David O. Carter

The Honorable David O. Carter
Judge for the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Assumed office
October 22, 1998
Nominated by Bill Clinton
Preceded by William J. Rea
Personal details
Born March 28, 1944
Providence, Rhode Island

David O. Carter (born 1944 in Providence, Rhode Island) is a United States District Court Judge for the Central District of California.



Carter is a "Double Bruin," having received both his bachelor's degree (B.A. cum laude 1967) and his law degree (J.D. 1972) from the University of California, Los Angeles.

After graduating from college, Carter accepted a commission in the United States Marine Corps. He was promptly dispatched into service in Vietnam during the Vietnam War where he fought in the Battle of Khe Sahn in 1968. Carter was released as a First Lieutenant following his service in Vietnam. His military awards and decorations include a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Carter began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney with the Orange County District Attorney's Office in 1972 where he became the senior deputy district attorney in charge of the office's homicide division. Carter filed charges and was the initial prosecutor in the case of serial killer William Bonin, also known as "The Freeway Killer," who became the first person executed by lethal injection in California in 1996.

In addition to his judicial functions, Carter has lectured fellow judges at the California Judges College, the Judicial Criminal Law Institute, and the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. He also speaks frequently with judges abroad, including engagements in Brazil, Bosnia, China, the Philippines, and Malawi. Carter also teaches an undergraduate course on international narcotics trade at the University of California, Irvine, where he has received the school's Distinguished Professors Award three times, and has taught at Whittier Law School's Summer Abroad Program.

Judicial career

Orange County Superior Court

In 1981, Carter joined the bench as a Municipal Court Judge in Orange County, California. One year later, he became an Orange County Superior Judge, a position that he held until joining the federal judiciary in 1998. Carter initiated a variety of programs to assist in the rehabilitation of convicted felons, including a tattoo removal program for gang members, and was active in planning the county's Law Day festivities. He earned the nickname "King David" from attorneys while serving as the Supervising Judge of the court's Criminal Division.

United States District Court

Carter was nominated by President Bill Clinton on June 25, 1998 to fill a seat vacated by William J. Rea. Carter was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 21, 1998, and received his commission the following day.[1] He now sits in the Southern Division of the Central District of California in Santa Ana, California.[2]

As a jurist, Carter is known for his intellect, courteous judicial demeanor, work ethic, and expertise in complex criminal cases.[3] Although he is assigned to the Central District of California, Carter also regularly sits by designation in the District of Idaho and on occasion in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and in the District of Guam.

Notable cases

Gay-Straight Alliance (Colin ex rel. Colin v. Orange Unified School District)

In the first ruling of its kind, Carter issued a preliminary injunction in 2000 ordering Orange County public school officials to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance club organized by students to meet on campus. Carter held that the Equal Access Act requires a public high school, which accepts federal funding and establishes a limited open forum for non-curriculum-related student groups, to allow a student group promoting homosexual tolerance for to meet on campus.[4]

The case settled after Carter issued the injunction when the school board agreed to recognize the Gay-Straight Alliance organization. Although the case was politically controversial, Orange County School Board member Linda Davis later admitted at a board meeting on November 18, 2000 that Carter's legal ruling was correct: "We know the law is on their side, but our community members don't want it."[5]

Mexican Mafia Trials (United States v. Fernandez, et al.)

Between 2000 and 2001, Carter presided over the longest criminal trial in the history of the Central District of California.[6] This case involved the prosecution of more than forty alleged members of the Mexican Mafia on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, extortion, robbery, and various drug trafficking and firearms crimes. Much of the case involved a triple homicide that occurred in 1998.[7]

The case was severed into three trials, with Carter presiding over each, and lasted for a combined 18 months. Following the conviction of Mariano "Chuy" Martinez on murder charges, the prosecution sought the death penalty, making it the first capital case to be tried in Los Angeles federal court since 1950.[8] A jury ultimately spared Martinez, sentencing him instead to life imprisonment.

Anna Nicole Smith (In re Marshall)

In 2002, Carter awarded over $88 million in damages to former Playboy Playmate Vickie Lynn Marshall, better known as Anna Nicole Smith, in the battle over the estate of her late husband, billionaire J. Howard Marshall. The case came to Carter on appeal following a federal bankruptcy court ruling that awarded Smith $475 million of her late husband's $1.6 billion fortune.

