John Joseph Sirica (March 19 1904 – August 14 1992) was the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where he became famous for his role as the chief judge presiding over the Watergate scandal. He rose to national prominence during the Watergate scandal when he demanded that President Richard Nixon turn over his recordings of White House conversations.
Sirica's involvement in the case began when he presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars. He did not believe the claim that they had acted alone, and persuaded or coerced them to implicate the men who had arranged the break-in. For his role in Watergate the judge was named TIME magazine's Man of the Year in 1973.
John Sirica was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, to Ferdinand and Rose Zinno Sirica, both of whom were Italian immigrants. He moved to D.C. in 1918, where he attended Emerson Preparatory School and eventually transferred to Columbia Preparatory School. Sirica received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center after doing undergraduate work at Duke University. He was a Republican and was appointed to the Court in 1957 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Sirica had a largely undistinguished career before Watergate. Author Joseph Goulden wrote a book about federal judges called The Benchwarmers and mentioned that many lawyers appearing in Sirica's courtroom thought little of him or his abilities as a judge. Many complained about his short temper and careless legal errors. He was nicknamed "Maximum John" for giving defendants the maximum sentence guidelines allowed.
He retired in 1986 and died in 1992, aged 88.
Sirica published his account of the Watergate affair in 1979 under the title To Set the Record Straight.