August 10, 2009

Judges are in the news. On the same day, we read that U.S. Federal Judge Robert Takasugi has passed away and learn that President Obama–on the heels of Sonya Sotomayor’s Supreme Court appointment– has nominated five new federal judges, including three Asian Americans to California courts.

Judge Takasugi’s obituary tells how he was taken from his home in Tacoma, Washington, and sent to Tule Lake at the age of 11 (photo: Gary Miyatake/Associated Press). His father died in camp. He called his experience as a “prisoner of war imprisoned in an American-style concentration camp” an “education to be fair.” Takasugi was one of the first Japanese Americans to be appointed to the federal bench. More details of his career are here. Among other notable rulings is his post 9/11 dismissal of terrorist charges against an Iranian group for lack of due process of law. The decision invalidated part of the Patriot Act.

On August 7, Obama nominated Edward Chen and Dolly Gee to be federal district judges in California. If confirmed, Gee would become the first Asian-American woman on the district court in central California and Chen would become the first Asian-American federal district court judge in the San Francisco area. On July 31, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen was nominated to the U.S. District Court of central California.

I had the honor of meeting Judge Takasugi a few years ago at a Tule Lake Pilgrimage. He impressed me as a champion of diversity and individual justice. We can be confident the latest court nominations would have pleased him.