A Viet long-time Superior Court judge is only one step away from becoming the first Vietnamese-American federal judge, having been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to its web site here.
Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen (pictured), nominated on July 31 (see here) by President Barack Obama to be a judge for the Central District of California, was approved by the Judiciary Committee yesterday on a voice vote, and now awaits confirmation by the full Senate.
In the video webcast here, the unanimous vote on Judge Nguyen occurs at 29:00 to 29:25.
A native of Dalat, Vietnam and a daughter of a South Vietnamese colonel, Judge Nguyen came to the U.S. in 1975 when communist forces overran the country. She was graduated from Occidental College in L.A. – the same school where the President spent his freshman year before transferring to Columbia. (Young Obama had left just when young Nguyen arrived.) After Oxy, Jacqueline Nguyen went to UCLA Law.
She joined Musick, Peeler & Garrett, one of L.A.’s top firms. After four years in private practice, Judge Nguyen moved to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California, where she eventually became a deputy chief of the General Crimes Section. She is now a sitting judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
If confirmed, Judge Nguyen will fill the seat made vacant when U.S. District Judge Nora Manella left to join the California Court of Appeals. Coincidentally, Judge Manella was the U.S. Attorney for the Central District when the young litigator Jacqueline Nguyen joined the office.
Judge Nguyen would be the first Vietnamese-American federal judge. There have been Vietnamese-Americans working as judges in the federal system. They are, however, not “federal judges” the way the term is commonly understood – i.e. they are not judges covered by Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
There are, for example, Vietnamese-American immigration judges, who are employees of the USCIS. There is Magistrate Judge Tu Pham in the Western District of Tennessee, who reports to the Article III judges of that district.
An Article III judge, as Judge Nguyen is about to become, is nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and holds his or her job for life. They cannot be fired, and their salaries cannot be cut – this is how the Founding Fathers protected the independence of the judiciary. Article III judges can only be removed by the impeachment process.
The Central District of California covers the counties of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. It has one of the highest case loads in the country.