Marilyn Hall Patel

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Marilyn Hall Patel
Marilyn Hall Patel Senior District Judge.jpg
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
In office
October 30, 2009 – September 30, 2012
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
In office
June 30, 1980 – October 30, 2009
Appointed by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Lloyd Hudson Burke
Succeeded by Edward J. Davila
Personal details
Born 1938 (age 78–79)
Amsterdam, New York
Spouse(s) Magan C. Patel
Alma mater Wheaton College (B.A.)
Fordham University (J.D.)

Marilyn Hall Patel (born 1938) is a retired federal judge who presided in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. She was Chief District Judge of that jurisdiction from 1997 until 2004, and heard several notable cases during that time.

Patel was born Marilyn Hall in Amsterdam, New York. She obtained a BA from Wheaton College in 1959 and a Juris Doctor degree from Fordham University in 1963.

From 1963 until 1967 she worked as an attorney in private practice in New York City. From 1967 until 1971 she was general counsel for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Francisco. She then returned to private practice in San Francisco (during which time she was counsel for the National Organization for Women and a member of the NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund's Board of DIrectors) before becoming adjunct professor of law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, where she remained until 1976. In 1976 she was appointed to the bench of the Municipal Court for the Oakland-Piedmont Judicial District, a position she held until 1980.

On May 9, 1980, President Jimmy Carter nominated Patel to fill the seat vacated by Lloyd Hudson Burke on the US District Court for Northern California. She was confirmed by the United States Senate in June of that year. She was the Chief District Judge for the Northern District from 1997 until 2004, the first woman to hold the position (as well as the District's first female judge upon her appointment in 1980).[1] Her replacement as Chief District Judge was Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who has also retired from the federal bench.

In 1966 she married Indian-American banker Magan C. Patel. The couple have two sons, Brian and Gian. Patel won the California Women Lawyers' Rose Bird Memorial Award in 2003.

Notable cases[edit]

Other notable cases[edit]

In a 1987 suit brought against the Fire Department of San Francisco (in which Patel harshly criticized the department), she issued a consent decree that enforced equal access to employment and advancement at the SFFD. In addition to clarifying the department's responsibilities with regard to the race of applicants, the decree ensured access for women to front-line firefighter roles.[citation needed]

In a 1999 ruling, Patel found that the layout of Macy's department stores violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, forcing the chain to significantly widen the aisles between merchandise. Many other retailers in other jurisdictions followed suit.[8]

In 2003 she overturned the double murder conviction of Foster City, California native Glen William "Buddy" Nickerson. Nickerson had spent nineteen years on death row at San Quentin State Prison before new witnesses and evidence of police misconduct came to light. Ruling, Patel said it was "more probable than not" that Nickerson was innocent.[9]

Patel dismissed a 2005 suit brought by San Franciscan Wayne Ritchie against the US Government in which he alleged he had been harmed by the covert administration of LSD as part of the MKULTRA program.[10]

Patel determined that California's method of execution by lethal cyanide gas violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments" after privately viewing a recording of the execution of Robert Alton Harris. Her colleague, Judge Jeremy Fogel, has considered the constitutionality of California's lethal-injection protocol in a few cases, most notably Morales v. Tilton.[11][12]

Patel's decisions in 2008 included one for the plaintiffs in Okinawa Dugong v. Gates/Okinawa Dugong v. Rumsfeld, in which an environmental group sought to prevent the construction of a military runway on the island of Okinawa, citing the hazard this may pose to the okinawa dugong, a relative of the manatee and an endangered marine mammal.[13][14]

In 2007 and 2008, Patel reviewed the standards employed by the Oakland Police Department for public strip and body cavity searches. Patel ruled that the O.P.D.'s policy permitting such searches in cases of reasonable suspicion was unconstitutionally low, permitting future searches only where there is probable cause—the same standard required to arrest suspects.[15]


  1. ^ a b Yogi, Stan. "Marilyn Hall Patel". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  2. ^ 584 F.Supp. 1406 (N.D. Cal. 1984)
  3. ^ 114 F.Supp.2d 896 (N.D. Cal. 2000)
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ 922 F.Supp. 1426; 945 F.Supp. 1279 (N.D. Cal.)
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ [4]
  9. ^ [5]
  10. ^ [6]
  11. ^ Egelko, Bob (December 15, 2006). "Judge says California's lethal-injection method is flawed". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Judge Rules California's Current Lethal Injection Of Death Row Inmates is Unconstitutional, "But Can Be Fixed"". FindLaw. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ [7]
  14. ^
  15. ^ Judge amends Oakland police strip-search policy – Inside Bay Area

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Succeeded by
Edward J. Davila