Gladys Kessler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gladys Kessler
Gladys Kessler.jpg
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Assumed office
January 22, 2007
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
June 16, 1994 – January 22, 2007
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byMichael Boudin
Succeeded byAmy Berman Jackson
Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
In office
Nominated byJimmy Carter
Preceded byTheodore R. Newman Jr.
Succeeded byLinda K. Davis
Personal details
Born (1938-01-22) January 22, 1938 (age 81)
New York City, New York
EducationCornell University (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (LL.B.)
Gladys Kessler listens to students.jpg

Gladys Kessler (born January 22, 1938) is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.


After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and Bachelor of Laws from Harvard Law School, she was hired by the National Labor Relations Board. She worked as a legislative assistant to United States Senator Harrison A. Williams (DNJ), and subsequently for United States Congressman Jonathan B. Bingham (DNY). Kessler worked for the New York City Board of Education, and then opened a public interest law firm. In June 1977, she was appointed Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and from 1981 to 1985 served as Presiding Judge of the Family Division. She was President of the National Association of Women Judges from 1983 to 1984, and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the American Bar Association Conference of Federal Trial Judges and the U.S. Judicial Conference's Committee on Court Administration and Management.

District Court service[edit]

On March 22, 1994, President Clinton nominated Kessler to serve as a United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, to the seat vacated by Judge Michael Boudin. She was confirmed by the Senate on June 15, 1994 and received her commission on June 16, 1994. She took senior status on January 22, 2007 and was succeeded by Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

Detainee treatment cases[edit]

Kessler is the first judge to consider an appeal that the Executive branch is violating the Detainee Treatment Act. In 2006, she heard the case of Mohammad Bawazir, a prisoner at Camp Delta. The George W. Bush Administration argued that the Detainee Treatment Act, legislation spearheaded by John McCain banning cruel or inhuman treatment, did not apply to Bawazir and other detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Cuba.[1]

On October 10, 2007, the Washington Post headlined "Judge Orders U.S. Not to Transfer Tunisian Detainee," and reported that Judge Kessler "ruled last week that Mohammed Abdul Rahman cannot be sent [from Guantanamo] to Tunisia because he could suffer 'irreparable harm." The detainee's lawyer said, "The executive has now been told it cannot bury its Guantanamo mistakes in Third World prisons." He also stated that, "This is the first time the judicial branch has exercised its inherent power to control the excesses of the executive as to treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay."[1]

Kessler twice denied relief to detainee Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, first determining that she had no jurisdiction over his confinement conditions, and, after that theory was rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, that the government was permitted to use force-feedings on detainees during the Guantanamo Bay hunger strikes.[2][3][4] Kessler did, however, twice grant news media requests for access to classified video of the force-feedings, before ultimately being reversed by the D.C. Circuit.[5][6]


  1. ^ a b White, Josh; Leonnig, Carol D. (3 March 2006). "U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban" – via
  2. ^ Note, Recent Case: D.C. Circuit Holds Press Cannot Unseal Classified Videos of Guantanamo Bay Detainee, 131 Harv. L. Rev. 902 (2018).
  3. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 952 F. Supp. 2d 154 (D.D.C. 2013).
  4. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 74 F. Supp. 3d 16 (D.D.C. 2014).
  5. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 70 F. Supp. 3d 486 (D.D.C. 2014).
  6. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 141 F. Supp. 3d 23 (D.D.C. 2015).

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Michael Boudin
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
Amy Berman Jackson