By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Federal Judge Pamela K. Chen was sworn in on Friday at an investiture, or robing ceremony, as the newest addition to the United States Eastern District Court. Chen’s colleagues, mentors, friends, and family all came out to help acknowledge her accomplishments and her successes as she made the transition from trial attorney to federal judge.
“I can’t say how proud we are of her,” noted Chen’s brother, Eric Chen. Law school classmate and current Lieutenant Governor of Illinois Hon. Sheila Simon reminisced about the study group that she and Chen formed over 25years ago while at Georgetown Law School, which that still meets up today.
“Pam was famous for getting both sides of the argument,” Simon said. “She had a passion for learning and an idea that she could be a part of justice.” This passion is not only one that Chen and her study group displayed in their academic achievements, it is something that they “sang about,” Simon noted as she pulled out her banjo and proceeded to sing a song about the first case she witnessed while in law school.
Judge Chen, on the recommendation of United States Senator Charles E. Schumer, was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate in March 2013.
“We are delighted to have such a distinguished lawyer join our court and are grateful to Senator Schumer for recommending her and to President Obama for nominating her,” Chief Judge Carol Bagley Amon noted.
“Pam is absolutely tireless,” said Chen’s former housemate and former Deputy Counsel to the President and National Security Council Legal Advisor Mary DeRosa. “She brings energy to everything that she does. She is physically and intellectually the least lazy person I know.”
Judge Chen is only the second female Chinese-American to be appointed a federal judge. After spending the first five years of her career in the private sector, Judge Chen began a dedicated career in public service, with a focus on civil rights work. Judge Chen first served as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She then moved to New York City in 1998 and became an assistant United States attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
There, she was promoted to Chief of Civil Rights Litigation, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Section, and then finally to chief of the Civil Rights Section.
Many commented on how faithful and loyal a friend Chen has been in addition to her lighthearted nature. “[Chen] has the ability to see the absolute best in people … she is one of the kindest people I know,” said Kelly Moore, partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. “She [also] doesn’t take herself too seriously so don’t expect her to take you seriously either. She will take your case and your argument seriously but, she won’t take you seriously,” Moore gave as advice to attorneys that may appear in front of Chen.
“Chen is brilliant but quiet about it,” DeRosa noted.
During the ceremony, Judge Margo Brodie continued the tradition of presenting an oversized gavel to the newest judge on the bench.
Chen, born of immigrant parents, concluded the ceremony by thanking all of those in attendance as well as her parents and the United States as a whole. “I am here because of my parents’ love for this country and the democracy that this country in built on that allowed a child of immigrants to achieve her dreams,” she said.