Judge Hernan Vera – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Judge Hernan D. Vera currently serves on the Los Angeles Superior Court, a popular source for California judicial nominees. While his time on the bench is fairly brief, his extensive tenure at the pro bono firm Public Counsel is likely to bring scrutiny in evaluating Vera’s nomination to the bench.

Background

Hernan D. Vera got a B.A. with Distinction from Stanford University in 1991, and a J.D. from U.C.L.A. School of Law in 1994. After graduating, Vera briefly joined the Los Angeles office of O’Melveny & Myers before clerking for Judge Consuelo Marshall on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He then spent a year as a staff attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) before returning to O’Melveny.

In 2002, Vera joined the public interest law firm Public Counsel and became President and CEO in 2008. In 2015, he moved to become a Principal at Bird Marella P.C.

In 2020, Vera was named by Gov. Gavin Newsom to the Los Angeles Superior Court, where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Vera has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to a seat vacated by Judge Margaret Morrow on October 29, 2015. Despite the seat opening with more than a year left in the Obama Administration, the Administration did not put a candidate forward to fill the vacancy.

In October 2018, the Trump Administration nominated Jeremy Rosen, a Los Angeles based appellate attorney and longtime member of the Federalist Society. However, Rosen’s nomination stalled due to the opposition of California Senators, and he was never confirmed.

Legal Experience

While he started his career in private practice, Vera spent a significant portion at the public-interest law firm, Public Counsel, where he served as President and CEO. Among the matters he handled there, Vera sued the Hollywood (CA) Presbytarian Medical Center for “dumping” a paraplegic homeless man on skid row. See Lawsuit Says Hospital ‘Dumped’ Homeless Man, Healthcare Risk Management, Mar. 1, 2008. Vera also sued the Pasadena school district to allow foster children in group homes to attend school. Jennifer English, Suit Brought Against Pasadena School District on Behalf of Foster Youth, City News Service, June 27, 2006.

Since 2015, Vera has been a Principal at Bird Marella, largely focusing on commercial litigation. For example, Vera represented Defendants in a private fraud and breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit in the Central District of California. See Tatung Co. v. Shu Tze Hsu, 217 F. Supp. 3d 1138 (C.D. Cal. 2016). Vera also represented a Charter School in challenging tax assessments that are not levied against public schools. Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Inc. v. Prang, 46 Cal. App. 5th 270 (2020).

Jurisprudence

Since 2020, Vera has served as a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court. In this role, Vera presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters. Vera’s brief tenure does not reveal enough about a judicial philosophy.

Writings and Statements

During his time at Public Counsel, Vera frequently wrote and spoke on the law. For example, in a 2012 column, Vera noted that the lack of comprehensive immigration reform leads to “rampant fraud” targeting immigrants. Hernan Vera, The Silent Casualties of Immigration Scams, Political Machine, May 18, 2012. He has also written in support of “access to justice” initiatives, noting that public interest lawyers perform an important role by offering free legal service to the underserved. See Hernan D. Vera, Closing Argument: Looking for Big Solutions For Access to Justice in California, 37 Los Angeles Lawyer 68 (November 2014).

Additionally, Vera advocated in favor of a Los Angeles ordinance against predatory lending, James K. Hahn, L.A. Council Expected to OK Predatory Measure, American Banker, Dec. 4, 2002, and against a ballot proposition that would narrow multiple-plaintiff lawsuits in California to class suits. Steve Lawrence, Targets of Unfair Competition Law Try to Make It Tougher to Use It, A.P. State & Local Wire, July 8, 2004.

In 2014, Vera awarded former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Public Counsel’s William O. Douglas award, noting that Clinton “embodies the very highest American values of civic engagement and public service.” Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Books, Receives Award During L.A. Visit, City News Service, June 19, 2014.

While at Bird Marella, Vera was critical of cooperation between the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and ICE, stating: “…people should know that [the Sheriff’s Department is] working for them only, and not for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” See City News Service, Inc., Watchdog Group Wants Sheriff’s Department to Freeze Out ICE, Nov. 16, 2018 (quoting Hernan Vera).

Overall Assessment

As a longtime public interest lawyer with extensive experience with commercial litigation as well, Vera would be able to hit the ground running as a trial judge. Nonetheless, his nomination is likely to attract opposition for his long history of civil rights litigation, as well as potentially over his praise of Hillary Clinton.

4 Comments

  1. Another good nominee. Him being in his low 40’s instead of low 50’s would have made him a great nominee but still all around good. I do hope with a total of 22 vacancies we eventually get some non current judges in California as I believe too many great possible nominees are eliminated if they continue this trend of only state judges being considered. None the less between governors Brown & Newsome there are plenty of other great possibilities even with that caveat.

    They should look for nominees with ties to Public Counsel, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the NAACP, the Brennan Center for Justice & public defenders. And of course all nominees going forward should be born 1970 or later, with an emphasis on the word later.

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    • “They should look for nominees with ties to Public Counsel, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the NAACP, the Brennan Center for Justice & public defenders. ”

      All of this, but also include other public interest attorneys (environmental, labor and plaintiff attorneys) and liberal law professors. Liberal law professors would be great for the appeals courts in particular, not as much for district courts.

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      • Oh yea, definitely. And to give Biden credit he has done some of that with nominees like Jennifer Sung (Labor) & Dale Ho (liberal law professor). But there are definitely room for plenty more from any of these areas with the remaining vacancies.

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  2. I can’t help but notice the overall assessment for 95-97% of Biden’s nominees is “…. praise …. but will be opposed regardless (by Republicans)… because history of civil rights or representation of x minority group”. Thank you Biden for making it even more obvious how racist and xenophobic the Republican Party is. And obstructionist but we all know that already

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