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Cormac Carney

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Cormac Carney
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Central District of California
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #3
Appointed by:   George W. Bush
Active:   04/09/2003 - Present
Preceded by:   Carlos R. Moreno
Past post:   Judge, Orange County Superior Court
Past term:   2001 - 2003
Past post 2:   Attorney in private practice, law firms of Latham & Watkins and O'Melveny & Myers
Past term 2:   1987 - 2001
Personal History
Born:   1959
Hometown:   Detroit, MI
Undergraduate:   University of California-Los Angeles, 1983
Law School:   Harvard Law School, 1987
Military service:   U.S. Air Force, 1979 - 1983

Cormac J. Carney is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Central District of California. He joined the court in 2003 after being nominated by President George W. Bush.[1]


Born in Detroit, Michigan, Carney graduated from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) with his B.A. in 1983, and later graduated from Harvard Law School with his J.D. in 1987. Carney served in the United States Air Force from 1979 to 1983.[1]

Carney was a football star while at UCLA as the team's all-time leading receiver. After college, he made an attempt for a pro career which did not pan out.[2]

Professional career

Carney was a private practice attorney in the State of California with the firms Latham & Watkins and O'Melveny & Myers from 1987 to 2001. In 2001, California Governor Gray Davis appointed him as a judge of the Orange County Superior Court from 2001 to 2003.[1][2]

Judicial career

Central District of California

Carney was nominated to the United States District Court for the Central District of California by President George W. Bush on January 7, 2003. Carney was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 7, 2003, on a Senate vote and received his commission on April 9, 2003.[3]

Notable cases

California's death penalty ruled unconstitutional (2014)

     United States District Court for the Central District of California (Jones v. Chappell, 2:09-cv-02158-CJC)

On July 16, 2014, Judge Carney ruled that California's death penalty system violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and was therefore unconstitutional. He also found that executions following the California system's inherent delays would "serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and [would] be arbitrary."[4][5]

In the underlying case, plaintiff Ernest Dewayne Jones was sentenced to death on April 7, 1995, yet lived on California's Death Row awaiting his eventual execution for almost twenty years. In Jones's case, it took four years for an attorney to be appointed to represent him in his direct appeal to the California Supreme Court in 1999. Four years later, in 2003, that court affirmed Jones's conviction. Jones then applied to the Supreme Court of the United States for certiorari, which was later denied in 2003. Jones's state habeas corpus attorney was appointed in 2000, five years after he was sentenced to death. Two years later, in 2002, his state habeas attorney filed Jones's petition. The California Supreme Court denied that petition six and a half years later, in 2009. In 2010, Jones filed a federal habeas petition, and briefing on the case was completed in January 2014. In April 2014, Jones amended the petition to expand upon his claims of unconstitutional delay in California's administration of its death penalty system. Jones's timeline of events and his allegations of unconstitutional delay are what brought about Judge Carney's finding.[6]

In his opinion, Judge Carney noted that California's death penalty system was "so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay" that the average review process took about 25 years. Judge Carney further pointed out that more prisoners on California's Death Row died of natural causes while awaiting their execution than were actually executed by the State. Since 1978, just thirteen out of the more than 900 who have lived on Death Row who were sentenced to death were executed.[4][5] In view of these facts, Judge Carney went on to write:

For all practical purposes then, a sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment with the remote possibility of death—a sentence no rational legislature or jury could ever impose.[7]

Judge Carney concluded his opinion by stating that California's continued delays "resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose," and that "[s]uch a system is unconstitutional." Judge Carney then vacated Jones's death sentence.[4][5]

Economic espionage case (2009)

     U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (USA v. Dongfan Chung, 8:08-cr-00024-CJC-1)

In 2009, Judge Carney presided over the trial of a Chinese-born engineer who was charged with stealing trade secrets critical to the U.S. space program.[8]

Dongfan "Greg" Chung was found guilty on July 14, 2009 on six counts of economic espionage and other charges, including hoarding 300,000 pages of sensitive documents in his home. The charges included that Chung destroyed information about a U.S. space shuttle and a booster rocket.[8]

Chung was a space engineer for Boeing and used to work for Rockwell Automation. During the investigation, federal investigators found papers in Chung's home that included top-secret information about a fueling system for a booster rocket. It was against company policy for Boeing employees to take sensitive documents home. The documents that investigators found were part of Boeing's $50 million investment for the booster rocket system.[8]

Chung was the first person convicted under The Economic Espionage Act of 1996. The 1996 law was created to help the government crack down on stolen information from private companies that contracted with the federal government. The law applied to contractors that provided technology services for the U.S. space and military programs.[8]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Carlos R. Moreno
Central District of California
Seat #3
Succeeded by:

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