Judge Edward M. Chen was nominated to serve in the Northern District of California by President Obama in August 2009.  Unfortunately his nomination has been unnecessarily attacked and obstructed, and his confirmation has been delayed longer than any other Article III judicial nominee this term.

Judge Chen’s confirmation has historic significance to our community.  The Northern District of California serves one of the largest populations of Asian Pacific Americans.  In San Francisco, where Judge Chen is expected to serve if confirmed, 35% of the population is Asian Pacific American.  San Francisco is the original forum for many landmark United States Supreme Court decisions since the 1800s that have affected Asian Pacific Americans.  For over 150 years, no Asian Pacific American had ever served on its bench until Judge Chen was appointed as a federal magistrate judge.  If confirmed, Judge Chen would be the first Chinese American Article III judge to serve on this court.


Judge Chen has devoted his career to serving the public and our community.  As a lawyer, he has represented Asian Pacific American businesses, residents, workers and consumers against discrimination.  He was a member of the legal team that represented Fred Korematsu in successfully overturning his World War II conviction for failing to comply with the Japanese internment order.  Judge Chen also has a long history of community service on behalf of organizations involved in providing low cost housing, educational and recreation services for disadvantaged youths.

Judge Chen is well-qualified to serve as a federal district court judge.  He has served for nine years as a magistrate judge on the court to which he has been nominated.  Last year, after a thorough review of his performance, the district judges of the court reappointed Judge Chen to a new eight-year term.  The American Bar Association and Bar Association of San Francisco have also meticulously examined Judge Chen’s record and have given him their highest ratings.  Judge Chen’s courtroom demeanor has earned the respect and support of former federal prosecutors, law enforcement and the business defense bar.  He is also supported by judges and business and civic leaders from both sides of the aisle.

Although Judge Chen has compiled a distinguished record as a magistrate judge, his work as a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and statements in support of diversity in the judiciary have been unfairly characterized by his critics.  Sen. Daniel Inouye addressed these attacks in a floor statement:

[E]lements of the extremist media have launched cynical attacks against Judge Chen.  Unarmed by facts, accusers resort to tired smears that Judge Chen is a “radical leftist,” someone “who doesn’t appear to love America.”

But these charges are completely false and irrelevant.  Those interested in the true picture of his work and outlook need only look at Judge Chen’s actual eight-year record on the federal bench.  I believe that this record is exactly where discussions of his nomination should focus in our Senate chambers, where good judgment should prevail.  Judge Chen has written over 300 published opinions, and what those opinions show is a judge who is committed to the rule of law.  He follows case precedent.  He checks any personal views at the courthouse door, and rules impartially in each and every case.  His decisions reveal a belief in fairness to all.

Judge Chen, like so many others, values diversity in the federal judiciary.  Judges from different backgrounds bring varied life experiences to the court, and this diversity of background and experience helps foster balanced and accurate decision-making according to the rule of law.

You can help Judge Chen get confirmed by calling your Senators and signing a letter urging your Senators to take positive action on Judge Chen.  Send a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senate Minority Leader McConnell here.