LOS ANGELES (CN) – Judge Harry Pregerson, senior circuit judge with the Ninth Circuit, died at home over the weekend. He was 94.
Nominated to the Ninth Circuit by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, Pregerson became a senior judge in 2015.
Pregerson’s legacy as a judge includes the 110/105 freeway interchange, which was named in his honor after he sided with residents challenging the construction of the 105 freeway by blocking the project until it complied with federal and state environmental laws. He continued to oversee the case even after moving up to the Ninth Circuit, and his handling of it became the model for how large-scale projects are now brought to the communities they affect.
In 2011, Pregerson dissented to a Ninth Circuit panel’s finding a man ineligible to have his removal order canceled because he helped bring his then-fiancee into the United States without documentation. Pregerson called the deportation "unconscionable" and asked of the man, who paid taxes, attended church and provided for his children: "Is such an honest man a man of bad moral character?"
Even in retirement, Pregerson continued to provide written arguments for the Ninth Circuit according to UC Davis School of Law dean Kevin Johnson.
“He was larger than life,” said Johnson, who clerked with Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt and got to know Pregerson during that time.
Pregerson was generous with his time and continued to be so later in life. He, his wife Bernardine and the rest of his family helped the homeless and were a constant fixture at food banks during the holidays, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“He was really an icon for justice in many circles. He defended the voiceless, homeless, poor, the immigrants, gays and lesbians,” Johnson said, adding Pregerson’s approach to criminal justice cases was fair.
“Those types of cases often go under the radar, but you could always count on Judge Pregerson to look carefully to make sure the defendants’ rights were protected. It didn’t mean they always won, but it meant they got a fair shake,” Johnson said.
A Marine in World War II, Pregerson graduated from UCLA and received his law degree from UC Berkeley in 1950. He became a municipal court judge in 1956 and superior court judge in 1966, according to the Federal Judicial Center.
In addition to his wife, Pregerson is also is survived by his son, Senior U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson, daughter Katie Rodan, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.