Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced the Senate has confirmed Cynthia Ann Bashant to be a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of California, headquartered in San Diego. Senator Feinstein recommended Bashant to the White House for this position last year.

“I am very pleased that Cynthia Bashant, whom I recommended to President Obama, has been confirmed by the Senate,” Feinstein said. “She is a seasoned trial judge, former federal prosecutor and a real leader in the San Diego legal community. She is a perfect fit for this position, and I think she will be superb.”

Judge Cynthia Bashant earned her bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1982 and her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1986. She spent three years in private practice before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego in 1989, where she rose to become deputy chief of the Narcotics Unit and chief of the Border Crimes Unit.

Bashant received numerous awards and commendations for her service as a prosecutor. In 2000, Bashant was appointed to the San Diego Superior Court by Governor Gray Davis. She also served as presiding judge of the Juvenile Court in San Diego. Bashant has also been active in her community, including serving as president of the Lawyers Club of San Diego.

The Southern District of California has an extraordinarily high criminal caseload because of its location along the border. In particular, the Southern District has averaged over 450 criminal felony filings per judgeship per year over the last four years. Currently, the Southern District’s criminal caseload is the third-highest per judgeship in the nation and over three times the national average.

Following are Senator Feinstein’s remarks on Judge Bashant that were entered into the Congressional Record:

“As my colleagues know, I recommend candidates to the President through a bipartisan judicial selection process. Judge Bashant excelled in this process, earning my recommendation to President Obama.

I am confident she will do an outstanding job on the federal bench.

She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Smith College in 1982 and her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1986.

She spent three years practicing civil litigation at the law firm MacDonald Halsted & Layborne, which later became part of the firm Baker & McKenzie.

In 1989, she joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, where she tried at least 15 cases in Federal court.

Judge Bashant served as Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Unit in San Diego from 1995 to 1997, and then as Chief of the Border Crimes Unit from 1997 to 1998.

During her prosecutorial career, she prosecuted numerous important cases. One was a major drug trafficking case that involved: the Sinaloa drug cartel; a 1,600-foot tunnel under the Southern Border; 23 defendants; and wiretaps in Chicago, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

She prosecuted an individual who robbed more than 20 banks, a local record in San Diego at the time.

Just after the Violence Against Women Act passed in 1994, Judge Bashant prosecuted the first federal domestic violence case in the Southern District of California and one of the first in the nation.

The defendant was accused of luring his wife, who had just filed for divorce, into their car, after which he took her to Mexico against her will, beat her black and blue, and cut off all of her hair. The defendant pleaded guilty to violating a provision of VAWA designed to criminalize precisely this sort of conduct.

In one of her other cases, the defendant was a human smuggler. To avoid a checkpoint, he led a large group of undocumented immigrants across the Interstate 5 freeway on foot. The group included a mother and her six children, ranging in age from six to fifteen years old.

The six-year old boy was killed by oncoming traffic in front of his mother. The smuggler simply left the mother and her five other children by the side of the road.

In preparation for trial, Judge Bashant met extensively with the mother, who understandably was distraught and afraid to testify. Judge Bashant and the mother’s sister helped the mother be ready to testify against the smuggler.

Ultimately, Judge Bashant secured a guilty plea from the defendant, and the Court imposed several sentencing enhancements on him.

For her work on this case, Judge Bashant won the Justice Department’s “Victim-Witness Award.”

She also won numerous other DOJ awards, including the Director’s Award for Superior Performance and special commendations six years in a row.

In 2000, Judge Bashant was appointed to the San Diego Superior Court.

As a judge, she has presided over more than one thousand cases that have gone to verdict or judgment – including more than 100 criminal jury trials.

She has been a leader on the Superior Court, as well as in the San Diego community. Most recently, she was Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court from 2009 to 2012.

In 2012, the San Diego Juvenile Justice Commission named her “Judge of the Year.”

She served as Chair of the San Diego Commission on Children, Youth, and Families, which advises the County Board of Supervisors on issues affecting family well-being.

She served on the San Diego County Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council as well.

She also has served as President and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Lawyers Club of San Diego – a highly respected organization that works to promote gender equality in the legal profession.

She also has served on the Board of the Children’s Initiative of San Diego, which was established in 1992 to advocate for effective policies to support the health and well-being of children, youth, and families in San Diego.

Simply put, Judge Bashant is a perfect fit for this position. She has experience in private practice. She spent 11 years as a federal prosecutor in San Diego. And, she has been running her own courtroom for 13 years.

I have no doubt she will hit the ground running on the Southern District, which has the third-greatest criminal caseload per judgeship in the nation.

And beyond her qualifications and experience, Judge Bashant clearly is an outstanding woman and a real leader. As one of her judicial colleagues told my judicial selection committee, Judge Bashant is “an energetic, smart, really impressive hard worker who ‘really cares.’ ”

So, I am very proud to have recommended Judge Bashant to the President, and I urge my colleagues to support her nomination.”