The White House announced today that President Obama has nominated Pamela Ki Mai Chen, an out lesbian, to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn. Chen is the first LGBT Asian-American to be nominated for a federal judgeship.
In a statement, Obama said, “I am proud to nominate this outstanding candidate to serve on the United States District Court bench. Pamela Chen has a long and distinguished record of service, and I am confident she will serve on the federal bench with distinction.”
It is unlikely, due to the time nominations take to proceed in the current Congress, that Chen, currently an assistant U.S. Attorney, would see a vote on her nomination before the elections in November.
Obama has nominated a handful of out lawyers for judgeships, three of whom were approved by the Senate and one whose nomination was withdrawn. Judges J. Paul Oetken and Alison Nathan both now sit on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is in Manhattan. Judge Michael Fitzgerald sits on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Edward DuMont was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the 111th and current session of Congress, but the nomination was withdrawn after it was never acted upon by the Senate. Democrats cited Republican opposition, but Republicans noted that Democrats could have moved forward regardless of the Republicans' views.
Judge Deborah Batts, the first out LGBT federal judge, was nominated by President Clinton and also sat on the Southern District of New York bench, but she took "senior status," a near-retirement, earlier this year.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has made a point of strongly supporting diversity on the federal bench and backed Chen's nomination.