Opinion: Asian California judges should be considered for Supreme Court

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The recent unexpected death of United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was almost immediately followed by speculation about his replacement. Equal attention has been given to the question of whether the Republican-controlled Senate will permit a confirmation vote. While media-based candidacies abound, two Californians — both esteemed Asian Pacific American judges — should be given strong consideration. Each possesses impeccable judicial credentials, combined with outstanding personal experiences, which would have an immediate and positive impact on the Supreme Court. Nominating either of them would be historic.

Justice Goodwin Liu has been an associate justice of the California Supreme Court since 2011. In sharp contrast to the bruising confirmation battle for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, during which time he was vilified by Senate Republicans as being a left-wing ideologue, Liu was confirmed unanimously to the California Supreme Court in 2011.

Liu’s performance on the California Supreme Court has proven his fear mongers wrong. His opinions are clear, precise, intellectually thoughtful and very well-reasoned. Far from being an ideologue, he has been restrained. Despite being labeled as death penalty abolitionist, Liu has consistently voted to uphold application of the death penalty, including authoring 10 majority opinions affirming death judgments. He is a former law school associate dean and professor and a recognized expert on constitutional law and education policy. He has wide experience in private practice, government and academia. The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Liu was born in Augusta, Ga., and grew up in Sacramento as a product of the public school system.

Judge Jacqueline Nguyen fled the Vietnam War when she was nine years old to start a new life in the U.S. as a refugee, spending her initial time in America in a tent city in Camp Pendleton. Despite what others would see as the hardship of the challenges of starting over with nothing, Nguyen and her family persevered through hard work and a consciousness of the opportunity that is America.



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