WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 20, 2010) – Saturday, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Leslie E. Kobayashi and Edmond E. Chang to be judges on the U.S. District Courts for the District of Hawaii and the Northern District of Illinois, respectively.
“We congratulate Judge Kobayashi and Judge Chang on their historic confirmations to the bench,” said Paul O. Hirose, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “As the Senate’s unanimous votes demonstrate, both are very well-qualified to be federal district court judges and they will serve our nation ably.”
With Senate confirmation of the nominations of Judge Kobayashi and Judge Chang, President Obama has confirmed more Asian Pacific American federal judges than any other President in history. There are now 13 active Asian Pacific American Article III judges in the nation.
“This is the first time that two Asian Pacific Americans have been confirmed as federal judges on the same day,” said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. “The Asian Pacific American community applauds the President’s continued commitment to diversity.”
Judge Kobayashi is the first Japanese American federal judge confirmed during the Obama Administration. She was appointed as a U.S. magistrate judge in Hawaii in 1999 and reappointed to a second term in 2007. Before her appointment as a magistrate, Judge Kobayashi was a partner and commercial litigator in Hawaii. She began her career as a deputy prosecution attorney with the city and county of Honolulu. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Judge Kobayashi continues the rapid increase in Asian Pacific American female jurists. Until 2008, there had been only one Asian Pacific American Article III female judge in U.S. history. Four have been confirmed in the past two years.
Judge Chang is the first Asian Pacific American Article III judge to serve on the bench in Illinois or on any of the courts encompassed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and only the second outside the East and West Coasts. He is now the youngest Article III judge in the nation. He has served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois since 1999, including five years as the chief of the Appeals Division. Judge Chang has also taught civil rights litigation as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law for the last four years.
President Obama nominated both Judge Kobaysahi and Judge Chang to serve as federal judges on April 21, 2010. They are among the first judicial nominees to be confirmed by the Senate since September 2010 despite over 100 vacancies in the federal judiciary and over 50 judicial emergencies. Among the judicial emergencies are two pending Asian Pacific American nominations: Professor Goodwin H. Liu, nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and The Honorable Edward M. Chen, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
NAPABA and AAJC are proud to have supported Judge Kobayashi and Judge Chang and applaud President Obama for their nominations and thank Senate Majority Leader Reid for his efforts to confirm judges in a busy lame duck session. The organizations also thank Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois for supporting their nominations.
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.