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Key Senate committee approves LA judge for Ninth Circuit

Judge Jacqueline Nguyen
Judge Jacqueline Nguyen
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A Los Angeles judge who fled Saigon with her family at the end of the Vietnam war is one step closer to becoming a member of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a unanimous thumbs up Thursday to the nomination of Jacqueline Nguyen.

The vote on judicial nominations was the first order of business for the Senate Judiciary Committee. When Chairman Patrick Leahy asked that those in favor of the three nominees "signify by saying aye,” there wasn't a single 'nay' vote.

Leahy (D-Vt.) praised the woman who started her life in the U.S. as a refugee in a tent at Camp Pendleton, and ended up serving as an assistant U.S. attorney, an L.A. Superior Court Judge, and a judge on the federal bench. The Democrat from Vermont put it this way: "The Ninth Circuit needs Judge Nguyen."

Judge Nguyen was selected by a bipartisan advisory committee established by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) The committee carefully screened applications, interviewed applicants and recommended finalists to Senator Feinstein, who then forwarded her recommendation to President Obama.

Nguyen immigrated to the United States when she was ten years old, after the fall of South Vietnam's government in 1975. Her parents arrived at Camp Pendleton with six children, no job prospects and "$5 in their pockets". Her mother did not speak English.

Both parents worked anywhere from two to three jobs at a time in Los Angeles, and Judge Nguyen and her siblings worked side-by-side with them – cleaning a dental office, peeling and cutting apples for a pie company, and finally managing a donut shop in North Hollywood that their parents bought and owned.

Nguyen has acknowledged early hardships, but wrote in her judiciary application, "I nevertheless feel incredibly fortunate because those early years gave me invaluable lessons that have shaped who I am today.”

President Obama’s last nominee to the Ninth, UC Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu, was stalled by Senate Republicans. Liu withdrew his nomination and was named to the state Supreme Court.

Judge Nguyen now joins dozens of other federal court nominees awaiting floor votes in the Senate.