February 18, 2019

Five Things You Might Not Know About D.C. Superior Court

By Margaret Barthel

The D.C. Superior Court is also D.C.'s local court.

The D.C. Superior Court is also D.C.'s local court.

Kojo recently explored the D.C. Superior Court in a Pop-Up appearance — part of his 20th anniversary on air.

The court is a crossroads: people from all over D.C. pass through for court hearings, jury duty, marriages, adoptions, and a host of other reasons. The Kojo team spent a day there, talking to people and gathering some of the history and current status of the District’s main courthouse.


Here are five things we learned about the D.C. Court system:

1. The District’s special status means the line between D.C. and federal jurisdiction zigzags through the District’s judicial system. In court, D.C. residents appear in front of federal judges, defended by federally-funded public defenders and, at least in an increasingly large array of serious cases, are prosecuted by federal prosecutors.
2. The Marriage Bureau maintains marriage records stretching as far back as 1811–despite the government shutdown hiccup earlier this year. You can see several notable marriage licenses framed on the wall here, including Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple who married in D.C. because interracial marriage was illegal in the Commonwealth, a law later overturned in a landmark Supreme Court case. Also posted is D.C. “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry, Jr.’s marriage license.

3. Frederick Douglass worked as a U.S. Marshal in the D.C. judicial system, starting in 1877. His office was in what is now the Court of Appeals, across the street from Superior Court.
4. Next time you’re in the Superior Court, you might notice that the ceilings are a lot lower than the length of the escalators. That’s to leave space for the system of corridors that law enforcement officers use to transport people held in custody to court appearances. There are also special holding cells at the rear of many courtrooms.

5. The languages most frequently requested for interpretation services in the court system are, in order: Spanish, American Sign Language, Amharic, Deaf Relay (which connects a deaf person to an ASL interpreter), Mandarin and Tigrinya.  

Hungry for more? Check out our segment on D.C. Courts.

Want more Kojo Pop-Up videos? Take a look at video of our trip to Gallery Place-Chinatown.