Fresno Bee: President Biden nominates the daughter of Central Valley farmworkers to Ninth Circuit Court

By Juan Esparza Loera

Nine months ago, U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba was hearing cases as a Fresno County Superior Court judge.

The 44-year-old de Alba could have her third judicial job within a year after President Joe Biden nominated her for the Ninth Circuit Court.

The White House made the announcement on Friday morning.

Getting nominated to the higher court so soon isn’t unusual, said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, an expert on the judicial nomination process.

“It even happened in the Trump administration. I think there were a couple who had not been on the district bench for more than a year,” said Tobias. “I think Obama did the same thing. And (George W.) Bush may have too, but not very many.”

Tobias expects the Senate Judiciary Committee to start confirmation hearings within two to three weeks.

De Alba, the daughter of Mexican immigrant farmworkers, sailed through her confirmation hearings for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Court of California. In fact, she did not get asked a single question by Republican Senators like Ted Cruz or Lindsay Graham.

Tobias expects de Alba’s background, rulings and comments will be scrutinized more this time around. “It’s tougher because instead of the district court bench, the trial bench, she would be on the Ninth Circuit, which covers nine states in the west,” said Tobias.

“So those nominees get much closer scrutiny, especially from the Republicans. “So they will ask her more questions and they’re likely to be more difficult questions.”

De Alba, in an interview with Vida en Valle last July before she was sworn in as the first Latina on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, said she was prepared to answer tough questions during her confirmation hearings.

“Of course, I was expecting fireworks. I was prepared for it because I don’t have many controversial statements in my background,” said de Alba. “As a practicing attorney in a private law firm, we are very careful about what we said in public or put on Facebook.”

De Alba would replace Judge Paul J. Watford — among four judges that Biden considered for the U.S. Supreme Court — on the Ninth Circuit.

Tobias said de Alba is similar in judicial views to Watford. “She’s an astute pick. I think the president is smart to elevate her,” said Tobias.

The Ninth Circuit reviews appeals of cases tried in U.S. District Courts in California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Ninth Circuit, which is based in San Francisco, is the busiest appellate court in the country, with 22% of all new appeals nationally.

If confirmed by the Senate, de Alba would be the seventh Biden nominee on the court. She would be the fourth Latina on the Ninth Circuit.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla applauded her nomination.

“We applaud President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ana de Alba to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,” the senators said in a joint media release. “We are proud of her service on the bench for the Eastern District of California, where she has more than proven herself to be a qualified jurist.”

“Her extensive legal experience and commitment to public service will be an asset on the Ninth Circuit and we urge our colleagues to swiftly approve her nomination,” they said.

Padilla introduced de Alba to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year during her confirmation hearing.

De Alba, who grew up in South Dos Palos and slept on the floor until she had a bed when she was 15, previously served as a judge on the Fresno County Superior Court from 2018 to 2022.

She was a partner at Lang, Richert & Patch from 2013 to 2018, and was an associate at the firm from 2007 to 2013.

De Alba earned her law degree from the UC Berkeley School of Law and her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley.

Padilla brought up de Alba’s humble background during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

“Judge de Alba watched her mother and grandmother struggle with unfair treatment, as they worked together in some of the hardest jobs in the world,” said Padilla. “She decided that one day, she would become a lawyer to help families like her own.”

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