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Carol Elder Bruce

Fax +1.202.778.9100

Carol Elder Bruce is a litigator whose practice focuses on white collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation. Ms. Bruce represents individuals and corporations in criminal grand jury investigations, and in criminal and civil trials and appeals. She also represents clients in hearings and proceedings before the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, in administrative proceedings within federal agencies, and in the conduct of internal corporate investigations. Ms. Bruce also has extensive civil litigation experience in complex commercial disputes and other matters, including significant class action experience wherein she has managed or has held a lead counsel role on both sides of such law suits.

Clients not only benefit from Ms. Bruce's experience, but also from the importance she places on guarding her clients' confidences, reputation, and privacy, particularly in high-visibility, high-stakes cases. Clients also benefit from her national reputation as a trial lawyer. She has been consistently ranked by several lawyer ranking services as being one of the best white collar criminal defense attorneys and commercial civil litigators in the District of Columbia and in the United States.

Ms. Bruce has been appointed to a number of public service positions in her career. She served as Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics in the investigation of matters concerning Senator John Ensign. Earlier, Ms. Bruce served as the Independent Counsel appointed by a special panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to investigate matters concerning Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. She previously served as the Deputy Independent Counsel in the investigation of matters concerning Attorney General Edwin Meese and also was an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia for 10 years, where she was lead counsel in more than 115 jury trials and managed the grand jury investigations and presentations and appeals of more than 100 additional cases.

Ms. Bruce is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, where she served for two years as Chair of the College's International Committee. She serves on the Honorary Board of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and was a long term member of the George Washington University Law School Dean's Board of Advisors. She is a Fellow in the American Bar Foundation and was recently selected to serve on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Council for Court Excellence. Ms. Bruce also is a charter member of and Master in the Edward Bennett Williams American Inn of Court, is a Fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America; serves on the Legal Policy Advisory Board of the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF); and on the Bard Association Management Committee of the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Professional/Civic Activities

  • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers (2001 to date), where fellowship is extended by invitation only to experienced trial lawyers within the top 1 percent of the trial bar in the United States and Canada. Ms. Bruce served for two years as Chair of the College’s International Committee (2005-2007); member of D.C. State Committee (2015- ).
  • Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America (LCA) (2010 to date). Fellowship in the LCA is by invitation only. "Fellows are selected based upon effectiveness and accomplishment in litigation, both at the trial and appellate levels, and superior ethical reputation." (Member, Thomas A. Mesereau Cup Selection Committee).
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation (“ABF”) (2013 to date). Fellowship in the ABF is by invitation only. ABF is "an honorary organization of lawyers, judges, and legal scholars whose public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and the highest principles of the legal profession."
  • Member, Board of Directors, Council for Court Excellence (2013 to date); Member, Executive Committee of the Board of Directors (2014 to date); Chair, Criminal Justice Committee (2016 to date).
  • Member, Legal Policy Advisory Board, Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) (2015 to date).
  • Member, Editorial Board of The Bulletin, the official publication of the American College of Trial Lawyers (2012 to date).
  • Member, Honorary Board of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (2004 to date).
  • Member, Bard Association Management Committee, the steering committee of the Bard Association for the Shakespeare Theatre Company; Prosecutor in Shakespeare Theatre’s sold-out production of the Mock Trial of Salome for Conspiracy to Commit Murder, December 2015. 
  • Member, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Co-Chair at Large of the White Collar Crime Section (2009-2010); Vice Chair, White Collar Committee (2006-2008).
  • Member, George Washington University Law School Dean’s Board of Advisors (2002 to 2012).
  • Member, Merit Selection Panel, United States District Court for the District of Columbia (2012 to 2013).
  • Member, United States District Court’s Lawyer Counseling Committee (2002 to date).
  • Charter member and Master in the Edward Bennett Williams American Inn of Court
  • Former Governor on the District of Columbia Bar’s Board of Governors; elected to two terms
  • Former appointed member of the D.C. Bar Ethics Committee, where she drafted legal ethics opinions for the D.C. Bar
  • Former co-chair, D.C. Bar Steering Committee on Courts, Lawyers, and the Administration of Justice; elected to two terms on the Committee.
  • Member, Lawyers Club of Washington (1992 to date; President, 2006-2008) – an invitation only professional association of local trial lawyers and judges that has been in existence since the early 1900’s. Membership is limited to 100 active lawyers as well as senior lawyers and members of the judiciary.
  • Member, The Barristers (2013 to date) - an invitation only professional association of local trial lawyers and judges.
  • Participant in the Coalition for International Justice ("CIJ") program at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ("ICTY") in The Hague to train senior, court-appointed Hague criminal defense lawyers in adversarial trial skills for defense of a case before a common law bench of the ICTY
  • Participant in separate CIJ program in The Hague as an advisor to the full bench of the ICTY in a conference on proposed Rules of Evidence for the tribunal
  • Participant in what was formerly known as the ABA Central and East European Law Initiative (“CEELI”) in a program developed to assist Russia in its stated determination to reintroduce the jury trial to Russia during President Yeltsin’s term in office. The right to a trial by jury had been eliminated in 1914. Ms. Bruce made trips to Moscow, Sochi, and other Russian cities in and around 1993, where she led and participated in training programs for Russian trial judges and criminal defense attorneys on how to prepare for and engage in an adversarial jury trial. As part of this program, Ms. Bruce was the primary author of the first draft of a proposed Jury Trial Bench Book for Russian Judges.
  • Many pro bono representations of clients over the years, including the representation of three Guantanamo Bay detainees in habeas corpus proceedings in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
  • Lay Leader, Trinity United Methodist Church, McLean, Virginia for six years between 2004 and 2011.


