Eastern District of California

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California is a federal court with jurisdiction over several counties in central and northern California. Based in Sacramento and Fresno, it plays an important role in the federal judiciary in California. This article will provide an overview of the court’s history, jurisdiction, facilities, judges, staff, and notable cases.

History and Formation

Early History and Creation

The Eastern District of California has its origins in the federal court system created for California upon statehood in 1850. In 1966, the Eastern District was formally established based on a division of the Northern and Southern Districts. It initially spanned 34 counties in California.

Changes Over Time

Over the years, various counties have shifted between the Eastern District and other California districts based on changing caseloads and populations. The Eastern District now covers 23 counties spanning from the Oregon border to inland sections of Central California.

Jurisdiction and Caseload

Geographic Jurisdiction

The Eastern District of California has jurisdiction over 23 counties in California, including major cities like Sacramento, Fresno and Bakersfield. It covers some of the most sparsely populated parts of California, as well as major agricultural regions.

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Types of Cases Heard

Like all federal district courts, the Eastern District of California hears both civil and criminal cases that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes cases involving federal laws, the U.S. government, or diversity jurisdiction. Major types of cases include criminal cases, civil rights cases, bankruptcy filings, patent cases, and environmental lawsuits.

District Divisions

The Eastern District of California has two main court divisions – one based in Sacramento and the other in Fresno.

Sacramento Division

The Sacramento Division covers 15 northern counties in the district. It holds court at the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse. This division has four district judges.

Fresno Division

The Fresno Division spans 8 central California counties, including the city of Fresno. It utilizes courtroom space in the Fresno County Courthouse. Four district judges preside over this division.

Courthouses and Facilities

The Eastern District utilizes two main federal buildings for its Sacramento and Fresno courthouses.

Robert T. Matsui Courthouse

Located in downtown Sacramento, this courthouse opened in 2003 and houses the courtrooms and offices for the Sacramento-based district judges and staff. It was named after Congressman Robert Matsui.

Other Facilities

Court is also held in facilities such as the Fresno County Courthouse due to the limited space in the Sacramento and Fresno federal courthouses. Visiting judges may also hold proceedings in other cities.

Judges and Staff

There are currently eight federal district judges who serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Current Judges

The active district judges are Morrison C. England Jr., John A. Mendez, Troy L. Nunley, Dale A. Drozd, Kimberly J. Mueller, William B. Shubb, Lawrence J. O’Neill, and Sheila K. Oberto.

See also  Rockland County Supreme Court

Former Judges

Over the years, notable judges have included Lawrence K. Karlton, Anthony W. Ishii, Oliver W. Wanger, Robert E. Coyle, Milton L. Schwartz, and Sherrill Halbert.

U.S. Attorney’s Office

The U.S. Attorney’s Office represents the United States in cases before the court. The current Acting U.S. Attorney is Phillip Talbert.

U.S. Marshals Service

The U.S. Marshals provide security for the court. There is no current U.S. Marshal appointed.

Notable Cases

The Eastern District has handled many high-profile cases over the years.

Environmental Cases

The court has decided many cases involving environmental issues like water rights and endangered species protections critical to California.

Civil Rights Cases

Important civil rights cases include Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which found California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

Criminal Cases

The court handles major federal criminal cases, including drug trafficking, fraud, and corruption cases. This has included the prosecution of state lawmakers like Leland Yee.


For over 50 years, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has served the people of central and northern California. Its Sacramento and Fresno divisions and judges handle important federal cases that impact many Californians. The court has shaped history through its decisions and continues to administer justice today.


What are the two main courthouses of the Eastern District of California?

The main courthouses are the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse in Sacramento and courtrooms in the Fresno County Courthouse.

How many judges serve on the Eastern District Court?

There are currently eight federal district judges across the Eastern District’s two divisions.

See also  Beltrami County District Court

What types of cases does the court handle?

It hears a wide range of civil and criminal federal cases, including environmental lawsuits, civil rights claims, criminal prosecutions, bankruptcy filings, and more.

When was the Eastern District established?

It was officially established in 1966 based on a division of the Northern and Southern California District Courts.

What counties are covered by the Eastern District?

It has jurisdiction over 23 counties spanning northern and central California, including Sacramento and Fresno.

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