Fordham Law


New York Times Reports Judge Denny Chin '78 to be Nominated to Appellate Court

September 09, 2009

The New York Times has reported that alumnus Hon. Denny Chin '78 is expected to be nominated by President Obama for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The full story follows.

Judge Who Sentenced Madoff to Be Nominated to Higher Court
September 10, 2009

By BENJAMIN WEISER

Denny Chin, a federal district judge in Manhattan who has been involved in a number of prominent decisions, including the sentencing of Bernard L. Madoff to 150 years in prison for his huge Ponzi scheme, is expected to be nominated by the White House for a prestigious appellate judgeship in New York, according to the office of Senator Charles E. Schumer.

Mr. Schumer’s office said that the nomination is expected in the coming months, in time to be confirmed by the Senate before it recesses toward the end of the year.

If nominated, and confirmed by the Senate, Judge Chin would join the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, known widely for its rulings in financial and white-collar cases, among others. It is also the court where Justice Sonia Sotomayor served before she was named to the Supreme Court by President Obama.

Judge Chin, 55, would become the sole Asian-American to fill an active judgeship on a United States Circuit Court of Appeals. (Judge A. Wallace Tashima of the Ninth Circuit has taken “senior status,” a sort of semi-retirement.)

Senator Schumer, who was consulted on the matter, said, “We told the White House that Judge Chin would be an outstanding choice.”

“Even in the most high-profile of cases, he has been unflappable, erudite and steadily applied the law,” said the senator, who sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Judge Chin, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, came to the United States with his family at the age of 2, and became a citizen about a decade later.

His parents, who were born in China, had moved to Hong Kong as refugees from the Communists, and were later admitted into the United States under the Refugee Relief Act of 1953. Judge Chin’s father worked as a cook in Chinese restaurants, while his mother worked as a seamstress in garment factories in Chinatown.

A graduate of Stuyvesant High School and Princeton, he obtained his law degree at Fordham University. He worked as an assistant United States attorney in Manhattan, and later in private practice. President Bill Clinton appointed him to the district court in 1994.

Known for his intellect, command of his courtroom and self-deprecating wit, he is also a ferocious rebounder in a playground basketball game that includes lawyers, prosecutors, law clerks and others, a fellow player said.

The judge’s chambers declined comment on the possibility of his nomination.

Among Judge Chin’s prominent cases is the pending $125 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by authors and publishers over Google’s book-scanning project.

In a major ruling a decade ago, he ordered Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s administration to grant a permit that it had denied for the Million Youth March, ruling that “even hateful, racist and offensive speech is entitled to First Amendment protection.”

In June, at Mr. Madoff’s sentencing, Judge Chin called his crimes “extraordinarily evil,” and said any sentence of more than 20 years for the 71-year-old defendant would be “largely if not entirely symbolic.”

But, Judge Chin added, “the symbolism is important because the message must be sent that in a society governed by the rule of law, Mr. Madoff will get what he deserves, and that he will be punished according to his moral culpability.”