Pathways to the Bench: U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen

Pathways to the Bench: U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen

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The following program was produced by
the United States courts. One of the things that I learned when I was growing
up was my parent’s tremendous work ethic, and their sense of humility, and their
tremendous gratitude for the opportunities that this country offered.
And I always had a sense that it would be very wasteful not to reach out and take
advantage of those opportunities. I was born and raised in a small town north of
Saigon. It was a very idyllic childhood. All of that ended abruptly in 1975 when
South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam’s communist forces. The city was being
shelled and even as a young child I understood that my parents feared that
we would be killed. I certainly knew people who had been killed. My dad was a
Major in the South Vietnam Army and so the next task for my dad was really to
find a way to get us out of the country. And we were incredibly fortunate to be
airlifted out of Vietnam. We went to a temp city that was set up as a temporary
shelter for the Vietnamese refugee population in Camp Pendleton in San
Diego. My parents were in shock because not only did they have to deal with the
loss of their homeland but also with the prospect of starting all over again,
trying to figure out how to provide food and shelter and raise six children in a
foreign land. Whenever job opportunities came our way
my mom would take it. One of the first jobs that my mom took on was peeling
apples and cutting them up and putting them in boxes. And so that was something
which she really required a lot of assistance because she would do this in
evening hours after her full-time day job. And we would stay up late into the
night helping her peel and cut these apples, and that really made a very deep
impression on me. The fact that no opportunity was too small to pass by. And
I stayed and maintained that I think throughout my adulthood, and it really
shaped all the decisions that I’ve made in my life. When I started college I
wanted to major in English literature, and that opened the door for me to go to
law school. Even though at that time, I could never have imagined or dreamed of
becoming a lawyer and the judge, but if I hadn’t really strengthened my reading
and writing skills I wouldn’t have been prepared for law school. When I graduated
from law school I was very fortunate in a tough market to receive an offer from
a big Los Angeles law firm. But I knew that it wasn’t my passion. It wasn’t what
I wanted to wake up in the morning doing every day, and so I jumped at the
opportunity to go into the US Attorney’s Office because what I really wanted to
do was to be in public service. And even though when I was in private practice I
was making more money than my dad was ever able to make in all of the years
that he struggled here in the United States, I still made that choice. Because
pursuing my passion felt like the right decision for me. And that opened up the
doors to a career on the bench. In 2002 I was appointed to be a California
Superior Court Judge, and I was doing it for a few years; feeling for the first
time in my professional life like I have everything perfectly balanced. I got a
call from a woman that I’ve known for a long time asking me to think about being
a Federal Judge. The district to which I was appointed, the docket is tremendously
heavy, and so I knew that if I accepted that historic appointment, where I would
be the first Asian American woman appointed that to that bench, that
I would have to work very very hard and essentially doubling my workload. And
I didn’t know if I was ready for that type of challenge, but she called me
again and she said, you need to do this. Whenever I face difficult decisions in
my life I’m always reminded of my parents. Seeing that example I think has
always inspired me to reach outside of my comfort zone. I think you have to have
the courage to hold on to the opportunities that you’re given, but that
could change the course of your entire life and that’s what I did and that’s
how I became a Federal Judge.

5 thoughts on “Pathways to the Bench: U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen

  • thedrloboski stevens Post author

    I have a really important question about the California court of appeals, I read a while back and now I can't find it, It has to do with New really strong Evidence (Witness) and that if it could indeed change the verdict that the California's Appeals would let it come in, Any idea where I could find that information at or anyone know anything about it?. Thanks.  [email protected]

  • S Williams Post author

    This was very moving and inspirational…. what an awesome lady!!!

  • kevinicity01 Post author

    Very inspirational.  Federal judges seem to be somewhat more decent, in my opinion, that state judges.  This judge looks like she would be fair and decent.

  • Ms. Chelita. Post author

    Truly inspiring!

  • Zachary Windsor Post author

    It is what it is?

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