John Sirica (John Joseph Sirica)

John Sirica

John Sirica fought under assumed names 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 at his third attempt. Sirica was in private practice of law in Washington, D.C. from 1926 to 1930. 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. 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. However, Sirica resigned in protest over the committees’s handling of the WMCA scandal that year. John Sirica was a Republican and was appointed to the Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 25, 1957, to a seat vacated by Henry A. Schweinhaut. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 26 and received commission on March 28.

John Sirica had a largely undistinguished career before Watergate. Author Joseph Goulden wrote a book about federal judges called The Benchwarmers and mentioned that many lawyers appearing in Sirica’s courtroom thought little of him or his abilities as a judge. Many complained about his short temper and careless legal errors. He was nicknamed “Maximum John” for giving defendants the maximum sentence guidelines allowed. Boxing champion Jack Dempsey was a close friend of his and was Sirica’s best man at his marriage in 1952. Sirica served as chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia from 1971 to 1974, and assumed senior status on October 31, 1977. In 1979, Sirica published a memoir, co-authored with John Stacks, detailing his participation in the Watergate affair under the title To Set the Record Straight. Sirica suffered a severe heart attack on February 5, 1976, while at a speaking engagement. In the final years of his life, Sirica suffered from a wide range of ailments, minor and severe, related to his age. 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.. He died in the hospital of cardiac arrest at 4:30 p.m. on August 14, 1992.

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  • March, 19, 1904
  • USA
  • Waterbury, Connecticut


  • August, 14, 1992
  • USA
  • Washington D.C.

Cause of Death

  • cardiac arrest


  • Gate of Heaven Cemetery
  • Silver Spring, Maryland
  • USA

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