October 13, 2023
The Honorable Senator Laphonza R. Butler
United States Senate
SD-G10 Dirksen Senate Office Building
50 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20510
Re: Community Support for the Nomination of the Honorable Kenly Kiya Kato to the United States District Court of the Central District of California
Dear Senator Butler:
Congratulations on your appointment to the United States Senate, and thank you for your willingness to serve! We write to introduce you to Inland Action and to bring your attention to a pending judicial appointment that is of critical importance to our region.
Inland Action is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation of public-spirited leaders who have joined together to be catalysts for the economic well-being of the Inland Empire region of California (San Bernardino and Riverside Counties) since 1962. Our members span the diverse gamut of our community; i.e., educators (including U.C. Riverside), bankers, non-profits, grocers, affordable-housing providers, attorneys, accountants, public utilities, airports, transportation commissions, railroads, sureties, logistics operators, community foundations, hospitals, and many others.
Though our industries and backgrounds differ greatly, we come together with a common goal – the betterment of our region. This work includes an annual advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., each Spring to meet with our representatives in the Senate, House, and administrative officials to discuss the needs of our community. We cherished our opportunities to meet with Senator Feinstein and her staff over the past decades, and she was always a strong advocate for our region. We very much look forward to continuing that work and meeting with you and your team on our trip early next year.
Today we write to bring your attention to a matter pending in the Senate that is of great importance to our community and cannot wait for our Spring trip. As you may know, the federal trial court for our region is the Central District of California; specifically, the Eastern Division of that Court, which covers Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The Eastern Division is now home to 4.6 million people and spans 27,408 square miles. Its population is greater than that of 25 States, and its land mass is larger than 11 States. It is comparable in population to the State of Kentucky, and in land area to the State of West Virginia. Those states each have two federal districts, with nine and eight authorized judgeships, respectively. By comparison, there are presently only two District Judges sitting in the Eastern Division of the Central District of California.
The number of cases arising in the Eastern Division far exceeds the capacity of only two District Judges to preside over. In order to get the Eastern Division cases heard, the Court administratively reassigns cases among its three divisions (Eastern in Riverside, Southern in Santa Ana, and Western in Los Angeles) in a random process called “blackout dates” to keep the number of cases per judge roughly equal throughout the whole of the Central District. In 2022 (the most-recent year for which we have data), of the 1,609 civil cases filed within the Eastern Division, 620 (39%) were reassigned due to blackout, predominantly to Los Angeles. In addition, of the 161 criminal cases filed in the Eastern Division, 79 (49%) were reassigned due to blackout. This represents a substantial burden on the parties, their attorneys, witnesses, and family members, who must travel long, time-consuming distances to Los Angeles for hearings and trials and incur significant additional time and expense in resolving their cases. A roundtrip from San Bernardino to Los Angeles for a hearing can take 4-5 hours with traffic, even for a short court hearing. Moreover, because juries are drawn by division, these parties also face trial by a jury drawn not from their own community, but the communities of the presiding court to which their case is reassigned.
As these statistics clearly illustrate, there is an urgent need for additional District Judges in the Eastern Division. To address this need, the President has nominated the Honorable Kenly Kiya Kato, currently a U.S. Magistrate Judge sitting in the Eastern Division, to be a District Judge. Judge Kato is a member of our Inland Empire community and has committed to remain in the Eastern Division once confirmed as a District Judge. She has been rated Well Qualified by the American Bar Association and has proven herself over the past nine years in her role as a Magistrate Judge to be a most capable jurist. Inland Action strongly supports the confirmation of Judge Kato, as have many other groups and individuals in our community. Confirming her appointment will give us a third District Judge here in the Inland Empire and will go a long way to balance the case load and eliminate case transfers to other divisions of the Court. Our community needs Judge Kato to be confirmed as soon as possible.
Judge Kato’s nomination was favorably reported out of the Judiciary Committee in February 2023. Unfortunately for our community, however, Republicans in the Senate have uniformly withheld any support from her, and the matter has been stuck on the Executive Calendar since that time. Judge Kato is now the longest-pending judicial nominee awaiting a vote on the Senate floor – the very first entry on the Executive Calendar. While we recognize the hard work necessary to move a nominee toward confirmation in the absence of any cooperation from the minority party, we know that it can be accomplished with the devotion of sufficient time and attention. Judge Kato’s nomination is of critical importance to our community and deserves the time and effort required for confirmation. Please take up this cause. Urge leadership to devote the necessary time and take the necessary procedural steps to bring Judge Kato’s nomination to the floor, and rally support of your new colleagues to vote to confirm her. With a push from you, Senator Padilla, and Judge Kato’s other supporters in the Senate, we are confident that she soon will be our sorely needed next United States District Judge.
Thank you for your time and effort to support the people of our region on this very important matter. We look forward to the opportunity to meet with you and your staff when next we are in the Capital.
Carole Beswick, CEO
cc: Senator Alex Padilla
Senator Maize Hirono