John Sirica

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John Sirica
John Sirica (Gerald Ford Library).png
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
October 31, 1977 August 14, 1992
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
Preceded by Edward Matthew Curran
Succeeded by George Luzerne Hart Jr.
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
March 28, 1957 October 31, 1977
Appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Henry Albert Schweinhaut
Succeeded by Harold H. Greene
Personal details
John Joseph Sirica

(1904-03-19)March 19, 1904
Waterbury, Connecticut
DiedAugust 14, 1992(1992-08-14) (aged 88)
Washington, D.C.
Resting place Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Silver Spring, Maryland
Political party Republican
Education Georgetown Law (LL.B.)

John Joseph Sirica (March 19, 1904 – August 14, 1992) was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where he became famous for his role in the trials stemming from the Watergate scandal. He rose to national prominence when he ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over his recordings of White House conversations. Sirica's involvement in the case began when he presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars. He did not believe the claim that they had acted alone, and through the use of provisional sentencing, strongly encouraged them to give information about higher-ups before final sentencing. One defendant, James W. McCord Jr., wrote a letter describing a broader scheme of involvement by people in the Nixon administration. For his role in uncovering the truth about Watergate, Sirica was named Time magazine's Man of the Year in January 1974.

United States federal judge position in the USA

In the United States, the title of federal judge means a judge appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate pursuant to the Appointments Clause in Article II of the United States Constitution.

United States District Court for the District of Columbia United States federal district court

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia is a federal district court. Appeals from the District are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Watergate scandal Political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s

The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States during the early 1970s, following a break-in by five men at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, and President Richard Nixon's administration's subsequent attempt to cover up his involvement. After the five burglars were caught and the conspiracy was discovered—chiefly through the work of a few journalists, Congressional staffers and an election-finance watchdog official—Watergate was investigated by the United States Congress. Meanwhile, Nixon's administration resisted its probes, which led to a constitutional crisis.


Early life and education

Sirica was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, to Ferdinando (Fred) Sirica, an immigrant from Italy, and Rose (Zinno) Sirica, whose parents were from Italy. He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1918, where he attended Emerson Preparatory School and eventually transferred to Columbia Preparatory School. [1] He went directly from high school to law school, which was possible in the District of Columbia at the time, and, after two false starts, entered Georgetown Law and received a Bachelor of Laws in 1926. [2] Between 1910 and 1918, the Sirica family lived in various cities across the United States where Fred worked as a barber and made several unsuccessful attempts at running small businesses. In 1922, Fred was running a two-lane bowling alley and poolhall, which was raided by the police for violation of the Prohibition-era Volstead Act when liquor was found in the restroom. Fred was arrested, but the charges were dropped. He soon sold the business and moved away. [3]

Waterbury, Connecticut City in Connecticut, United States

Waterbury is a city in the U.S. state of Connecticut on the Naugatuck River, 33 miles southwest of Hartford and 77 miles northeast of New York City. Waterbury is the second-largest city in New Haven County, Connecticut. As of the 2010 census, Waterbury had a population of 110,366, making it the 10th largest city in the New York Metropolitan Area, 9th largest city in New England and the 5th largest city in Connecticut.

Connecticut state of the United States of America

Connecticut is the southernmost state in the New England region of the United States. As of the 2010 Census, it has the highest per-capita income, Human Development Index (0.962), and median household income in the United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the south. Its capital is Hartford and its most populous city is Bridgeport. It is part of New England, although portions of it are often grouped with New York and New Jersey as the Tri-state area. The state is named for the Connecticut River which approximately bisects the state. The word "Connecticut" is derived from various anglicized spellings of an Algonquian word for "long tidal river".

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.


