Obama wants Fil-Am lawyer as federal judge


Lorna Schofield

LOS ANGELES—US President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Filipino-American trial attorney Lorna Schofield to serve as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of New York.

If confirmed by the United States Senate, Schofield would become the first Filipino-American federal judge.

Fil-Am groups lauded Schofield’s nomination, saying it was a big win for diversity. “Given that Asian-Americans are significantly underrepresented in the federal judiciary, Ms Schofield’s addition will greatly enhance the judiciary’s diversity,” said Ed Navarra, national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

“It’s long overdue,” said lawyer Arnedo Valera, executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission based in Washington, DC. “It’s good for America to have diverse perspectives, whether it’s national origin, gender or ideology.”

Schofield, 56, is the daughter of a Filipino woman who immigrated to the United States during the post-World War II reconstruction of the Philippines.

Scholar at NYU

She grew up in a blue-collar community in the US Midwest where she earned a full scholarship for her undergraduate education at Indiana University. She double-majored in German and English, graduating magna cum laude in 1977. Schofield went to New York University Law School, where she was a Pomeroy scholar and became editor of the NYU Law Review.

Schofield worked at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP as litigation partner for nearly 20 years. In 1991, she became the firm’s first minority partner.

She also served as an assistant US attorney in the criminal division of the Southern District of New York. She became the first Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) to chair the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association, and the National Law Journal named her one of the nation’s 50 most influential minority lawyers.


“We are proud and delighted that our friend and colleague Lorna Schofield has achieved this highly deserved recognition,” John S. Kiernan, cochair of Debevoise & Plimpton’s litigation department, said in a statement sent to the Inquirer. “She is an extraordinary lawyer and person,” Kiernan said.

Lawyer Jason T. Lagria, KAYA national cochair, said he hoped Schofield’s nomination would inspire members of the Fil-Am community “to follow in her footsteps.”

“It is exciting to finally see a Filipino-American serving as a federal judge,” Lagria said. “Growing up, [I had not seen]  many Filipino lawyers I could look to as role models.”

Lagria praised Obama for pushing through an unprecedented diversification of the federal judiciary system. When Obama took office, there were only eight AAPI Article III federal judges out of 874, Lagria said. Article III judges are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and given lifetime tenure.

“In just over three years Obama has doubled the number of AAPI federal judges,” Lagria said. “His nomination of Attorney Schofield affirms his administration’s commitment to the Filipino-American community and to have a judiciary that reflects the nation it serves.”

Rosie O’Donnell’s lawyer

Schofield was thrust into the limelight when she led the defense team of celebrity talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell in a $100-million lawsuit brought against the TV celebrity in 2003.

She once more gained wide attention after US Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) recommended her to the White House on Jan. 23 as a candidate for federal district court judge in the Southern District of New York.

Essential values

Schofield described the lawsuit against O’Donnell as her “most memorable and most fun case,” according to The College Magazine, a publication of Indiana University.

The publisher of Rosie Magazine brought a $100-million lawsuit against O’Donnell for abruptly pulling out of their business partnership. The case was thrown out, and Schofield was quoted by a newspaper as saying: “The judge’s comment that this was an ill-conceived case was very gratifying to us. Rosie never wanted to get into this. They picked the fight and Rosie feels vindicated.”

After the trial, Schofield was interviewed on several TV programs, including “The Today Show.” On “Sixty Minutes II,” Dan Rather interviewed her on corporate confidentiality agreements and sealing orders.

Schofield told The College Magazine that her mother, a pharmacist, “stressed achievement, independence and self-sufficiency as essential values.”

“My mother came to the United States because of her idealism about the country that had saved her during World War II, and remained here, I believe, because of the stigma and shame she would have suffered had she returned to the Philippines as a divorced woman,” Schofield said.

Sharing her thoughts on diversity, she said it’s important for people who are involved in the justice system—lawyers, litigants and judges—“to see lawyers of every type leading the profession.”

“The message is that our legal system is open and accessible to all, whether they come as advocates or litigants.  Because the world we live in is diverse, and becoming increasingly so.  We can learn from each other,” she said. “Every unique perspective brings something valuable to the table.”

Originally posted at 09:33 pm | Thursday, April 26, 2012

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  • Hfxwst

    It is sad that we export our best and our brightest.  She is to be congratulated as an American who is of Filipino heritage – not as a Filipino who made it big in the USA.

    Imagine what someone so intelligent, and accomplished could have done for our country!  Instead, she will be working hard for a different country and they will receive the benefit of her abilities.

    Sad for us!

    • Practical

       She was not “exported”.

      She was born, raised and educated in the US, not in the Philippines.

      • renato

        Then stop this Fil-Am, Fil-Am crap. She is an American of Filipino heritage.  It is sad to note that making it in the United States remains the standard of success for many Filipinos.

      • manual47

        how about you…Renato.  Where did you come or born from.  Ain’t you proud of where your race came from.  Looking back of where one came from it’s not that bad.  Maybe you’re not proud of where you came from but most of us Fil-Am, Fil-Can still proud where we came from including my two daughters who were born in the U.S. and still proud to call themselves Filipinas.  No doubt about that.  So, stop your envious attitude and just leave us to be proud of our heritage…….

  • kapitanBagwis

    Let us get her to be our Supreme Court Chief Justice. Corona is not even worthy to shine her shoes.

  • RomyLitz

    Corona has to go.

  • RomyLitz

    Corona is the model of a Thief Justice.

  • allandel

    we should stop calling people of filipino heritage who made it good in a foreign country as fil-am or fil-whatever if they do not have dual citizenship. Hfxwst is correct in pointing this out. nakakaawa naman tayo, lagi na lang nakikisakay.

    • Observer18

       Indeed! They should also stop reporting something like this as news. What’s the big deal. Except for the Indians or First Nations, everyone in North America is an immigrant. Sink or swim, and no need to highlight someone’s Filipino heritage. If a British becomes successful as an immigrant in the US, do British media pay particular attention? No, because they’re secure people. So stop, all this ridiculousness, Filipino media and newspapers!

      • manual47

        You must be one of those people who would rather criticize a person than keep your mouth shut….what an envious person you are.  What have you accomplish so far…..

    • manual47

      You must be one of those people who would rather criticize a person than keep your mouth shut….what an envious person you are. What have you accomplish so far…..

  • robrano

    No wonder. Obama wants the votes of “Fil-Ams next election. But true, those people have very little to do anymore with the Philippines.

    • F14Tomcat

      Fil-AMs in America surely have very little to do with the Philippines simply because or their permanent residency in America, but never underestimate their willingness to pull out their hard earned dollars to donate when a calamity or disaster hits the Philippines.  Quite frankly, many of them never abandoned their sense of nationalism to their Motherland by way of providing medical missions to the country every year, incuding providing free medical services to the poor people in Payatas.  Also, many and if not, all of us Fil-Ams have some way or another have sent monies to our relatives in the Philippines to further their education, be it for medical procedures, put up a business and hired employees, as well as other reasons for monetary needs.  Many of our relatives who have succeeded have become good citizens and taxpayers in the country.   Still, this may not be enough for you to consider that Fil-Ams have something to do with the Philippines.  You be the judge.

  • joboni96

    sa dami ng mga pilipino sa u.s. at
    kanilang kontribusyon

    ito lang?
    walang believe si barak
    at barat mag appoint

    department secretary man lang sana

    • boyfarmer

      Ito lang? wala ka nang sinabi kundi puro kontra USA, grabe ang pagka brainwash ng leftists ideology sa yo.

      • joboni96

        pro pilipino kamo

        ikaw u.s. colonized utak

  • Atagalong

    Right on!

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