Judge Ana de Alba – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

The Eastern District of California is one of the most heavily overworked courts in the country. The Court has not been expanded in decades, even as caseloads explode, and has relied heavily on senior judges to carry the burden. In an effort to bring some relief, President Biden has nominated state judge Ana de Alba.

Background

A native Californian, de Alba received her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley in 2002 and her J.D. in 2007 from the UC Berkeley School of Law. While a law student, de Alba worked with elementary and middle school students on mock trials. See Minerva Perez, Pupils Convene Court, Los Banos Enterprise, Mar. 30, 2007 After law school, de Alba joined Lang Richet & Patch PC. She also continued her work with mock trial. Thaddeus Miller, Mock Trial Enlightens View of Future for Los Banos Sixth-Graders, Los Banos Enterprise, Mar. 16, 2012. In 2018, de Alba was appointed to the Fresno County Superior Court, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

de Alba has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, to a seat vacated on December 17, 2019 by Judge Morrison England. On May 21, 2020, the Trump Administration nominated attorney Dirk Paloutzian to replace England, but he was not confirmed before the end of the 116th Congress. de Alba was nominated on January 19, 2022.

Legal Experience

de Alba spent her entire career before becoming a judge at Lang Richet & Patch PC. Among her work there, de Alba represented a credit union in a suit by borrowers alleging promissory fraud that went up to the California Supreme Court. See Riverisland Cold Storage Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Product, 55 Cal. 4th 1169 (Cal. 2013). The California Supreme Court overruled a prior ruling limiting the use of “parol evidence” (evidence of verbal or written agreements outside the language of a contract) in cases of promissory fraud. See id. at 1172. Additionally, while at the firm, de Alba received the Jack Berman Award of Achievement from the California Young Lawyers’ Association in 2012 for her pro bono work, including serving on the Board of Directors for Central California Legal Services, Inc. California Lawyers, Judges to Receive Awards for Legal Service and Excellence, Targeted News Service, Oct. 4, 2012.

Jurisprudence

Since 2018, de Alba has served as a Superior Court judge in Fresno County. In this role, she presides over civil, criminal, and domestic cases. Among the matters she handled on the bench, de Alba presided over a suit by the American Chemistry Council alleging that California had improperly listed SPF systems using methylene diphenyl diisocynates (MDI) as priority products for the state’s green chemistry program, restricting their commercial use. See Judge Questions Core ACC Claim in Suit Over DTSC Spray Foam Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Jan. 15, 2021. de Alba ordered the delisting of the challenged products, while rejecting three other challenges. Judge Scraps California DTSC’s Spray Polyeurethane Foam Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Apr. 2, 2021. California’s appeal of the ruling is currently pending. California Urges Appellate Court to Uphold Green Chemistry Product Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Feb. 4, 2022.

Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, de Alba gained some news attention for her rulings relating to scheduling and court compliance. In one ruling, de Alba refused to extend or excuse deadlines for a defendant’s community service, noting that she had seen no evidence that the defendant had worked towards the service before the pandemic hit. See Jeannette Parada, COVID-19 or No COVID-19, Fresno Judge Wants Defendant’s Community Service Done – Or It’s Jail, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, June 29, 2020. In another case, de Alba withdrew bench warrants that had been issued for defendants who failed to appear, noting that they did not have access to steady housing or transportation, and allowed them to participate virtually. See Phoebe Glick, Coronavirus Court Precautions Can Lead to Unforeseen Complications, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, Aug. 7, 2020.

In other rulings, de Alba found probable cause that a defendant had committed an act of domestic violence based on the testimony of the reporting officer. See Angelina Caplanis, Defender Argues Victim Lied on 911 Call; Judge Still Finds Probable Cause for Arrest, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, July 15, 2020.

Overall Assessment

Despite her youth, de Alba has built a significant amount of experience on issues of criminal and civil law. It will be interesting to see if her rulings during the Covid-19 pandemic are questioned, either on the right or the left, during confirmation.