Judith Ann Wilson Rogers, law clerk, attorney, judge, and corporation counsel, was born on July 27, 1939 in New York City, New York. Her mother is unnamed, but her father was John Louis Wilson, Jr., an architect who passed away in 1989. Judith W. Rogers married in 1968.
In 1961, Rogers received a bachelor degree from the Radcliffe College of Harvard University in Massachusetts. Three years later in 1964 she was one of 15 women out of 500 students in her graduating class when she received her Bachelor of Laws from the Harvard Law School. After graduating Rogers became a law clerk at the Juvenile Court of the District of Columbia (D.C.) from 1964 to 1965. From this point forward she would continue to hold a variety of important positions. From 1965 to 1968 Rogers worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia making her the third woman to work in the Criminal Division. During her time in the Criminal Division for the District of Columbia she was involved in two legislative reforms that transformed the District of Columbia.
First, Rogers was part of the team that drafted the equivalent of a state court system for the District of Columbia. Congress formally enacted the D.C. Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act in 1970. This transferred all local civil cases to the new D.C. trial court from the federal courts and also created an appellate court. Second, Rogers was also appointed general counsel to the Congressional Commission on the Organization of the District of Columbia. During her time working with Congress she lobbied for the enactment of the 1973 D.C. Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act which helped the district form its own local government to represent residents separate from federal control. This act allowed District of Columbia residents to vote for their own mayor and city council for the first time.
Between 1968 and 1969 Rogers served as a staff attorney at the San Francisco (California) Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation. She then returned to Washington, D.C., where from 1969 to 1971 she served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division. In 1971 to 1972 she served as general counsel for the Congressional Commission on the Organization of the District Government. From 1972 to 1979 Rogers worked in legislative affairs in the District government holding multiple positions. While Rogers worked in the office of the District of Columbia’s local government, the District of Columbia held their first elections for city council and mayor under the DC Home Rule Act.
In 1979, Rogers worked as the assistant city administrator for intergovernmental affairs relations in the District of Columbia. Then from 1979 to 1983 she served as the corporation counsel for the District of Columbia making her the first woman appointed a chief legal officer for the District of Columbia. In 1983, Rogers was nominated by then President Ronald Reagan to become an associate judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals which was the highest court for D.C. She served on the Court until 1988.
In the same year Rogers, at the age of 49, obtained her Master of Laws from the University of Virginia School of Law. Rogers went on to serve as chief judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals from 1988 to 1994. In her 5th year as chief judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals she was nominated by then President Bill Clinton on November 17, 1993 for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She was officially confirmed for the position on March 11, 1994 becoming the fourth woman and first African American woman to serve on this court.
Judith W. Rogers has been honored with the Margaret Brent Award for her efforts in diversifying the courthouse and judicial branch along with numerous other prestigious awards.