Cormac J. Carney

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Cormac J. Carney
Cormac J. Carney District Judge.jpg
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
In office
June 1, 2020 – June 26, 2020
Preceded byVirginia A. Phillips
Succeeded byPhilip S. Gutierrez
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Assumed office
April 9, 2003
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byCarlos R. Moreno
Judge of the Superior Court of Orange County
In office
Appointed byGray Davis
Personal details
Cormac Joseph Carney[1]

(1959-05-06) May 6, 1959 (age 63)[2]
Detroit, Michigan
EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Harvard Law School (JD)
Football career
Career information
Position(s)Wide receiver
Height5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Weight200 lb (91 kg)
High schoolLong Beach (CA) St. Anthony
Career history
As player
1984Memphis Showboats (USFL)
Career stats
Receiving yards701
Receiving TDs2
Kick return yards74

Cormac Joseph Carney (born May 6, 1959) is a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Early life and education[edit]

Carney was born in Detroit, Michigan to Irish immigrant parents, both of whom were medical doctors.[3][4] His father was a County Mayo Gaelic football player, Pádraig Carney. The elder Carney immigrated to the United States to further his medical career. Cormac was raised in Long Beach, California, where he attended St. Anthony High School.[3] Carney received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1983 and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy for one year before transferring to UCLA.[4]

Football career[edit]

Carney was a wide receiver on the UCLA Bruins football team.[5] He was named to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America football team, and inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 2005.[5] He was also named to the 1981 and 1982 All-Pacific-10 Conference football teams.[5]

A highlight of his college football career was UCLA's victory over Michigan in the 1983 Rose Bowl.[5]

He played for the USFL team Memphis Showboats in the 1984 season.[2] Carney made 37 receptions for 701 yards and 2 touchdowns.[2]

Legal career[edit]

Carney practiced law Los Angeles for four years with Latham & Watkins and eleven years with O'Melveny & Myers.[5]

Judicial service[edit]

California state court[edit]

In October 2001, Carney was appointed by Governor Gray Davis to the bench of the California Superior Court in Orange County.[6] He served on the state bench, presiding over civil and criminal trials,[6] until his appointment to the federal district court.[6][7]

Federal district court[edit]


On January 7, 2003, Carney was nominated by President George W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the Central District of California vacated by Carlos R. Moreno.[8] A substantial majority of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated Carney as "qualified" for the post, while a minority of the committee members abstained. (ABA rankings of judicial nominees are on a three-part scale: well-qualified, qualified, and not qualified.)[9] Carney was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 7, 2003, on a vote of 80–0,[10] and received his commission on April 9, 2003.[8]

Notable decisions[edit]

In 2009, Carney dismissed fraud and conspiracy charges against two executives of Broadcom Corporation, a telecommunications company, because of prosecutorial misconduct. Carney also vacated a guilty plea by Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and dismissed a civil case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against four Broadcom executives. Carney found that the government had violated the defendants' right to a fair trial and right to due process by, among other things, engaged in conduct that "intimidated and improperly influenced" three important defense witnesses to try to prevent them from testifying and by leaking confidential grand jury proceedings.[11][12]

In Jones v. Davis (2014), Carney issued an opinion and order declaring the California death penalty to be unconstitutional, writing that the system's arbitrariness and lengthy delays led to only a "random few" being executed by the state and violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. (California at the time had 740 prisoners sentenced to die, but had executed only 13 people since 1978, the last one in 2006.) In a 29-page order, Carney vacated the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for rape and murder. The order was appealed by then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris.[13][14][15] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned Carney's ruling in November 2015; in a unanimous decision of three-judge panel, the appellate court noted that "Many agree with Petitioner that California's capital punishment system is dysfunctional and that the delay between sentencing and execution in California is extraordinary," but held that the district court could not consider a "novel constitutional theories" in reviewing a habeas corpus case.[14][15]

In Fazaga v. FBI (2012), Carney dismissed most of plaintiffs' claims on the grounds of the state secrets privilege. In 2019, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, reviving some of plaintiffs' claims.[16][17]

In United States v. Rundo (2019), Carney dismissed criminal conspiracy charges and rioting against Robert Rundo, the leader of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement group, and three of this followers, stemming from their attack on counter-demonstrators and a police officer in Berkeley, California, in July 2017. Carney ruled that the Anti-Riot Act of 1968 was facially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. In 2021, the Ninth Circuit reversed Carney's ruling. Applying the Brandenburg v. Ohio standard, the court of appeals, in a per curiam decision, agreed that the portions of the act that make it a crime to organize a riot, or to encourage, urge, or promote a future act of violence, were unconstitutional, but held that the Act's prohibitions on "speech that instigates (incites, participates in, or carries on) an imminent riot" and the Act's prohibition on "conduct such as committing acts of violence in furtherance of a riot, and aiding and abetting of that speech or conduct" were constitutional, since they addressed speech and actions directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and likely to incite or produce such action.[18][19]

In 2019, Carney sentenced Adau Mornyang, an Australian model, to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service for causing an airline flight disturbance; Mornyang had pleaded guilty to felony interference with a flight crew and misdemeanor assault.[20]

