Judge Bios

Burnett Sr., Arthur L.

Appointed: July 21, 2021

Updated Biographical Summary Prepared on September 3, 2004

Senior Judge Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., currently on leave for two (2) years as an inactive Senior Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, is the National Executive Director, National African American Drug Policy Coalition, founded on April 1, 2004 with nine (9) entities signing a Memorandum of Understanding to work together in a coalition to reduce and prevent illegal drug usage and related crime and juvenile delinquency in African American communities throughout the United States. This Coalition consists of professional organizations of lawyers, dentists, nurses, social workers, sociologists, psychologists and other behavioral scientists to develop a coordinate approach of professionals to achieve its mission. Other professional organizations, including doctors, have expressed interest in joining this Coalition.

Judge Burnett brings to this task an extensive record of accomplishments. He graduated from Howard University summa cum laude with a major in political science and minor in economics and in his junior year was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He then attended New York University School of Law where he received his law degree in 1958, graduating in the top 10% of his class and as a Founders’ Day Award Recipient. He was also Associate Research Editor of its Law Review. He commenced his law career in the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the United States Department of Justice in the Criminal Division in June 1958. After specializing in fraud, obscenity and public integrity criminal cases, including serving as a special prosecutor in several cases for the U. S. Department of Justice, in April 1965 he became an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington,

D.C. where he prosecuted for almost four (4) years all types of cases, including homicides. In December 1968 he became the first General Counsel of the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia.

On June 26, 1969 he was appointed the first African American United States Magistrate (now call United States Magistrate Judges) in the United States, in which capacity he served until December 1975. He then became the Legal Advisor for the United States Civil Service System and between 1976-1980 he served also as a legal advisor to the President of the United States on all civil service and personnel laws in the United States and as one of the President’s chief representatives in dealing with all bills pending before the U.S. Congress dealing with the federal personnel system.

In January 1980 he was appointed United States Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for the second time, where he served until appointed by the President to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in November 1987.

Judge Burnett retired in October 1998 and took Senior Judge status to work as a volunteer with the Children’s Defense Fund as an advisor on all legal issues affecting children in America and with other non-profits and other groups on issues of juvenile delinquency, neglect and abuse and the foster care system in general. As a Senior Judge, whenever available, he continued to hear cases involving neglect and abuse, termination of parental rights, and adoptions over the past almost six (6) years. On August 1, 2004 he took a two-years leave of absence from his active Senior Judge status to serve full-time as National Executive Director, National African American Drug Policy Coalition. In addition, he serves as a member of the American Bar Association Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children, as Chair of the National Bar Association Juvenile Justice Task Force and also as Chair of its Juvenile Justice Committee, as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and as a Member of the District of Columbia Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Inc. as well as on a number of other committees in Bar Associations dealing with criminal justice issues in general, including wrongful convictions, sentencing and re-entry issues, and illegal drug usage and abuse in particular.