Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, who currently serves on the Los Angeles Superior Court,  comes to the federal bench with extensive experience in litigation, and will likely be fairly uncontroversial.

Background

Fernando Lazaro Aenlle-Rocha was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961.  Aenlle-Rocha got an A.B. from Princeton University in 1983, and a J.D. from U.C. Berkley School of Law in 1986.[1]  After graduating, Aenlle-Rocha joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney.[2]

In 1990, Aenlle-Rocha joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida as a federal prosecutor.  In 1994, he moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central District of California.[3]  In 1999, he joined Stephan , Oringher, Richmand & Theodora PC and then moved to the Los Angeles office of McDermott, Will & Emery in 2000.  He became a Partner at White & Case in 2005.

In 2017, Aenlle-Rocha was named by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Los Angeles Superior Court, where he currently serves.[4] 

History of the Seat

Aenlle-Rocha has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on December 30, 2018, by Judge S. James Otero.

In May 2017, Aenlle-Rocha applied and interviewed for a federal judgeship with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[5]  In February 2019, Aenlle-Rocha interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in August 2019.  Aenlle-Rocha was nominated on October 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

Aenlle-Rocha has worked both as a state and federal prosecutor and in private practice, where he primarily handled white-collar criminal defense.  As such, he has extensive experience with the criminal justice system.  Over the course of his career, Aenlle-Rocha tried 37 jury trials and four bench trials.  

As a federal prosecutor, Aenlle-Rocha prosecuted Todd McCormick, an activist for legalized marijuana.[6]  He also prosecuted Peter McWilliams, who argued that he used marijuana to treat his medical issues.[7]  During the prosecution of McWilliams, Aenlle-Rocha opposed requests for McWilliams to smoke marijuana as a part of his treatment.[8]  The stance of Aenlle-Rocha and the federal government was criticized by others who argued that it lacked compassion.[9]

In private practice, Aenlle-Rocha largely handled white collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation.  However, in a pro bono capacity, Aenlle-Rocha also represented a philanthropic group seeking to stop the sale of a home for the elderly.[10]

Jurisprudence

Since 2017, Aenlle-Rocha has served as a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court.  In this role, Aenlle-Rocha presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters.  By his estimation, Aenlle-Rocha has presided over around 38 trials in his judicial career.[11]  Aenlle-Rocha has presided over both the criminal and civil dockets on the court, including cases involving child abuse,[12] drugs,[13] and domestic violence.[14] 

Political Activity

Despite having been appointed to the state bench by a Democratic Governor, Aenlle-Rocha is a registered Republican.[15]

Overall Assessment

Aenlle-Rocha’s record overall is fairly uncontroversial, with few hot-button issues implicated in his rulings.  Furthermore, as he is a Republican who was suggested and recommended for the federal bench by California’s Democratic senators, his confirmation process should be fairly smooth.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Fernando Aenlle-Rocha: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] See id. 

[5] Id. at 46-47.

[6] David Houston, Marijuana Mansion, City News Service, Apr. 27, 1998.

[7] See David Houston, Medical Marijuana, City News Service, July 27, 1998.

[8] David Houston, Pot Politics, City News Service, Feb. 26, 1999.

[9] Doug Bandow, Punishing the Sick, Copley News Service, Jan. 18, 2000.

[10] National Charity League, Inc., Glendale Chapter, et al. v. Jack W. Anderson et al., Case No. E061333.

[11] See Aenlle-Rocha, supra n. 1 at 14.

[12] People v. Gomez, No. 5AV07341 (L.A. Sup. Ct.).

[13] People v. Ayala, No. MA069885 (L.A. Sup. Ct.).

[14] People v. Alvarez, No. 6AN01213 (L.A. Sup. Ct.).

[15] Press Release, Office of Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Governor Brown Appoints Nine to Los Angeles Superior Court, May 22, 2017 (available at https://www.ca.gov/archive/gov39/2017/05/22/news19797/index.html).

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