United States District Court for the Northern District of California

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Northern District of California
Ninth Circuit
Judges: 15
Posts: 15
Vacancies: 0
Active judges
Chief: Phyllis Hamilton
Senior Judges
Magistrate Judges
Former Judges
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
More than 40%

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California is one of ninety-four United States district courts. It is headquartered in San Francisco, with courthouses in Oakland, San Jose and Eureka. When decisions of the court are appealed, they are appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in downtown San Francisco at the James R. Browning Federal Courthouse.

The United States Attorney for the Northern District of California represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. The current district attorney is Melinda L. Haag.[1]

Vacancy warning level

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California's vacancy warning level is green. The court has no vacancies of its fifteen posts.

Pending nominations

There are no pending nominations for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Active judges

Article III judges

JudgeBornHomeAppointed byActiveChiefPreceededBachelorsLaw
Judge William Alsup1945Jackson, MSClinton 8/17/1999 - PresentThelton HendersonMississippi State U., B.S., 1967Harvard U., J.D., 1971
Judge Jeremy Fogel1949San Francisco, CAClinton 3/17/1998 - PresentRobert AguilarStanford U., B.A., 1971Harvard Law School, J.D., 1974
Chief judge Phyllis Hamilton1952Jacksonville, ILClinton 5/25/2000-Present1/23/2015-PresentNew Seat|104 Stat. 5089Stanford University, 1974Santa Clara University School of Law, 1976
Chief judge Claudia Wilken1949Minneapolis, MN 11/22/1993-Present8/31/2012-1/23/2015New Seat|104 Stat. 5089Stanford University, 1971University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1975
Judge Richard Seeborg1956Landstuhl, GermanyObama 1/4/2010 - PresentMaxine ChesneyYale College, B.A., 1978Columbia U. School of Law, J.D., 1981
Judge Edward Chen1953Oakland, CAObama 05/12/2011 - PresentMartin JenkinsUniversity of California, Berkeley, 1975University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1979
Judge Jeffrey White1945New York, NYW. Bush 11/15/2002 - PresentCharles LeggeQueens College of City U. of New York, B.A., 1967State U. of New York, J.D., 1970
Judge Beth Labson Freeman1953Redwood City, CaliforniaObama 2014-PresentUC Berkeley, 1976Harvard Law, 1979
Judge Edward J. Davila1952Palo Alto, CA 03/03/2011 - PresentMarilyn PatelCalifornia State University - San Diego, 1976University of California Law, 1979
Judge Lucy H. Koh1968Washington, DC 6/9/2010-PresentRonald WhyteHarvard University, 1990Harvard Law School, 1993
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers1965Houston, TXObama 11/15/2011-PresentPrinceton U., A.B., 1987University of Texas Law, J.D., 1991
Judge Jon S. Tigar1962London, EnglandObama 12/21/2012-PresentSaundra ArmstrongWilliams College, 1984University of California, Berkeley Law, 1989
Judge William Orrick III1953San Francisco, CAObama 5/15/2013 - PresentCharles BreyerYale, B.A., 1976Boston College Law, J.D., 1979
Judge James Donato1960San Francisco, CaliforniaObama 2/25/2014-PresentJames WareUniversity of California at Berkeley, B.A., 1983Stanford Law, J.D. 1988
Judge Vince Girdhari Chhabria1969Corte Madera, CaliforniaObama 3/5/2014-PresentSusan IllstonUniversity of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., 1991University of California, Berkeley Law, J.D., 1998
Judge Haywood Stirling Gilliam, Jr.1969Marlborough, MAObama 12/16/2014-PresentClaudia WilkenYale University, 1991Stanford Law School, 1994

Active Article III judges by appointing political party

This graph displays the percent of active judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.


Senior judges

JudgeAppointed byActiveChiefSeniorBachelorsLaw
Senior Judge Thelton HendersonCarter 6/30/1980 - 11/28/19981990 - 1997University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1956University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, J.D., 1962
Senior Judge William SchwarzerFord 7/23/1976 - 4/30/19914/30/1991 - PresentUniversity of Southern California, A.B., 1948Harvard Law School, LL.B., 1951
Senior Judge Saundra ArmstrongH.W. Bush 6/18/1991 - 3/23/20123/23/2012 - PresentCalifornia State U., Fresno, B.A., 1969University of San Francisco School of Law, J.D., 1977
Senior Judge Charles Breyer 11/12/1997-12/31/201112/31/2011-PresentHarvard College, 1963University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1966
Senior Judge Maxine ChesneyClinton 5/10/1995 - 6/30/20096/30/2009 - PresentUniversity of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1964University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, J.D., 1967
Senior Judge Susan Illston 5/26/1995-7/1/20137/1/2013-PresentDuke University, 1970Stanford Law School, 1973
Senior Judge Ronald WhyteH.W. Bush 2/10/1992 - 3/2/20093/2/2009 - PresentWesleyan University, 1964University of Southern California Law School, 1967
Senior Judge Samuel Conti 10/16/1970 - 11/1/198711/1/1987 - PresentUniversity of Santa Clara, B.S., 1945Stanford Law School, LL.B., 1948

Senior judges by appointing political party

This graph displays the percent of senior judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.


