John G. Koeltl

Jump to navigation Jump to search
John G. Koeltl
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Assumed office
August 10, 1994
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byShirley Wohl Kram
Personal details
John George Koeltl

(1945-10-25) October 25, 1945 (age 74)
New York City, New York
EducationGeorgetown University (A.B.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)

John George Koeltl (/ˈkltəl/; born October 25, 1945) is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.


Koeltl was born in New York City. He graduated from Regis High School in New York City in 1963. He studied history at Georgetown University, receiving an Artium Baccalaureus degree in 1967. In 1971 he obtained his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He served as a law clerk for Judge Edward Weinfeld of the Southern District of New York and then for Justice Potter Stewart of the United States Supreme Court.[1]

Legal career[edit]

In 1973-74 Koeltl served as an Assistant Special Prosecutor for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, then entered private law practice in New York.[1] For several years, Koeltl was a partner at the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. During these years, Koeltl served on several committees of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and American Bar Association and was the author of several published articles on securities law and other topics.

Judicial service[edit]

Koeltl was nominated by President Bill Clinton on April 26, 1994, to a seat vacated by Judge Shirley Wohl Kram. He was confirmed by the Senate on August 9, 1994, and commissioned on August 10, 1994.[2]

Notable decisions[edit]

Koeltl is known for his October 2006 decision to sentence civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart to 28 months in prison for providing material assistance to a terrorist, her client, 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Omar Abdel-Rahman, by secretly passing messages to his radical followers in Egypt. Koeltl rejected the prosecutors' recommendation of 30 years.[3] The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Koeltl to reconsider whether that sentence was too light and to take into account the government's arguments that she had committed perjury at her trial and abused her position as a lawyer. On remand, Koeltl cited remarks Stewart had made after being sentenced that indicated a lack of remorse. He changed the sentence to 10 years in prison.[4][5]

In 2011, he presided over the case involving Raffaello Follieri, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in connection with purchases of property from the Catholic Church. The Follieri case received significant media scrutiny due to his relationship with celebrities, notably Anne Hathaway and several politicians, including former president Bill Clinton [6] and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain.[7] Koeltl also presided over a case brought by Citigroup against Wells Fargo to halt the latter's purchase of Wachovia, which Citi had earlier announced plans to purchase.[8] The litigation settled in 2010.[9]

A U.S. appeals court, in an opinion written by Koeltl, tossed out a $654 million jury verdict against the Palestine Liberation Organization for terrorist attacks in the early 2000s in Israel that killed or wounded Americans, saying the U.S. courts lack jurisdiction because the attacks were random and not aimed at the United States. [10]

In April 2018 Koeltl was assigned to preside over a civil lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee against the Russian Federation, WikiLeaks, the Donald Trump presidential campaign, and several individuals. The suit alleges that Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections harmed Democrats.[11] Koeltl, in dismissing the suit in July 2019, described Wikileaks's publishing activities as "plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers."[12]


  1. ^ a b "Biography for Hon. John G. Koeltl" (PDF). American Bar Association. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Koeltl, John George". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  3. ^ Preston, Julia (October 17, 2006). "Lawyer, Facing 30 Years, Gets 28 Months, to Dismay of U.S." New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2009.
  4. ^ Eligon, John (July 15, 2010). "Sentence Is Sharply Increased for Lawyer Convicted of Aiding Terror". New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  5. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (June 28, 2012). "10-Year Sentence for Lawyer in Terrorism Case Is Upheld". New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  6. ^ Emshwiller, John R.; Bray, Chad (September 11, 2008). "Follieri Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case". The Wall Street Journal.
  7. ^ "September 29, 2008". Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  8. ^ Dash, Eric (October 6, 2008). "Weekend Legal Frenzy Between Citigroup and Wells Fargo for Wachovia". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  9. ^ Kulikowski, Lauri (19 November 2010). "Citi, Wells Fargo Settle Wachovia Suit". The Street. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  10. ^ "'Free Pass for Terrorists' as US Court Cancels $654 Million Verdict Against PLO".
  11. ^ "Democrats file suit alleging Russia, Trump campaign, WikiLeaks conspired to interfere in 2016 campaign". CNN. April 21, 2018. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  12. ^ Gerstein, Josh (July 30, 2019). "Judge dismisses DNC suit against Trump campaign, Russia over email hack". Politico. Retrieved August 7, 2019.


Legal offices
Preceded by
Shirley Wohl Kram
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York