Floor Speech

Date: May 18, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PADILLA. Mr. President, for many people--not just here in and around the Capitol but across the country--the past few weeks have been a wake-up call--a wake-up call to see the stakes of our fight for a fair judiciary.

From abortion rights to free speech to gun violence, Federal judges make countless decisions that impact our daily lives. We have been reminded of that in a very significant way. But our current Federal bench is not representative of the diversity of our country and our democracy. We have a lot of work to do to rebuild the judiciary in a way that deserves the faith of the American people, to build a judiciary that reflects and represents the diverse Nation that it serves.

I know we have talked about it before. We have been chipping away at it, not just through the Judiciary Committee but through a number of circuit court judges and district court judges across the country, including in California.

I am certainly proud of the significant step that we took recently with the confirmation of soon-to-be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. But for all the progress we have made this last year, we still have a lot of work to do, especially at the lower court level, where almost all Federal cases are heard. Many are decided there, and that is it.

That is why I continue to work closely with the Biden administration to recommend and support talented nominees for California's district courts--nominees who will bring a wide range of professional and lived experiences to the Federal bench.

So, today, I rise to highlight three outstanding nominees to California's district courts.

First, the Senate will soon vote on the confirmation of Judge Trina Thompson to become a judge for the Northern District of California.

Judge Thompson has deep roots serving the community of Alameda County. After earning her undergraduate degree and her JD from UC Berkeley, she began her legal career with the Alameda County Public Defender's Office; and, eventually, she built a successful solo practice in criminal defense.

Over the next decade, she handled dozens of criminal trials, and she continued to work with the county public defender's office to take on pro bono clients in the community. A legal trailblazer, Judge Thompson became the first Black woman to win election to serve as a judge in Alameda County. She has continuously demonstrated her sense of fairness, her commitment to justice, and her dedication to the rule of law. I know that Judge Thompson will continue to pave the road for equal justice on the Northern District bench.

I urge my colleagues to support her nomination.

Second, the Senate will also soon vote on Judge Sunshine Sykes' confirmation to become a judge for the Central District of California.

A member of the Coyote Pass Clan of the Navajo Nation, Judge Sykes is devoted to pursuing justice, especially for those who have too often been left behind by the legal system.

Judge Sykes earned her undergraduate degree and her JD from Stanford University. After law school, she chose to begin her legal career working for the California Indian Legal Services. There, she built a tremendous reputation as a skillful adviser and advocate for Tribes on a wide range of legal matters, from addressing domestic violence to developing Tribal courts and preserving cultural resources. She also developed an important expertise in juvenile dependency cases under the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Recognizing Judge Sykes' outstanding work, then Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the California Superior Court in 2013. Over the past 9 years, she has presided over nearly 100 cases.

She will bring an impressive legal record, work ethic, and an appropriate sense of empathy to her judgeship in the central district.

If confirmed, Judge Sykes will also be the first Native American to ever serve on a Federal court in California. I will remind us that California is home to more federally recognized Native American Tribes than any State in the Nation.

I look forward to her distinguished service in the central district.

Finally, I would like to speak for a moment, as well, about Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett, who was confirmed last month to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Judge Garnett brings an outstanding record as a lawyer, as a jurist, and a public servant committed to equal justice.

Judge Garnett earned her undergraduate degree from UC Riverside and her JD from Harvard Law School. After starting her career in private practice, Judge Garnett became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. She spent 13 years serving that office, earning numerous awards and rising to a number of leadership positions.

Recognizing her hard work and record of excellence as a litigator, Governor Brown appointed Judge Garnett to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2014.

For 8 years, she served with distinction as a superior court judge and a justice pro tem on the California Court of Appeal. She now brings this experience to the Federal bench as a judge for the central district.

Voices like hers--and the voices like that of Judge Thompson and Judge Sykes--have been left out of the judiciary for far too long. All three of these nominations of outstanding women, women of color, represent important progress. So I celebrate each of these jurists, and I thank them for their willingness to serve.

With each of their confirmations, we take another important step closer to the fair judiciary that this Nation deserves, toward the justice system that our democracy deserves.

Mr. President, I am so proud of the progress we have made in California. I look forward to working with you and our colleagues and with the Biden administration to continue this important work.