On July 29, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Judge Todd E. Edelman to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Edelman was appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in 2010 by President Barack Obama. He currently serves as the Deputy Presiding Judge of the Superior Court’s Civil Division. Prior to taking the bench, Judge Edelman worked as a public defender, clinical law professor and labor lawyer.
Judge Todd Edelman was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1968. He graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1990 with a B.A. in Political Science and earned his J.D. cum laude from New York University School of Law in 1994. At NYU, Judge Edelman was selected as a Root-Tilden Scholar for his academic achievement and commitment to public service.
After law school, Judge Edelman moved to Washington D.C. to serve as a clerk for the Honorable William B. Bryant of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Following his clerkship, Judge Edelman was awarded the E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship at the Georgetown University Law Center. As a Prettyman Fellow, he spent two years representing indigent defendants charged with misdemeanor and low-level felony cases in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and supervised third-year law students who were serving as student counsel in misdemeanor cases.
In 1997, Judge Edelman joined the Public Defender Service (PDS) for the District of Columbia as a Staff Attorney in the Trial Division. He spent eight years representing indigent defendants charged with crimes ranging from lower-level offenses to homicide, conspiracy and other serious felonies in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. During his tenure at PDS, he represented hundreds of clients and tried dozens of cases to judges and juries. He was promoted to Chief of the PDS Serious Felony Section in 2002 and became the agency’s Training Director in 2004, where he designed and conducted an intensive trial skills training program for new staff attorneys and directed professional training programs for all staff attorneys.
In 2005, Judge Edelman transitioned to private practice as Of Counsel at Bredhoff & Kaiser PLLC, where he focused his work on representing labor unions, pension funds, and individual employees in complex civil litigation in state and federal courts nationwide. For example, in Fields v. Lyon Workspace Products et al., Case No. 1:07-cv-6894 (N.D. Ill.), Judge Edelman served as principal counsel for a class of retirees who spent their working lives at Lyon Workspace Products’ locker manufacturing factory. In 2007, Lyon unilaterally changed monthly healthcare premiums for retirees that effectively forced all retirees to drop out of the health plan. The subsequent class action charged that Lyon had violated the obligations created by collective bargaining agreements and the health insurance plan documents and sought remedies under ERISA and the Labor Management Relations Act. In September 2008, the parties agreed to settle the case, allowing all retirees to receive the monetary value of the insurance plan Lyon canceled.
Judge Edelman returned to Georgetown University Law Center in 2008 as a Visiting Associate Professor of Law, teaching full-time in the Criminal Justice Clinic. He taught a year-long clinical course for third-year law students and closely supervised students serving as student counsel in misdemeanor cases. During that period, he also served as lead counsel on several serious felony and post-conviction cases.
In 2010, Judge Edelman was appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Since taking the bench, he has served in the Civil Division (2010-2012, 2017, and 2021-present), the Domestic Violence Unit (2013-2014) and the Felony Branch of the Criminal Division (2015-2016 and 2018-2020). Judge Edelman has served as the Deputy Presiding Judge of the Superior Court’s Civil Division since 2020.
In 2016, Judge Edelman was nominated to the U.S. District Court for D.C. by President Obama. However, his confirmation process was stalled and he never received a hearing. In 2022, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) again recommended Edelman Judge Edelman has presided over 500 civil and criminal cases to verdict, approximately 70 percent of which were bench trials and 30 percent of which were jury trials. The following cases are representative of Judge Edelman’s judicial tenure in the Superior Court:
Labor and Employment
Judge Edelman has presided over a variety of civil matters in D.C. Superior Court. For example, in District of Columbia v. Bongam et al., Judge Edelman presided over a complex three-week trial in which a group of immigrant home health aides, represented by the District of Columbia, alleged that the defendant and his company had illegally withheld their wages. The District of Columbia sought compensation for the health aides’ work under the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law. The issues at trial included the admissibility of various government documents, sanctions imposed on a party for destruction of records, and whether the District of Columbia could pursue claims on behalf of individuals who did not appear at trial. Ultimately, Judge Edelman ordered that the defendants pay over $300,000 to the health aides. The Court of Appeals later affirmed the judgment in its entirety.
In an appellate matter, TRG Customer Sols., Inc. v. Smith. the defendant waited five months before asserting an arbitration clause with no explanation for their delay. Employers often include arbitration clauses in employee contracts, which make it harder for employees to bring lawsuits against their employers. Employers sometimes wait long periods of time—after an employee has already sued them—to invoke the clause in an attempt to suddenly dismiss the case. Judge Edelman, writing for the D.C. Court of Appeals, stated that the defendant’s active participation in the lawsuit and lack of explanation for the delayed invocation meant that the defendant could no longer get the case dismissed based on that arbitration clause. This opinion clarified the standard for determining when a party waives their right to invoke an arbitration clause to dismiss a lawsuit in future cases.
In Davis v. District of Columbia, 2005 CA 8722, 2010 D.C. Super. LEXIS 6 (D.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 23, 2010), a former employee of the District of Columbia challenged his 2004 termination under the D.C. Human Rights Act and D.C. Whistleblowers Protection Act (DCWPA). After a hearing and briefing from the parties, Judge Edelman ruled that certain amendments extending the DCWPA could retroactively apply and denied the D.C. government’s motion to dismiss the case. A jury ultimately rendered a verdict for the District on the CHRA claim. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in its entirety.
In Havilah Real Property Services, LLC v. VLK, LLC et al., Judge Edelman presided over a lengthy jury trial in a complex dispute between two companies over the right to purchase certain real estate properties. The plaintiff in the case brought a claim for illegally interfering with a prospective business advantage and maliciously filing a lawsuit after the defendant allegedly lodged a notice of litigation in bad faith on certain real estate properties, thereby devaluing the properties and spooking potential buyers. Judge Edelman determined that D.C. law allowed for the plaintiff to move forward with the tortious interference claim but barred the malicious prosecution claim. The jury awarded the plaintiff $602,942 on the tortious interference claim and the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the verdict and all of Judge Edelman’s decisions in the case.
Judge Edelman also has significant experience presiding over criminal cases, specifically those involving issues of forensic evidence. For example, in United States v. McLeoud et al. 2017 CF1 9869 (D.C. Super. Ct.), the government found that it mistakenly charged two separate homicides in the same indictment after discovering that D.C.’s Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) improperly matched evidence from the two crime scenes. Judge Edelman oversaw a series of hearings on the matter and issued rulings regarding the government’s disclosure obligations to the defense and the objections to subpoenas raised by DFS. The case led to an extensive audit of DFS and eventually its director and other officials resigned. The case remains pending.
In United States v. Marquette Tibbs, Judge Edelman was recognized for his expertly drafted opinion requiring that the jury only take into account a witness’s testimony regarding forensic evidence if the witness’ opinions were backed up by scientific evidence. In this case, the prosecution sought to put on a witness who would testify that the markings on a shell casing matched those of a gun discarded by the defendant who had been charged with homicide. While that sort of testimony has been allowed in thousands of cases, it is not technically scientific and arguably highly subjective. Judge Edelman conducted an extensive evidentiary hearing instead of merely relying on other decisions, personally reviewed the testimony and scientific literature to determine that the witness could only testify to conclusions backed by scientific research.
In another case, United States v. Jones, 2013 CF3 10586 (D.C. Super. Ct. June 2, 2015), Judge Edelman oversaw the trial of a defendant charged with four separate stabbings. Pretrial issues included whether the defendant was mentally competent enough to stand trial and waive the insanity defense. Judge Edelman found that the defendant was competent, allowed him to waive his insanity defense, and allowed the government to prosecute charges related to all four incidents in a single trial. After a two-week trial, a jury found the defendant not guilty of all charges.
In United States v. Headspeth, 2016 CF1 1887 (D.C. Super. Ct.), Judge Edelman presided over the trial of a defendant charged with assault with the intent to kill while armed and other related offenses. The prosecution alleged that he ambushed, shot and seriously injured the brother of a man that the defendant had killed years before. Judge Edelman made rulings during the course of the trial on the admissibility of evidence of prior crimes and on allegations of juror misconduct. The jury convicted the defendant of all charges and Judge Edelman sentenced him to an aggregate term of 30 years in prison. The case is currently on appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
In Small v. Cannady, 2013 CPO 2174, 2014 D.C. Super. LEXIS 4 (D.C. Super. Mar 26, 2014), Judge Edelman authored an opinion that extended protections available to domestic violence victims under D.C.’s domestic violence statute. He held that a domestic violence complainant can obtain a civil protection order against a person who maliciously destroyed their property. The standard set by Judge Edelman in this case is still followed by other judges in the Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Division.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Judge Edelman co-chairs the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules and several other Civil Division committees and working groups for D.C. Superior Court. He also serves on the Court’s Judicial Education Committee, the Criminal Justice Act Implementation Committee, and the Standing Committee on Fairness and Access to the District of Columbia Courts. Judge Edelman is an affiliate of the Legal Resource Task Group of the Forensic Science Standards Board of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC), a commission administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and charged with developing science-based standards for forensic evidence.
Judge Edelman currently teaches Torts and Constitutional Law at Georgetown University Law Center and has been a faculty member of the Harvard Law School Trial Advocacy Workshop since 2006. He also frequently volunteers his time as a trainer and lecturer at programs sponsored by various law schools, bar associations, and legal services providers.
Before his appointment to the bench, Judge Edelman served on the Board of Directors of the Washington Council of Lawyers and was twice elected by his peers to the Steering Committee of the D.C. Bar’s Criminal Law and Individual Rights Section. In addition, Harvard Law School recognized Judge Edelman’s public service achievements by awarding him the Wasserstein Public Interest Fellowship.