John D. Bates

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The Honorable
John Deacon Bates
File:John D. Bates (2013).jpg
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Assumed office
October 12, 2014
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
December 14, 2001 – October 12, 2014
Appointed by George W. Bush
Preceded by Stanley S. Harris
Succeeded by Seat abolished on October 12, 2014 pursuant to 104 Stat. 5089
Personal details
Born (1946-10-11) October 11, 1946 (age 75)
Elizabeth, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma mater Wesleyan University B.A.
University of Maryland School of Law J.D.
Profession U.S. federal judge

John Deacon Bates (born October 11, 1946), is a United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He was appointed by President George W. Bush in December 2001, and has adjudicated in several cases directly affecting the office of the President. On June 11, 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts named Bates to serve as Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, effective July 1, 2013.[1] He took senior status on October 12, 2014.


Bates was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1968, and a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976. From 1968 to 1971, he served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army.[2]

He and his wife Carol Ann Rhees, also a former lawyer with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, live in Bethesda, Maryland. They have three children.


Bates was a law clerk for Judge Roszel C. Thomsen of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland from 1976 to 1977 and was an associate at Steptoe & Johnson from 1977 to 1980. He served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1980 to 1987, and was Chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office from 1987 to 1997. Judge Bates was on detail as Deputy Independent Counsel for the Whitewater investigation from 1995 to mid-1997. In 1998, he joined the Washington law firm of Miller & Chevalier, where he was Chair of the Government Contracts/Litigation Department and a member of the Executive Committee. From September 1995 until leaving in March 1997, Bates worked as Deputy Independent Counsel for Kenneth Starr and the Independent Counsel's office during the investigation into President Bill Clinton.

On September 4, 2001, Bates was nominated by President George W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, vacated by Stanley S. Harris. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 11, 2001, and received his commission on December 14, 2001.[2]

Bates has served on the Advisory Committee for Procedures of the D.C. Circuit and on the Civil Justice Reform Committee for the District Court, and as Treasurer of the District of Columbia Bar, Chairman of the Publications Committee of the D.C. Bar, and Chairman of the Litigation Section of the Federal Bar Association. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. In 2005, he was appointed by Chief Justice William Rehnquist to serve on the Judicial Conference of the United States' Committee on Court Administration and Case Management.

In February 2006, he was appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts to serve as a judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court).[3] [4]

Notable rulings

  • On March 19, 2014, Judge Bates in Innovator Enterprises, Inc v Jones found for the plaintiff and vacated BATFE's classification of the company's "stabilizer break" as a "firearm silencer".[5] The ruling is notable for an extensive, poignant and at times humorous exposé of the flaws in agency's application of logic during the firearms classification process:

    Hypotheticals further illustrate the weakness of this methodology. A mouse is not an "elephant" solely because it has three characteristics that are common to known elephants: a tail, gray skin, and four legs. A child's bike is not a "motorcycle" solely because it has three characteristics common to known motorcycles: two rubber tires, handlebars, and a leather seat. And a Bud Light is not "Single-Malt Scotch," just because it is frequently served in a glass container, contains alcohol, and is available for purchase at a tavern. To close with a firearm-related example: a hockey puck is not a "rubber bullet," just because it has rounded sides, is made of vulcanized rubber, and is capable of causing injury when launched at high speeds. Learning that one object has three characteristics in common with some category may not be very helpful in determining whether the object in question belongs in that category.

  • In November 2013, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified and released a circa-July 2010 (date classified) FISC ruling by Judge Bates authorizing the National Security Agency to restart mass collection of internet metadata, including those of U.S. persons.[6] In this ruling, Judge Bates noted that the NSA had been violating provisions of various laws, but nevertheless decided to allow the government to continue many aspects of the mass surveillance program. Critics of encroaching U.S. security state policies, in a nod to the Bates numbering method used in the legal field, appropriated the "Bates stamp" moniker as a neologism to refer to often uncritical FISC scrutiny of U.S. government conduct when considering Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications.[7]
  • On December 10, 2010, U.S. District Judge Bates dismissed a challenge to President Barack Obama's targeted killing order against Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual American and Yemeni citizen with ties to al-Qaeda. Judge Bates ruled that al-Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, who filed the suit with assistance by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, lacked legal standing in the case against the Obama Administration. In the ruling, Judge Bates stopped short of granting the executive branch "unreviewable authority" to order the killing of an American citizen, instead concluding that the case would likely be settled in another forum outside the courtroom.[8]
  • On July 31, 2008, Judge Bates ruled, in a dispute between the Administrative and Legislative branches, that President George W. Bush's advisers, chief of staff Josh Bolten and former legal counsel Harriet Miers, are not immune from congressional subpoenas to testify about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and turn over all related, non-privileged documents.[9][10]
  • On July 19, 2007, he dismissed a lawsuit filed by Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband against Vice President Dick Cheney, White House political adviser Karl Rove, former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Plame's lawyers had said from the beginning of the lawsuit that it would be quite difficult to win, since public officials and servants are generally immune from such suits filed in connection with their jobs. Plame's identity as a Central Intelligence Agency field operative was revealed in a syndicated newspaper column in 2003. This revelation coincided with (Plame's husband) Wilson's criticism of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. Many opponents of the administration question the timing of the leak of Plame's identity, and assign blame of the leak to officials in the administration. Although several administration officials were questioned in an investigation of the leak, no formal charges were brought, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was then found guilty of lying and obstruction of the investigation as a consequence of his lying. President George W. Bush consequently commuted Libby's sentence, preventing him from doing any prison time at all.[citation needed]
  • "Dismissed a lawsuit by outed spy Valerie Plame and her husband against Vice President Dick Cheney and other top Bush administration officials." Judge Bates stated in his ruling that the couple's allegations "pose important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials," but that he had to dismiss their claims for jurisdictional reasons. While saying the Bush administration officials' actions "may have been highly unsavory," Bates nonetheless ruled "there can be no serious dispute" that speaking to the press to rebut Wilson's criticism was "within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials." [12] The Wilsons appealed.
  • "In a December 30, 2002 decision, Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court ruled that lead plaintiff Representative Dennis Kucinich and 31 other members of the United States House of Representatives have no standing to challenge President Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty without congressional approval. He also ruled that the case presents a "political question" not suitable for resolution by the courts."


  1. "Supreme Court of the United States". Retrieved 11 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 John D. Bates at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  3. John D. Bates official biography
  4. John Shiffman, Kristina Cooke (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. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Innovator Enterprises Inc v Jones, 10 March 2014
  7. Wheeler, Marcy (November 20, 2013). "John Bates' TWO Wiretapping Warnings: Why the Government Took Its Internet Dragnet Collection Overseas". Retrieved 2013-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Suit Over Targeted Killings Is Thrown Out. New York Times. 07 December 2010.
  9. Judge Rules White House Aides Can Be Subpoenaed. Associated Press via New York Times. July 31, 2008.
  10. Text of Committee on the Judiciary v. Meiers from US Courts website. Accessed July 31, 2008.
  11. GAO Cites Corporate Shaping of Energy Plan. Washington Post. August 26, 2003. A1.
  12. John D. Bates Appointed to the FISA Court. Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved on March 24, 2006


External links