On December 21, 2022, President Biden nominated Mónica Ramírez Almadani for the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Ms. Ramírez Almadani has been the President and CEO of Public Counsel, the largest pro bono public interest law firm in the nation, since 2021. During her career, she has served as a civil rights litigator, a prosecutor and a law school professor.
Mónica Ramírez Almadani was born in Los Angeles, California in 1979. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 2001 and earned her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2004, with a pro bono distinction.
After law school, Ms. Ramírez Almadani clerked for the Honorable Warren J. Ferguson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. From 2005 to 2009, Ms. Ramírez Almadani joined the national American Civil Liberties Union Foundation’s Immigrant’s Rights Project as a staff attorney and an Equal Justice Works Fellow, where her practice focused on complex civil rights and immigration litigation in federal court, including conducting investigations, drafting complaints, motions, and appellate briefs, and arguing before the Ninth Circuit.
From 2009 to 2015, Ms. Ramírez Almadani held various positions at the U.S. Department of Justice. From 2009 to 2011, she served as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, where she provided legal and policy advice on various topics including immigration, education and employment matters. From 2011 to 2012, she was the Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, where she provided legal and policy advice as well as oversaw approximately 25 senior attorneys. From 2012 to 2015, she moved back to Los Angeles to become an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, working in both the General Crimes and Public Corruption and Civil Rights Sections. In 2015, Ms. Ramírez Almadani was appointed Special Assistant Attorney General of California by then-Attorney General Kamala Harris. Her practice included overseeing the California Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and Division of Recidivism Reduction and Reentry.
From 2017 to 2019, Ms. Ramírez Almadani went into private practice at Covington & Burling LLP as a Special Counsel, where she focused on white collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and complex commercial litigation. She also took on pro bono immigration and civil rights-related cases at the trial and appellate level. In 2019, Ms. Ramírez Almadani joined the faculty at University of California, Irvine School of Law as a full-time Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and the Co-Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic. She taught and supervised law students representing indigent clients before federal and state courts, immigration courts, and other administrative agencies in the areas of removal defense, civil rights, and workers’ rights.
In 2021, Ms. Ramírez Almadani became the President and Chief Executive Officer of Public Counsel, the largest public interest law firm in the country, specializing in providing free legal services to underserved communities. She oversees approximately 75 attorneys and 60 other professional and support staff who engage in direct legal services, impact litigation, and policy advocacy work.
The following cases are representative of Ms. Ramírez Almadani’s legal career:
In Lopez et al. v. Town of Cave Creek, AZ et al., Ms. Ramírez Almadani represented a group of day laborers in a First Amendment challenge to a local anti-solicitation ordinance that prohibited them from standing on street corners to solicit work. Typically, a law that bans speech may be constitutional if it is content neutral and does not ban certain categories of speech. Here, the plaintiffs argued the ordinance was unconstitutional because it only banned certain types of solicitation speech. For example, the ordinance prohibited solicitation on the topics of employment, business, or contributions, but it allowed political, religious, artistic and other categories of speech. The district court found that the ordinance was unconstitutional on this basis and that it did not properly further the stated interest of the ordinance, which was to ensure traffic safety. The parties settled the case, permanently eliminating the ordinance.
In United States v. De Spain et al., Ms. Ramírez Almadani prosecuted one of the defendants in a complex narcotics conspiracy case. Mr. Ruiz Sanchez was charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to conduct financial transactions with the intent to promote the unlawful distribution of controlled substances. Law enforcement officers used a wiretap to intercept calls revealing a plan to send a courier to a particular address to pick up the methamphetamine. Police surveilled the house and saw Mr. Sanchez leave with a package. Ms. Ramírez Almadani prosecuted his case at trial and sentencing. The jury found the defendant guilty of possession with intent to distribute, but not of conspiracy. In light of Mr. Sanchez’s extensive criminal history, the district court sentenced him to 25 years in prison. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed both the conviction and the sentence.
In United States v. Ganoe, Mr. Ganoe had been convicted in the Central District of California of receiving and possessing child pornography. Ms. Ramírez Almadani handled the second appeal of the extensive case. The Ninth Circuit originally upheld his conviction and 96-month sentence. However, several years later, the defendant filed a motion to set aside his sentence as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to conduct a proper forensic examination of his computer and for not raising certain arguments during his case. After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the district court denied the motion and the defendant appealed once again. Ms. Ramírez Almadani handled this appeal, reviewing a voluminous record and arguing before the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s determination and the Supreme Court denied certiorari.
In Regents of the Univ. of California v. US. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., Ms. Ramírez Almadani represented the Regents of the University of California and University of California President Napolitano. Her clients sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) in support of UC students who risked losing their ability to live in the United States due to the federal government’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She represented the plaintiffs in both district court and the Ninth Circuit where they alleged that DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) and the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court ruled against the government and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling in June 2020, finding that the government had violated the APA by not following proper procedures in terminating DACA.
In City of Los Angeles v. Barr, Ms. Ramírez Almadani was part of the legal team representing the City of Los Angeles in its challenge to Attorney General Bill Barr’s policy of requiring sanctuary cities end their immigration policies in order to receive federal grant money. The Department of Justice sought to require state and local government recipients of federal grants for criminal justice programs to disclose to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) the release dates of detained undocumented immigrants and grant DHS agents access to detainees upon request. The City argued that the DOJ was acting outside its statutory authority to impose these restrictions on local and state governments. The district court sided with the City and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.
In Bravo-Pedroza v. Gonzales, Ms. Ramírez Almadani represented Mr. Bravo-Pedroza against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) attempt to deport him. Mr. Bravo-Pedroza had been detained for nearly three years before he prevailed in his pro se case and was prepared to be released. Rather than releasing him, DHS brought a new removal against him based on facts that were known to DHS at the time of the first proceeding. Mr. Bravo-Pedroza spent another two years in detention until the Ninth Circuit held that the second proceeding was barred as, in part, a matter of “elementary fairness.” Ms. Ramírez Almadani served as lead counsel in the case and argued that case before the Ninth Circuit.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Ms. Ramírez Almadani has advocated for the rights of underserved communities throughout her career and has been recognized by the legal community for her service. She earned a spot on the National Law Journal’s Pro Bono Hot List recognition in 2018 while she was in private practice. In 2013, she was selected for the Marshall Memorial Fellowship by the German Marshall Fund, a leadership program created to prepare public policy leaders across the globe. Additionally, she received the Attorney of the Year Award by the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers’ Association in 2009.