Carney Takes Helm as Chief Judge at LA Federal Court

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the Central District of California. (Federal Bar Association photo)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney was named chief judge of the Central District of California on Monday, succeeding U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips who since 2016 oversaw a federal court system stretching across Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties.

A former Orange County Superior Court judge, Carney was appointed to the Central District of California by George W. Bush in 2003.

Carney graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard Law School. On Monday, he began his tenure as chief judge of one of the largest courts in the United States.

Carney replaces Phillips, who was appointed to the Central District of California in 1999 by Bill Clinton, and had served as chief judge since July 2016. She previously served on the Riverside County Superior Court bench in Southern California.

After ending her tenure as chief judge, Phillips — a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law — will resume service as an active judge in the court’s Western Division in LA.

Carney, who is also based in Los Angeles, takes the helm as chief judge during one of the most difficult periods the federal court system has faced.

Courts across the nation have functioned under modified protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic. California instituted a stay-at-home order March 19 due to the pandemic and courts across the state followed with closures soon after.

A spokesperson for the Central District of California did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Carney or Phillips on the court changes.

The Central District has functioned under its Continuity of Operations Plan since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus forced the courts to close months ago.

Jurors for civil and criminal matters have not been called in and naturalization ceremonies scheduled in April and May were canceled.

The court said in a statement last week it plans to resume modified operations on June 22 with limited in-court hearings in criminal and civil matters.

Beginning Monday, court staff will begin to prepare for the hearings but the court remains closed to the public and only criminal cases have hearings scheduled at the Roybal Courthouse in LA, the statement said. 

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