Senate confirms another judge in California’s Central District

The US Senate has filled another vacant judgeship in the Central District of California, giving a lifetime appointment to a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who is a former federal prosecutor.

Senators voted 62 to 33 on Wednesday in favor of Sherilyn Peace Garnett. She will be the third new judge to join the Central District this year, with Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong sworn in Feb. 10 in Los Angeles and Judge Fred Slaughter sworn in April 22 in Santa Ana.

Sunshine Suzanne Sykes testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during her U.S. District Court Judge confirmation hearing on Feb. 1, 2022. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Garnett fills the seat left vacant when late U.S. District Judge Manuel Real assumed senior status on Nov. 14, 2018. The court still has five vacancies on its 28-seat bench after Judge John Kronstadt assumed senior status. senior on April 1 and Judge Virginia Phillips assumed senior status on February 14.

President Joe Biden has already offered to fill the other three vacancies, appointing U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenly Kiya Kato on Dec. 15 with Sunshine Suzanne Sykes, a Riverside County Superior Court Judge since 2013. Los Angeles County, Hernan Vera, was also renamed. on January 4 after his first nomination was blocked at the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the committee again rejected him 11-11 on January 20.

Sykes will likely be the next Central District nominee voted on by the full Senate after the committee advanced her nomination 12-10 on March 10, the same day Kato’s nomination was defeated 11-11 and the same day Garnett was approved 17-5.

Diversity “on both sides”

Garnett answered a few questions during his February 16 hearing, telling Illinois President and Democrat Dick Durbin that the justice system is supposed to be founded on the ideal that everyone is treated fairly, “and this includes people with mental illness.”

Garnett said she tried as a judge “to make sure people who choose to go to trial are mentally capable of doing so” and also served on a three-judge appeal panel that issued an opinion that self-representing defendants are mentally capable of doing so. do it.

“I think it’s an important principle to make sure everyone is treated fairly and if I’m lucky enough to be confirmed I will continue to uphold that duty,” Garnett said.

Sherilyn Peace Garnett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Born in the Cayman Islands, Garnett received her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1995 and her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Riverside in 1991. She served as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Barry Moskowitz of the Southern District of San Diego, then was an associate at Arnold & Porter in Los Angeles from 1999 to 2000. She served as Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District from 2001 to 2014, including Deputy Chief of the General Crimes Section from 2008 to 2011. She was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014.

Asked by Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley why she pursued a career as a federal prosecutor, Garnett said she “believes a lot in justice and making sure people are treated fairly. “.

“When I was in law school, I spent some time as a defense attorney and working with prosecutors across the aisle. I realize that we have need diverse and varied experiences on both sides,” Garnett said.

In response to a question from Democratic California Senator Alex Padilla, Garnett said his internship at Moskowitz gave him the opportunity to observe his patience and see how he listened to litigants to “make sure they felt heard”.

“He mentored and trained his paralegals and involved us in the process. He studied the law diligently and applied it fairly and meaningfully,” Garnett said. “He has a wonderful sense of humor and a wonderful temper, and every day I’m on the bench I try to emulate the wonderful qualities he has.”

In addition to Frimpong, the Los Angeles courthouse has another new face: U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton, who moved there from Santa Ana in March. That left the South Division courthouse with just three judges until Slaughter is sworn in on April 22, but U.S. District Judge John Holcomb is expected to move his chambers there from Riverside if Sykes is confirmed, and Sykes will be in Riverside, according to the chief of the central district. Judge Philippe Gutierrez.

New Southern District Judge

In addition to the three Central District confirmations, five other Biden-appointed judges have been confirmed since December, most recently U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro in the Southern District of San Diego.

Ruth Bermudez Montenegro testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during her U.S. District Court Judge confirmation hearing on Dec. 15, 2021. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Motenegro was confirmed 55-41 on March 22. She has a bachelor’s degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from UCLA Law School, and she was the first Latina to serve as a county Superior Court judge. imperial.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Montenegro is the second Latina confirmed in the Southern District under Biden, with Linda Lopez confirmed in December. Lopez, a magistrate judge since 2018, was confirmed the same day as San Diego County Superior Court Judge Jinsook Ohta.

The Southern District still has three open seats and one candidate still pending, Robert Huie, a Jones Day attorney who was nominated Jan. 19. The committee advanced Huie’s nomination 11-10 on April 4.

Meanwhile, the Northern District also has three open seats and one pending candidate, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, who passed the 12-10 committee on March 10. The full Senate confirmed Jacqueline Scott Corley, U.S. magistrate judge, to the Northern District bench in March.

The Eastern District has two open seats and one pending nominee, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Ana Isabel de Alba who heard from her committee Thursday. The Senate confirmed Jennifer Thurston, a US magistrate judge, in December.

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