Colleen Kollar-Kotelly

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Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Assumed office
March 26, 1997
Nominated by Bill Clinton
Preceded by Harold H. Greene
Personal details
Born 1943 (age 72–73)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Catholic University of America
Columbus School of Law

Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (born 1943) is a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and was presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).


Kollar-Kotelly, the daughter of Konstantine and Irene Kollar, attended bilingual schools in Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela. She attended Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, D.C.. She earned her B.A. degree in English from Catholic University of America (Delta Epsilon Honor Society) and her J.D. from Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law (Moot court Board of Governors) in 1968. From 1968-69, Kollar-Kotelly served as a law clerk to the Hon. Catherine B. Kelly, District of Columbia Court of Appeals. From 1969 to 1972, Kollar-Kotelly was an attorney for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, after which she became chief legal counsel for St. Elizabeths Hospital, Department of Health and Human Services, from 1972 to 1984.

On October 3, 1984, Kollar-Kotelly was nominated as an associate judge of the D.C. Superior Court by President Ronald Reagan; she took her oath of office on October 21. She served as Deputy Presiding Judge, Criminal Division from 1997 to 1997.

She was appointed as a judge to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by President Bill Clinton on March 26, 1997, to a seat vacated by Harold H. Greene; she took her oath of office on May 12, 1997. Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed Judge Kollar-Kotelly to serve on the Financial Disclosure Committee (2000–02), and later as Presiding Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where she served from 2002 to 2009.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly received attention from a 2006 Washington Post article describing her administration of the FISC, and in particular, what weight evidence taken from warrantless searches should be given to issuing subsequent search warrants for suspects of terrorism and espionage.[1]

Notable cases[edit]

In August 2001, Kollar-Kotelly was assigned the United States v. Microsoft anti-trust case, after Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson was removed from the case.

On July 14, 2004, barely two months after President Bush was forced to end National Security Agency domestic internet metadata collection by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Kollar-Kotelly issued a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court order allowing the NSA to resume domestic internet metadata collection.[2]

Kollar-Kotelly denied a last-minute appeal by Saddam Hussein's legal team, stating that the United States has no right to interfere with the judicial processes of another nation's courts. In August 2007, she ordered the administration of George W. Bush to give its views regarding records requests by the American Civil Liberties Union on the National Security Agency's wiretapping program.[3]

On October 1, 2007, Kollar-Kotelly reversed George W. Bush on archive secrecy in a 38-page ruling, which said that the U.S. Archivist's reliance on the executive order to delay release of the papers of former presidents is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law."[4] The National Security Archive at George Washington University alleged that the Bush order severely slowed or prevented the release of historic presidential papers.[5]

On June 16, 2008, Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the Office of Administration was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and therefore did not have to release records regarding missing White House e-mails. This was seen as a victory for the Bush Administration in terms of maintaining a tight grip on the flow of information about the executive branch.[6]

On September 20, 2008, Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary injunction ordering Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney and the National Archives to preserve all of Cheney's official records.[7]

On March 19, 2009, in response to a joint lawsuit brought by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary injunction whereby she blocked a rule that would permit visitors to national parks to carry concealed weapons. The change of rule which she blocked had been enacted by the United States Department of the Interior after being supported by 51 members of Congress and passing an extended public comments period. She stated that her decision to block the change of rule was because there was no environmental analysis performed and therefore Congress "ignored (without sufficient explanation) substantial information in the administrative record concerning environmental impacts" of the rule.[8]

Kollar-Kotelly presided over the Espionage Act case against Dr. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim after he told a reporter that North Korea would test its nuclear program. The case was controversial because it was one of a string of unprecedented uses of the Espionage Act against officials for speaking with journalists .[9]

On March 7, 2016, Kollar-Kotelly denied a requested preliminary injunction against Washington DC's discretionary issue of concealed carry permits, thereby allowing DC police chief Cathy Lanier to continue denying concealed carry permits to law-abiding citizens in most cases.[10]



Legal offices
Preceded by
Harold H. Greene
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia