trials such as the cases against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, ex-aide to Vice President Dick Cheney Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The court will be hearing habeas corpus challenges filed by Guantanamo detainees through much of 2009.
Regional reporters rarely cover the court on a regular basis, but they often have to visit it for a particular case involving a person of interest from their coverage area, such as a congressmen or an attorney involved in national case.
There are 11 active judges, four senior judges, and three magistrate judges. Royce Lamberth is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court.
333 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
The Clerk's Office
A reporter's best source at the court is the clerk's office. It's open 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday (except holidays).
The staff there will explain where to find the daybook containing all trial information and how to search the PACER system, the federal court system's nationwide electronic filing system. You can also access PACER (Public Access to Courts Electronic Records) from a computer outside the court, but if so, you'll first need to register. There's a modest fee to download case files to your home or work computer.
At the clerk's office, downloading and printing documents from PACER is free up to a certain number of pages. The clerk's office will charge you per page if you exceed the allotted free printed pages. Ask an employee in the clerk's office before printing. Documents from PACER can also be saved if you bring in your own disk.
To contact the clerk's office, call 202-354-3000
Rules for Covering the U.S. District Court
The district court is located at 333 Constitution Ave. NW within walking distance of both the Judiciary Square and Archives-Navy Memorial Metro stops. The building has three entrances.
As with many courts, the U.S. District Court is strict about electronic devices. Cell phones are allowed but cameras are not. Tape recorders are not allowed and transcripts are expensive, so be prepared to take very good notes. Blackberries are allowed but they must be turned off in the courtroom.
A photo ID is required to enter the courthouse.
This is the link to all of the federal district courts: www.uscourts.gov/districtcourts.html
The Federal Judicial Center is the research and education agency for the federal courts: www.fjc.gov/
The Justice Department represents the government in many cases before the U.S. District Court: www.usdoj.gov/
Findlaw.com is great place to look up definitions of unfamiliar legal terms:
This is the link to the electronic documents for the District Court for D.C. You'll need a PACER registration to access the files: ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/ShowIndex.pl
Here's the link to the PACER system that explains how you can register to use it: pacer.psc.uscourts.gov
Does this agency's information need updating? email@example.com
Sheldon Snook, at 202-354-3320, handles press inquiries for the court.
Channing Phillips is the spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.