Daughter of farmworkers on verge of getting federal judgeship

·3 min read
JUAN ESPARZA LOERA/jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Ana de Alba – who grew up in a poor, farmworker family from Dos Palos and slept on the floor until she was 15 – is in line to become the first Latina or Latino to serve as a judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The Fresno County Superior Court judge was nominated to fill a vacancy in the court by President Joe Biden. The U.S. Senate must approve her lifetime appointment.

The president’s appointment, which was announced on Jan. 19 along with that of Robert Huie to serve in the Southern District of California, was applauded by Sens. Diane Feinstein and Alex Padilla.

“We applaud President Biden’s nominations of Judge Ana de Alba and Robert Huie to serve on California’s district courts,” the senators said in a press release. “Both of these outstanding nominees will bring to the federal bench a demonstrated commitment to justice and a career of excellence in the law. We urge our colleagues to support their swift confirmation.”

The district courts, of which there are 94, are the general trial courts of the federal court system.

The appointment comes a month after the California Latino Legislative Caucus sent a letter to the Biden administration on Dec. 19 asking for more diversity on federal judge posts. That month, Biden nominated four people, none of them Latinos, to the Eastern District Court of California.

“Nearly half of the population within our state served by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California is Latino,” said state Sen. María Elena Durazo, caucus chair. “Sadly, the recent announcement by the Biden administration that none of the judicial nominees for these life-time appointments is Latino prolongs a severe underrepresentation that has plagued our judicial system for generations.”

Assemblymember Joaquín Arámbula, D-Fresno, praised the nomination in a Facebook post.

“Her confirmation would be a milestone for the Central Valley and the Latino community,” said Arámbula.

Durazo, who grew up in Madera and now serves a Los Ángeles-based district, said Latino representation “is long overdue and must be prioritized.”

“To ignore this growing constituency comprised of many qualified attorneys sets a horrible precedent and sends the wrong message to the next generation of Latinos eager to enter public service,” said Durazo.

De Alba has served as a Fresno County Superior Court Judge since 2018. Previously, she was a partner at Lang Richet & Patch (2013-18) where she focused primarily on employment, business, tort and construction litigation.

In a November 2018 interview with Vida en el Valle, de Alba spoke of sharing a 500-square-foot home with her parents and three older brothers. She slept on the floor and didn’t have her own bed to sleep on until she was 15.

That, however, was the least of her worries.

“Doing farm work as a kid, I’ve always wanted to become a lawyer because I always saw unfair treatment in the fields,” said de Alba.

The daughter of Ana Celia and Liborio de Alba graduated from Dos Palos High School (1998) and earned her undergraduate and law school degree at UC Berkeley.

Becoming a judge “means a lot to me. It’s very humbling,” said de Alba, who was appointed to the county court by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I’ve always served the people of Fresno as a professional affecting people’s lives; now I will serve them from another angle,” she said.

De Alba credits her parents, both from the Mexican state of Jalisco, for instilling values.

“They were very big believers in hard work,” she said. “They taught me to see the world as not fair or unfair, but as an opportunity. That if you work hard, you’ll be able to succeed.”

Her mother had only a third-grade education in México, but focused on her education once her children grew up and earned a community college degree.

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