In the News
Judge Ana de Alba
Nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Confirmed on November 13, 2023.
On April 14, 2023, President Joseph Biden nominated Judge Ana de Alba to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to the seat vacated by Judge Paul J. Watford. Judge de Alba is a first-generation American who has dedicated her professional life to making justice accessible for all. If confirmed, she would be the fourth Latina to serve on the Ninth Circuit.
Judge Ana de Alba was born in Merced, California, in 1979. A first-generation Mexican American and the child of farmworkers, de Alba grew up in central California working fields and cleaning homes with her family. These experiences shaped her sense of justice and legal ambitions. For example, once, when she was working in a field with her mother, complained to the foreman about dirty drinking water and was mocked in response. In another instance, her mother worked on a cucumber farm all summer and was never paid for her labor. Judge de Alba’s mother did not have the means to travel to the Labor Commissioner’s office, making redress for the injustice impossible. Driven to pursue a legal career centered on making justice accessible for all, Judge de Alba earned her B.A. in 2002, with highest honors, and then her J.D. in 2007 from the University of California, Berkeley.
After law school, Judge de Alba joined the law firm of Lang, Richert & Patch in Fresno California, where she worked as an associate, until 2013—then partner, until 2018, when she became a judge. At the firm, Judge de Alba litigated employment, personal injury, business, and construction law cases as well as advising the Consulate of Mexico. In 2021, she also served as an adjunct professor at San Joaquin College of Law. There, she taught a class titled “Civil Rights Litigation,” addressing various aspects of federal civil rights litigation.
Throughout her 11 years in private practice, Judge de Alba performed an average of 300 pro bono hours annually. Notably, she established a monthly Workers’ Rights Clinic, a collaboration among Legal Aid at Work, the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno, Central California Legal Services, Inc., and Lang, Richert & Patch. The clinic works to educate low-wage workers on their employment rights and invites workers to meet individually with attorneys to discuss any issues in their workplace, including whether those issues are redressable under the law and which administrative agencies can help. Prior to joining the bench, Judge de Alba assisted more than 300 workers, including a recently widowed mother who sued her supervisor and employers for sexual harassment, retaliation, meal and rest break violations, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress after she was publicly sexually assaulted by her supervisor while at work. See Guzman v. Family Ranch Inc., No. 17C-0165 (Kings Cnty. Super. Ct.) (LaPorte, Chrissakis, JJ.).
In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Judge de Alba to the Superior Court of California in Fresno County. Between 2018 and 2021, she served in the Criminal Division, Misdemeanor Department. In 2021, Judge de Alba moved to the Juvenile Justice Center. Additionally, she served on the Civil Grand Jury Oversight Committee, the Central Valley Regional Advisory Council, the executive committee of the California Judicial Mentorship Program, and the Advisory Committee on Providing Access and Fairness as well as the California Environmental Quality Act Panel. On January 19, 2022, President Biden nominated Judge de Alba to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. She was confirmed on June16, 2022, with bipartisan support. Two Republican senators, Senators Graham and Collins, voted in favor of her confirmation.
The following cases are representative of Judge de Alba’s judicial career:
A class of workers sued their employers, Anthony Vineyards Inc. and Sycamore Labor Inc., for violating the California legal code and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act in Martinez-Sanchez, et. al. v. Anthony Vineyards. Specifically, the workers claim that their employers illegally denied them lunch breaks, sick leave, and other required benefits in addition to forcing workers to clock in before and after their shifts and requiring them to maintain their own tools. The lawsuit names all farmworkers who tended to the Anthony Vineyards’ grape and vegetable fields between 2015 and 2019, impacting tens of thousands of workers. In February of this year, the defendants requested that Judge de Alba be disqualified from the matter due to her previous work at California Rural Legal Assistance, a legal aid organization that assists farmworkers seeking redress for labor violations, and public comments on the prevalence of labor law violations in the agricultural industry. Ultimately, the defendants were not successful, and Judge de Alba remains assigned to the case.
