WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 18, 2013) — Leaders of the Asian Pacific American community this week applauded the confirmation of Derrick Kahala Watson to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.
Watson was President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Court. With a Senate 94-0 vote, he becomes the only person of native Hawaiian descent to currently serve as an Article III judge, and only the fourth in American history.
“Derrick Kahala Watson’s confirmation to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii is an important step forward for our nation,” said Wendy C. Shiba, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “With Judge Watson’s well-deserved confirmation, the federal bench will be further diversified. Of note, the District of Hawaii will become the first federal court in U.S. history with a majority of Asian Pacific Americans, as Judge Watson joins Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway and Judge Leslie Kobayashi on the bench.”
“Judge Watson’s confirmation brings with it much needed diversity to the federal bench,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. “He brings with him not only a history of government service to the bench, but also a personal story that inspires all members of our community.”
Until his confirmation, Watson served as chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii. He has deep roots in Hawaii, growing up in a multi-generational household on Oahu that included his mother, who worked at a local bank until her retirement several years ago, and his father, who retired from the Honolulu Police Department.
Judge Watson attended the Kamehameha Schools, Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and is the first person in his family to attend college. NAPABA and AAJC applaud President Obama for nominating Judge Watson to the bench and thank the late Senator Inouye, former Senator Akaka, and Senators Schatz and Hirono for their recommendation and support of Judge Watson’s nomination.
U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, Sen. Brian Schatz, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also commended the confirmation.
Watson has served since 2007 as Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Hawaii. A 1984 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Watson will be the sole Native Hawaiian currently serving on the federal bench and only the fourth in U.S. history.
“Derrick Watson’s confirmation today recognizes his eminent qualifications to serve Hawaii and our nation from the federal bench. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I have had the opportunity to interact with Mr. Watson and am confident he will serve with distinction. Beyond his legal acumen, he brings sorely needed diversity and cultural perspective to the federal bench as the sole Native Hawaiian currently serving. Congratulations to Mr. Watson and his family on this momentous occasion,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono.
“I’m proud that the Senate confirmed Derrick Watson for U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “His leadership and wealth of experience as a long-time attorney has made him a proven leader for the people of Hawaii. I am confident he will continue to serve our country well, and with Native Hawaiians being underrepresented on the federal bench, his confirmation is a big step in the right direction towards diversifying the court.”
“With his fine legal reputation and personal connection to our state and our host culture, I am confident Mr. Watson will be an excellent addition to Hawaii’s federal bench. Both Senator Inouye and Senator Akaka supported his nomination, and their recommendation remains important to me. I am proud that President Obama has reflected our state’s diversity and rich heritage with this nomination, and continued his support of women and minorities,” said U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa.
“Today, Judge Watson made history. I am confident he will serve Hawai‘i with distinction and honor,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “He has dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice and fairness in our legal system. I am proud to welcome this Kamehameha Schools graduate to serve in such a prestigious capacity. We are fortunate to have someone of his stature serving on our District Court.”