  • Martindale-Hubbell® AV® Preeminent™ 5.0 out of 5, for 25 years. (The highest possible peer review rating in legal ability and ethical standards for all lawyers).
  • Listed in the Martindale-Hubbell® Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers™ - (2012 to last publication; discontinued) a new listing in 2012, exclusively for women attorneys who have received the highest possible peer review rating, in both legal ability and ethical standards from their peers. Less than 5% of women lawyers have been recognized with an AV Preeminent Rating.
  • Named in June 2011 as one of ten “Champions” by the editors of The National Law Journal. Champions are those Washington, D.C. lawyers who have upheld the profession's "core values" through public service, pro bono efforts, and advocacy for civil rights.  Ms. Bruce was named for her recent service as the Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics in the Senator Ensign investigation and for her past work as an Independent Counsel and Deputy Independent Counsel in two separate investigations of two former cabinet officers in two different administrations.  
  • Ranked by Chambers USA in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 among the top U.S. lawyers in Litigation: White Collar Crime and Government Investigations (Washington, D.C.).
  • Named as a "National White Collar Crime Litigation Star" and as one of the "pre-eminent litigation practitioners" in the United States.  Also named as a "District of Columbia White Collar Crime Litigation Star."  Benchmark Litigation, the Guide to America's Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Also listed in Benchmark Litigation’s Top 250 Female Litigators in America, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
  • Named in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 as one of the “Attorneys Who Matter” by the Ethisphere Institute. Ms. Bruce also was listed in all five years as one of 15 or 16 “Top Guns” nationally in the legal profession. This list, which began in 2009, recognizes lawyers who have "risen to the top as outside counsel for corporations, based on their expertise, peer or client endorsements, participation in high-profile cases and overall litigation and administrative success." The review also factors in public service records, legal community engagement and academic involvement and contributions. The research-based Ethisphere Institute is "a leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability."
  • Listed in Business Crime Defence 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, of Who's Who Legal, The International Who's Who of Business Lawyers; nominated and selected for this listing after a canvas and analysis of the opinions of law firm clients and business crime defense lawyers from around the globe.  475 lawyers in 36 jurisdictions in the world were named in this business criminal defense listing as lawyers "who can truly be considered leaders in the field."
  • Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Lawyers (The Media Law Group, London, U.K.), Ms. Bruce is identified in two categories of the “world’s leading lawyers . . . based on extensive peer review.” (White Collar Crime) in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016; and in White Collar Crime Lawyers in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
  • Ranked in Best Lawyers in America®, U.S. News & World Reports, as one of the best lawyers in white collar criminal defense, criminal defense, and commercial litigation, every year from 2005 through 2017; also ranked in 2013, 2014, and 2016 as one of the best lawyers in Bet-the-Company Litigation. Also ranked in survey results as one of the best lawyers in Washington, D.C., in 2016 and 2017.
  • Ranked first as one of the nation’s Top Ten Criminal Defense Lawyers in United States Lawyer Rankings from the inception of these rankings in 2006 through 2016. This ranking service reports that lawyers “are nominated for inclusion in the United States Lawyer Rankings by members of the Bar, Judiciary, and by the senior management of large corporate and institutional clients. . [and] . . . [t]he United States Lawyer Rankings was established as a consortium of United States corporations in order to recognize those lawyers who have consistently provided the highest degree of legal representation . …”
  • Ranked in American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel Litigation Supplements, as one of the United States’ Top Commercial Litigation Lawyers, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.
  • Listed in Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers®, 2007-2009 and 2011-2016, in white collar criminal defense and for six years in business litigation.Super Lawyers® “identifies the top 5 percent of attorneys in each state, as chosen by their peers and through the independent research of Law & Politics.”
  • Listed in a new Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers® list in 2013, as one of the top 50 Women Washington Super Lawyers 2013, the “Best of the Best,”Washington Post.
  • Listed in Washingtonian Magazine in 2013, as being in the top one percent of Washington, D.C. lawyers, based on “peer nominations and lawyer interviews” in Criminal Defense/White Collar.
  • Named as one of the "Stars of the Bar" in white collar criminal defense in D.C. (2011-2012) in Washingtonian Magazine; named as one of the "top lawyers" and “elite criminal defenders,” in D.C. in Washingtonian Magazine, December 2009.
  • Named as one of the top 30 "Big Guns" lawyers in Washington, D.C. and listed as No. 8 of the top 30 "very best" Washington metropolitan lawyers from all general law practice areas, Washingtonian Magazine, December 2007, and named in the same issue as one of the "great criminal defense attorneys" in the Washington, D.C. area under "You're Under Arrest," Washingtonian Magazine, December 2007.
  • "Top Washington Lawyer" in white collar criminal defense, Washingtonian Magazine, December 2004.
  • One of only 20 trial lawyers named as the top Washington, D.C. litigation lawyers in the "Leading Lawyer" series, Legal Times, June 2003.  The editor-in-chief of the Legal Times reported that, in selecting the leading lawyers, "[o]ur aim was to find the lawyers who are top of mind for clients, and highly respected by judges and other lawyers."
  • Recipient of one of the 2007 Beacon of Justice Awards from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association for Ms. Bruce's pro bono representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
  • Recipient of one of the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights, November 2007.
  • Recipient of the Belva Ann Lockwood Award given to distinguished woman alumnae from George Washington University Law School, 2005.
  • Recipient of the Jacob Burns Award for Extraordinary Service to the George Washington University Law School in October 2009, an annual award that "honors that person who has actively assisted the Law School in its academic and civic mission."
  • Recipient, Attorney General’s Special Commendation for Outstanding Service in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, July 1981.

