President Obama Appoints Derrick Kahala Watson to Federal Bench

The Asian American Justice Center and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association announced today that President Obama nominated Derrick Kahala Watson to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. If confirmed, Watson will be the only Native Hawaiian serving as an Article III judge, and only the fourth in American history. Here’s updated coverage on this appointment by CivilBeat.com.

Watson currently serves as chief of the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii. Prior to joining the office in 2007, he was in private practice at two firms in San Francisco, and also served for several years in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. Watson was a member of the United States Army Reserve and served as a Captain in the JAG Corps from 1998-2006. He attended Kamehameha Schools, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School, and is the first person in his family to attend college. Watson was raised in a multi-generational household on Oahu that included his mother, who worked at a local bank until her retirement several years ago, and his father, who retired from the Honolulu Police Department.

“We applaud Derrick Kahala Watson’s nomination to serve as a federal district judge on the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii,” said Wendy C. Shiba, president-elect of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). “Mr. Watson has deep roots in Hawaii and if confirmed, he will be the only person of native Hawaiian ancestry on the federal bench. NAPABA commends President Obama, Senator Inouye, and Senator Akaka for supporting the nomination of such a well-qualified nominee to serve the people of Hawaii.”

“We applaud President Obama, Senator Inouye, and Senator Akaka for supporting a nominee who has devoted much of his career to government service,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. “Mr. Watson’s nomination demonstrates the continued commitment of the President to diversify our judiciary.”

“Pacific Islanders and Native Americans remain essentially unrepresented in the federal judiciary,” stated the release. “No Native Hawaiian currently serves as an Article III judge, and there are currently no Native Americans serving on the federal bench. NAPABA continues to work with our partner organizations to remedy this glaring omission.”

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