With Presidents' Day this week, what are some wacky ways presidents have impacted the D.C. Circuit?
Being commander-in-chief of the United States lets presidents wield substantial power over the courts, particularly when it comes to nominating judges. However, sometimes their powers are extended in less conventional matters.
1. President Lincoln abolished the then-D.C. Circuit.
Before the D.C. Circuit became appeals court we know and love today, it was the primary court that served D.C. back in the day. During the Civil War, one circuit judge pissed off President Lincoln so much that he withheld the judge's salary and abolished the court altogether. The president didn't like the way Judge William Matthew Merrick handled the habeas corpus cases for soldiers seeking discharge, according to the D.C. Circuit's Historical Society. A few months later, Congress abolished the D.C. Circuit and replaced it with the Supreme Court of D.C. President Lincoln quickly signed it into law and the former circuit judges were out of the job.
2. President Obama's visitor log is off-limits. Presidents are popular defendants in lawsuits and President Obama is no exception. While the most memorable ones were the frivolous lawsuits regarding his place of birth, the president has also been the topic of a FOIA lawsuit. Judicial Watch sent a FOIA request for all of the president's official visitor's logs and visitor records from his inauguration to the present. Judicial Watch tried to get the records via the Secret Service, but were denied by the D.C. Circuit because the president's visitor records are sensitive information that the agency isn't free to disclose.
3. President Truman laid the cornerstone for the $13 million court building. What's wacky about this fact isn't that President Truman laid the cornerstone for the D.C. Circuit building, but that the building itself cost $13 million to build -- in 1950. According to About.com, a dollar in the 1950s would be worth about nine dollars today. So based on that amount, the D.C. Circuit building cost $117 million to build in today's terms. Makes you wonder if going to the movies really cost only 25 cents like you've heard in those "when I was your age" stories.
So this Presidents' Day week, salute your commanders-in-chief and the sometimes strange impact they have on the D.C. Circuit.
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- Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit's Website (DCCHS)
- 3 Must-Know Circuit Rules for New D.C. Appellate Attorneys (FindLaw's D.C. Circuit Blog)
- American Samoans Challenge Denial of U.S. Citizenship (FindLaw's D.C. Circuit Blog)