Thursday, October 12, 2006
Robert Kwan Named Bankruptcy Judge for Central District
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday named Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kwan as a bankruptcy judge for the Central District of California.
Kwan, deputy chief of the Tax Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, told the MetNews he was “deeply grateful” to the Ninth Circuit judges for selecting him, adding that this was his fifth time applying for the position. He first applied 12 years ago, then the following year, and later in 2004 and 2005, he said.
He said Chief Judge Mary Schroeder of the Ninth Circuit called him last week with the good news about his most recent application, although the court did not make the selection public until yesterday.
“I’ve learned that persistence counts,” Kwan said, noting that most people who are appointed do not get it on the first try. “Rejection isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you learn from it. It forces you to examine yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, and I think it makes you a better lawyer in the process.”
A court spokesperson said Kwan was selected out of 19 applicants after a local Merit Screening Committee, appointed by Schroeder, interviewed nine candidates and forwarded the top four names for consideration by a committee of Ninth Circuit judges. Kwan was then selected by the full court.
Pending a security clearance by the FBI, Kwan is set to commence his 14-year renewable term on Jan. 2 of next year, when Bankruptcy Judge John E. Ryan, who announced his retirement last January, officially steps down.
Kwan, 53, said he has practiced bankruptcy law over 20 years, appearing before many of the judges who will now be his colleagues. Judge Barry Russell, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, said he is thrilled that Kwan is going to be one of his colleagues and thinks the other judges will share the sentiment.
“He’s going to be just a terrific judge,” the chief judge said.
A native of Los Angeles, Kwan joined the Tax Division in 1989 and has been chief deputy since 1994. Previously, he spent two years in private practice locally after working with the tax division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice in Washington, D.C. from 1983-1987. He began his legal career as a trial attorney at the same agency in 1979, after earning a law degree from Hastings College of Law and being admitted to the State Bar.
He also holds a masters of law degree in taxation from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s in history from Yale College.
The newly designated judge is scheduled to begin his judicial training next week through a program offered by the Federal Judicial Center, and expressed excitement about his new job:
“Bankruptcy law is extremely intellectually stimulating because there are a whole range of issues that involve both bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy law. Almost every conceivable problem can arise in bankruptcy.”
“It’s a humbling experience to take on this responsibility given the importance of some of the issues that could come before the court, but I see this as an opportunity to help people.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown, who is chief of Tax Division and has known Kwan for nearly 15 years, told the MetNews:
“I think he will be a wonderful addition to the federal bankruptcy bench here in the Central District of California. He is not only very, very well-qualified for such a position but he has a personality that I think will make him a huge asset to the bench here, and will continue his legacy of being very well-respected in his profession.”
U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang added that Kwan, whom she has known since 1988, was a “phenomenal individual” whose leadership has particularly enriched the Asian American legal and non-legal communities.
“His addition to the bankruptcy bench will be both terrific for the lawyers who appear before him, as Robert is tenacious, bright, and very dedicated to his work, but also to the community,” she said.
Kwan’s professional involvement includes his current roles in the Los Angeles County Bar Association as a trustee and the chair of its membership committee. He has served on various other LACBA committees, including the Minority Representation in the Legal Profession Committee and Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee.
He has served as a governor and president of the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association and Asian Pacific Bar of California. Additionally, he been on the planning commission, public library board of trustees, and cultural heritage commission for the City of South Pasadena.
As an educator, he has been a volunteer faculty member of District Judge Robert Takasugi’s Pro Bono Bar Review course for the past 12 years. He recently co-authored CEB a publication on personal and small business bankruptcy law in California, and was invited to be a panelist on the Bankruptcy Tax Program for the L.A. Bankruptcy Forum in 2001.
Kwan said he looks forward to opportunities to teach law clerks and externs about the law.
He will be paid an annual salary of $151,984.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company