Hon. James Robertson (Ret.) served with distinction as a United States District Judge for the District of Columbia for more than 15 years before his retirement on June 1, 2010, presiding over a docket that included a broad range of complex federal civil cases. He has earned a well-deserved reputation for fairness, integrity, courage, intelligence, decisiveness, compassion, and fair play. A progressive thinker and innovator, Judge Robertson served on the Judicial Conference Committee on Information Technology for eight years and was its chair from 2003 through 2005, presiding over the introduction of electronic filing in the federal judiciary and initiating an on-line system for receiving and reviewing clerkship applications. While an active federal judge, he served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Prior to Judge Robertson’s appointment to the federal bench, he was in private law practice for 25 years with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. He also served with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as a civil rights litigator in Mississippi, as its national director in Washington, and later as co-chairman. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the D.C. Bar and was elected president in 1990. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the American Law Institute.
Judicial Experience and Qualifications
- Presided over more than 1,000 civil cases involving patent, antitrust, securities, construction, banking, contract, environmental, food and drug, labor, international arbitration, employment, and miscellaneous government regulatory issues
- Authored over 600 opinions that reflect careful fact finding; powerful, principled reasoning; clear writing; and devotion to the rule of law
- Mediated many cases to settlement and provided clear, candid early evaluations of many others to facilitate their negotiated resolution
- Applied hands-on case management techniques to resolve disputes efficiently, expeditiously, and economically
- Judge Robertson’s mediation efforts are credited for the achievement in December 2009 of a $3.4 billion settlement of the huge Indian trust fund class action, Cobell v. Salazar, after fourteen years of litigation and nine trips to the Court of Appeals
- Notable rulings:
- Hamdan v. Rumsfeld – granting the first writ of habeas corpus to a Guantanamo Bay detainee and shutting down his military commission trial, until Congress gave its approval to military commission trials and brought trial procedures into compliance with the Geneva Conventions. The Court of Appeals reversed that ruling, but the Supreme Court (5-4) agreed with Judge Robertson.
- Mova Pharmaceutical Corp. v. Shalala – Injunction restraining FDA approval of competitor’s abbreviated new drug application until 180 days after plaintiff began commercially marketing its generic drug or until drug patent was declared invalid or not infringed
- Wyeth v. Dudas – Overruling Patent and Trademark Office interpretation of law governing extension of patent terms because of PTO delay
- PAETEC Communications v. CommPartners – Ruling that a telephone company’s termination of VoIP-originated telephone traffic is an “information service,” not subject to access charges
- American Council of the Blind v. Secretary of the Treasury et al. – Injunction requiring U.S. Treasury to design, produce, and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired persons
- U.S. v. Webster Hubbell – Ruling in Whitewater-related prosecution that defendant’s 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination protected information that he had delivered to the government after receiving use immunity. Reversed by the Court of Appeals; upheld (8-1) by the Supreme Court.
- Hollister v. Soetoro – Dismissing as frivolous “birther” claim as to President Obama’s citizenship
Representative Private Sector Matters
In the years since his retirement from the bench, Judge Robertson has been engaged as mediator or arbitrator in scores of disputes, including:
- Bankruptcy: Mediated two substantial disputes concerning net operating losses and other break-up issues, between and among bankrupt insurance holding companies, their creditors, receivers of their insurer subsidiaries, state insurance regulators, and (in one case) IRS.
- Business/Commercial: Chair of arbitration panel for contract claims between major agricultural commodity company and developer of new strains of wheat. Mediated numerous contract disputes between buyers and sellers of, e.g., coke for steel manufacturing, electronic computer products.
- Employment: Mediated numerous disputes involving employment and employment-related issues: executive compensation, non-competes, partnership agreements, sexual harassment, discrimination, fair credit reporting.
- Intellectual Property: Chair of arbitration panel for patent license dispute between major manufacturers of consumer telecommunications products. Mediated several patent infringement/invalidity disputes.
- Personal Injury/Torts: Mediated wrongful death and injury claims arising from private air crash. Sole arbitrator for multiple injury claims arising from defective pharmaceutical product.
- Pharmaceuticals: Member arbitration panel for indemnification claim by one major pharmaceutical company against another, arising from multiple tort judgments.
- Professional Liability: Chair of two arbitration panels for investor claims of accounting malpractice against major accounting firm and legal malpractice against national law firm.
- Real Estate: Arbitration and mediation of contract claims and counterclaims between owners and developers of major Maryland real estate parcels.
- Securities: Sole arbitrator for investor claims of securities fraud and breach of fiduciary duty against private investment fund specializing in high-speed automated trading of foreign securities.
- Telecommunications: Arbitrated and mediated contract disputes involving pricing and take-or-pay obligations of regional customers and resellers of telephone and broadband services. Member of arbitration panel for dispute about “put” value of regional wireless provider’s business.