Magistrate judges

Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero3/13/1999 - PresentGrinnell College, B.A., 1977Columbia University, J.D., 1981
Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd06/04/2002 - PresentCollege of William and Mary, B.A., 1963University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1968
Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte4/4/1998 - PresentPrinceton University, B.A., 1975Yale Law School, J.D., 1982
Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James10/11/1994 - PresentUniversity of California at Irvine, B.A, 1975University of San Francisco Law, J.D., 1978
Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal2010 - PresentMassachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993University of Chicago, J.D., 1996
Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore2011 - PresentUniversity of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1989University of San Francisco Law, J.D., 1997
Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler01/04/2010 - PresentBowdoin College, A.B.University of Washington Law, J.D.
Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley05/18/2011-PresentUniversity of California, BerkeleyHarvard Law School
Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins07/05/2011 - PresentStanfordUniversity of California, Hastings, J.D.
Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu03/01/2010 - PresentYale, 1982University of California, Berkeley, 1986
Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas11/05/2009 - PresentUniversity of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., 1974University of California, Hastings, J.D., 1978


The Counties of the Northern District of California (click for larger map)

The Northern District of California has original jurisdiction over cases filed within its jurisdiction. These cases can include civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.

There are three court divisions, each covering the following counties:

The Oakland Division, covering Alameda and Contra Costa counties.[2]

The San Francisco Division, covering Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties.[2]

The San Jose Division, covering Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties.[2]

Case load



Federal Court Caseload Statistics*
YearStarting case load:Cases filed:Total cases:Cases terminated:Remaining cases:Median time (Criminal)**:Median time (Civil)**:Three-year civil cases#:Vacant posts:## Trials/Post
2013 73487373147217855 686610.87.6381 (6.9%)3710
2012 70398426154657875 75908.56.4476(7.8%)29.716
2011 76657980156458471 71749.48516(8.8%)18.717
2010 89597590165498824 77258.79.8837(12.8%)33.912
2009 92407790170307573 94576.79.41220(15.7%)226
2008 93947468168627595 926711.27.7488(6%)5.96
*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website and reflect the calendar year through September.

**Time in months from filing to completion.
#This statistic includes cases which have been appealed in higher courts.

##This is the total number of months that any judicial posts had spent vacant that year.

Notable cases

For cases in the Northern District of California, see United States District Court for the Northern District of California-Cases.

Notable cases


The Northern District of California was established by Congress on September 28, 1850. Congress had organized California into two judicial districts, the Northern and the Southern, with one judgeship for each court. The district courts were not assigned to a judicial circuit, and thus were granted civil jurisdiction the same as U.S. circuit courts, except in appeals and writs of error, which are the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

After the death of the judge of the Southern District, in 1852, Congress passed a statute to give the Northern District judge authority over the Southern District as well. Two years later, the Southern District judgeship was reauthorized.

In 1855, the United States Circuit Court for the Districts of California was established. This repeal the trial court jurisdiction of the California federal district courts. The courts still continued to exercise appellate jurisdiction in certain cases involving land claims.

In 1863, the California Circuit was abolished and the Tenth Circuit was created. This circuit consisted of the California and Oregon judicial districts and eliminated the remaining appellate jurisdiction of the district courts of California.

In July 1866, the federal judiciary was organized into nine circuits. California's single judicial district, with one authorized judgeship, fell into the Ninth Circuit.

Twenty years later, the districts were again divided into the Northern and Southern districts, with one judgeship each.

The Evarts Act of 1891 reorganized the federal judiciary, establishing the federal district courts as trial courts which appealed to the circuit courts of appeal.

Over time, thirteen judicial posts were added to the Northern District for a total of fourteen posts.[54]

Judicial posts

The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the Northern District of California:[54]

Year Statute Total Seats
August 5, 1886 24 Stat. 308 1
March 2, 1907 34 Stat. 1253 2
March 3, 1927 44 Stat. 1372 3
May 31, 1938 52 Stat. 584, 585 4
June 15, 1946 60 Stat. 260 5
August 3, 1949 63 Stat. 493 7
May 19, 1961 75 Stat. 80 9
March 18, 1966 80 Stat. 75 9
June 2, 1970 84 Stat. 294 11
October 20, 1978 92 Stat. 1629 12
December 1, 1990 104 Stat. 5089 14

Former chief judges

In order to qualify for the office of chief judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy in the office of chief judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a chief judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion.[55][56]

Former judges

For more information about the judges of the Northern District of California, see former federal judges of the Northern District of California.

Federal courthouse

Four separate courthouses serve the Northern District of California.

