‘9th Circuit Cowboy’: Movie Event Honors Pregerson Legacy

October 27, 2021
Pictured left to right: Marisa Hernandez-Stern, Jennifer Mnookin, Joanna Schwartz, Terry Sanders, and Dean Pregerson
L to R: Marisa Hernández-Stern ’10, Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin, Professor Joanna Schwartz, director Terry Sanders, and Judge Dean Pregerson gather for an event honoring Judge Harry Pregerson.

Dignitaries from the worlds of law and entertainment convened at UCLA School of Law on Oct. 20 to honor the incredible legacy of Judge Harry Pregerson. The event featured the in-person law school premiere of a documentary movie about Pregerson’s life and jurisprudence, 9th Circuit Cowboy: The Long, Good Fight of Judge Harry Pregerson, and a panel discussion with several of his former clerks.

Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Terry Sanders, 9th Circuit Cowboy presents a broad view of the life of the legendary judge, who died in 2017. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he served for more than a half century on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Through archival footage and interviews with his friends, colleagues, and family members, the movie documents how Pregerson, a UCLA graduate, veteran of World War II, and champion of the rights of veterans and the underprivileged, is celebrated as one of the great proponents of social justice from the bench.

Pregerson’s connections with UCLA Law run deep. The law school is home to the Honorable Harry Pregerson Endowed Chair in Law, which is currently held by Professor Devon Carbado, and several UCLA Law graduates or faculty members clerked for Pregerson throughout the decades.

Two of those former clerks, Professor Joanna Schwartz and alumna Marisa Hernández-Stern ’10, joined in the post-film discussion, which Schwartz moderated. They spoke with Sanders, a UCLA alumnus, and Pregerson’s son, Judge Dean Pregerson, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and also graduated from UCLA. Special guests in the audience included UCLA Law alumnus Michael Waldorf ’67, who was Pregerson’s very first law clerk, as well as Waldorf’s wife, Sherry, and daughter, Rebecca, a current UCLA graduate student who now works in the UCLA Law library.

Hernández-Stern is a deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice, and she spoke about how her commitment to leadership, service, and doing good for others grew out of her clerkship with Harry Pregerson. Others on the panel recalled how the judge was a firm believer in the rule of law but always aimed to achieve the best result through the law for people who deserved justice.

UCLA Law student Christina Boyar ’23 attended the screening and found Harry Pregerson’s story inspiring.

“Seeing how he dedicated his life and career to uplifting people who are so often overlooked or subjugated by the legal system reminded me why I came to law school in the first place: to help people,” she says. “I would love to clerk for someone like Judge Pregerson, where I know my humanity and contributions would be acknowledged and appreciated, and where I would engage with community members who are often not heard in conversations about what the law is and ought to be.”

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