Monday, August 3, 2009
Obama Nominates Nguyen to U.S. District Court
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
President Obama on Friday nominated Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Nguyen, 44, is Obama’s first nominee to the federal bench in California. She was the first Vietnamese American woman to serve on the California bench, and will be the first Vietnamese American to serve as an Article III federal judge if confirmed by the Senate.
She said she was looking forward to the confirmation process. Applying to the federal bench has been “a rigorous process,” she explained, but she said she was extremely grateful to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who recommended her to the president, and to David Casey, the San Diego attorney who heads the senator’s statewide judicial screening committee, for easing her through it.
Leaving the state bench will be difficult, she said. “I love my colleagues here in Alhambra,” where she has spent all but the first six weeks of her judicial career.
But as a former federal prosecutor, Nguyen explained, she is “comfortable” with the federal system and likes the idea of hearing a mixed calendar of civil and criminal cases. The jurist was named to the Superior Court by then-Gov. Gray Davis in August 2002, prior to which she was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District.
Nguyen has been a member of a number of Asian American bar groups, including the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Orange County, the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association, the Korean American Bar Association and the Japanese American Bar Association. She helped found and was president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
She was also a board member of the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles.
For a minority woman, Nguyen told the MetNews, being a judge is “a privilege and a responsibility.”
“So many people look up to you....I have a responsibility to other people who may wish to follow in my footsteps.”
Nguyen was born in Dalat, South Vietnam, the daughter of a South Vietnamese Army major who worked closely with U.S. intelligence officers. The family fled after the fall of the government in 1975, and lived for several months in an Army tent at Camp Pendleton.
After leaving Vietnam and Camp Pendleton, Nguyen grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Occidental College in Highland Park in 1987, several years after Obama attended the school. She earned her law degree from UCLA.
Nguyen began her legal career in 1991 as a litigation associate with the law firm of Musick, Peeler & Garrett. She moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1995 and served in the Public Corruption and Government Fraud Section. Her job included overseeing Department of Defense fraud prosecutions.
Nguyen may be best known for groundbreaking anti-terrorism prosecution. Her victory in the “Operation Eastern Approach” case of U.S. v. Tabatabai was the first successful prosecution in the United States for providing material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2339B.
For several years before joining the bench, she served as a deputy chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office General Crimes Section, where she was responsible for training and supervising new federal prosecutors in the Central District.
Her husband, Pio Kim, is an assistant U.S. attorney. She explained that if she becomes a district judge, an “ethical wall” will be erected to make certain that each is shielded from information about the other’s cases.
Nguyen said she did not know of any instance in which an assistant U.S. attorney’s spouse was a district judge. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office already has procedures in place for avoiding conflicts, she noted, as in the case of a current assistant whose father is a district judge.
Nguyen, who was rated well-qualified for the position by the American Bar Association, would fill a seat that has been vacant since Nora Manella was named to this district’s Court of Appeal in 2006. Nguyen served under Manella in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and it was Manella who swore her in when she was named to the Superior Court.
Obama on Friday also nominated Birmingham attorney Abdul K. Kallon, a labor and employment lawyer, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Kallon, a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, formerly clerked for Judge U.W. Clemon, whom he will succeed if confirmed.
He was rated well-qualified by the ABA.
In addition to the district court nominees, the president nominated four lawyers to be U.S. attorneys—Daniel G. Bogden in the District of Nevada, Deborah K. Gilg in the District of Nebraska, Timothy Heaphy in the Western District of Virginia, and Peter F. Neronha in the District of Rhode Island.
Bogden was one of nine federal prosecutors told to resign by senior Justice Department officials during the Bush administration. The move led to resignations at the department and investigations into whether politics prompted the dismissals.
Bogden is a partner in the Nevada law firm of McDonald Carano Wilson. He served as the U.S. attorney for the district from 2001 to 2007, and had previously been chief of the U.S. attorney’s Reno office.
In testimony before Congress, Justice Department officials cited no particular deficiency in Bogden’s performance, but said there was an interest “in seeing renewed energy and renewed vigor in that office.” The department’s inspector general said none of the senior officials they interviewed had recommended that Bodgen be removed.
Bogden’s nomination was not unexpected as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had recommended that Bogden be put back on the job, replacing Gregory A. Brower, a former Republican member of the state Assembly who was appointed to succeed him. Reid told The Associated Press he has not heard any negative comments about Brower’s work either, but he was pushing for Bogden out of a sense of fairness.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who had recommended Bogden for U.S. attorney in 2001, told The Associated Press on Friday that he knew when he tapped Bogden that the veteran prosecutor “had a distinguished career of public service ahead of him.” Ensign also said he was “glad to see Senator Reid felt the same way when he recommended him this year.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company