Norma Holloway Johnson was the first black woman to be appointed to the federal bench in Washington and she is the only woman ever to serve as chief judge at the court.

She gained national prominence when she oversaw the grand jury investigation into President Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

The courthouse issued a statement Monday saying Johnson died Sunday at her brother's home in Lake Charles, La. Court officials said they did not know the cause. Johnson was born in 1932.

Johnson was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and served as chief from 1997 to 2001.

The current chief, Judge Royce C. Lamberth, said Johnson's "groundbreaking legal career" was an inspiration.