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Click here to download a PDF copy of the press release.

May 7, 2012

NAPABA Contact: Emily Chatterjee (202) 775-9555
AAJC Contact: Leonie Campbell-Williams (443) 803-1465

Jacqueline Nguyen Confirmed as First-Ever
Asian Pacific American Female Federal Appellate Court Judge;
John Z. Lee Also Confirmed For Federal District Court in Illinois

WASHINGTON - Today, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen to be a Circuit Court Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and also confirmed John Z. Lee to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Nguyen is the first-ever Asian Pacific American female to serve as a federal appellate court judge anywhere in the nation. Judge Lee is only the second Asian Pacific American to serve as an Article III judge in Illinois.

"The historic confirmation of Judge Nguyen and Judge Lee during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is especially significant," said Nimesh M. Patel, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). "Judge Nguyen has an extraordinary personal story and has been a trailblazer throughout her life. We expect that she will continue to distinguish herself on the Ninth Circuit. Judge Lee, the son of a coal miner and a nurse, likewise provides an inspiring story that reconfirms the American dream of personal and professional success based on dedication and hard work. Both Judge Nguyen and Judge Lee also demonstrate a commitment to public service and making our country stronger."

"For the first time in American history, an Asian Pacific American woman will serve as a federal appellate court judge. We are confident that Judge Nguyen will serve the country well in this new role," said Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. "We are also delighted that Senator Durbin has continued his commitment to promoting well-qualified, diverse nominees for the federal bench. Judge Lee's confirmation will help ensure that Midwesterners appearing in federal court will see a judicial system that reflects the diversity of America."

Judge Nguyen has made history in many of her positions. She has served as a federal district court judge for the Central District of California since 2009, where she was the first Vietnamese American Article III judge in the country and the first Asian Pacific American female Article III judge in California. Prior to that, she served as a California state court judge for seven years, where she was the first Vietnamese American female state court judge in the country. Judge Nguyen was born in Dalat, South Vietnam, the daughter of a South Vietnamese Army major who worked closely with U.S. intelligence officers. She escaped the fall of South Vietnam with her family in a harrowing trip, that included a plane ride filled wall to wall with people, temporary separation from her father, through a chaotic Saigon, to the Philippines, to Guam, and eventually, to Camp Pendleton, California. In the U.S., Judge Nguyen worked hard to achieve the American dream, assisting her mother in cleaning dental offices and at a family donut shop, earning a four-year full tuition college scholarship, and then graduating from UCLA School of Law.

Judge Lee immigrated to the U.S. when he was only five years old. Currently, he is a partner with Freeborn & Peters in Chicago, where he litigates complex commercial cases. Prior to entering private practice, Judge Lee represented the government in environmental litigation nationwide at the U.S. Department of Justice. Throughout his career, he has been very active in serving the community, particularly in providing legal services to those in need. He was the President of the Board of Directors for the Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services and for Asian Human Services, and was a co-founder of the Willow Creek Legal Aid Clinic. He has been recognized by numerous organizations and publications for his work, including "Leading Lawyer" in Commercial Litigation and Class Action/Mass Tort Defense, Leading Lawyers Network (2008, 2009, 2010), and "40 Attorneys Under 40 in Illinois to Watch," Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (2004). He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and cum laude from Harvard Law School.

Today, NAPABA and AAJC also participated in a meeting at the White House to discuss the status of judicial nominations attended by both national organizations and individuals in the states who work on judicial nominations. NAPABA members from California, Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania attended the convening on judicial nominations, and also met with Senate offices to press for continued action on judicial nominations. All participants at the convening recognized the continued urgency in filling judicial vacancies to ensure that the American public has access to a judicial system that will resolve disputes in a fair and timely manner.

NAPABA and AAJC applaud President Obama for these historic nominations, and thank Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell for reaching an accord to allow these confirmations to take place, and urge the Senate to continue confirming both circuit court and district court nominees at a speedy pace. The organizations further thank Senators Feinstein and Durbin for recommending Judge Nguyen and Judge Lee, respectively.


The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of over 40,000 attorneys and 64 local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members represent solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal service and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government. NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes professional development of minorities in the legal profession.

The Asian American Justice Center (www.advancingequality.org), a member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, works closely with its affiliate organizations - the Asian American Institute in Chicago (www.aaichicago.org), the Asian Law Caucus (www.asianlawcaucus.org) in San Francisco and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (www.apalc.org) in Los Angeles - to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities.


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