R. Shireen Matthews – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California is currently short five judges.  The Trump Administration and California’s Democratic senators have settled on a package of five nominees to fill the vacancies.  One of the Democratic picks is Jones Day partner R. Shireen Matthews, who would be the first South Asian judge on the Southern District.


Matthews was born Rebecca Shireen Matthews in Arcadia CA in 1977.  Matthews attended Georgetown University and Duke University School of Law.[1]  Matthews then clerked for Judge Irma Gonzalez on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.[2]

After her clerkship, Matthews became an Associate with Latham & Watkins in San Diego.[3]  2008, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.[4]  In 2013, she moved to the San Diego office of Jones Day, where she has been a Partner since 2016.

History of the Seat

Matthews has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on January 23, 2019, by Judge Barry Moskowitz’s move to senior status.  

In 2018, Matthews applied for and interviewed with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[5]  Matthews was selected as a nominee on March 11, 2019 and was nominated on October 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

Post clerkship, Matthews has held three legal positions, at Latham & Watkins, as a federal prosecutor, and at Jones Day.  Overall, throughout her career, Matthews has tried nine cases to verdict.[6] 

In her initial position at Latham & Watkins, Matthews was largely focused on civil litigation.  For example, Matthews represented Arthur Anderson LLP in defending a non-competition agreement before the California Supreme Court.[7]

At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Matthews was a trial prosecutor, primarily focused on firearms, narcotics, human trafficking, and immigration cases.  Notably, Matthews prosecuted three defense contractors who stole more than $3 million in medical equipment from Camp Pendleton.[8]  She also prosecuted a trafficker for smuggling three illegal immigrants into the United States by concealing them in a Jet Ski.[9]

At Jones Day, Matthews has worked in both civil litigation and investigations.  Notably, Matthews represented Qualcomm in a breach of contract and trade secret suit against Apple Inc.[10]  Matthews also represented a metal plating company charged with violations of the Clean Water Act for introducing chemical particulates into sewer water.[11]

Overall Assessment

Like three of the other nominees put forward for the Southern District of California, Matthews has a background as a prosecutor (in comparison, only one comes from a defense background).  That being said, Matthews has the support of California’s Democratic senators and has an apolitical background.  As such, she will likely be confirmed with a bipartisan majority to the federal bench.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Shireen Matthews: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] Id.

[6] See id. At 14.

[7] Edwards v. Arthur Anderson LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937 (Cal. 2008).

[8] United States v. Henry Bonilla, et al., 13-cr-0338-CAB (S.D. Cal.).

[9] United States v. Randall Cary Geiger, 08-cr-3681-BTM (S.D. Cal.).

[10] See Qualcomm, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., Case No. 37-2017-41389 (San Diego Super. Ct.).

[11] United States v. Southern California Plating Co., Case No. 15-cr-0946-H (S.D. Cal.).