D.C. Circuit Court

About the D.C. Circuit Court

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is often considered the second most important court in the land, after the Supreme Court. The D.C. Circuit has sole responsibility for deciding cases having to do with the balance of powers of the branches of government and decisions made by government agencies affecting issues like health care, national security, environmental rules, and consumer protections and workplace safety. More U.S. Supreme Court justices have come from the D.C. Circuit than any other circuit court, including four current Justices.

Today, three of the court’s eleven seats remain vacant, including one seat that has been unfilled since 2005. These vacancies have a crippling effect on the court’s ability to decide on critically key cases that impact the lives of Americans across the country, regardless of where they we live. In recent years, the D.C. Circuit’s composition (majority of judges are Republican-appointed) means that the court has a history of siding with corporate and industry interests over individual consumers, and has presented a host of obstacles for progressives, including blocking Wall Street reforms, reversing labor dispute decisions, and rolling back environmental protections.

Regardless of where you live or the issues you care about, the D.C. Circuit makes decisions on issues that matter to you. Consider some of the issues the D.C. Circuit has decided in recent years:

  • THE ENVIRONMENT: In 2012, the court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Transport Rule” intended to control air pollution that crosses state lines.
  • LABOR DISPUTES AND CONSUMER PROTECTIONS: In 2013, the court invalidated the President’s three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and an appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, essentially making the NLRB non-functional and potentially nullifying over 200 labor and employment decisions.
  • WALL STREET REFORM: In 2011, the court struck down the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proxy access rule, which would have made it easier for shareholders to propose their own nominees to the corporate board of directors.
  • HEALTH PROTECTIONS AND DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING: In 2012, the court struck down an FDA cigarette warning label law, citing the first amendment rights of cigarette companies.
  • NATIONAL SECURITY: Since 2008, the circuit court has blatantly disregarded a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the right to habeas corpus for Guantanamo Bay detainees and ignored the requirement that the circuit conduct a robust review of prisoners’ detainment.


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