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President Obama Nominates Edward M. Chen to be First Asian American Judge for U.S. District Court, Northern California

President Obama Nominates Edward M. Chen to be First Asian American Judge for U.S. District Court, Northern California

judgechen2The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) applauds President Barack Obama’s historic nomination today of U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen to serve as a federal district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. AABA expresses its appreciation to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who forwarded the nomination to the White House.

Chen would be the first Asian American district judge on the bench in the 150-year history of that district. He was also the first Asian American magistrate judge when he was appointed to that position on April 23, 2001.

Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, federal judges require confirmation by the U.S. Senate and serve with lifetime tenure. Magistrate Judges have limited terms and serve as judicial officers of the district courts and exercise the jurisdiction delegated to them by law and assigned by federal district judges.

“I’ve known and worked with Judge Chen for more than 37 years and seen him become a great attorney and an outstanding jurist,” said attorney Dale Minami of Minami Tamaki LLP, who worked with Chen on the successful case to overturn the wartime conviction of Fred Korematsu for defying President Roosevelt’s internment order.

Garner Weng, President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) noted that while there were a number of excellent Asian American candidates, “Judge Chen earned this nomination for his record of public service and his experience as a federal magistrate. We are extremely proud of his nomination and of his participation in AABA over the years.”

“Judge Chen will be a tremendous addition to the bench and has a wide range of support from diverse groups, including the public interest, law enforcement, legal, and minority communities,” said Edwin Prather, President of the Asian Pacific Bar of California and a former clerk for Chen. Prather also said that Chen received the 2007 Barristers Choice Award, an honor voted on by the membership of BASF’s Barristers Club and awarded to a jurist who has made extraordinary efforts to educate and encourage lawyers new to the courtroom.

Russell Roeca, President of the Bar Association of San Francisco, echoed Prather’s comments and praised Senator Feinstein for the nomination. “The Bar Association of San Francisco has long valued and advocated for a diverse judiciary and noted the complete lack of Latino and Asian American judges on the district court. In recommending Judge Chen to the President, Senator Feinstein has initiated a historical appointment.” Roeca also said that Chen received an “Exceptionally Well Qualified” rating from BASF’s Judiciary Committee.

“Judge Chen enjoys a solid reputation as an intelligent, reasonable, even-handed and diligent judge,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Chen “is a balanced and impartial judge whose temperament is well suited to the bench.”

“Judge Chen combines compassion and fairness with toughness and intellect in tacking difficult issues,” said attorney Ismail J. Ramsey, who has appeared numerous times before Chen. “He has always brought a practical approach to the issues, while ensuring that the rights of all those appearing before him were honored and making certain that the community was protected.”

“Judge Chen has earned a reputation as an evenhanded jurist who is constantly mindful of the role that judges fulfill in society as keepers of the rule of law and the public trust in our system of justice,” said David Wong, president of the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.

Chen graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Law where he earned membership in the Order of the Coif, the highest honor society at the school, and served on the California Law Review. He clerked for U.S. District Judge Charles B. Renfrew and U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge James R. Browning.

After his clerkships, Chen practiced as a litigation associate with the law firm of Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer (now Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass). While with the Coblentz firm and then as a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, Chen joined the legal team representing Fred Korematsu.

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) was founded in 1976 to provide Asian American attorneys with a vehicle for the unified expression of opinions and positions on matters of concern to all Asian American attorneys. The largest local Asian American bar association in the country, AABA is also one of the largest minority bar associations in California. For more information, visit