James Robertson (judge)

James Robertson (judge)

For other people named James Robertson, see James Robertson (disambiguation).

James Robertson (born 1938) was a United States federal judge serving on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia until his retirement in June 2010. He served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from 2002 until he resigned in protest in December, 2005, later testifying that that court “has turned into something like an administrative agency.”[1]

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Robertson graduated from Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, and received a B.A. from Princeton University in 1959. He served in the United States Navy from 1959 to 1964, achieving the rank of Lieutenant. He then received an LL.B. from George Washington University Law School in 1965, and was in private practice in Washington, D.C. from 1965 to 1969, with the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. From 1969 to 1972, Robertson served with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as chief counsel of the Committee’s litigation offices in Jackson, Mississippi, and as director in Washington, D.C. Robertson then returned to private practice with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, where he practiced until his appointment to the federal bench. While in private practice, he served as president of the District of Columbia Bar, co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and president of Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project, Inc.[2]

Federal judicial service

On September 14, 1994, Robertson was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated by George H. Revercomb. Robertson was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 7, 1994, and received his commission on October 11, 1994. After serving for 14 years, he assumed senior status on the District Court on December 31, 2008 and retired on June 1, 2010.[3]

Chief Justice William Rehnquist placed Robertson on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on May 19, 2002. On December 20, 2005, Judge Robertson resigned from the FISA court, sending a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts announcing his resignation with no explanation.[4][5] His resignation was interpreted as a mute protest against the NSA warrantless surveillance (2001–07) that had occurred outside the FISA statute, a supposition that was confirmed in 2013 by his statement after testifying to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that he had “resigned in protest because the Bush administration was bypassing the court on warrantless wiretaps.”[1][4]

Notable rulings

  • Library of Congress violated Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination."
  • U.S. v. Webster Hubbell - (1) Whether the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination protects information previously recorded in voluntarily created documents that a defendant delivers to the government pursuant to an immunized act of production, and (2) whether a defendant's act producing ordinary business records constitutes a compelled testimonial communication solely because the government cannot identify the documents with reasonable particularity before they are produced? Upheld by the Supreme Court by a vote of 8-1.
  • American Council of the Blind v. John W. Snow, Secretary of the Treasury et al. - The U.S. Treasury Department’s failure to design, produce and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired people violates federal law, since paper money effectively precludes them from meaningful access to U.S. currency. "Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations," Robertson wrote.
  • Civil Action 08-2254 (JR) - Case to potentially invalidate the candidacy of Barack Obama II due to the Issue of Nationalization and Citizenship. The case was dismissed, deemed frivolous, and all other forward cases were deemed frivolous due to a prior ruling.