Superior Court Chief Judge Morin to Retire; JNC Seeks Nominees

By John Murph

April 15, 2020

The District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission is seeking nominees for chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court to fill a vacancy occurring as a result of the anticipated retirement of Chief Judge Robert E. Morin on September 30, 2020. Nomination materials are due by noon on May 15. 

Morin, 67, became chief judge of the Superior Court in October 2016. He began serving on the court in 1996 after being nominated by President Clinton. Previously, he worked in private practice and served in numerous public interest organizations, including the D.C. Law Students in Court Program (now Rising for Justice), the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Office of the Public Defender for the State of Maryland. 

Before becoming chief judge, Morin served in the Superior Court’s Criminal Division, Civil Division, and Family Court. He was responsible for the reform and management of the Criminal Justice Act Panel of Attorneys, which helped significantly improve the quality of legal representation of indigent persons.  

“I have truly enjoyed the last 24 years serving as a judge of the D.C. Superior Court. With the work of my colleagues, the court has worked to improve access to justice, enhance transparency in our court processes, and, with the assistance of the Bar, increase the representation of indigent persons in all matters,” Morin said. 

During his tenure, the court established resource and self-help centers for unrepresented litigants in all divisions of the court, as well as a Court Navigator Program that helps people navigate the court campus and the court’s processes and services. The court has also expanded language access on its website and set up its first interpreter registry.  

“We have put court documents, not just docket information, online, making our system far more transparent. We have a Forms Help Online system that asks users questions, and thus determines which forms they need to fill out to accomplish their court business and walks them through the process of filling them out,” Morin said. 

Morin also cited the court’s continued work with the D.C. Bar and with local legal services providers and law school clinics to help expand access to justice for those who cannot afford an attorney. 

“Whoever succeeds me will no doubt continue this important work as these issues define us as a court and as a bar,” Morin said. “It has been a privilege for the last four years to be chief judge of what I consider to be the best trial court, working with the best bar, in the country.” 

Active judges of the Superior Court are eligible to apply for designation as chief judge for a term of up to four years. Any individual, organization, or bar association may nominate an eligible judge for the position, with the consent of the judge.  

Statements of interest and nominations must address the candidate’s (1) interest in court administration; (2) administrative and management ability and experience; (3) ability to lead the court and to promote a sense of cooperation and collegiality among the judges, the court staff, and other governmental and nongovernmental entities; (4) ability to promote confidence in the court and the judicial system; and (5) ability to provide intellectual leadership. Application materials, including instructions, are available on the commission’s website

Application materials for the chief judge vacancy may be submitted in hard copy to the commission, or online using a secure portal on the commission’s website. If submitting materials in hard copy, applicants should provide both an original and a paper copy of their complete application materials. The commission will publish the names of the candidates and their statements of interest. 

The commission will provide an online evaluation form to facilitate the submission of comments on the candidates once all applications have been received. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. on June 19.