Edward Chen

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Edward Chen
Edward Milton Chen.jpg
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #9
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Active:   05/12/2011 - Present
Preceded by:   Martin Jenkins
Past post:   Federal Magistrate Judge
Past term:   2001 - 2011
Personal History
Born:   1953
Hometown:   Oakland, CA
Undergraduate:   University of California, Berkeley, 1975
Law School:   University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1979
Edward Milton Chen is an Article III judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. He joined the court in 2011 after a nomination from Barack Obama. Prior to his nomination, Chen was a federal magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.[1]


Chen received his A.B. in 1975 from the University of California – Berkeley, and his J.D. in 1979 from Boalt Hall School of Law.[1][2]

Professional career

As a private lawyer in 1983, Chen was part of the legal team that won reversal of Fred Korematsu's conviction for refusing to report for the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. The Supreme Court ruled against Korematsu in 1944, and said the internment was justified by military reports that Japanese Americans were aiding Japan's armed forces. Judge Marilyn Patel cleared Korematsu nearly 40 years later and said the military knew at the time that no such evidence existed.[4]

Judicial career

Northern District of California

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Edward Chen
 Court:Northern District of California
 Progress:Confirmed 642 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:August 6, 2009
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:September 23, 2009
ApprovedAHearing Transcript:Hearing Transcript
ApprovedAReported:March 17, 2011 (Oct. 15, 2009, Feb. 4, 2010, Sept. 23, 2010)
ApprovedAConfirmed:May 10, 2011
 Vote: 56-42

On the recommendation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chen was nominated by President Barack Obama for an Article III judgeship on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, replacing Judge Martin Jenkins.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

He was rated Unanimously Well Qualified by the American Bar Association. He had his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 23, 2009, and you can find his hearing transcript here. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination 12 - 7 on October 15, 2009, but the full Senate returned Chen's nomination to the president on December 24, 2009.[5] Senator Feinstein reiterated her support for Chen and her hope that the president would renominate Chen for the U.S. District Court in an interview published in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 29, 2009.[6] On January 20, 2010, President Obama renominated Chen and on February 4, 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee again approved the nomination with a 12-7 party line vote.[7][8][9]

On August 5, 2010, the Senate returned the nomination of Chen to President Obama for a second time, refusing to debate and offer a vote before the body adjourned for its month-long recess.[10]

On September 13, 2010, President Obama again submitted Chen's nomination to the U.S. Senate.[11]

Chen's nomination was returned to the President at the end of the 111th Congress. President Obama resubmitted the nomination on January 5, 2011. Chen's nomination was confirmed by a Senate vote of 56-42 on May 9, 2011.[12]

Conservative objections

Chen's nomination came under fire from the GOP, which considered him to bring "too great a risk of judicial activism" to the bench, citing his fifteen years with the ACLU as potentially problematic.[13][14][15][3] Ranking Republican Committee member Jeff Sessions criticized Chen's statement in a 2005 speech questioning whether the government's response to Hurricane Katrina would have been better had New Orleans' population been upper class and white. "Both his writings and public comments while a magistrate ... suggest that Judge Chen believes judges should interpret the law according to their personal understandings and preferences," said Sessions.[16] The Washington Times editorialized against the nomination of Chen, calling him "a biased radical willing to impose his own politics from the bench."[17]

Response to conservative objections

Many California community leaders defended Chen's nomination. Charles Renfrew, a former U.S. District Court judge and former deputy attorney general, stated: "When considering his nomination, senators should focus on his eight-year record of fairly and impartially presiding as a magistrate, a record that has won him plaudits from numerous law enforcement officials."[18] Senator Dianne Feinstein said Chen "has made the transition from advocate to judge, and I do not believe there is a spot, a blemish, a wart on his record as a magistrate."[19] Andrew Hahn, Past President of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, wrote in a letter to the Editor of the Washington Times, "Instead of taking quotations out of context, consider what Judge Chen told the Senate Judiciary Committee: 'It is never proper for judges to indulge their own values in determining what the law means. Judges should do everything humanly possible to uphold their oath to apply the law without regard to a person's status.'"[20]

Northern District of California, Magistrate

Chen became a federal magistrate judge in 2001.[3] After his initial term expired, he was reappointed to a new eight-year term. Chen served in this position until becoming an Article III judge in 2011.[16]

Notable cases

Coverall settlement approved with nearly $1 million in attorneys' fees (2014)

In June 2014, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, comprised of Judges Chen (sitting by designation), Jay Bybee and Ronald Gould, affirmed nearly $1 million in attorneys’ fees as part of a class action settlement between Coverall, a janitorial company, and its franchisees. Judge Gould wrote the majority opinion in this case. The award was originally approved by Judge Jeffrey Miller of the Southern District of California in February 2012.


See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Federal Judicial Center, Biography of Edward Milton Chen," accessed on August 8, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 White House Office of the Press Secretary, "Press Release: President Obama Nominates Edward Milton Chen, Dolly Gee and Richard Seeborg to Serve on the District Court Bench," August 7, 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 CQ Politics, "Partisan Tensions Intensify Over Judicial Nominations," October 15, 2009 (dead link)
  4. San Francisco Chronicle, "Confirmation votes set for judge nominees," October 17, 2009
  5. Senate Judiciary Committee, "Judicial Nomination Materials: 111th Congress," accessed on April 24, 2014
  6. San Francisco Chronicle, "Senate GOP opposes S.F. judicial nominee," December 29, 2009
  7. Point of Law, "President renominates previously blocked judicial candidates," January 21, 2010
  8. San Francisco Chronicle, "Senate panel backs Obama's judge nominee," February 5, 2010
  9. Blog of Legal Times, "Republicans Say They'll Support DOJ Policy Pick," February 4, 2010
  10. San Francisco Chronicle, "Republicans block Bay Area judicial nominees," August 7, 2010
  11. White House Office of the Press Secretary, "Press Release: Presidential Nominations Sent to Senate," September 13, 2010
  12. Senate Judiciary Committee, "112th Congress Confirmation Materials," accessed April 24, 2014
  13. Human Events, "'Press 1 for English' Nominee Voted Up by Senate Judiciary," October 16, 2009
  14. Blog of Legal Times, "ACLU Back as a Whipping Boy," October 15, 2009
  15. The Reality Check, "Obama’s Newest Racemongering Judge: California’s Edward Chen," October 16, 2009
  16. 16.0 16.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "Confirmation votes set for judge nominees," October 17, 2009
  17. Washington Times, "Editorial: Another judicial radical," October 25, 2009
  18. Sacramento Bee, "Letters to the Editor: Quotes Could Hurt Nominee," November 18, 2009 (dead link)
  19. San Francisco Chronicle, "Confirmation votes set for judge nominees," October 17, 2009
  20. Washington Times, "Letter to the Editor: Judge not a judge's personal views," October 30, 2009
Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Martin Jenkins
Northern District of California
Seat #9
Succeeded by:

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