William Alsup
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William Alsup
William Alsup
William Alsup District Judge.jpg
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California

January 21, 2021
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California

August 17, 1999 - January 21, 2021
Bill Clinton
Thelton Henderson
Personal details
Born (1945-06-27) June 27, 1945 (age 76)
Jackson, Mississippi
Harvard Law School (JD)
Harvard University (MPP)

William Haskell Alsup (born June 27, 1945) is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.[1]

Early life and career

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Alsup received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics[2] from Mississippi State University in 1967, a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1971, and a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1971.

He was a law clerk to Justice William O. Douglas of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1971 to 1972.[3] Alsup was in private practice in San Francisco, California from 1972 to 1978, and was then an Assistant to the United States Solicitor General in the United States Department of Justice from 1978 to 1980. He returned to his private practice in San Francisco from 1980 to 1998 with Morrison & Foerster, when he briefly served as a special counsel in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in 1998. He was again in private practice in San Francisco from 1998 to 1999.[4]

Federal judicial service

On March 24, 1999, Alsup was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California vacated by Thelton Henderson.[4] Alsup was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 30, 1999, and received his commission on August 17, 1999. He took senior status on January 21, 2021.

Notable cases

Alsup presided over the 2012 and 2016 jury trials in Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc.,[5] which concerns the APIs of Java SE and Android. He drew media attention for his familiarity with programming languages, at one point criticizing Oracle counsel David Boies for arguing that the Java function rangeCheck was novel, saying that he had "written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times or more".[6] Alsup was widely described as having learned Java in order to better understand the case,[7] although a 2017 profile in The Verge stated that he had not learned a significant amount of Java, but had rather applied his knowledge as a longtime hobbyist BASIC programmer.[6] The Federal Circuit overturned his determination that the Java API was not copyrightable.[8] In 2021 the U.S. Supreme Court made no decision on copyrightability but decided that, even if copyright existed, Google's use of the API had been fair use and so not unlawful.[9]

Alsup was also the presiding judge in what is believed to be the first trial against the U.S. no-fly policy, which is a list of people who cannot use commercial aircraft in the United States. Regarding the removal of people incorrectly included in the list, he ruled that, "[t]he government's administrative remedies fall short of such relief and do not supply sufficient due process."[10]

In August 2020, Judge Alsup sentenced Anthony Levandowski to 18 months in prison for one count of trade secret theft,[11] for stealing technology from Google's Waymo to found Otto, a self driving startup, then selling it to Uber six months later for $680 million.[12] In May 2017, Judge Alsup had ordered Levandowski to refrain from working on Otto's Lidar and required Uber to disclose its discussions on the technology.[13]

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

In September 2017, Judge Alsup was assigned four cases by parties suing to halt President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by Barack Obama.[14] On December 20, the Supreme Court unanimously issued an opinion urging Judge Alsup to consider arguments by the Trump administration that ending DACA was within executive authority and is not reviewable by federal courts.[15]

On January 9, 2018, he granted a temporary injunction halting President Trump's rescission of DACA.[16]

Dismissal of Lawsuit Against ExxonMobil

On July 27, 2018, Judge Alsup dismissed a lawsuit targeting ExxonMobil on the basis that two California cities, San Francisco and Oakland, could not prove the energy company was responsible for climate change in the state.[17]

Interest in Sierra hiking and history

Alsup has spent much time in the Sierra Nevada mountains and published a book telling the story of the search for notable mountaineer Walter A Starr, Jr.[18][19]

Awards and recognition

2013: Tara L. Riedley Barristers Choice Award, Bar Association of San Francisco
2013: Award of recognition from Lewis and Clark Law School.[20]


  1. ^ "Alsup, William [WHA] - United States District Court, Northern District of California". www.cand.uscourts.gov.
  2. ^ Dotinga, William (May 17, 2012). "Oracle & Google Debate Road Map". Courthouse News. Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ "Supreme Court Historical Society - Journal of Supreme Court History". supremecourthistory.org. Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b "Alsup, William [WHA] | United States District Court, Northern District of California". www.cand.uscourts.gov. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Gershman, Jacob. "Google and Oracle Agree Not to Research Jurors Online Ahead of Major Trial". WSJ. Retrieved .
  6. ^ a b Jeong, Sarah (October 19, 2017). "The Judge's Code: Meet the judge who codes -- and decides tech's biggest cases". The Verge. Retrieved 2021.
  7. ^ Garling, Caleb (May 15, 2012). "Oracle Goes for Broke in Court Battle With Google". Wired. Retrieved 2012.
  8. ^ Fed Cir. "Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc.". ActofMay 9, 2014 (PDF). Fed Cir. Retrieved 2014.
  9. ^ Masnick, Mike (5 April 2021). "Supreme Court Sides With Google In Decade-Long Fight Over API Copyright; Google's Copying Of Java API Is Fair Use". Techdirt. Retrieved 2021.
  10. ^ "U.S. judge rules against government in no-fly challenge". 14 January 2017 – via Reuters.
  11. ^ O'Brien, Sarah (6 August 2020). "Former Uber self-driving car exec sentenced to 18 months in prison". CNN. CNN Business. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ Wakabayashi, Daisuke; Isaac, Mike (31 March 2017). "Uber Executive Invokes Fifth Amendment, Seeking to Avoid Potential Charges". The New York Times. p. B5. Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ Isaac, Mike (16 May 2017). "Uber Engineer Barred From Work on Key Self-Driving Technology, Judge Says". The New York Times. p. B1. Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ Levine, Dan (2017-09-03). "U.S. judge aims to quickly decide lawsuits over DACA". Reuters. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ Liptak, Adam (2017-12-20). "Justices Return Dispute over DACA Documents to Lower Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ de Vogue, Arienne (2018-01-10). "Judge blocks Trump administration plan to roll back DACA". CNN. Retrieved 2018.
  17. ^ "Case No. C 17-06011/06012 WHA" (PDF). United States District Court. 2018-07-27. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ "The Mountains Are Calling: Yosemite, With Federal Judge as Guide". July 18, 2018.
  19. ^ "The American Alpine Journal". 2002.
  20. ^ "United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit 2013 Annual Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-27. Retrieved .


Legal offices
Preceded by
Thelton Henderson


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