Senate Panel OKs Chin To Join 2nd Circ.

Professor Paul Radvany in Law360, December 11, 2009

Media Source

By Nick Brown

Law360, New York (December 11, 2009) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve the nomination of District Judge Denny Chin to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Some experts say Judge Chin, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is more similar to than different from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose nomination earlier this year created a void on the Second Circuit.

“In terms of life experiences, there's an overlap,” securities attorney William P. Frank, a partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, said Friday. “They each have had remarkable families that have educated them and brought them along to become solid citizens and solid judges.”

Judge Chin adjudicated a number of high-profile cases this year, including the ongoing complex suit over the use of copyrighted works in Google Inc.'s online library.

Judge Chin also oversaw a case from New York street entertainer the Naked Cowboy accusing media giant Clear Channel Communications of infringing his trademarked persona. The Naked Cowboy dropped that case in August.

Judge Chin, a Hong Kong native, moved to the U.S. with his family at age 2, earning an undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1975 and a JD from Fordham Law School in 1978.

He spent two years at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1982, then started his own firm with two partners. He was nominated to the Southern District of New York in 1994.

In testimony before the Judiciary Committee in November, Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called Judge Chin's nomination “long overdue.”

“If confirmed to the Second Circuit, he will be the only active Asian Pacific-American judge to serve on a federal appellate court,” Leahy said. “It is unbelievable that of the approximately 175 active appellate court judges in our country, none are Asian Pacific-American. More than 14 years have passed since an Asian Pacific-American was nominated to a federal appellate court.”

Frank said Judge Chin's culturally rich background echoes the themes that made Justice Sotomayor an attractive nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“His mother and father came over from [Hong Kong], and listening to him tell the story is very moving,” Frank said. “It really is the 'Great American Story.' He was the first in his family to go to college.”

But Judge Chin also shares certain professional characteristics with Justice Sotomayor, according to Paul Radvany, a law professor at Fordham.

“I think Judge Chin is a perfect replacement,” Radvany said Friday. “Like Judge Sotomayor, he has a wealth of experience as a trial judge, which is very useful. Also like her, he previously worked both for the government and in the private sector. All of those experiences will serve him well as an appellate judge.”

Other notable cases assigned to Judge Chin this year include criminal charges against two former WexTrust Capital LLC executives accused of masterminding a $250 million Ponzi scheme, and consolidated shareholder class action suits against General Electric Co. accusing the conglomerate of misleading investors about the health of its financial services.

Frank does not believe Judge Chin's nomination was a political one.

“As far as my impression, he's a smart guy, he accommodates both sides equally in a trial, and he's not liberal or conservative,” Frank said. “He's cold as the season.”

But Judge Chin's nomination could reflect on the Obama administration in other ways, Frank admitted.

“Obama's a smart guy, and he wants to fill vacancies with other smart guys,” Frank said. “So in that sense, he fits the Obama mold.”

--Additional reporting by Christine Caulfield and Julie Zeveloff