S. James Otero

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S. James Otero
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Assumed office
December 30, 2018
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
In office
February 12, 2003 – December 30, 2018
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byRichard Paez
Succeeded byvacant
Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court
In office
Personal details
Samuel James Otero

(1951-12-30) December 30, 1951 (age 68)
Los Angeles, California
EducationCalifornia State University, Northridge (B.A.)
Stanford Law School (J.D.)

S. (Samuel) James Otero (born December 30, 1951) is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Early life and education[edit]

Otero was born in Los Angeles, California. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Northridge in 1973 and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School in 1976.[1]


Otero was an attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office from 1976 to 1987. He was Regional Counsel for Southern Pacific Transportation Company from 1987 to 1988.

Judicial service[edit]

Otero was a judge on the Los Angeles Municipal Court from 1988 to 1990 and then a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court from 1990 to 2003.

District court service[edit]

On January 7, 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Otero to a seat on the Central District vacated by Richard Paez. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 10, 2003, and received his commission two days later. He assumed senior status on December 30, 2018, his 67th birthday.

Notable cases[edit]

Association of Christian Schools International v. Roman Stearns (University of California) (2008)[edit]

Otero wrote that the Calvary Chapel Christian School "provided no evidence of animus" on the part of university officials, who he said had a "rational basis" for determining that the proposed Calvary courses would not meet the UC college preparatory requirements. He said that UC's review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts - not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.[2][3]

On January 26, 2009, ACSI filed an appeal on the decision.[4] On January 12, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the federal district court's summary judgment in favor of the University of California.[5] On October 12, 2010, the Supreme Court declined to review the case, effectively ending it.[6]

Valentini v. McDonald case (2013)[edit]

On August 29, 2013, Otero ruled that by not using the land to provide health care for armed forces veterans, the VA was in violation of federal law. He stated in his ruling that the agency had abused its discretion by leasing land for purposes "totally divorced from the provision of healthcare," but delayed enforcement of his order so the government could appeal. [7]

West Los Angeles Veterans' Administration lease of VA land for the Jackie Robinson Stadium to UCLA, a film studio storage lot and other businesses were deemed illegal and their agreements were held void.[8]

Clifford v. Essential Consultants (2018)[edit]

In March 2018, Otero was assigned the case of Clifford v. Essential Consultants, LLC et. al., which is the federal case that encompasses the details of the Stormy Daniels–Donald Trump scandal.[9] Otero dismissed Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) defamation claim on October 15, 2018, ruling that the tweet was protected by the First Amendment. [10]

He expanded on his ruling stating - "“If this Court were to prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in this type of ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ against a political adversary, it would significantly hamper the office of the President. Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive this country of the ‘discourse’ common to the political process”. Daniels' other claims remain pending.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Otero, S. James | Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  2. ^ "Judge says UC can deny religious course credit". SFGate. 2008-08-13. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  3. ^ "Victory in California creationism case". NCSE. 2008-08-12. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  4. ^ "What's new in ACSI v. Stearns". National Center for Science Education. April 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
  5. ^ "Victory again in California creationism case". National Center for Science Education. January 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
  6. ^ "The end of ACSI v. Stearns". National Center for Science Education. October 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
  7. ^ Holland, Gale (2013-08-29). "Judge strikes down stadium lease for UCLA baseball on VA campus". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  8. ^ "Bruin controversy: Judge says VA violates law by allowing UCLA baseball team to play at Jackie Robinson Stadium". Daily News. 2013-08-30. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  9. ^ "George W. Bush appointee assigned to Daniels suit against Trump". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  10. ^ "Stormy Daniels' defamation case dismissed". BBC News. 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  11. ^ "Judge throws out Stormy Daniels's defamation lawsuit against Trump". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-16.


Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Paez
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California