David Carter ’67, J.D. ’72

2013 Public Service Award

The Honorable David Carter has led a life devoted to public service. Before beginning his legal career, Carter enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam in 1967. He was released from the Marine Corps as a first lieutenant, after being honored with both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his service and dedication. While hospitalized, then 1st Lt. Carter helped found a patient-care coordination program for military personnel at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California.

Carter was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998 to the United States District Court, where he sits today in the Southern Division of the Central District of California. He also regularly sits by designation in other courts, such as in the District of Idaho, the District of Guam and the District of the Northern Mariana Islands. He has also sat by designation on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As a judge, Carter is known for his intellect, courteous judicial demeanor and innovation. He initiated a variety of programs to help felons and other criminals in their rehabilitation process, including a tattoo removal program for gang members and a community service program that has been widely adopted today. Previously, as a superior court judge, Carter was known for supporting rehabilitative and educational alternatives to jail time for juvenile offenders, and for allowing indigent offenders to do community service if they could not afford to pay restitution.

In addition to his own legal career in the United States, Carter is eager to support the growing legal systems of other countries. He has advised fellow judges, as well as prosecutors and defense counsels at The Hague, as well as in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brazil, Bosnia, China, Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, Algeria, Malawi, Mexico and the Philippines. As part of his extensive work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Judge Carter is a co-founder of a Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform that is dedicated to improving human rights, and in particular women’s rights, along the Afghan-Pakistan border. One of the flagship programs of the PPP brings female lawyers and law students from Afghanistan to study at United States law school LLM programs. He is currently serving as a key counterterrorism expert for the United Nations in South Asia, leading a program that brings together judicial officers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and elsewhere to improve counterterrorism efforts in the region.

Carter is also respected for the expertise he brings to complex criminal and civil cases. These cases include the Mexican Mafia Trials (the longest criminal trial in the history of the Central District of California, in which over 40 members were charged); the Aryan Brotherhood Trials (the largest capital indictment in federal history, in which 26 defendants were charged with 32 different murders); federal court litigation over model Anna Nicole Smith’s inheritance share of a $1.6 billion estate; and litigation in which citizens challenged the legitimacy of the birth certificate of President Barack Obama.

As an educator, Carter teaches an undergraduate course at the University of California, Irvine, where he has regularly received the Distinguished Professor Award. He has also given lectures at the California Judges College and the Judicial Criminal Law Institute. Judge Carter is a board member of the Federal Judicial Center, which supports the research, development and education efforts of the federal bench. As part of that work, he leads courses on complex litigation for federal judges.

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