Judge Bios

Kollar-Kotelly, Colleen

Appointed: October 23, 1984

Born in New York City, Ms. Kollar-Kotelly lived for ten years in South America

where her father worked for the Agency for International Development and its predecessor

agencies. She attended bilingual schools in Mexico, Ecuador, and Venezuela, and

completed three years of her high school education at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory

School in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Kollar-Kotelly received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Catholic

University in 1965, and a J.D. degree from Catholic University ?Law School in 1968.. She

is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia.

After graduating from law school, Ms. Kollar-Kotelly served as a law clerk to the

Honorable Catherine B. Kelly, Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of

Appeals. She then spent over three years as an attorney in the Department of Justice,

Criminal Division, Appellate Section. In that capacity, she wrote appellate briefs and argued

in various federal circuits, including the District of Columbia, as well as prepared briefs in the

United States Supreme Court.

Twelve years ago, she became Chief Legal Council to Saint Elizabeths Hospital,

presently an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services and the public

mental hospital for the District of Columbia. Although initially she was the sole attorney, over

the years she has expanded the legal staff and functions of the legal office in order to

provide legal advice to the Superintendent and other clinical and administrative staff on all

aspects of the operation of the Hospital, as well as to represent the Hospital in federal court

and the Supreme Court. Practicing a philosophy of preventive law, her advisory role has

not been limited to mental health law, but has concerned a broad spectrum of substantive

issues similar to those handled by a small law firm with a general practice.

Because of her particular expertise in mental health law, she has developed a

unique relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, permitting her to appear regularly in a

variety of preceedings in the Superior Court, in addition to handling civil suits in the United

States District Court, including two class action suits which set national precedents in mental

health law.

She has made a significant contribution to the education of mental health

professionals and the legal community. She has made presentations at the annual meetings

of the American Psychiatric Association; at programs sponsored by the American Academy

of Psychiatry and the Law, the Washington Psychiatric Society, and the D.C. Mental Health

Association; at programs sponsored by the Superior Court Judicial Conference; and as a

speaker at various law schools.

Since 1974, she has been a member of the Ugast Forensic Committee and the

Mental Health Rules Committee on the Superior Court. She has also worked on various

legislative proposals with the D.C. City Council, particularly the Committee on Human

Services chaired by Councilmember Polly Shackleton. In addition, she has served on

various Mayoral Task Forces.

In 1981, she was awarded the Saint Elizabeths Hospital Certificate of Appreciation,

and this year is receiving the Award for Meritorious Achievement from the Alcohol, Drug

Abuse, and Mental Health Administration of the Department of Health and Human


Ms. Kollar-Kotelly is married to John T. Kotelly, a partner in the law firm of Dickstein,

Shapiro, and Morin.