In Singh v. Garland, the plaintiff, a 75-year-old Indian immigrant and naturalized United States citizen, requested judicial review of a United States Citizenship & Immigration Services’ decision denying his I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. The plaintiff submitted a petition on behalf of Harvinder Singh, whom he alleges is his biological son still living in India, for admission to the United States. The government requested that the plaintiff provide evidence proving the biological relationship between the two men, including a birth certificate or other official records for Harvinder Singh, as well as evidence that of marriage between the plaintiff and Harvinder’s mother. The plaintiff submitted additional paperwork but did not submit anything demonstrating that Harvinder was born in wedlock, as required under law. As a result, his petition was denied. The plaintiff alleged that the federal agency’s denial was arbitrary and capricious and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, Section 204.2 of Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and the plaintiff’s procedural due process rights under the Constitution. In response, the government moved for summary judgment, which Judge de Alba granted, holding that the government had a reasonable basis for its decision.
In People v. Dominguez, No. M20917987 (Fresno Cnty. Super. Ct.), the defendant was charged with driving under the influence. The case turned on whether the arresting officer knew that the defendant was on felony probation, and therefore subject to search and seizure, before conducting an investigation during the traffic stop. In court, the defendant requested Judge de Alba suppress evidence of the officer’s DUI investigation during the traffic stop because the officer did not have a legitimate reason to stop the defendant on the road. The arresting officer claimed he recognized the defendant, but his testimony before Judge de Alba demonstrated that he did not know that the defendant was on felony probation before stopping him. Judge de Alba, after finding that the officer had no reasonable suspicion for the stop, granted the defendant’s request. The state voluntarily dismissed their case against the defendant.
Utility workers alerted police after the defendant in People v. Medina, No. M18928202 (Fresno Cnty. Super. Ct.), allegedly brandished an assault rifle at them. Responding to the call, police stopped the defendant and saw a gun in his driver’s side door. After the defendant was charged with concealing a firearm in his vehicle and carrying a loaded firearm in public, he moved to suppress the evidence obtained during his arrest, claiming that police searched his vehicle and seized his handgun without first obtaining a warrant. Judge de Alba denied the defendant’s motion under the Fourth Amendment’s automobile exception, which allows law enforcement to search a vehicle so long as there is probable cause that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of a crime. Because the police knew the defendant had allegedly brandished a firearm at utility workers, Judge de Alba found there was proper probable cause. Further, Judge de Alba determined that the warrantless seizure of evidence in plain view does not violate the Constitution. The defendant eventually pleaded no contest.
In People v. Ith, No. M19915217 (Fresno Cnty. Super. Ct.), the defendant was charged with crimes relating to driving under the influence of alcohol. The defendant attempted to suppress all evidence that resulted from his arrest and detention, claiming that he could not speak or understand English well enough to consent to field sobriety tests or a blood test. Judge de Alba denied the defendant’s motion to suppress after viewing body-camera evidence of the defendant’s interaction with police and hearing the arresting officer’s testimony. The defendant eventually pleaded no contest.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Outside of the courtroom, Judge de Alba has strong ties to her community and has been awarded numerous honors for her legal service and leadership. She has been a board member of the Central Valley Access to Justice Coalition since 2012 and has served on the boards of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.; Legal Aid at Work: Rape Counseling Services of Fresno; the Fresno County Bar Association, which named her Pro Bono Attorney of the Year in 2012; the State Bar of California; and Central California Legal Services, Inc., which awarded her with their Champion of Justice Award in 2018. Also in 2018, Centro La Familia Advocacy Services awarded her with their “Honoring Your Passion to Protect the Rights of Workers and Families” recognition. Judge de Alba was named an Alumni of the Year in 2017 by the UC Berkeley Chicano Latino Alumni Association and was consistently named a Northern California Rising star by Super Lawyers between 2010 and 2017.
Additionally, Judge de Alba is a member of the California Judges Association, the California Latino Judges Association, the Fresno County Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Judicial Council of California, and La Raza Lawyers Association. She has served as a member of the Labor & Employment Law Section of the California Lawyers Association as well as Editor-in-Chief of the California Labor and Employment Review and Vice-Chair of the Advanced Wage & Hour Conference Planning Team. She also served on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Regional Judicial Selection Advisory Committee for Central Valley.
Judge de Alba both represents and invests in the future of the legal profession in California. She served as a member of the California Judicial Mentor Program and as a member of the Pathways to Law School Regional Advisory Council, which helps students transition from community college to a four-year undergraduate program to law school. She also regularly speaks to school children about the legal profession and the judiciary.