Fresno Bee: Ana de Alba, daughter of farmworkers, will be Eastern District Court’s first Latina judge

By Juan Esparza Loera

The U.S. Senate confirmed Fresno County Superior Court Judge Ana Isabel de Alba to be a U.S. District judge for the Eastern District of California on Tuesday afternoon.

De Alba, who was nominated for the post by President Joe Biden in January, won confirmation on a 53-45 vote that split mainly among partisan lines. Among the Republicans who voted for de Alba were Sens. Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

De Alba, who grew up in Dos Palos to a farmworker family that struggled, will become the first Latina on the Eastern District court.

“Judge de Alba brings a lifelong commitment to advancing justice in California’s Central Valley,” said U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla of California, who introduced de Alba for her Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in late April.

She “watched her mother and grandmother struggle with unfair treatment, as they worked together in some of the hardest jobs in the world,” Padilla added in a statement released minutes after her confirmation at 6:33 p.m. Eastern Time.

De Alba is expected to be sworn in as early as this week. Her arrival should be welcome news for the Eastern District Court, said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who follows federal judge appointments and their confirmation.

“That court has been overworked and understaffed for decades really, because they don’t have enough judges and they have too many cases,” said Tobias. “And, Congress has not had a comprehensive judgeship bill in 32 years.

“They carry like twice the caseload of the average judge around the country.”

The federal courts policy-making Judicial Conference has recommended the Eastern District Court get “four or five more judges,” said Tobias.

The court, which has offices in Sacramento and Fresno, serves a geographic area that stretches from Bakersfield to the Oregon border. It has magistrate judges in Bakersfield, Redding and Yosemite.

“But, they’re not going to get them because Republicans don’t want to give Biden five more Eastern District seats to fill,” said Tobias.

Tobias expected more Republican support for de Alba, who moved out of the judiciary committee on a 12-10 vote and on June 16 had a 53-43 Senate vote to end cloture and set up her confirmation.

“The Republicans are voting almost in lockstep,” said Tobias. “They’re just deciding to vote no on almost everybody. There wasn’t anything controversial about her that came up in the hearing or the committee vote.”

Padilla, in his statement, said de Alba “is dedicated, fair and universally respected by her colleagues.”

“She realized her childhood dream of service by establishing a Worker’s Rights Clinic for low wage workers to learn their rights and seek legal advice,” said Padilla. “She will bring a deep knowledge of the Central Valley, and a passion for equal justice informed by her own family’s story.”

In her judiciary committee hearing, de Alba introduced herself as “the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants” who worked in the fields alongside her parents and three brothers.

“My parents immigrated to the United States, bringing with them entrenched values of honesty, humility, hard work and determination,” she said in a two-minute speech. “My mother was particularly passionate that we become respectful, responsible, well-educated adults.”

De Alba grew up in South Dos Palos, and didn’t have her own bed until she was 15.

A first-generation high school graduate, de Alba earned her bachelor’s degree and law degree from UC Berkeley.

She was appointed to the Fresno County Superior Court by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018. From 2013 to 2018, she was a partner at Lang Richet & Patch, where she focused primarily on employment, business, tort, and construction litigation.

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