SUPPORT- Nominations of the Hon. Kenly Kiya Kato and the Hon. Sunshine Suzanne Sykes to the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California


February 8, 2022

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Chairman
Senate Judiciary Committee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Committee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re:  Community Support for the Nominations of the Hon. Kenly Kiya Kato and the Hon. Sunshine Suzanne Sykes to the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California


Dear Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Grassley:

We write to inform your committee of 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.

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 our region 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.

Both Judge Kato and Judge Sykes have long ties to our community.  Judge Kato presently serves in the Eastern Division of our Court in her role as a United States Magistrate Judge, and Judge Sykes presently sits on the Riverside County Superior Court.  If confirmed by the Senate, both are committed to sit in the Eastern Division.  This is critically important to our community.  While the five existing vacancies in the Central District as a whole has put a huge burden on the judges (and therefore the litigants) throughout the entire District, the issue is especially acute in the Eastern Division.  The Eastern Division has historically been understaffed with Article III judges.  The number of cases arising in this area of 4.6 million people far exceeds the capacity of the one, or sometimes two, District Judges sitting here.  The Court, therefore, reassigns cases among its three divisions (Eastern in Riverside, Southern in Santa Ana, and Western in Los Angeles) to help get the Eastern Division cases heard and to keep the number of cases per judge roughly equal District wide.

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 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.  In other words, Inland Empire businesses and residents get juries drawn from Los Angeles and surrounding community, not the Inland Empire, which is substantially culturally different.

While the need for additional District Judges to sit in the Eastern Division of our Court is therefore of paramount importance, we of course also need those judges to be highly qualified.  Fortunately, both nominees the Judiciary Committee is presently considering fit that bill.  Both have 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 the 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.  Their confirmation is badly needed to serve the judicial needs of the Inland Empire community.  Inland Action urges the Judiciary Committee to report favorably on both of their nominations and for the full Senate to confirm them as soon as possible.



Deborah Barmack


CC:      Senator Dianne Feinstein

Senator Alex Padilla