Terry Sander’s new documentary, 9th Circuit Cowboy, is a profile of the late 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge Harry Pregerson.
The film’s opening montage includes a clip from The Colbert Report’s The Word segment. This segment is just one of a few to open the film, which is too short at 53-54 minutes in length. But this is just one small part in a larger story.
A brief history of Judge Pregerson: he died after serving over 50 years as a judge. Most people know him because of his work as a judge for one of the most liberal court of appeals in the United States. It’s the same appeals court where Trump fought for his Muslim travel ban. To nobody’s surprise, Judge Pregerson ruled against this xenophobic travel ban.
Pregerson was no stranger to anti-Semitism during his college years. During WWII, he would serve in the Pacific theater. After the war is when Harry would make his mark. He would start out as a lawyer in 1951 before becoming a Municipal Court judge in 1965 and then a Superior Court judge in 1967. President Lyndon Johnson nominated Judge Pregerson for a new seat on the United States District Court for the Central District of California in late 1967. Twelve years later, President Jimmy Carter would nominate him for a new seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Pregerson stressed before the Senate confirmation hearings in 1979 that he would follow his conscience while serving as a judge. Ultimately, this job would be the final job before his passing at the age of 94 in 2017.
Sanders frames the documentary through Judge Pregerson’s funeral at the Shrine Auditorium. His children, Katie and Dean, are among those who deliver eulogies at the funeral. Dean would follow his father’s footsteps and currently serves as a District Court judge.
Despite its short running time, 9th Circuit Cowboy celebrates a judge who wasn’t afraid to follow his conscience.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Terry Sanders