William Haskell Alsup

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William Haskell Alsup
William Alsup District Judge.jpg
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Assumed office
January 21, 2021
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
In office
August 17, 1999 – January 21, 2021
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byThelton Henderson
Succeeded byvacant
Personal details
Born (1945-06-27) June 27, 1945 (age 75)
Jackson, Mississippi
EducationMississippi State University (BS)
Harvard Law School (JD)
Harvard University (MPP)

William Haskell Alsup (born June 27, 1945) is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Alsup received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics[2] from Mississippi State University in 1967, a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1971, and a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1971.

He was a law clerk to Justice William O. Douglas of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1971 to 1972.[3] Alsup was in private practice in San Francisco, California from 1972 to 1978, and was then an Assistant to the United States Solicitor General in the United States Department of Justice from 1978 to 1980. He returned to his private practice in San Francisco from 1980 to 1998 with Morrison & Foerster, when he briefly served as a special counsel in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in 1998. He was again in private practice in San Francisco from 1998 to 1999.[4]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On March 24, 1999, Alsup was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California vacated by Thelton Henderson.[4] Alsup was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 30, 1999, and received his commission on August 17, 1999. He took senior status on January 21, 2021.

Notable cases[edit]

Alsup was the presiding judge over Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc.,[5] where he notably was able to comment on issues relating to coding and programming languages, specifically Java. He learned the Java programming language solely for the purpose of being able to understand the case more clearly.[6] However, the Federal Circuit overturned his rejection of the copyrightability of Java API.[7]

Alsup was also the presiding judge in what is believed to be the first trial against the U.S. no-fly policy, which is a list of people who cannot use commercial aircraft in the United States. Regarding the removal of people incorrectly included in the list, he ruled that, "[t]he government's administrative remedies fall short of such relief and do not supply sufficient due process."[8]

In August 2020, Judge Alsup sentenced Anthony Levandowski to 18 months in prison for one count of trade secret theft,[9] for stealing technology from Google's Waymo to found Otto, a self driving startup, then selling it to Uber six months later for $680 million.[10] In May 2017, Judge Alsup had ordered Levandowski to refrain from working on Otto's Lidar and required Uber to disclose its discussions on the technology.[11]

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals[edit]

In September 2017, Judge Alsup was assigned four cases by parties suing to halt President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by Barack Obama.[12] On December 20, the Supreme Court unanimously issued an opinion urging Judge Alsup to consider arguments by the Trump administration that ending DACA was within executive authority and is not reviewable by federal courts.[13]

On January 9, 2018, he granted a temporary injunction halting President Trump's rescission of DACA.[14]

Dismissal of Lawsuit Against ExxonMobil[edit]

On July 27, 2018, Judge Alsup dismissed a lawsuit targeting ExxonMobil on the basis that two California cities, San Francisco and Oakland, could not prove the energy company was responsible for climate change in the state.[15]

Interest in Sierra hiking and history[edit]

Alsup has spent much time in the Sierra Nevada mountains and published a book telling the story of the search for notable mountaineer Walter A Starr, Jr.[16][17]

Awards and recognition[edit]

2013: Tara L. Riedley Barristers Choice Award, Bar Association of San Francisco
2013: Award of recognition from Lewis and Clark Law School.[18]


  1. ^ "Alsup, William [WHA] - United States District Court, Northern District of California". www.cand.uscourts.gov.
  2. ^ Dotinga, William (May 17, 2012). "Oracle & Google Debate Road Map". Courthouse News. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  3. ^ "Supreme Court Historical Society - Journal of Supreme Court History". supremecourthistory.org. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  4. ^ a b "Alsup, William [WHA] | United States District Court, Northern District of California". www.cand.uscourts.gov. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  5. ^ Gershman, Jacob. "Google and Oracle Agree Not to Research Jurors Online Ahead of Major Trial". WSJ. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  6. ^ Garling, Caleb (May 15, 2012). "Oracle Goes for Broke in Court Battle With Google". Wired. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  7. ^ Fed Cir. "Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc.". Act of May 9, 2014 (PDF). Fed Cir. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  8. ^ "U.S. judge rules against government in no-fly challenge". 14 January 2017 – via Reuters.
  9. ^ O'Brien, Sarah (6 August 2020). "Former Uber self-driving car exec sentenced to 18 months in prison". CNN. CNN Business. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  10. ^ Wakabayashi, Daisuke; Isaac, Mike (31 March 2017). "Uber Executive Invokes Fifth Amendment, Seeking to Avoid Potential Charges". The New York Times. p. B5. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  11. ^ Isaac, Mike (16 May 2017). "Uber Engineer Barred From Work on Key Self-Driving Technology, Judge Says". The New York Times. p. B1. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  12. ^ Levine, Dan (2017-09-03). "U.S. judge aims to quickly decide lawsuits over DACA". Reuters. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  13. ^ Liptak, Adam (2017-12-20). "Justices Return Dispute over DACA Documents to Lower Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  14. ^ de Vogue, Arienne (2018-01-10). "Judge blocks Trump administration plan to roll back DACA". CNN. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Case No. C 17-06011/06012 WHA" (PDF). United States District Court. 2018-07-27. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  16. ^ "The Mountains Are Calling: Yosemite, With Federal Judge as Guide". July 18, 2018.
  17. ^ "The American Alpine Journal". 2002.
  18. ^ "United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit 2013 Annual Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-27. Retrieved 2014-12-30.


Legal offices
Preceded by
Thelton Henderson
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California