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Claudia Wilken

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Claudia Wilken
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Court Information:
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Title:   Chief Judge
Position:   Seat #14
Appointed by:   Pres. Bill Clinton
Active:   11/22/1993-Present
Chief:   8/31/2012-1/23/2015
Preceded by:   104 Stat. 5089
Succeeded by:   Haywood Stirling Gilliam, Jr.
Past post:   Magistrate judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Past term:   1983-1993
Personal History
Born:   1949
Hometown:   Minneapolis, MN
Undergraduate:   Stanford University, 1971
Law School:   University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1975

Claudia Ann Wilken is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. She joined the court in 1993 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. She became the chief judge of the court on August 31, 2012, and served until January 26, 2015. Wilken plans to assume senior status at the end of 2014.[1]


Wilken graduated from Stanford University with her bachelor's degree in 1971 and received her J.D. from the University of California-Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law in 1975.[2]

Professional career

Judicial career

Northern District of California

Wilken was a federal magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California from 1983 to 1993.[2] Wilken was nominated to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California by President Bill Clinton on October 7, 1993, to a new seat created by 104 Stat. 5089, which was approved by Congress. Wilken was confirmed by the Senate on November 20, 1993, on a Senate vote and received commission on November 22, 1993.[3] Wilken assumed senior status at the end of 2014.[1]

Notable cases

Judge rules NCAA athletes can earn money from their name and image (2014)

For years, the NCAA told college athletes that they had no right to profit from their own name or image. The organization argued that the athletes were amateurs, not professionals entitled to profits or income, because of their status as a student.

Judge Claudia Wilken, however, found the argument unpersuasive. She ruled on August 8, 2014, that college athletes are not amateurs and do, in fact, have the right to capitalize on their own name and likeness in NCAA-branded video games and television broadcasts. Further, the NCAA was unreasonably restraining trade in violation of antitrust laws by limiting how much college players could earn from the colleges. Athletes may now earn a share of the profits derived from the use of their name, image and likeness by the schools and conferences. Students will also still be eligible for scholarships and grants. The colleges and conferences may also now place money in trust for the students to receive once they graduate or lose eligibility to play sports.

Judge Wilken did limit her ruling, though. She said students are not allowed to receive money for endorsements. Her concern was commercial exploitation of students. Her ruling will not take effect until 2016 and will apply to new recruits that year.


Student-athlete class action suit against NCAA (2009-2014)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (In re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litigation, 09-CV-1967-CW)

In an ongoing case filed in 2009 against the NCAA by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, college student-athletes alleged that while the organization used their images for its own profit, the athletes themselves were prohibited from being paid for their efforts. In October 2013, Judge Wilken refused to dismiss the student-athletes' complaint. In November 2013, Wilken partially certified a class of athletes who sought an injunction against the NCAA's policy, noting that without an injunction, "all class members - including both current and former student-athletes - would potentially be subject to ongoing antitrust harms resulting from the continued unauthorized use of their names, images, and likenesses." Shortly thereafter, the O'Bannon plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting that Wilken issue a decision in their favor without a trial. In December 2013, the NCAA filed a counter-motion for summary judgment, arguing that participation in college sports could not be likened to "exploitation" because student-athletes derive many benefits from it (e.g., admissions, scholarships, et cetera).[4][5][6]

On April 14, 2014, Judge Wilken ruled that the NCAA could not argue that its failure to pay male athletes for playing football and basketball was subsidizing women’s athletics. In her decision, Judge Wilken relied upon a prior ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, noting that it was "improper to validate a practice that is decidedly in restraint of trade simply because the practice produces some unrelated benefits to competition in another market."[7] Judge Wilken further ruled that full game broadcasts of sporting events were not considered commercial speech, but reserved judgment on whether television broadcasters had "an unfettered right to broadcast entire sporting events without regard for the participating athletes’ right of publicity."[7]

The trial in this case began on June 9, 2014.[8]

College athletes' EA Sports copyright case (2009-2013)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Keller v. Electronic Arts, 10-15387)

Judge Wilken presided in the highly publicized case involving Electronic Arts franchise EA Sports. The well-known brand was being sued over the likeness of college athletes used in video games like NCAA Football 2010. The suit was on track to qualify for class-action status after three years of ongoing litigation.[9]

The athletes sued the technology company over unfairly using the likenesses of college athletes in its games without compensation.[10] In response to emails suggesting that EA Sports does use actual athletes' likenesses, a spokesman said, "[d]iscovery and the plaintiffs' own depositions clearly indicate that the NCAA never marketed student-athlete likeness nor prohibited student-athletes from profiting from their likeness when their eligibility was completed."[9]