Sirica fought as a boxer in Washington and Miami in the 1920s and 1930s. He was torn between a career as a fighter and the career in law that he followed after earning a law degree and passing the bar. Boxing champion Jack Dempsey became a close friend. [4] Sirica was in private practice of law in Washington, D.C. from 1926 to 1930. [5] He was an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1930 to 1934, and subsequently returned to private practice from 1934 to 1957. [5] He also served as general counsel to the House Select Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission in 1944; his appointment was opposed by the two Republican members of the committee. [6] However, Sirica resigned in protest over the committee's handling of the WMCA scandal that year, and re-entered private practice. [5] In 1947, he joined the law firm of Hogan and Hartson in Washington, D.C. (now called Hogan Lovells). [7]

Jack Dempsey American boxer

William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey, nicknamed "Kid Blackie" and "The Manassa Mauler", was an American professional boxer who competed from 1914 to 1927, and reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. A cultural icon of the 1920s, Dempsey's aggressive fighting style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million-dollar gate.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

An Assistant United States Attorney is an attorney employed by the federal government of the United States and working under the supervision of a United States Attorney. In 2008, there were approximately 5,300 Assistant United States Attorneys employed by the U.S. Government. As of 2014 they earned a starting salary of $50,287.

Federal judicial service

Sirica was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 25, 1957, to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated by Judge Henry Albert Schweinhaut. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 26, 1957, and received his commission on March 28, 1957. He served as Chief Judge and a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1971 to 1974. He assumed senior status on October 31, 1977. His service terminated on August 14, 1992, due to his death. [5]

Dwight D. Eisenhower 34th president of the United States

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was an American army general and statesman who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961. During World War II, he was a five-star general in the United States Army and served as supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. He was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front.

Henry Albert Schweinhaut was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.

Judicial demeanor

Experienced as a trial lawyer, Sirica was known for his "no-nonsense" demeanor in on the bench. Author Joseph Goulden, in The Benchwarmers, said that some lawyers thought Sirica made careless legal errors.[ citation needed ] He was nicknamed "Maximum John" for giving defendants the maximum sentence that guidelines allowed.[ citation needed ]


In 1979, Sirica published a book, co-authored with John Stacks, detailing his participation in the Watergate cases under the title To Set the Record Straight. [8] [9] [3]


Sirica suffered a severe heart attack while at a speaking engagement on February 5, 1976. [10] In the final years of his life, Sirica suffered from a wide range of ailments, both minor and severe.[ citation needed ] In the last few weeks of his life, he came down with pneumonia. He fell and broke his collarbone a few days before his death, and was hospitalized at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.. [4] He died in the hospital of cardiac arrest at 4:30 p.m. on August 14, 1992. [10] [11] He was interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland. [12] Sirica was survived by his wife, Lucile Camalier Sirica, and his three children, John Jr., Patricia, and Eileen. [11]


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  1. Barnes, Bart (August 15, 1992). "John Sirica Obituary". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 1, 2007.
  2. Barnes, Bart (August 15, 1992). "John Sirica, Watergate Judge, Dies". The Washington Post . Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  3. 1 2 Sirica, John (April 1, 1979). To Set the Record Straight: The Break-In, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc. ISBN   0393012344.
  4. 1 2 "Sirica, 88, Dies; Persistent Judge In Fall of Nixon". The New York Times. August 15, 1992.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Sirica, John Joseph - Federal Judicial Center".
  6. "Sirica New House Probe Counsel". Broadcasting and Broadcast Advertising . Washington, D.C.: Broadcasting Publications, Inc. 26 (14): 14. April 3, 1944.
  7. Mason, Howard (November 4, 1973). "Sirica likes his country the way immigrants' sons do". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  8. "Review: To Set the Record Straight". Kirkus. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  9. Muller, Henry. "John Stacks". Time. Time. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  10. 1 2 "Watergate Judge John Sirica Dies of Cardiac Arrest". Los Angeles Times. August 16, 1992.
  11. 1 2 Barnes, Bart (August 15, 1992). "John Sirica, Watergate Judge, Dies". The Washington Post.
  12. Franscell 2012, p. 92.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Henry Albert Schweinhaut
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
Harold H. Greene
Preceded by
Edward Matthew Curran
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
George Luzerne Hart Jr.