For his part, Judge Boasberg praised Judge Howell, who will stay on the bench as a regular district court judge after the conclusion of her legally prescribed seven-year term as its chief. In addition to supervising grand juries, the chief judge administers the Federal District Court system in the capital. That meant issuing dozens of orders that created rules for the coronavirus pandemic, like postponing jury trials, wearing masks and convening remote hearings.
“I think she did a terrific job of guiding the court through Covid, and the dislocation that it brought,” Judge Boasberg said of Judge Howell. “She also has had to contend with two complicated special counsel investigations and all of the grand jury work that that entails. We were lucky to have her at the helm during this period.”
Now 60, Judge Boasberg — who goes by Jeb — grew up in Washington and is something of a towering figure in the city’s legal establishment: a former basketball player at St. Albans School and then Yale College, he is about 6 feet, 6 inches tall. He remains an enthusiast: Judge Casey Cooper said the two were planning to attend the Ivy League basketball tournament together at Princeton University last weekend.
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Judge Boasberg is also a former homicide prosecutor in Washington who has been a judge for more than 20 years. He has bipartisan credentials: President George W. Bush appointed him in 2002 to the D.C. Superior Court, which handles state court-style criminal and civil cases in Washington, before President Barack Obama elevated him in 2011 to the Federal District Court.
His wife, Liddy Manson, is a nonprofit consultant and former consumer tech executive; they have three children, a son and twin daughters. Fellow judges, lawyers and friends described Judge Boasberg as unusually outgoing — a “foodie,” in the words of the former federal prosecutor Amy Jeffress, who called him “very affable, very sociable, very funny” — as well as a voracious reader.
“As he is walking along, he has his nose in a book,” Judge Moss said. “And if you want to know what the new things out are to read, Jeb will tell you the last 10 big things and what he thought of them.”