Reggie Barnett Walton (born February 8, 1949) is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He is a former presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Early life and education
Walton, whose father worked two jobs in the steel town Donora, Pennsylvania, won a football scholarship to get his Bachelor of Arts degree from West Virginia State College in 1971, and then a Juris Doctor from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1974. Walton is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Walton served as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from 1981 to 1989 and from 1991 to 2001. He also served as associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In 2001, he was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, and subsequently confirmed by the United States Senate. In 2004, Bush appointed him to chair the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, investigating ways to curb prison rape. In May 2007, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts appointed him to a seat on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. His term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ended May 18, 2014. He assumed senior status on December 31, 2015.
During his FISC tenure, Judge Walton was "exceptionally concerned" about the NSA's "flagrant violation" of the court orders regarding privacy, and he accused the agency of "misinterpretations."
The Washington Post reported, "fellow judges and lawyers who appear before him say Walton's decisions do not appear to be guided by politics but by a tough-on-crime mentality." Walton is known by local defense attorneys as a "long ball hitter" – a judge willing to impose long sentences in order to deter future crimes. In fall 2005, the judge was driving his wife and daughter to the airport for a vacation when he came across an assailant attacking a cab driver on the side of the road. Walton tackled the assailant and subdued him until police arrived. The D.C. police spokesperson noted in response, "God bless Judge Walton. I surely wouldn't want to mess with him."
Significant cases presided over
United States v. Libby
Walton also presided over the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby. On March 6, 2007, the jury convicted Libby of four of the five counts with which he was charged: two counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice, and one of making false statements to federal investigators. On June 5, 2007, Walton sentenced Libby to 30 months in federal prison and a fine of US$250,000, and, subsequently, he ordered that Libby report to jail without bail pending any appeals. On June 20, 2007, Libby appealed Walton's ruling in federal appeals court. The next day, Walton filed a 30-page expanded ruling, in which he explained his decision to deny Libby bail in more detail.
Walton received several threatening letters after pronouncing sentence on Libby.
Rocket propellant case
Walton was the presiding judge in Tripoli Rocketry Association, Inc. and National Association of Rocketry v. United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a long-running case brought by the two largest hobby rocketry organizations, which challenged the inclusion of certain types of solid fuel rocket propellant on the list of "explosives" regulated by the ATF. On March 16, 2009, Walton ruled in favor of the rocketry organizations.
United States v. Roger Clemens
On August 30, 2010, USA Today reported that Walton arraigned former major-league pitcher Roger Clemens on charges of lying to Congress (three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury, and one count of obstruction of Congress) about the use of performance-enhancing substances. Pre-trial prosecutors brought a motion of conflict of interest against defense attorney Rusty Hardin for having briefly represented Andy Pettitte, who is an important witness for the government.
On July 14, 2011, Walton declared a mistrial over inadmissible evidence shown to jurors. The judge said Clemens could not be assured a fair trial after prosecutors showed jurors evidence against his orders in the second day of testimony. Following the mistrial, the US Attorneys Office brought Clemens to trial once more for perjury. On June 18, 2012, Judge Walton accepted the jury's unanimous verdict of acquittal.
On October 4, 2016, Walton rejected the release of Hillary Clinton criminal indictment drafts prosecutors prepared, but never issued, during the Whitewater investigation in the 1990s. He ruled that Clinton had a "substantial privacy interest" when he rejected a Judicial Watch lawsuit under FOIA.
Mohammon v. Bush
Hatfill v. John Ashcroft et al.
Walton has been presiding over the lawsuit that Steven Hatfill filed against former US Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft publicly described Hatfill as a "Person of interest" in the FBI's investigations into the 2001 anthrax attacks. On March 30, 2007, Walton issued an order warning Hatfill that he may lose his civil lawsuit over the leaks if he does not compel journalists to name their sources and giving Hatfill until April 16, 2007, to decide whether to do so. Hatfill's lawyers have complied with the order, as reported on April 18 by Gerstein, who warns that a "free press battle looms," as
The reporters in jeopardy now are expected to defy Hatfill's subpoenas and any court order to name their sources. ... one critical issue will be whether Judge Walton imposes fines on the news organizations involved. ... A First Amendment battle could possibly be avoided: The government and Dr. Hatfill's lawyers asked Walton to name a mediator to explore a possible settlement of the case. ... No one has been charged in the anthrax attacks, which killed at least five people.
Guantanamo captives' habeas petitions
On August 21, 2009, Reuters reported that Walton issued a ruling about "hearsay evidence" that applied to all the Guantanamo detainees' habeas petitions before him. Much of the evidence the Department of Justice is presenting in the habeas petitions is hearsay evidence.
