WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA) — Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a Los Angeles-based jurist regarded as one of the nation’s most liberal federal appeals court judges, died this weekend at his home in Woodland Hills, it was reported Monday. He was 94.
Pregerson was a jurist who embraced the underdog and let his conscience inform his rulings, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was suffering from respiratory ailments and died at home Saturday night, surrounded by family, Sharon Pregerson, his daughter-in-law, told the newspaper.
Pregerson was the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. He was born in Los Angeles on Oct. 13, 1923. Pregerson was one of the most liberal federal appeals court judges in the nation, according to The Times. 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.
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, according to The Times.
His dissents were seen by some critics as insubordination. 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,” Pregerson, a Jimmy Carter appointee, said during his Senate confirmation hearing. “If I had to follow my conscience or the law, I would follow my conscience.”
Besides his wife and two children, Pregerson is survived by a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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