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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 byEdward Matthew Curran
Succeeded byGeorge Luzerne Hart Jr.
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
March 28, 1957 – October 31, 1977
Appointed byDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byHenry Albert Schweinhaut
Succeeded byHarold 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 placeGate of Heaven Cemetery
Silver Spring, Maryland
Political partyRepublican
EducationGeorgetown 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,[clarify] 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.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    20 995
    2 081
  • ✪ Sirica & Nixon: A High Stakes Contest Over Executive Privilege
  • ✪ WATERGATE 0001
  • ✪ Lives in the Law | D. Todd Christofferson '72
  • ✪ United States v. Nixon: Supreme Court - Watergate Tapes - Lawyers Present Oral Arguments (1974)
  • ✪ How Did Nixon Abuse His Presidential Powers? The New Nixon Tapes (1997)



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]


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]

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]

Judicial demeanor

Experienced as a trial lawyer, Sirica was known for his "no-nonsense" demeanor 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]


  • Franscell, Ron (2012). The Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Washington, D.C. Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 9780762773855.
  • 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.


  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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b "Sirica, 88, Dies; Persistent Judge In Fall of Nixon". The New York Times. August 15, 1992.
  5. ^ a b c d "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. ^ a b "Watergate Judge John Sirica Dies of Cardiac Arrest". Los Angeles Times. August 16, 1992.
  11. ^ a b Barnes, Bart (August 15, 1992). "John Sirica, Watergate Judge, Dies". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ Franscell 2012, p. 92.

External links

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.
This page was last edited on 7 February 2020, at 06:48
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