Speaking Engagements

  • Evaluator, American College of Trial Lawyers, Regional Mock Trial Competition, February 10, 2017 to February 12, 2017, Washington, D.C.
  • December 8, 2015, Panelist in Washington, D.C.: “Hello “Proportionality,” Goodbye “Reasonably Calculated”: Reinventing Case Management and Discovery Under the 2015 Civil Rules Amendments” sponsored by the ABA Section of Litigation in conjunction with Duke Law; presented as a 13-city ABA “road show” at which judges and “leading litigators” discussed the 2015 Amendments to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 16, 26, and 37.
  • March 31, 2015 Webinar to membership: “Reexamining the Grand Jury: Prosecutors, Police and Race - Panel I: Due Process & the Grand Jury” sponsored by The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
  • October 25, 2013: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 9th Annual Conference on Defending the White Collar Case: But Did You Really Mean It?: Intent Requirements in White Collar Cases
  • September 25, 2013 9th Annual Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference: Global Ethics and Compliance and Best Practices on How to Conduct an Internal Investigation
  • July 30, 2013 Webinar: The New “Responsible Business Conduct” Guidelines & Party Cooperation in Enforcement Investigations: Will the CFPB Give Credit Where Credit is Due?, with Michael J. Missal, Melanie Brody, and Stephanie C. Robinson
  • July 28, 2011 Seminar for clients: A Crash Course on the New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -Whistleblower Protections, presented with financial services and government enforcement partners
  • November 11, 2010 Webinar:  Minimizing Your Risks Under the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Provisions, with Rosemary Alito and Matt T. Morley
  • December 15, 2010 Webinar: Target on Pharma and Medical Devices:  A New Enforcement Environment (Expanded use by DOJ of Traditional and New Statutes to Prosecute Corporations and Individuals), with John Russell, Steven Kowal, Michael Hinckle, and Michael Gordon.