I want to live my life so that this world is a better place when I leave it than when I came. I believe very strongly that one person can make a monumental difference in this world and in their life time.
Judge Harry Pregerson was one such man. I never had the privilege of meeting judge Pregerson but am privileged to be directly impacted by who he was and what he did. I work with Century Villages at Cabrillo, an amazing community and organization devoted to helping others in numerous ways who you can learn more about here. It is because of judge Pregerson that CVC exist and they are able to do the work they do. I wanted to share the Obituary written about judge Pregerson.
A common question asked of people is who do you admire or who would you aspire to be like. I can confidently say, Judge Pregerson. I want to change the world and make it a better place, like him. Without further ado, the obituary…..
Liberal L.A.-based jurist embraced the underdog
‘HE WAS FULL OF LOVE’Harry Pregerson poses next to photos of the 136 law clerks
who worked for him during his career. (Patrick T. Fallon For The Times)
BY MAURA DOLAN
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, a Los Angeles-based jurist who
embraced the underdog and let his conscience inform his rulings, has died. He was 94.
Pregerson, who was suffering from respiratory ailments, died Saturday night at his
Woodland Hills home surrounded by family, said Sharon Pregerson, his daughter-in-law.
A few nights earlier, with his health seriously failing, he turned to his wife, Bernardine, and expressed a regret. “ ‘The hard thing is that I don’t have strength anymore to help people,’ ” recounted U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson, Harry’s son.
“He was full of love,” Sharon Pregerson said. “He helped so many people. That was his
mission. That’s why he got up every morning.” Pregerson, born in Los Angeles on Oct. 13, 1923, was one of the most liberal federal appeals court judges in the nation.
He grew up in East Los Angeles, served as a Marine in World War II and suffered severe
wounds in the Battle of Okinawa. He later graduated from UCLA and obtained his law
degree from UC Berkeley. Dubbed a “thug for the Lord” by one attorney, Pregerson was relentless in his efforts away from the bench to help the poor in Los Angeles.
He worked to establish several homeless shelters and volunteered at one each
Thanksgiving. Dr. Katie Rodan, Pregerson’s daughter, said that she nicknamed her dad “the rescue machine” when she was a teenager. “He wants to save everyone,” she said in a 2015 interview. “He wants to save the world.”
On the bench, Pregerson was often controversial. He stirred criticism when he refused to
follow a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding California’s tough three-strikes
sentencing law. Not long after the court’s decision, Pregerson dissented in rulings that
upheld life sentences, some for relatively minor crimes. His dissents were seen by some critics as insubordination, but Pregerson was frank about putting his conscience first.
“My conscience is a product of the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights, the Boy Scout
Oath and the Marine Corps Hymn,” the Carter appointee said during his Senate
confirmation hearing. “If I had to follow my conscience or the law, I would follow my
Pregerson also was viewed by some as a federalist, a label most often worn by
conservatives and libertarians. He favored restraints on the power of the federal government and wrote a decision saying federal authorities lacked authority to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the decision. “His was a jurisprudence that was really based on the recognition of the dignity of every person,” said UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.
“For him the law was much less about abstractions and much more about what it would
mean in people’s lives,” Chemerinsky said. Pregerson took senior status in 2015 at the age of 92 after 36 years on the 9th Circuit. The move reduced his workload, but he made it reluctantly, at his wife’s urging. “You know, at 92 you are not 82,” the judge said in an interview at the time. “You slow down a bit and need a little more rest.”
The injuries he suffered in the war also were hobbling him. He needed two ski poles to
help him walk. He told The Times he viewed the bench as a way to improve the lives of others. “I looked upon being a judge as a chance to help as many people as I could through the law,” he said. “And it has given me that opportunity, no doubt about that.”
A public square, a freeway interchange and a child-care center in L.A. bear Pregerson’s
name. In response to a lawsuit when he was a lower court judge, Pregerson prevented
construction of the 105 Freeway until construction jobs were set aside for women and
minorities and a training program was in place to give them the needed skills. The settlement he helped write also ensured that affordable housing was built for
residents displaced by the project. Civil rights lawyer Paul L. Hoffman, who teaches international human rights law at UC Irvine and Harvard University, called Pregerson “one of a kind.” “He was so committed to social justice,” Hoffman said. Christopher David Ruiz Cameron, a law professor at Southwestern Law School and a trustee of the Mexican American Bar Foundation, said Pregerson lived most of his life on the Westside and in the West Valley, “but his soul remained in the working-class Mexican American community of East L.A. where he grew up.”
“Harry never forgot his roots,” Cameron said. “He identified with the struggles of
Chicanos and practically considered himself one of us.” The son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Pregerson made his home in Woodland Hills, where he and Bernardine raised their two children, Katie and Dean. Two years before taking a reduced workload, the elder Pregerson lost his grandson, David, Dean’s son, in a hit-and-run. The elder Pregerson said the family would never get over it. He recalled that his father, a postal worker who fought in the trenches in World War I, told him life was a battlefield.
“You never know when you will get hit,” the judge said. Pregerson remained close to his adult children and grandchildren throughout his life. When Rodan was 12, her mother decided she was bored at home and wanted to go back to school full time to receive a graduate degree in microbiology. She expected the judge to assume the domestic duties, Rodan recalled. “He was a typical 1960s man,” she said. “He came home late from work and expected to have the dinner on the table.” Suddenly, he was taking her to ballet and running errands. But he couldn’t cook, and she said they ate dinner at restaurants. She called those years “a gift.” “He told me, ‘When you grow up, be your own boss and make your own money. Don’t rely on a man to support you. You don’t know what life is going to deal you.’ ” Rodan, a dermatologist, took his advice and started highly successful skin-care companies. Besides his wife and two children, Pregerson is survived by son-in-law Amnon Rodan, daughter-in-law Sharon, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Thanks for reading my brain splatter and this article by Maura Dolan at the LA Times. I only hope one day, I can make this kind of a difference.
Have an amazing night 😀