Even the most widespread rumors are often inaccurate in part if not in whole. The court's only point is that otherwise unreliable hearsay cannot be deemed reliable because there is other unreliable hearsay to the same effect.
Mueller Report redactions
On Monday, August 5, 2019, Politico reported that while hearing arguments regarding lawsuits by BuzzFeed and the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, as they seek to reveal the approximately 1,000 redacted items in the publicly-released edition of former special counsel Robert Mueller's report, Walton indicated that he would review the redactions before determining whether to grant making them public.
On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Walton described Attorney General William Barr's public statements about the Mueller report as "misleading", and said that Barr's representations regarding DoJ redactions from the report could not be credited. He directed the Department to submit the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to the Court for in camera review.
On October 6, 2020 President Trump, referencing the Mueller report, tweeted "I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax”. In response to the President's statement, BuzzFeed requested an unredacted versions of the report; however, BuzzFeed's request for an unredacted report was denied by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ told Walton, “…the President’s statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders...” To clear up the position of the President, Walton ordered a continuance until October 21, 2020 so, “I can get something from White House counsel saying that they conferred with the president, and the president, in fact, did not intend to declassify the information…”
- Report of District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission
Shiffman, John; Cooke, Kristina (2013-06-21). "The judges who preside over America's secret court". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2013-06-23. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
Twelve of the 14 judges who have served this year on the most secret court in America are Republicans and half are former prosecutors.
Ackerman, Spencer (2013-06-06). "Fisa chief judge defends integrity of court over Verizon records collection". The Guardian. Washington DC. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
In the wake of the Guardian's revelations, Reggie Walton, presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa), said claims that the body was unduly acquiescent to the government's requests for surveillance orders were "absolutely false".
- "Libby Jurist's Career Built on Toughness", The Washington Post, June 5, 2007.
- Bamford, James (September 7, 2016). "Every Move You Make". Foreign Policy.
- "Diary of the Leak Trial", The New York Times, accessed June 23, 2007.
- Lewis, Neil A.; Stout, David. "Judge Won't Delay Libby Prison Term", The New York Times, June 14, 2007, accessed June 16, 2007.
- Associated Press, "Libby Appeals Sentencing Ruling", The New York Times, June 20, 2007, accessed June 20, 2007.
- Gerstein, Josh. "Libby Judge Files Expanded Opinion: Details Decision Not Allowing Libby to Remain Free", New York Sun, June 22, 2007, accessed June 22, 2007.
- Markon, Jerry (2009-05-25). "Threats to Judges, Prosecutors Soaring". The Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved May 25, 2009.
The judge in the CIA leak case got threatening letters when he ordered Vice President Richard B. Cheney's former chief of staff to prison.
- "Tripoli Rocketry Association and National Association of Rocketry v. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms" (PDF). United States District Court for the District of Columbia. March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
- Thomas, Katie. "Clemens’s Co-Counsel to Question Pettitte" The New York Times. February 2, 2011.
- Brady, Erik (2012-06-18). "Roger Clemens acquitted on all counts: 'You are free to go'". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
- Gerstein, Josh (2016-10-04). "Judge won't release drafts of Hillary Clinton Whitewater indictment". Politico. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
- Johnson, Natalie (2016-10-04). "Federal Judge Refuses to Release Hillary Clinton Draft Indictments on Whitewater". The Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
- Dinan, Stephen (2016-10-04). "Judge won't release Clinton draft indictments: Privacy outweighs public debate". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
- "Exhibit C: List of No Longer Enemy Combant Detainees With Pending Habeas Corpus Petitions Who Have Been Released From United States Custody" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. April 17, 2007. p. 64. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- "Anthrax 'person of interest' sues Ashcroft, FBI", CNN, 27 August 2003.
- Gerstein, Josh. "Judge Urges Hatfill To Compel Outing of Sources", The New York Sun, April 4, 2007, accessed June 23, 2007.
- Josh Gerstein, "Free Press Battle Looms in Hatfill Case", The New York Sun, April 18, 2007, accessed June 23, 2007.
- Pelofsky, Jeremy (2009-08-19). "Obama Admin to Transfer Six Guantanamo Prisoners". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
- Samuelsohn, Darren, Judge signals interest in removing Mueller report redactions, Politico, August 5, 2019
- Hsu, Spencer S. & Barrett, Devlin Judge cites Barr’s ‘misleading’ statements in ordering review of Mueller report redactions
- Reggie Walton at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Official Biography at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
- Appearances on C-SPAN
| Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Dabney L. Friedrich
Claude M. Hilton
| Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
James E. Boasberg
John D. Bates
| Presiding Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Thomas F. Hogan