Senate Republicans balked the last time President Barack Obama nominated an Asian-American from California to a prominent bench seat, which some conservatives considered a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.
Now, with the nomination of Los Angeles-based U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Hong-Ngoc Nguyen to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Obama and GOP lawmakers will get another chance to either fight or reconcile over a potentially historic appointment.
Obama’s prior choice for the 9th Circuit, then-law professor Goodwin Liu, saw his nomination languish under a GOP wet blanket for some 15 months before he withdrew last May; 92 federal judiciary vacancies remain, including 17 on appellate courts.
The 9th Circuit spans nine Western states: Idaho, Washington, California, Alaska, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Oregon.
“Judge Nguyen has been a trailblazer,” Obama said in a statement announcing her nomination late Thursday, adding that he is “confident she will serve the American people with fairness and integrity.”
The American Bar Association on Friday advised the Senate Judiciary Committee that its committee unanimously judged Nguyen to be “qualified.” This falls short of “well qualified” but is above “not qualified.”
As a district court nominee in 2009, Nguyen was judged “well qualified” by the ABA. Appellate court nominees, more than trial-level nominees, get judged heavily in areas such as legal scholarship and writing ability.
Born in Vietnam in 1965, Nguyen would be the first Vietnamese-American on a federal appellate court if she wins Senate confirmation. For those looking two moves ahead on Capitol Hill, that potentially raises the stakes, including the possibility that she’s being given a tryout for the really big league.
Picture from Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times