|March 12, 2022
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Majority Leader
United States Senate
Re: Community Support for the Nominations of the Hon. Kenly Kiya Kato and the Hon. Sunshine Suzanne Sykes to the United States District Court or the Central District of California
Dear Majority Leader Schumer,
We write to express our strong support for the nominations of U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenly Kiya Kato and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sunshine Suzanne Sykes each to serve as United States District Judge for the Central District of California, and in particular our community here in Southern California’s Inland Empire. Both have had their Judiciary Committee hearings and await action by the full Senate. Our community needs them to be confirmed and seated as soon as possible.
Our group, 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 since 1962. The Inland Empire is comprised of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, within the Central District of California. In 1992, Congress created the Eastern Division of the Central District to serve Inland Empire after noting the dramatic growth in population in our two Counties, how the freeways connecting the coastal and inland areas were overburdened, and the lack of easy accessibility to the Courts for the residents of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Since then, the Inland Empire population has continued to increase, and as of the 2020 census was up by approximately 53% to 4.6 million. Of course, the freeways connecting us to Los Angeles have not gotten any less congested in the past 30 years.
Our community is in dire need of additional federal District Judges to hear the cases arising here. We are a community of 4.6 million people, covering 27,408 square miles. Our population exceeds that of 25 States, and our land mass is comparable to the State of West Virginia, yet we presently have only 2 District Judges to handle the cases arising here. The judges in the other Divisions in the Central District (themselves dealing with multiple long-term vacancies) do great work to help by transferring Eastern Division cases to be heard in Los Angeles, but this has meant that in recent years, anywhere from 30% to 66% of the cases filed in the Eastern Division were reassigned to a judge in Los Angeles.
This represents a substantial burden on the parties and their attorneys, who must travel to Los Angeles for hearings and trials and incur significant additional time and expense in resolving their cases. Moreover, because juries are drawn from the local communities, these litigants also face trial by a jury drawn not from their own community, but from the Los Angeles Division. In other words, Inland Empire businesses and residents get juries drawn from the Los Angeles and surrounding community, not the Inland Empire, which is substantially culturally different.
Recognizing the needs of our community, President Biden, with the enthusiastic support of Senators Feinstein and Padilla, has nominated Judges Kato and Sykes to serve as District Judges in the Central District of California. Both Judge Kato and Judge Sykes have long ties to our community and are committed to sit and serve in the Eastern Division. Judge Kato already serves in the Eastern Division in her role as a United States Magistrate Judge, and Judge Sykes presently sits on the state trial court for Riverside County.
Both are highly qualified to serve as District Judges. They have each been rated well qualified by the American Bar Association, and the feeling within the local legal community is the same. Judge Kato has served for nearly eight years now as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in our local federal court, handling various forms of civil and criminal matters on referral from the District Judges. In addition, she has handled civil cases for all purposes (essentially serving in the place of a District Judge) with the unanimous consent of the parties pursuant to the Court’s direct-assignment and consent-calendar programs. Civil attorneys – both plaintiff and defense – agree to have their cases assigned to her for all purposes because of her high level of competence she brings to those matters. Judge Sykes has served as a Judge of the Riverside Superior Court since 2013. She has presided over an extraordinarily heavy docket as a trial judge and is known within the local legal community as a smart and conscientious judge. She is well prepared to handle the extraordinary workload of a District Judge in the Central District of California.
In short, both Judge Kato and Judge Sykes are well qualified to serve as United States District Judges and have the support of the local community. Our Inland Empire community needs them to be confirmed and seated as District Judges as soon as possible. On March 10th, the Judiciary Committee favorably reported Judge Sykes’s nomination, and she now awaits a floor vote in the full Senate. Judge Kato, however, received a party-line tie vote in the Judiciary Committee that same day, and her nomination therefore requires a discharge petition before being brought to the Senate floor.
We urge you to bring the discharge petition for Judge Kato and schedule floor votes for both her and Judge Sykes as soon as possible so that our community can get the federal judicial resources we so badly need.
Carole Beswick, CEO
cc: Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Alex Padilla