Less than 2 short years from taking the federal bench, Vietnamese-American judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen has been nominated by President Barack Obama for elevation to the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
In a White House press release, President Obama praised Judge Nguyen as “a trailblazer, displaying an outstanding commitment to public service throughout her career.”
“I am honored to nominate her today for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals and confident she will serve the American people with fairness and integrity,” the President said.
Almost immediately after, U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which will have to vote on the nomination, issued her own press release stating:
“I am pleased Judge Jacqueline Nguyen has been nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Two years ago I recommended her for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California; her confirmation to that seat made her the first Vietnamese-American on the federal bench.”
Feinstein said she was particularly moved by Judge Nguyen’s description of her time as a 10-year-old child, fleeing Vietnam when the war ended in 1975:
“In her application to my selection committee for her current District Court seat, Judge Nguyen described fleeing Vietnam as young girl after the fall of Saigon. Despite those difficult circumstances, she wrote, ‘I nevertheless feel incredibly fortunate because those early years gave me invaluable life lessons that have shaped who I am today.’
“I have no doubt Judge Nguyen’s character and her judicial experience make her well-qualified to serve with distinction on the U.S. Court of Appeals. I look forward to a speedy confirmation by the Senate.”
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 Harvard. (Young Obama had left just when young Nguyen arrived.) After Oxy, Jacqueline Nguyen went to UCLA Law.
She joined Musick Peeler & 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 was named to the Los Angeles County Superior Court by Governor Gray Davis. When she was confirmed by the Senate 97-0 to the U.S. District Court in October 2009, Judge Nguyen became the first Vietnamese-American federal judge.
On the Ninth Circuit nomination, Feinstein predicts an uncontroversial and speedy confirmation by the Senate.
Obama’s prior Ninth Circuit nominee didn’t fare so well. UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall) law professor Goodwin Liu had to withdraw his nomination after Republicans attacked him as too liberal and two Senate confirmation attempts were unsuccessful. Professor Liu was later nominated by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Supreme Court and he was confirmed earlier this month.
The Ninth Circuit is the federal appellate court, one level below the U.S. Supreme Court. Its territory covers the entire Western United States and consists of the states of: California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.