US Senate confirms first Fil-Am federal judge

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Lorna Schofield

LOS ANGELES—The Filipino-American community is celebrating another milestone: The United States Senate confirmation of the first Fil-Am to serve as Article III federal judge.

By a 91-0 vote Thursday (Friday in Manila), the United States Senate confirmed trial lawyer Lorna Schofield, who was nominated by US President Barack Obama and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in April, as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of New York.

Article III judges are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate and appointed to lifetime tenure.

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.

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 (NYU) Law School, where she was a Pomeroy scholar and became editor of the NYU Law Review.

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

Schofield shares a place in history with Judge Alfred Laureta, a Filipino-American who served as judge for the District of the Northern Mariana Islands from 1978 to 1988.

Although technically federal judges, those appointed to the District of Northern Mariana Islands are not lifetime tenure Article III judges but 10-year-term judges under Article I of the US Constitution, according to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (Capac).

Capac joined various Fil-Am groups in lauding the confirmation of Schofield.

“Ms. Schofield’s confirmation by the Senate is a historic moment not only for our community but [also] for the entire nation,” National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) national chair Ed Navarra said in a statement.

“Given that Asian Americans are significantly underrepresented in the federal judiciary, Ms. Schofield’s addition [to the bench] will greatly enhance the judiciary’s diversity,” he said.

“We need more role models like Judge Schofield to inspire our young people to aspire for public service,” said Gloria T. Caoile, a former White House commissioner.

“[The United States Senate’s] laudable action is a demonstration of their continued commitment to nominate well-qualified and diverse candidates to the federal bench,” said Rozita Lee, former NaFFAA national vice chair and a member of the White House Commission on Asian Pacific American Islanders.

“We are elated with her confirmation and our community is very proud to see a Filipino-American achieve this honor and distinction,” Lee said.

KAYA national cochair Jason T. Lagria said Schofield’s confirmation was “an inspirational story that shows there is no limit to what our community can achieve through perseverance and hard work.”

Lagria said the New York metropolitan area had the fourth largest Filipino-American population in the United States, “so it is encouraging to see our judiciary reflect the population it serves.”

“This is definitely a reflection of continued commitment from our country’s leadership,” said Ray Buenaventura, mayor of Daly City and honorary KAYA board adviser.

“[Schofield] will be an inspiration for the legal profession, especially those from minority groups,” said lawyer and community leader Arnedo Valera, executive director of the Washington-based Migrant Heritage Commission.

“Our judiciary and the legal system as a whole is best served when the judges belonging to different ethnicities are recognized and appointed to the bench,” Valera said.

Schofield 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. The National Law Journal named her one of the nation’s 50 most influential minority lawyers.

Schofield and Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the Eastern District of New York are the only judges of Asian descent to serve on the federal district courts of New York.

“It heartens me to know that the judiciary, the branch of government dedicated to the interpretation of our most important cornerstone–the Constitution–is becoming more reflective of the dynamism and diversity of our nation,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu, Capac chair.

Congressman Mike Honda, Capac chair emeritus, said Schofield’s confirmation is not only a victory for the people of New York and the nation as a whole but also a “giant step toward a more equitable representation of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders on the federal bench.”

“Ms. Schofield has broken many barriers throughout her career, and today’s confirmation symbolizes a judiciary that better mirrors the nation it serves,” Honda said.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • kismaytami

    Please! Filipino is a word reserved only for the citizens of the Philippines and its language. The lady deserves to be called an AMERICAN [citizen].

  • kilabot

    hope she is not tainted with perverted ideas. obama has perverse tendencies.

    • kanoy

       nah she has never met the POPE

  • 123dudley

    first of all she is an American…not Fil -Am….some one is grasping at straws..

  • adevolgado

    I don’t see anything wrong with PDI publishing this article. First of all, there are a lot of Filipinos in the US whose remittances are important to our economy. So any news relating to the Filipino community in the States is important to the Philippines. Also, why are so many people recklessly assuming that this woman is totally ignorant of her Filipino heritage? I am sure most of the people who read this article have only heard of her now so it’s only right to refrain from making any characterization and making her into some sort of poster girl for whatever your advocating.

    • kanoy

       1 SHE is NOT filipino she is AMERICAN her MOTHER is filipino and is NOT an OFW,,, why are so many people recklessly assuming that this woman is totally ignorant of her Filipino heritage? for the same reason that you are recklessly assuming that this woman is NOT totally ignorant of her Filipino heritage….OPINION,,,,having lived in the USA over 60 years i can say the one thing they are proud of after being BORN IN THE USA is being AMERICAN….just like a filipino BORN IN THE RP is proud to be a FILIPINO>>>I am sure most of the people who read this article have only heard of her now>>UNLESS you are american,,,,she is not a rabbit Obama did not just pull her out of his hat she has handled high profile cases in the past but the RP PRESS did not find this ”all the sudden since appointed FIL-AM” newsworthy,,,but her country,,,the USA did.. also like in 2009 when she was chosen to chair the over 400,000 strong…largest in the world, AMA,,,you could hear a mouse pi$$ing on cotton the PHILIPPINE media found it so newsworthy,,,just as historic but so much for the ”heritage” theory

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5STEU22AD7YRHQSB6RE56ZDSYA J

    Her first name sounds and her looks is pinay but what is it for me? 
    Should I say hurraaay or should I supposed to kiss her ahssh. 
    What is this article for?
    Perhaps the author is saying to real Pinoy that “hey dude, look at her, study hard go to US and someday you will be a fed-judge”.
    I don’t get it.

    • kanoy

       kind of ”hey dude look how you can be successful in other countries BUT NOT HERE because they INVEST, PROVIDE and STRIVE to GIVE you OPPORTUNITIES to SUCCEED and the RP DOES NOT”

  • 444mangyan888

    Yap J..
    So, what is in it for me..?
    She, or her parents went to US.. made good and succeeded in her chosen carreer ..that’s her story. So..?
    Had she made it here as a judge or unto higher judicial position, then she will be fair target because she has to prove her mettle of integrity, non-corruptibility and patriotism. Tough things to maintain. But if she could keep her worth, yun ang hanep.!!
    She is now enjoying a better life in the US. But her story should be relegated to a lessser important section… and not in PDI please. We have more things beeeter to read and make our day here.

  • DakuAkongUtin

    Hindi na yan si Pinay kasi hindi na yan marunong mag tatagalegleg much less even have any clue about Pino history. Baka kukulungin na yang mga kayurakot sa ating gobyerno

    SHe is full pledged American. SHe is an American, not an abodo eating kayumanggi.

  • reychard678

    Aquino lauding our kababayan abroad for their exemplary feat is just the second best to your most important task to do. What’s more defining to behold and read is the final resolution of the most unprotracted foe of the people in your govt which is  graft and corruption

  • Taga Borongan

    Schofield is not a Filipino and I am´sure she does not claim to be a Filipino. She was born, raised, and schooled in America. She is a 100 percent American. We Filipinos have become laughing stock around the world because we have the bad habit of claiming what does not belong to us. About 1/3 of Americans have German blood, so just imagine if German media keeps of reporting the success of every American with German family names.And by the way, I have met several such “Filipino-Americans” who correctly claim ” I am American” and who appear to be irritated when asked about the Philippines.

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