Tell the GOP to Stop Attacking Asian American Judicial Nominees

Goodwin Liu, Associate Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, has been nominated by the Obama administration to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit. The GOP is trying to obstruct his nomination.

My fellow blogger over at Change.org, Chris Santiago, has written an excellent piece about how the GOP is trying to stall the nominations of two highly qualified Asian American judges, Goodwin Liu and Eric Chen.

Liu, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, and Chen, a federal magistrate in San Francisco, have both cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. By nominating both Liu and Chen, the White House had hoped to correct the historical underrepresentation of Asian-Americans on the federal bench. But apparently, the GOP doesn’t want that to happen.

As the L.A. Times explains, the Senate must agree to carry over pending nominations when it goes on a 30-day recess. But Republican leaders have objected to carrying over Liu’s and Chen’s nominations. Or, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (who recommended both Liu and Chen to President Obama) puts it, “The Republicans are obstructing and, in effect, trying to kill these nominations….It is tragic because these are very worthy nominees who deserve to have their nominations debated and put to a vote.”

In truth, Asian Americans are extremely underrepresented in the nation’s judicial system. When I wrote about Judge Denny Chin’s nomination to Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, last year, there were no Asian American judges at the federal level. Chin’s confirmation to the Court of Appeals made him the first Asian American federal judge to serve in the U.S. Court of Appeals in American history. Prior to Chin’s confirmation, Judge Edward Chen made history last August by becoming the first Asian American judge to serve at the federal level when he was confirmed as a U.S. District Court judge in Northern California.

This consistent pattern of underrepresentation in the nation’s judicial system is incredibly deleterious to our community. Here’s what I wrote last year:

[M]any of the country’s landmark civil rights cases throughout history were brought by Asian Americans against the state of California or the federal government. Here are those listed by Lee and Kawaichi in their article:

  • In Yick Wo vs. Hopkins, one of the earliest civil rights cases in American history, the Supreme Court in 1886 struck down a discriminatory San Francisco ordinance targeting Chinese Americans.
  • In Wong Kim Ark vs. the United States, a landmark immigration case in 1898, the Supreme Court applied the 14th Amendment to grant citizenship to an American of Chinese ancestry born in the United States.
  • In Korematsu vs. United States, one of the most infamous civil rights cases in American history, the Supreme Court upheld the forced exclusion and detention of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II without the right to notice of charges, the right to attorneys or the right to a trial. Forty years later, in 1984, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the Northern District court overturned Korematsu’s conviction, ruling that there was no good justification for the internment.
  • In Lau vs. Nichols, a suit brought by Chinese American students living in San Francisco, the Supreme Court expanded the rights of all students throughout the country with limited English skills by requiring language accommodation.

Asian Americans are not merely impacted by decisions made in federal courts, we have been instrumental in changing the face of the United States for the better throughout this nation’s history. Yet, Asian Americans are yet to be adequately represented in the positions that actually make these critical rulings.

The GOP’s obstruction of the nominations of Goodwin Liu and Eric Chen represent a serious blow to Asian Americans and the justice system. Republicans are just playing politics; yet our community is caught in the crossfire.

Act Now! Chris has started this petition over at Change.org, telling the GOP not to stall Liu and Chen’s nominations. Please join me in signing the petition.

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