William A. Fletcher

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William A. Fletcher
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
October 9, 1998
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byWilliam Albert Norris
Personal details
William Alan Fletcher

(1945-06-06) June 6, 1945 (age 75)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
MotherBetty Binns Fletcher
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Merton College, Oxford (BA)
Yale University (JD)

William Alan Fletcher (born June 6, 1945) is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[1]

Education and legal training[edit]

Fletcher went to Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington, graduating in 1964. Fletcher received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1968 and another from Merton College, Oxford University in 1970 as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 1975.[2] He then clerked for Judge Stanley A. Weigel from 1975 to 1976. Fletcher then clerked for Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. of the United States Supreme Court from 1976 to 1977.

Fletcher's mother, Betty Binns Fletcher, was also a judge on the Ninth Circuit, although she held senior status from 1998 until her death in 2012.

Fletcher teaches Federal Courts at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.[2]

Professional career[edit]

Fletcher was a Lieutenant in the United States Navy from 1970 to 1972 and a Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law from 1977 to 1998. Fletcher was the author of the Ninth Circuit's decision in Demers v. Austin (January 2014). He also published a 100-page dissent on the decision to deny Kevin Cooper an en banc hearing.[3]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Fletcher was nominated twice by former President Bill Clinton, his Rhodes Scholar classmate at Oxford, for a seat on the Ninth Circuit vacated by William Albert Norris in April 1995, and on January 7, 1997.[4] His first nomination was never voted on by the Senate, but his second nomination was confirmed in a 57–41 vote on October 8, 1998 and he received his commission on October 9.[4]

Judicial philosophy[edit]

Fletcher is seen as a pragmatist on the court. When Fletcher makes a decision, he looks at both the facts of the case and the legal reasoning behind his decision. Fletcher reported in an interview that "Probably the most important thing, beyond the obvious need for legal education of judges, is the development of a culture of decision making. By this I mean a judicial culture in which it is expected that judges will—to the extent of their ability and to the extent human nature will permit—state carefully, fully, and honestly the factual and legal bases for their decisions. I make no claim that American judges always live up to that ideal. We do not. But we try."[5]

In October 2013, Fletcher delivered the 2013 Madison Lecture, "Our Broken Death Penalty". Fletcher was very critical of the death penalty, saying the title "suggests that it might have been unbroken. I think it's always been broken."[6] In November 2014, in another speech Fletcher mentioned "The death penalty may not discourage criminals from committing murder and is very expensive."[7]

Notable rulings[edit]

Fletcher has made rulings on women's rights, abortion, gun control, and the conditions of detainees at the border.

On October 22, 2002, Fletcher dissented in Jespersen v. Harrah's Operating Co. when the Ninth Circuit en banc ruled that a casino can require female workers to wear makeup.

On May 11, 2009, Fletcher wrote a 101 page dissent when the 9th circuit permitted the execution of Kevin Cooper to go forward. Fletcher noted that Cooper may have been innocent and was denied a fair trial. Fletcher also reasoned that Cooper may have been treated unfairly due to his race, and accused Judge Marilyn Huff (who had denied Cooper's appeal) of intentionally sabotaging Cooper's hearing. He was joined by Judges Harry Pregerson, Stephen Reinhardt, Richard Paez, and Johnnie B. Rawlinson. 6 other judges also dissented in denial of rehearing and agreed or mostly agreed with Fletcher's reasoning: Alex Kozinski, Sidney Runyan Thomas, Susan P. Graber, Raymond C. Fisher, Marsha S. Berzon, and Kim McLane Wardlaw[8]

On June 3, 2014, Fletcher blocked an Arizona abortion law that basically prohibited all medication abortions. Fletcher wrote: "We hold that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their claim that the Arizona law imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to abortion."[9]

On December 29, 2015, Fletcher blocked a death sentence in regards that it was in violation of Roper v. Simmons, and argued that Roper v. Simmons applies retroactively. Fletcher was joined by Sidney Runyan Thomas, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Marsha S. Berzon, Morgan Christen, and Jacqueline Nguyen, over a dissent by Carlos Bea who argued that Roper v. Simmons did not apply retroactively.[10]

In 2016, Fletcher wrote the majority opinion in Peruta v. San Diego County, ruling that the Second Amendment did not protect the right to carry a concealed weapon. The San Diego ban on concealed weapons was upheld by a vote of 7–4.

