Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

U.S. District Judge Barry Moskowitz has had luck placing his clerks under the Biden Administration. After Judge Jinsook Ohta, Judge Sherilyn Garnett has now been nominated to the federal bench.

Background

The 52 year old Garnett attended the University of California Riverside, getting a B.A. with honors in 1991, She then received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1995.

After law school, Garnett joined the Chicago office of Altheimer & Gray as an associate before clerking for Judge Barry Moskowitz on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. After a year at the Los Angeles Office of Arnold & Porter, Garnett became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown of California appointed Garnett to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Garnett currently serves on the Court.

History of the Seat

Garnett has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on November 4, 2018 by Judge Manuel Real, who the last judge appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson still serving in active status when he left the bench.

On August 28, 2019, President Trump nominated Rick Richmond, a longtime leader in the Federalist Society, to fill this vacancy. However, Richmond never received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the seat was left open at the end of the Trump Administration.

Legal Experience

Garnett spent the vast majority of her pre-bench legal career as a federal prosecutor. Among the matters she handled, Garnett prosecuted Dana Christian Welch, who was sentenced to 30 months of federal prison for shooting lasers into the cockpits of commercial airliners about to land, causing “flash blindness” in the pilots. See Press Release, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office, Orange County Man Who Fired Lasers at Commercial Aircraft Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Federal Prison, Nov. 3, 2009. Garnett also prosecuted Billy Cottrell, a former Caltech graduate student convicted of participating in a conspiracy to firebomb over 130 vehicles as an act of ecoterrorism. See Nathan McIntire, Judge Orders Former Caltech Grad Student to Serve At Least 18 More Months in Federal Prison, Pasadena Star News, Nov. 16, 2009.

Judicial Experience

Since 2014, Garnett has served as a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court. In this role, Garnett presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters.

Statements

While Garnett has been fairly reticent throughout her career, she was quoted in a number of articles during a 2013 government shutdown caused by a conflict between the Obama Administration and Congressional Republicans. See, e.g., Ian Lovett, Unable to Take Care of Business in L.A., N.Y. Times Blogs, Oct. 1, 2013. In the articles, Garnett was sharply critical of Congress for the burden they placed on government employees, calling their lack of action “really stupid.” See id.

Overall Assessment

As a state judge with a background as a prosecutor, Garnett could attract bipartisan support for confirmation. While some lawmakers may raise eyebrows with her willingness to call their actions “stupid”, it is unlikely that those comments will derail an otherwise smooth confirmation.