Beryl A. Howell

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Beryl Howell
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Assumed office
March 16, 2016
Preceded by Richard W. Roberts
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Assumed office
December 27, 2010
Appointed by Barack Obama
Preceded by Paul Friedman
Personal details
Born 1956 (age 64–65)
Fort Benning, Georgia, U.S.
Alma mater Bryn Mawr College
Columbia University

Beryl A. Howell (born 1956) is the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Early life and education

Howell graduated from Bryn Mawr College with her bachelor's degree, with honors in Philosophy in 1978 and from Columbia University School of Law with a Juris Doctor in 1983.[1]

Legal career

Private practice

Following law school graduation, Howell clerked for Judge Dickinson Richards Debevoise in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey from 1983 to 1984. From 1985 to 1987, she was in private practice as an associate at the New York law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel.[1]

Public service

From 1987 to 1993, Howell was an Assistant United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, where she became Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Section.[2]

From 1993 to 2003, Howell served on the staff of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary as a senior advisor to chairman Patrick Leahy, including as the committee’s general counsel starting in 1997.

While working for Senator Leahy, Howell helped craft the E-FOIA amendments, which expanded electronic access to government records.[3] She also helped Sen. Leahy fend off proposals to impose new limits on the FOIA.[3] In 2001, she was honored by the Coalition to Support and Expand the Freedom of Information Act,[3] and in 2004, her FOIA work was honored by the Society of Professional Journalists.[2]

Howell was involved in crafting numerous pieces of legislation for the investigation and prosecution of computer crime and copyright infringement, including the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act,[4] the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act,[4] the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,[4] the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA),[5] the No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act),[2][5] the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),[2][4][5] and the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999.[2][5]

Howell was involved in national security issues,[6] including the creation of the USA PATRIOT Act,[2][5] which she defended in 2005 in an article for the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly.[7]

The Center for Democracy and Technology lists Howell as a "board alum".[8]

Appointed by George W. Bush, Howell served as a member of the United States Sentencing Commission from 2004 until being seated on the District Court in 2010.[1][2]

In 2008, Howell served as a member of the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, sponsored by bipartisan think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.[6][9]

Federal judicial service

She was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 14, 2010 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 22, 2010. She received her judicial commission on December 27, 2010. She became Chief Judge on March 17, 2016

Notable decisions

In 2011, Harold Hodge Jr. stood outside the U.S. Supreme Court wearing a sign that protested the American government's treatment of black and Hispanic people.[10] He did so in violation of a 1949 federal law that makes such protests a crime. Hodge sued the Marshal of the United States Supreme Court and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia under the First Amendment. In a June 2013 decision, Judge Howell struck down the law as violating the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.[11] The judge wrote, "The absolute prohibition on expressive activity in the statute is unreasonable, substantially overbroad and irreconcilable with the First Amendment." The defendants appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.


From 2004 to 2009,[2][12][13] Howell was executive vice president,[3] executive managing director,[6] and general counsel[6] at Stroz Friedberg, a global digital risk management and investigations firm. Howell's work at Stroz Friedberg included lobbying on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America,[2][13][14][15] and, briefly, Universal Music Group.[2][16]


Howell teaches legal ethics as an adjunct professor at the American University's Washington College of Law.[4][17]

Personal life

Howell is married to Michael Rosenfeld, an executive producer at National Geographic Television & Film.[3] They have three children.[3]


  • Beryl Howell, "Lawyers on the Hook: Counsel’s Professional Responsibility to Provide Quality Assurance in Electronic Discovery", 2 J. Sec. L. Reg. & Compl. 216 (June 2009).
  • Beryl Howell, "Real World Problems of Virtual Crime, in Cybercrime: Digital Cops in a Networked Environment" (Jack M. Balkin et al., New York University Press 2007).
  • Beryl Howell & Dana J. Lesemann, "FISA’s Fruits in Criminal Cases: An Opportunity for Improved Accountability", 12 UCLA J. Intl. L. & For. Affairs 145 (Spring 2007).
  • Beryl Howell, "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Has the Solution Become the Problem?", in Protecting What Matters: Technology, Security, and Liberty Since 9/11 (Clayton Northouse, Brookings Institution Press 2006).
  • Beryl Howell, "Perspectives on the USA PATRIOT Act" (Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly, January 2005).[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Office of the Press Secretary (July 14, 2010). "President Obama Names Five to United States District Court". The White House. Retrieved July 20, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Anderson, Nate (Mar 28, 2011). "RIAA lobbyist becomes federal judge, rules on file-sharing cases". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2013-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Practicing at the Intersection of Law, Policy and Technology". Science and Technology newsletter. Bryn Mawr College. October 2003. Retrieved 2013-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On The Nomination Of Beryl Howell To Be A United States District Court Judge For The District Of Columbia". July 28, 2010. Retrieved 2013-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Stroz Friedberg LLC - Professionals - Howell, Beryl A." Stroz Friedberg, LLC. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2013-03-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Beryl Howell". Center for Democracy and Technology. Retrieved 2013-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Howell, Beryl. "Perspectives on the USA PATRIOT Act" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Staff". Center for Democracy and Technology. Retrieved 2013-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Commission Members" (PDF). Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved 2013-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Supreme Court Issues New Rule Barring Protests on Plaza". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-09-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Protester challenges Supreme Court speech-free zone". Retrieved 2014-09-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 U.S. Copyright Surveillance Machine About To Be Switched On, Promises of Transparency Already Broken, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 15 Nov 2012.
  14. RIAA lobbying data (public record) as published by for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.
  15. Stroz Frieberg lobbying data (public record) as published by for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.
  16. Stroz Frieberg lobbying data (public record) as published by for 2005
  17. "The Honorable Beryl Howell : Adjunct Professor of Law". Faculty. American University Washington College of Law. Retrieved 2013-04-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Paul Friedman
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Preceded by
Richard Roberts
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia