By Jocelyn Chui
Northwest Asian Weekly
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin was confirmed as a second circuit judge by a 98–0 vote by the U.S. Senate on April 22, making him the only active Asian Pacific American (APA) federal appellate court judge.
It has been more than five years since an APA has served anywhere in the country as an active federal appellate court judge. Chin is the first APA to have been nominated in 14 years. In addition, he is also the first Asian Pacific American federal appellate court judge to be nominated and confirmed outside of the ninth circuit.
While Chin declined to comment on the confirmation, stating it is his practice not to talk with the press, Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC),
said, “Half of the Asian American community is in the ninth circuit, basically the Northwest. So having someone outside is a breakthrough.”
Narasaki also said in a release, “Born to a working class Chinese American family, Judge Chin has lived the American dream and is a great example to all Americans.”
The 56-year-old judge was born in Hong Kong and came to the United States when he was 2 years old. He was raised by his father, a cook in Chinese restaurants, and his mother, a seamstress in Chinatown garment factories in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. He graduated from Princeton University and earned his law degree from Fordham University.
Serving as a district court judge for the Southern District of New York since 1994, Chin is the longest serving Asian Pacific American federal district court judge to date. Chin has handled many notable cases including that of Bernard L. Madoff in June 2009, in which he sentenced the 71-year-old to the maximum prison term — 150 years — for running a Ponzi scheme that devastated thousands of investors.
Chin was nominated by President Barack Obama in October 2009 and was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2009.
“This is a landmark day for us because Judge Chin is a leader and role model for us in NAPABA,” said Joseph J. Centeno, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). “He is an extraordinary judge and a true trailblazer in our community.”
The NAPABA is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students.
The AAJC is a national organization dedicated to defending and advancing the civil and human rights of Asian Americans. ♦
Jocelyn Chui can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.