Note: Judgepedia will be read-only from 9pm CST on February 25-March 2 while Judgepedia is merged into Ballotpedia.
Starting on March 2, all Judgepedia content will be contained on For status updates, visit

Susan Illston

From Judgepedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Susan Illston
Placeholder image.png
Do you have a photo that could go here? Submit it for this profile by emailing us!
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #2
Appointed by:   Bill Clinton
Active:   5/26/1995 - 7/1/2013
Senior:   7/1/2013 - Present
Preceded by:   Barbara Caulfield
Succeeded by:   Vince Girdhari Chhabria
Personal History
Born:   1948
Hometown:   Tokyo, Japan
Undergraduate:   Duke U., B.A., 1970
Law School:   Stanford Law School, J.D., 1973

Susan Yvonne Illston is a federal judge serving on senior status for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. She joined the court in 1995 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. At the time of her nomination, she was a private practice attorney. She assumed senior status in July of 2013.[1]

Early life and education

Born in Japan, Illston graduated from Duke University with her bachelor's degree in 1970 and graduated from Stanford Law School with her Juris Doctor degree in 1973.[1]

Professional career

Illston spent her entire pre-judicial legal career as a private practice attorney licensed in the State of California from 1973 to 1995.[1]

Judicial career

Northern District of California

On the unanimous recommendation of U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstien, Illston was nominated by President Bill Clinton on January 23, 1995 to a seat vacated by Barbara Caulfield. Illston was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 25, 1995 on a majority voice vote and received her commission on May 26, 1995.[1][2] On July 1, 2013, Judge Susan Illston assumed senior status for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, where she had served for over 18 years.[3]

Notable cases

Attorneys' fees granted in case of cop who shot woman 12 times (2013)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (A.D., et al v. State of California Highway Patrol, et al, 3:07-cv-05483-SI)

On November 27, 2013, Judge Illston awarded nearly $1 million in attorneys' fees to the children of a woman who was shot 12 times by a police officer without a "legitimate law enforcement objective." In March 2006, Karen Eklund stole a car and led police on a high-speed chase before ramming the stolen vehicle into a police car. California Highway Police officer Stephen Markgraf was the only one to open fire, emptying his weapon into the side of the stolen car, killing Eklund. Eklund's daughters, minors at the time, filed a wrongful death suit, and a jury awarded them $30,000 each in damages. The Ninth Circuit later overturned that jury verdict in April 2011 based on Markgraf's qualified immunity defense, meaning that as a state official, he was shielded from liability because he was performing the discretionary functions of his job. At that time, the court also vacated the children's award of attorneys' fees. The court's qualified immunity ruling was withdrawn one year later, in April 2012. In April 2013, the federal appeals court reconsidered the case and decided that Markgraf was not immune to the allegations levied against him because he "acted with the purpose to harm unrelated to a legitimate law enforcement objective." Markgraf attempted to further appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court, but his writ of certiorari was rejected in October 2013. The next month, Judge Illston awarded Eklund's daughters approximately $908,961 in attorneys' fees and expenses ($559,861 for the lower court trial, $288,080 for the various appeals to the Ninth Circuit, and $57,428 for the fee petition).[4][5][6][7]

Samsung anti-trust case (2010-2012)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (IN RE TFT-LCD (FLAT PANEL) ANTITRUST LITIGATION, Nos. M 07-1827 SI, 1827)

On March 29, 2010, Judge Illston authorized a class-action lawsuit against nine television makers over allegations of price fixing. The lawsuit was filed by a group of direct buyers who bought the televisions made by the two companies from 1999 to 2006. As part of the certification, customers in 22 other states and the District of Columbia could join in the lawsuit.[8] In October 2012, it was announced that the manufacturers did participate in price fixing on LCD flat-panel screen televisions. The television makers agreed to a $1.1 billion settlement which directly refunded consumers who were affected by the scheme.[9]

Controversial dog ruling (2012)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Mittich, et al. v. City of Fremont, et al., Nos. C 12-4333 SI)

In August 2012, Judge Illston was criticized by animal rights supporters for this decision, in which she denied a temporarily restraining order to prevent putting a dog down. The dog was labeled a "dangerous dog" after biting a nine-year old at the owners' home. According the plaintiffs, under the Hayden Act, the dog (and owners) should be entitled to an administrative hearing prior to being labeled as such, and be held for 72 hours in a shelter before being killed.[10] Instead, Judge Illston declared that the previous owners no longer had standing in the case, since after the incident ownership was transferred to the City of Fremont. With no standing, the temporary restraining order was denied and the dog was put down.[11]

California desert case (2009)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Center for Biological Diversity, et al. vs. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. C 06-4884 SI)

On September 29, 2009, Judge Illston ruled against a land management plan by the US Bureau of Land Management for a California desert. Judge Illston found that a plan to designate 5,000 miles of the West Mojave desert for off-road vehicle use did not take into account environmental impacts towards the desert.[12]

Barry Bonds trial (2009)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of California (USA v. Bonds, 3:07-cr-00732-SI)

Judge Illston was the presiding trial judge in the trial of baseball legend Barry Bonds. Bonds faced trial in Judge Illston's courtroom on March 2, 2009. On November 16, 2007, Bonds was indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice during testimony involving BALCO in which Victor Conte and former San Francisco Giants trainer Greg Anderson were convicted on steroid trafficking charges. During the criminal investigation leading up to the grand jury indictment, evidence was obtained that included positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes that have been implicated by the scandal.[13]

Bonds faced charges on four counts of perjury and one count of obstructing justice, which together carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail.[14][15]

In the end, Judge Illston ruled a mistrial on three charges that Bonds made false statements, and Bonds was only charged with one count of obstruction of justice.[16]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Barbara Caulfield
Northern District of California
Seat #2
Succeeded by:
Vince Girdhari Chhabria

CaliforniaCalifornia Supreme CourtCalifornia Courts of AppealCalifornia Superior CourtsUnited States District Court for the Central District of CaliforniaUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of CaliforniaUnited States District Court for the Northern District of CaliforniaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of CaliforniaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitCalifornia countiesCalifornia judicial newsCalifornia judicial electionsJudicial selection in CaliforniaCaliforniaTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg