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Politics 101

Fresno Finally Has a New Federal Judge in Thurston



Jennifer Thurston is the first new Fresno-based judge named to the federal bench in more than six years. (GV Wire Composite)
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The Fresno federal court finally has a new judge.

Jennifer Thurston was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as a federal judge in the Eastern District of California. The district has long been short on justices and high on cases.

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David Taub

Politics 101

Thurston is the chief magistrate at the federal courthouse in Bakersfield. She’s been a magistrate for 12 years. Magistrates are similar to judges in they hear and decide cases, but are less permanent and not subject to congressional confirmation.

“The work has been challenging and rewarding and has provided me an incredible opportunity to serve the people of our District. As a District Judge, I look forward to continuing this service and assisting the Court in trying to advance cases, which have been delayed by a grievous lack of necessary judicial resources,” Thurston tells Politics 101.

Her starting date is pending the signature of President Joe Biden, which is expected soon.

She replaces the retired Lawrence O’Neill. The Fresno court has only one active confirmed judge, Dale A. Drozd. He received his judicial commission more than six years ago.

O’Neill has lobbied for more Fresno judges for years. Eastern District judges handle about 900 cases at any one time. That’s more than double the national average for federal judges.

You can read more on Thurston’s judicial background at this link.

Also in Politics 101: 

  • How the Senate voted on Thurston’s nomination.
  • Who has filed to run for vacant Fresno Unified seat?
  • Twitter spat between former Harris staffers.

How the Senate Voted

The Senate voted 46-24 in favor last week. All 24 “no” votes were from Republicans. Only three Republicans voted yes.

Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, was one of 30 senators to not cast a vote.

“The senator missed the vote because she returned to California due to her husband’s health issues,” Feinstein’s office said.

Feinstein supported Thurston’s nomination.

Fresno High Area School Board Candidates Lining Up

With the filing period open for the special April 12 election for the Fresno High School-area Fresno Unified trustee, more candidates are lining up.

Three took out paperwork to file — retired administrator Daniel Renteria, retired teacher Russ Allen, and Andrew Fabela, listed as a retired firefighter — this week.

Fabela is also known for airing his criticisms of Fresno Unified at board meetings.

Others who filed paperwork to fundraise include former Fresno planning commissioner Kathleen Bray and social activist Andrew Levine.

The election is to fill the remainder of Carol Mills’ term. She died last July after an illness.

Jonasson Rosas Update

Last week, GV Wire reported that Fresno Unified trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas was listed on the community advisory board for Embarc, which was awarded a cannabis retail permit by the city of Fresno.

While she is listed on their board — and even provided a positive quote in Embarc’s application — Jonasson Rosas says she is not on the board nor has she attended an advisory meeting.

It is true, things have changed since the applications were submitted last year and now. Jonasson Rosas previously worked for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, a job she left earlier this year for a post with Westlands Water District.

Her role at Fresno EOC would have lent it to giving advice to cannabis retailers on hiring, job training, and philanthropic endeavors.

Former Harris Staffers Battling on Twitter

James Martinez is an elected school board member with the Fresno County Board of Education. Matt Rogers is known around town as a political observer.

Both used to work together as Fresno staffers for then-U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. And, based on Twitter, there is no love lost.

A Twitter handle, “Fresno Political News,” — with 87 followers — had a nasty tweet about Martinez and his political ambitions.

Martinez responded with a nasty remark about Rogers, who many speculate is behind the anonymous “Fresno Political News” account.

“James, keep my name out of your mouth and social media. You are a school trustee, start acting like one,” was Rogers’ response, under his own handle.

Others are chiming in, asking for both grown men to stop. As of Friday morning, those pleas did not appear to be helping.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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