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Judge Bio: Karen LeCraft Henderson

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Today, we're taking a break from appellate opinions to look at one of the judges who issues those opinions. Here's a quick biography on D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge Karen LeCraft Henderson.

Judge Henderson has served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since July 1990, when she was appointed by President George H.W. Bush.

Born in Oberlin, Ohio in 1944, Judge Henderson received her Bachelor of Arts from Duke University in 1966. She went on to obtain her law degree from the University of North Carolina in 1969.

Following law school, Judge Henderson went into private practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She then went to work for the Office of the South Carolina Attorney General from 1973 to 1983, eventually becoming Deputy Attorney General of South Carolina.

Judge Henderson left the public sector in 1983 to join the law firm of firm of Sinkler, Gibbs & Simons of Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina.

Her career in the judiciary began in 1986, when she was appointed as Federal District Judge for the District of South Carolina by President Ronald Reagan. She served on the District Court until she was appointed to the court of appeals, to replace the vacancy left by Kenneth Starr when he became Solicitor General of the United States.

Judge Henderson has ruled in many prominent cases, sometimes rendering opinions deemed controversial by critics. In the Rasul v. Rumsfeld, a case involving British youth detained without charges at Guantanamo Bay, Judge Henderson famously declared that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act didn't apply to the plaintiffs. Judge Henderson reasoned that the Act didn't apply to Guantanamo detainees, because they were not "persons" under U.S. law.

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