In July 2013, the panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, 2-1, a ruling that stated EA Sports was not protected under the First Amendment. The court found that EA did not prove that its game was "sufficiently transformative" to be protected speech.[11]

California IHSS cuts blocked (2009-2013)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (David Oster et al. v. Lightbourne, : C 09-02306 CW)

On October 19, 2009, Judge Wilken issued an order to the state of California to halt cuts to the In-Home Supportive Services program that were scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2009. The judge found the state's timing towards the cuts gave too little notice to care providers and recipients of the IHSS program and did not give a proper framework for appeals.[12] In March of 2013, a settlement was reached that reduced the cuts.[13]

Domestic partnership CalPERS case (2012)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Dragovich v. U.S. Treasury Department, 10-01564 CW)

Judge Wilken twice denied government motions to dismiss a lawsuit against California's insurance program CalPERS and its long-term care program. The lawsuit was filed by three gay and lesbian couples and included not only CalPERS, but also the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service. The lawsuit aimed to invalidate CalPERS policy on gay and lesbian couples and domestic partnerships that barred them from access to the insurance provider's long-term care program. Wilkin justified her decision, writing, "[a]lthough the Supreme Court has not established that sexual orientation is a suspect or quasi-suspect class for purposes of the equal protection doctrine, it held in Romer [v. Evans] that gays and lesbians, as a class, are at least protected from burdensome legislation that is the product of sheer anti-gay animus and devoid of any legitimate government purpose." The lawsuit targeted government policy within the IRS and the Treasury Department which prevented access to benefits for same-sex couples, including the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend because it deemed it unconstitutional.[14] Judge Wilken ruled that the CalPERS policy on gay and lesbian couples was unconstitutional in May 2012. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[15]

Home care wage hold injunction clarification (2009)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Martinez v. Schwarzenegger, C-09-02306 CW)

In June 2009, Judge Wilken blocked a $2-per-hour wage cut for tens of thousands of in-home care workers for elderly and disabled Californians which was ordered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.[16] Schwarzenegger cited this as an example of federal judges interfering with the right of California to rule itself.[17] However, some parts of the California government blocked Wilken's order and on July 13, 2009, Wilken re-ordered state officials to remove procedural obstacles immediately. Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Napa, Solano, and Yolo counties were affected by the plan that temporarily reduced pay for 60 days.[16] The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Schwarzenegger administration's request for a stay of Judge Wilken's decision on July 14, 2009.[16]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken to step down," March 8, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Federal Judicial Center, "Biography of Claudia Ann Wilken"
  3. THOMAS, "Presidential Nominations 103rd Congress (1993 - 1994): Claudia Wilken (USDC, NDCA)," accessed April 18, 2014
  4. Courthouse News Service, "Image-Rights Kerfuffle Heats Up for NCAA," October 29, 2013
  5. USA Today, "NCAA asks judge for O'Bannon case decision without trial," December 13, 2013
  6. Courthouse News Service, "No Pay for College Athletes, NCAA Says," December 16, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 Courthouse News Service, "Federal Judge Rejects NCAA’s Gender Excuse in Class Action," April 15, 2014
  8. USA Today, "As trial on O'Bannon lawsuit begins, related case settled," June 9, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1, "NCAA knew EA Sports video games used real players, e-mails from Ed O'Bannon lawsuit show," November 12, 2012
  10. Associated Press, "Retired NFL players seek to join EA lawsuit," September 28, 2009
  11. Lexology, "Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc.," August 9, 2013
  12. San Jose Mercury News, "Federal judge halts IHSS cuts," October 20, 2009
  13. CANHR, "Settlement of IHSS Lawsuit will Prevent Devastating Cuts to Home Care Services," September 4, 2013
  14. Courthouse News Service, "Gay California Couples Advance in Benefits Suit," January 30, 2012
  15. Equality on Trial, "DOMA: Federal defendants appeal Dragovich v. US Dept. of Treasury to Ninth Circuit," July 24, 2012
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 San Francisco Chronicle, "Judge says state thwarting in-home care ruling," July 14, 2009
  17. Sacramento Bee, "Governor blames budget woes on judges 'going absolutely crazy'," October 22, 2009
Political offices
Preceded by:
NA-New Seat
Northern District of California
Seat #14
Succeeded by:
Haywood Stirling Gilliam, Jr.

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