Today the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 4 federal district court nominees all nominated to fill seats in California: While Senator Feinstein (D-CA) was scheduled to chair the committee, she ended up busy on the Senate floor and Senator Franken (D-MN) chaired today’s hearing. The four nominees: Jacqueline H. Nguyen to the Central District of California; Edward Milton Chen to the Northern District of California; Dolly M. Gee to the Central District of California; and Richard Seeborg to the Northern District of California represent a number of firsts and the hearing marks a historic day for Asian Americans.

The hearing room was packed with prominent members of the Asian American legal community, family of the nominees, and other supporters, a somewhat unusual occurrence for district court nominees, but expected given its historical significance. There was a noticeable feeling of pride among many of the attendees today surely due to the excellent qualification s of the nominees. Two have proven track records as sitting jurists, and all three of the Asian American nominees have strong support from the Asian Pacific American community in addition to bipartisan support from bar organizations and leaders in the legal community.

If confirmed, Edward Milton Chen would be the first Asian Pacific American district court judge in the history of the NDCA, (this is especially significant given that approximately 35% of the population in San Francisco is Asian Pacific American). Dolly M. Gee would be the first Chinese American female district court judge in the history of the United States, and Jacqueline H. Nguyen would be the first Vietnamese American district court judge in he history of the United States and the first Asian Pacific American female district court judge in California history.

In American history, there have been only four Asian American federal circuit court judges and 14 Asian American federal district court judges. Asian Americans are still significantly underrepresented on the federal bench. To learn more about Asian American federal judges, check out Alliance for Justice’s recently released fact sheet.

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