From March 2020 until May 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California temporarily halted both jury trials and bench trials to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.[21][22] Carney was one of a minority of judges who believed that trials should continue, believing that doing so was crucial for preserving the parties' rights. Beginning in September 2020, he sought to summon jury pools to select jurors for trial, but this effort was blocked by Chief Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.[22] In five criminal cases, Carney dismissed federal charges with prejudice on speedy trial grounds.[22][23] The controversial decision led to an appeal by federal prosecutors to the Ninth Circuit.[22] In April 2021, the Ninth Circuit reversed Carney's dismissal of the indictment in United States v. Olson, holding that Carney had misread the "ends of justice provision" of the Speedy Trial Act and that Carney's view (that a speedy trial is required unless it is impossible to hold a trial) was "an unnecessarily inflexible interpretation of a provision meant to provide necessary flexibility to district courts to manage their criminal cases."[24][25]

Tenure as chief judge[edit]

Carney succeeded Virginia A. Phillips as Chief Judge of the Central District of California on June 1, 2020.[8] However, he stepped down on June 26, 2020 in light of allegations that he had made racially insensitive comments regarding the Clerk of the Court, Kiry Gray, who is African American. Carney referred to Gray as "street smart" and telling her "it was not like I was the police officer standing on your neck."[26][27][28] Carney apologized to Gray for the remark.[29] He was succeeded as Chief Judge by Philip S. Gutierrez.[29][30]

Personal life[edit]

Cormac Carney and wife MaryBeth have three children.[5]


  1. ^ "Presidential Nomination: Cormac Joseph Carney". US National Archives.
  2. ^ a b c "Cormac Carney". Just Sports Stats. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Zimmerman, Martin (December 16, 2009). "Judge in Broadcom case retains his elusive streak". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 20, 2009. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Abdollahi, Panteha (June 2010). "Judicial Profile: Hon. Cormac J. Carney, U.S. District Judge, Central District of California". The Federal Lawyer. Federal Bar Association. pp. 48–50. Archived from the original on October 21, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Cormac Carney To Be Inducted into CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame". June 24, 2005. Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Rachanee Srisavasdi, Broadcom judge was shaped by football, Orange County Register (December 15, 2009).
  7. ^ Judge Cormac Carney who ruled in death penalty case was a Long Beach athlete, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, Calif.) (July 17, 2014).
  8. ^ a b c "Judge Cormac J. Carney Succeeds Judge Virginia A. Phillips as Chief Judge of the Central District of California" (Press release). June 1, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  9. ^ Ratings of Article III Judicial Nominees: 108th Congress, American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary (last updated January 10, 2008).
  10. ^ PN19 — Cormac J. Carney — The Judiciary: 108th Congress (2003–2004),
  11. ^ Charges Dismissed Against 2 Broadcom Executives, Associated Press (December 15, 2009).
  12. ^ Rachanee Srisavasdi, Larry Welborn & Michael Mello, Broadcom fraud charges dismissed, Orange County Register (December 15, 2009).
  13. ^ Mark Berman, Atty. Gen. Harris seeks to overturn ban on California executions, Los Angeles Times (August 21, 2014).
  14. ^ a b Mark Berman, Federal appeals court reverses ruling that said California’s death penalty system is unconstitutional, Washington Post (November 12, 2015).
  15. ^ a b U.S. appeals court rejects challenge to California death penalty, Reuters (November 12, 2015).
  16. ^ "Fazaga v. FBI". Harvard Law Review. 33: 1774. 2020.
  17. ^ No En Banc Rehearing in Case in Which State Secrets Defense Is Denied FBI, Metropolitan News-Enterprise (July 21, 2020).
  18. ^ Bob Egelko, Rioting charges stemming from 2017 Berkeley melee restored against white supremacists, San Francisco Chronicle (March 4, 2021).
  19. ^ United States v. Rundo, 497 F. Supp. 3d 872 (C.D. Cal. 2019), reversed, 990 F.3d 709 (9th Cir. 2021) (per curiam).
  20. ^ Andrew Dalton, Australian model sentenced for airline flight disturbance, Associated Press (July 15, 2019).
  21. ^ Meghann M. Cuniff, Orange County judge softens stance on trial delays amid May 10 resumption, Los Angeles Times (April 14, 2021).
  22. ^ a b c d Meghann M. Cuniff, Orange County federal judge dismisses criminal cases over lack of jury trials, Los Angeles Times (January 27, 2021).
  23. ^ Citing suspect's right to a speedy trial, U.S. judge drops charges in fifth criminal case as jury ban lingers, Los Angeles Times (February 25, 2021).
  24. ^ Meghann M. Cuniff, 9th Circuit reversal in pandemic jury trial dismissal could foreshadow 4 pending appeals, Los Angeles Times (April 27, 2021).
  25. ^ United States v. Olsen, 494 F. Supp. 3d 722 (C.D. Cal. 2020), reversed, 995 F.3d 683 (9th Cir. 2021).
  26. ^ Hamilton, Matt (June 28, 2020). "Chief federal judge in L.A. steps down over racially insensitive comments about Black court official". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  27. ^ Hamilton, Matt (July 6, 2020). "'All he saw to me was my skin color': Clerk faces backlash from judge's comment". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  28. ^ "Chief federal judge in LA resigns over racially charged comment about Black court official". ABC7 Los Angeles. June 29, 2020. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  29. ^ a b Top US judge in LA steps down over remark called insensitive, Associated Press (June 29, 2020).
  30. ^ Judge Philip S. Gutierrez Succeeds Judge Cormac J. Carney as Chief Judge of the Central District of California (press release), U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Preceded by Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Succeeded by