Harry Pregerson

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Harry Pregerson
Hershel W. Gober and Harry Pregerson.jpg
Pregerson (right) receiving an award from Hershel Gober
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
December 11, 2015
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
November 2, 1979 – December 11, 2015
Appointed by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by vacant
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
In office
December 7, 1967 – November 2, 1979
Appointed by Lyndon Johnson
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Cynthia Hall
Personal details
Born (1923-10-13) October 13, 1923 (age 95)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Spouse(s) Bernardine Pregerson
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
UC Berkeley School of Law

Harry Pregerson (born October 13, 1923) serves as a Senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was appointed to the Ninth Circuit in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and assumed senior status on December 11, 2015. Previous to his elevation to the circuit court he was appointed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California in 1967 by President Lyndon Johnson.

He is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (1947) and the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law (1950). Judge Pregerson was also a U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant in World War II, during which he was severely wounded in the Battle of Okinawa (4 May 1945).[1]

Judicial philosophy

Pregerson's judicial philosophy is frequently characterized as liberal. The conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt criticized him for "judicial activism" and "rules with his heart instead of his head."[2]

Involvement in California recall election

Pregerson was part of a unanimous three-judge panel that ordered the postponement of 2003 California recall based on the interpretation of equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because in the recall, six counties would use the antiquated punched cards voting system.[3] The decision, however, was subsequently overturned by the en banc court of Ninth Circuit.[4] Eventually, the recall was successful in removing Gray Davis from governorship, and Arnold Schwarzenegger became the new governor of California.


Pregerson is a supporter of federalism and favors restraints on the power of federal government. He wrote the majority decision in the Ninth Circuit panel on Gonzales v. Raich, holding that the Interstate Commerce Clause forbade the federal government from interfering with state laws that permitted the use of medical marijuana.[5] The ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court, however, which held that it is within Congressional power to regulate intrastate activities that are seen to influence interstate commerce, including using homegrown marijuana for medical purposes.

Pregerson's first ruling on Raich was based on federalism rather than his opinion on the merit of medical marijuana. In 2007, after Raich was decided by the Supreme Court, Angel Raich sued Alberto Gonzales again for substantive due process violation because the Controlled Substance Law deprived her fundamental right to life. Pregerson ruled against Raich this time, arguing it is still untimely to call using medical marijuana a "fundamental right" that is "implicit within the concept of ordered liberty" as only a minority of states legalized medical marijuana.[6]

In the case United States v. Reynard, the circuit court upheld the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000. Pregerson wrote a dissent, arguing that the act was an unconstitutional exercise of federal power.[7]

Civil procedure

In 2007, Pregerson authored the panel majority decision that affirmed the class action certification in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a case involving female employees suing Wal-Mart Corporation for gender discrimination. He wrote that although the class action suit had a massive class, "mere size does not render the case unmanageable." The decision did not address the employees' claim but only affirmed its class action status. Wal-Mart stated that it would seek an appeal.[8] The decision was then reheard by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, which also narrowly upheld class certification, but certification was ultimately reversed by the Supreme Court.[9]


In 2002 the California Legislature named the interchange between Interstate 110 (California) and Interstate 105 (California) the "Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange" in honor of Pregerson, the longest-serving judge in the history of the Ninth Circuit. When district judge, he supervised the settlement of the federal lawsuit against the Century Freeway, enabling the construction of the interchange. Judge Pregerson's name is now on signs at the interchange.[10] In 1992 the UCLA Alumni Association awarded Pregerson "Community Service Award" for his efforts helping homeless families to house in Salvation Army shelters.[11]

As a World War II veteran, Pregerson is an advocate for veterans' interests, and has worked on behalf of homeless veterans. In 2001 the Department of Veterans Affairs honored him and the then-Acting Secretary Hershel Gober presented Pregerson with a token of appreciation with the VA seal.[12]

Personal life

Pregerson's son, Dean D. Pregerson, is a federal district judge for the Central District of California.


External links

Legal offices
New seat Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Succeeded by
Cynthia Hall
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit