WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 10, 2011) — President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated John Z. Lee to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
If confirmed, Mr. Lee would be only the second Asian Pacific American in U.S. history to serve as an Article III judge in any of the courts encompassed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He would also become only the second Korean American in the history of the United States to serve as a federal district court judge.
“Mr. Lee is an extremely qualified nominee who will make an excellent contribution to the federal bench in Illinois,” said Paul O. Hirose, president of NAPABA. “Mr. Lee will bring much needed diversity to the judiciary, and his nomination demonstrates President Obama and Senator Durbin’s continued commitment to promoting well-qualified, diverse nominees to the federal bench.”
Asian Pacific Americans constitute approximately 8 percent of the Chicago-land population. However, currently Judge Edmond E. Chang, who was confirmed late last year, is the only APA to have ever served as an Article III judge in Illinois.
“Mr. Lee is a well-qualified nominee who is highly regarded in Chicago. He has volunteered countless hours and has a deep commitment to serving those in need. We strongly support his nomination,” said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.
Mr. Lee is the son of a coal miner and a nurse, and immigrated to the United States when he was only five years old. He is currently a partner with Freeborn & Peters, where he litigates complex commercial cases in diverse areas of the law.
Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Lee represented the federal government in environmental litigation nationwide at the Environment & Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He has been recognized by numerous organizations and publications for his work, including: “40 Attorneys Under 40 in Illinois to Watch,” Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (2004); “Leading Lawyer” in Commercial Litigation and Class Action/Mass Tort Defense, Leading Lawyers Network (2008, 2009, 2010). He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and cum laude from Harvard Law School.
Throughout his career he has been very active in serving the community, particularly in providing legal services to those in need. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (“CARPLS”), a co-founder of the Willow Creek Legal Aid Clinic in Hoffman Estates (a joint program between CARPLS and Willow Creek Church), and the President of the Board of Directors of Asian Human Services.
NAPABA and AAJC join in thanking President Obama for nominating Mr. Lee and Senator Dick Durbin for recommending him to the President.
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 62 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 sister 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.