Carter ultimately concluded that Howard's son, E. Pierce Marshall, interfered with Smith's attempts to collect her inheritance. "The evidence of willfulness, maliciousness, and fraud is overwhelming," Carter wrote in his 54-page opinion.[9] Upon finding that Smith had a reasonable expectation that she would receive a portion of her husband's estate without interference, Carter held that Smith was entitled to collect $44.3 million in punitive damages and $44.3 million in compensatory damages against Pierce Marshall.[10]

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Carter's order on the grounds that he lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because federal jurisdiction interfered with Texas probate court proceedings.[11] The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Ninth Circuit, concluding in a unanimous opinion that Carter properly exercised jurisdiction over Smith's claim and remanded the case for further proceedings.[12] However, on remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit determined that Carter should have deferred to the earlier decision of the Texas probate court, and directed Carter to enter judgment for Marshall.[13]

Aryan Brotherhood Trials (United States v. Mills, et al.)

Carter has been heavily involved in the proceedings arising from the 2002 indictment on racketeering charges of forty alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood ("AB"), a notorious prison gang.[14] This indictment alleges that the AB ordered thirty-two murders over a 23-year period and charges forty-one AB gang members and associates with violations of the federal RICO Act.[15] Twenty-six defendants were eligible for the death penalty, making this the largest capital indictment in federal history.[16]

Twenty of the defendants charged in the indictment were assigned to Carter, including two of the three commissioners of the AB's federal faction, Barry "The Baron" Mills and Tyler "The Hulk" Bingham. Following a six-month trial, a jury convicted both Mills and Bingham of committing Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) and murder. The jury deadlocked on the death penalty,[17] and both have been sentenced and are now serving life terms at ADX Florence, the federal system's sole supermax facility.

The trials of several remaining defendants are currently ongoing before Carter and other judges in the Central District of California.

Barnett v. Obama

In 2009, Carter dismissed a lawsuit, Barnett v. Obama, challenging President Barack Obama's election and assumption of office because of the claims that Obama was not a natural born citizen of the United States, commenting that the power to remove a sitting president from office resides with Congress, not the judiciary.[18][19]

See also


  1. ^ Federal Judicial Center, David O. Carter, http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=2792, retrieved 2007-06-22 
  2. ^ Judges' Procedures and Schedules: Hon. David O. Carter, FJC, http://www.cacd.uscourts.gov/CACD/JudgeReq.nsf/2fb080863c88ab47882567c9007fa070/dc1584b494060ea78825681900830a52?OpenDocument, retrieved 2007-06-22 
  3. ^ Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, New York: Aspen Law & Business, 2006 
  4. ^ Colin ex rel. Colin v. Orange Unified School District, 83 F. Supp. 2d 1135 (C.D. Cal. 2000).
  5. ^ Dowling-Sendor, Benjamin (July 2000), "Equal Access Means Equal", American School Board Journal, http://www.asbj.com/2000/07/0700schoollaw.html [dead link]
  6. ^ United States v. Fernandez, et al., 172 F. Supp. 2d 1252 (C.D. Cal. 2001).
  7. ^ Rosenzweig, David (November 10, 2001), "Jury Convicts 3, Clears 2 in Mexican Mafia Case", Los Angeles Times 
  8. ^ Rosenzweig, David (February 15, 2001), "Mexican Mafia Figure Convicted of 3 Murders", Los Angeles Times 
  9. ^ In re Marshall, 275 B.R. 5, 57 (C.D. Cal. 2002).
  10. ^ Hylton, Hilary (February 16, 2007), "Anna Nicole Smith's Legal Afterlife", Time, http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1591324,00.html 
  11. ^ In re Marshall, 392 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2004).
  12. ^ Marshall v. Marshall, 547 U.S. 293 (U.S. 2006).
  13. ^ In re Marshall, 600 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2010).
  14. ^ McDonald, John (March 13, 2006), "Members of Prison Gang Go on Trial", Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1044490.php 
  15. ^ United States v. Barry Byron Mills, et al., CR 02-0938 (C.D. Cal. 2002).
  16. ^ Duersten, Matthew (February 3, 2005), "Who'll Stop the Reign?", LA Weekly, http://www.laweekly.com/general/features/wholl-stop-the-reign/968/ 
  17. ^ Associated Press (September 15, 2006), "2 Aryan Inmates Spared Death Penalty", CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/09/15/national/main2015400.shtml 
  18. ^ LA Times: 'Birthers' lawsuit challenging Obama's election is dismissed
  19. ^ Ballot Access News: Alan Keyes Loses Lawsuit on Presidential Qualifications

External links

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