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News Posted on December 1, 2017

Harry Pregerson, Ninth Circuit Judge and Friend to King Hall, Dies at 94

Harry PregersonJudge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a longtime friend of UC Davis School of Law, has died. Judge Pregerson, one of the longest-serving judges in the history of the Ninth Circuit, was known as a champion of the underprivileged and a vivid example of dedication to public service.

“He was a giant and a protector of those on the margins of American society, including racial minorities, immigrants, and the poor,” said Dean Kevin R. Johnson, who met Judge Pregerson more than 30 years ago while serving as a clerk to the Ninth Circuit’s Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

Judge Pregerson died of natural causes at his home in Woodland Hills on November 25. He was 94 years old. His profound influence on the School of Law included the hiring of numerous King Hall alumni as clerks. His son, Judge Dean D. Pregerson ’76 of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California has continued this practice.

"Judge Pregerson lived his life in service of others,” said Senior Associate Dean Madhavi Sunder, who clerked for him during 1998-99. “In both his judicial work and his public service in founding homeless shelters in Los Angeles, he committed himself to helping the weakest in society. His motto was to do good, always.”

King Hall alumni who clerked for Judge Pregerson include James Freeman ’72, Kenneth Johnson ’73, Charles Farman ’85, Michael David Laurence ’85, Laurie Soriano ’86, Nichole Auden ’95, Mary Waltermire ’95, Aimee Dudovitz ’99, Melissa Jones ’99, Suzianne Painter-Thorne ’02, Eric Hing ’05, and Karli Eisenberg ’11.

“I remember [Judge Pregerson] telling me when I clerked for him that there was so much work to be done to help others, and that the time for rest was only when one is in the grave,” said Sunder. “Indeed, his last words to his family expressed his sadness at no longer having the strength to help people. He was a great soul and a lifelong inspiration to me and so many others. I hope we can all do better to live up to his great example and exhortation.”

A California native, Judge Pregerson served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and was severely wounded in the battle for Okinawa. He earned his law degree from UC Berkeley in 1950 and was an attorney in private practice from 1951 to 1965. He served as a judge of the Los Angeles Municipal Court and the Los Angeles County Superior Court before being appointed to the U.S. District Court, Central District of California in 1967. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1979.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Judge Pregerson described his judicial philosophy. “My conscience is a product of the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights, the Boy Scout Oath, and the Marine Corps Hymn," said Pregerson, who was described as both a liberal and a federalist. "If I had to follow my conscience or the law, I would follow my conscience."