See also

External links


  1. Offices of the United States Attorneys, Official list
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Jurisdiction Map
  3. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. Washington Post, "California prison ordered to grant inmate’s sex change surgery," April 3, 2015
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Courthouse News Service, "Judge Gives HIV Dating Website a Break," April 23, 2014
  6. Courthouse News Service, "Image-Rights Kerfuffle Heats Up for NCAA," October 29, 2013
  7. USA Today, "NCAA asks judge for O'Bannon case decision without trial," December 13, 2013
  8. Courthouse News Service, "No Pay for College Athletes, NCAA Says," December 16, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Courthouse News Service, "Federal Judge Rejects NCAA’s Gender Excuse in Class Action," April 15, 2014
  10. Courthouse News Service, "Class Certified in Nissan Brakes Complaint," December 26, 2013
  11. Top Class Actions, "Nissan Brake Defect Class Action Lawsuit Certified," December 27, 2013
  12. Courthouse News Service, "Cop Wins Immunity From Shooting-Death Damages," April 6, 2011
  13. Courthouse News Service, "Order Withdrawn in Cop Immunity Dispute," April 11, 2012
  14. Courthouse News Service, "No Immunity for Cop Who Shot Thief 12 Times," April 3, 2013
  15. Courthouse News Service, "Lawyers Who Nailed Cops on Shooting Win Fees," December 4, 2013
  16. Courthouse News Service, "Fishing Fee Scheme in California Ruled Unfair," October 21, 2013
  17. Courthouse News Service, "Gun Store Can't Sue to Open in 'Sensitive' Area," September 13, 2013
  18. John Teixeira, et al v. County of Alameda, et al, 9th Cir. Case No. 13-17132, filed October 23, 2013
  19. 19.0 19.1 AL.com, "NCAA knew EA Sports video games used real players, e-mails from Ed O'Bannon lawsuit show," November 12, 2012
  20. Associated Press, "Retired NFL players seek to join EA lawsuit," September 28, 2009
  21. Canadian Press, "U.S. federal judge OK's former UCLA player's lawsuit against the NCAA," February 9, 2010 (dead link)
  22. Lexology, "Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc.," August 9, 2013
  23. Courthouse News Service, "Gay California Couples Advance in Benefits Suit," January 30, 2012
  24. Equality on Trial, "DOMA: Federal defendants appeal Dragovich v. US Dept. of Treasury to Ninth Circuit," July 24, 2012
  25. 25.0 25.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "Federal judge taking long look at Prop. 8," July 1, 2009
  26. Los Angeles Times, "Preliminary injunction to block Proposition 8 is unlikely," July 1, 2009
  27. 27.0 27.1 San Jose Mercury News, "Federal judge fast-tracks lawsuit seeking to overturn same-sex marriage ban," July 2, 2009
  28. San Francisco Chronicle, "Federal judge reviews arguments in Prop. 8 case," August 16, 2009
  29. San Francisco Chronicle, "Judge to Prop. 8 backers: Turn over your papers," October 3, 2009
  30. San Jose Mercury News, "Proposition 8 case headed back to court," October 11, 2009
  31. CBS 5, "Federal judge declines to dismiss Proposition 8 Lawsuit," October 14, 2009 (dead link)
  32. San Francisco Chronicle, "Judge denies Prop. 8 backers delay on memos," October 26, 2009
  33. Gavel Grab, "Judge Overturns CA Gay Marriage Ban," August 4, 2010
  34. Bloomberg, "California Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Say Gay Judge Erred in Taking Case," April 25, 2011
  35. Los Angeles Times, "Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules," February 7, 2012
  36. Dallas Voice, "Court won’t release videos from Prop 8 trial," February 3, 2012
  37. 37.0 37.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "UC computer research center plan delayed," August 18, 2009
  38. Law360, "DOE Beats Enviros' Challenge Of Berkeley Research Facility," November 14, 2011
  39. BusinessWeek "Samsung, Sharp Must Face Class-Action Antitrust Suit," March 29, 2010
  40. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Price-fixing settlement means cash payouts to purchasers of LCD monitors," October 23, 2012
  41. BusinessWeek',' "Facebook wins approval to create privacy group," March 17, 2010
  42. New York Times, "Judge Rejects Approval of Biotech Sugar Beets," September 22, 2009
  43. New York Times, "Judge Revokes Approval of Modified Sugar Beets," August 13, 2010
  44. DailyCal, "Judge Denies FBI Dismissal From Berkeley Raid Lawsuit," December 2, 2009 (dead link)
  45. San Jose Mercury News, "Federal judge halts IHSS cuts," October 20, 2009
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 San Francisco Chronicle, "Judge says state thwarting in-home care ruling," July 14, 2009
  47. Sacramento Bee, "Governor blames budget woes on judges 'going absolutely crazy,'" October 22, 2009
  48. San Francisco Chronicle, "Judge bans promotion of lending scheme," November 25, 2009
  49. United States District Court for the Northern District of California, "USA v. Bonds," February 10, 2009
  50. BBC America, "Barry Bonds Charged," November 16, 2007
  51. United States District Court for the Northern District of California, "USA v. Bonds," February 10, 2009
  52. ESPN.com, "Barry Bonds found guilty of obstruction," April 14, 2011
  53. Los Angeles Times, "Judge rejects U.S. management plan for California desert," September 30, 2009
  54. 54.0 54.1 History of the Districts of California on the Federal Judicial Center website
  55. United States Courts, "Frequently Asked Questions"
  56. United States Courts, "On Being Chief Judge," February 2009