On May 10, 2019, in a reluctant concurrence in a case where the 9th circuit permitted Trump to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for immigration proceedings in court, Fletcher said of the Trump administration "I am hopeful that the regular argument panel that will ultimately hear the appeal, with the benefit of full briefing and regularly scheduled argument, will be able to see the Government's arguments for what they are -- baseless arguments in support of an illegal policy that will, if sustained, require bona fide asylum applicants to wait in Mexico for years while their applications are adjudicated."[11]

In July 2019, Fletcher dissented when the Ninth Circuit upheld Trump's gag rule restricting abortion funding by a vote of 7–4.[12]

On August 12, 2019, Fletcher ruled that an animal does not constitute an "individual".[13]

On August 15, 2019, Fletcher was in a 3–0 majority that ruled that detained migrant children must get sleep, soap, and clean water. The ruling was written by fellow 9th circuit judge Marsha S. Berzon.[14]

In oral arguments on June 18, 2019, Fletcher was very critical of the Trump administration's argument for denying the detained minors basic necessities.[15][16]

On August 28, 2019, Fletcher reversed the district court’s order allowing the government to seize funds from a pre-trial detainee’s trust account to be applied to an outstanding restitution payment, ruling that they could not.[17]

On November 19, 2019, Fletcher granted relief to Vega-Anguiano, on the grounds that his 1998 removal order lacked a valid legal basis and the reinstatement order was improper. Morgan Christen concurred, noting that Vega-Anguiano could not have known that he needed to bring these errors to the agency's attention. Consuelo Callahan would have denied relief.[18]

On December 24, 2019, Fletcher concurred in a ruling against police immunity. However, he criticized the Supreme Court's 1995 case Johnson v. Jones, writing "I hope that the Supreme Court will revisit the issue soon and will disavow Johnson entirely. But until that happens, I believe that we are, unfortunately, bound to follow what remains of Johnson."[19]

On January 27, 2020, Fletcher wrote for the majority (in a 7-4 decision) that Arizona's policy of not counting ballots filed in the wrong precinct is unconstitutional under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Fletcher also ruled that Arizona had not carried its burden of showing that racial discrimination was not a factor in the making of this policy. Fletcher used maps to show why voters of Native American and Hispanic descent were far more likely to file a ballot at the wrong precinct, whether intentional (for convenience) or not. Fletcher also explained the longtime history of racial discrimination in Arizona.[20]

On February 28, 2020, Fletcher, who was joined by Paez, ruled that asylum seekers could not be forced to be wait in Mexico while their hearings proceeded, mentioning that court proceedings often take years. However, on March 4, Fletcher and Paez narrowed the ruling to California and Arizona, letting the Supreme Court decide the rest.[21][22] However, the Supreme Court reversed Fletcher's ruling on March 11, allowing Trump's "Remain-in-Mexico" policy to continue.[23]

On August 3, 2020, Fletcher wrote the majority opinion in EPIC v. Ann Carlson. The ruling prevented private loggers from removing large fire-damaged trees from up to 200 feet from either side of the road in Mendocino National Forest, which would have burned an estimated 288,000 acres.[24] In oral arguments, Fletcher expressed concern for the environment, and reiterated John T. Noonan's argument that the forest service was cutting trees only for monetary gain. Fletcher also explained why the chances of a tree falling into the road is minimal, concluding "First it has to die. Then it has to fall over in the direction of the road."[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Finn, M.T.; Irvine, D.R.; Bliss, M.L.; Pratton, G.L.; Morgan, S. (2009). The American Bench. Forster-Long. ISBN 9780931398582. ISSN 0160-2578. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Faculty Profiles: William A. Fletcher". law.berkeley.edu. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  3. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. May 11, 2009. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Wilson, Sarah (2003). "Appellate Judicial Appointments During the Clinton Presidency: an Inside Perspective". The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process: 29–47.
  5. ^ Project, China Guiding Cases. "CGCP Interview: Judge William A. Fletcher". China Guiding Cases Project.
  6. ^ "Judge Fletcher, Like His Mother, Gives NYU Death Penalty Lecture". Findlaw.
  7. ^ "U.S. death penalty is broken, judge says". Cornell Chronicle.
  8. ^ "No. 05-99004" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. May 11, 2009. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  9. ^ "Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Humble, No. 14-15624 (9th Cir. 2014)". Justia Law.
  10. ^ "No. 09-99018" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. December 29, 2015.
  11. ^ "Trump Wins Round in Immigrant Policy -- Asylum-Seekers Must Go Home". Findlaw.
  12. ^ "Abortion businesses 'devastated' as Title X rule to defund goes into effect". Liveaction.org. July 16, 2019. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  13. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. August 12, 2019. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  14. ^ "9th Circuit Court Of Appeals Says Detained Minors Must Get Food, Soap and Water". NPR. August 15, 2019. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Watch recording for Jenny Flores v. William Barr, No. 17-56297". www.ca9.uscourts.gov.
  16. ^ 26:43-28:44
  17. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  18. ^ "No. 15-72999" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. November 19, 2019.
  19. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  20. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  21. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  22. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  23. ^ Mali, Meghashyam (March 11, 2020). "Supreme Court allows Trump to enforce 'Remain in Mexico' policy". TheHill.
  24. ^ "Court documents" (PDF). cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  25. ^ "Video". www.youtube.com. Retrieved November 20, 2020.

External links[edit]