WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamela Ki Mai Chen to serve on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Chen, an out lesbian, is currently chief of the civil rights section in the Criminal Division of the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s Office.
If confirmed, Chen would become only the second female Chinese-American in U.S. history and one of a handful of out lesbians and gay men to receive one of the nearly 900 lifetime appointments to the federal district and appellate courts.
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“Pamela Chen will be an excellent federal judge,” said Schumer. “She is an experienced attorney with a long record of public service who possesses the legal excellence, intellect and temperament to be a first-rate judge.”
Chen is the daughter of Chinese-American immigrants. Her father was born near Shanghai and grew up there, and her mother was born in Changsha, the capital of Sichuan Province. They met in the U.S. at the University of Chicago during the second world war.
She received her bachelor’s from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the Georgetown University Law School. She then served as an associate for Arnold Porter and Asbill, Junkin, Myers & Buffone, working on a variety of civil litigation matters.
Chen entered public service in 1991, serving for eight years in the U.S. Department of Justice as a trail attorney in the Civil Rights division. There, she specialized in the reform of state and local prisons, juvenile detention centers, and residential facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.
Moving to New York in 1998 to work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Chen now serves as Chief of the Civil Rights Section’s Criminal Division. She has specialized in the investigation and prosecution of criminal civil rights matters, including human trafficking, and hate crimes.
Chen also provides training to federal law enforcement on human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad.
In 2008, she served as the Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement at New York State’s Division for Human Rights where she expanded her experience in human and civil rights, and supervised division attorneys relating to discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and public benefits; and investigated and pursued administrative matters to address systemic patterns of discrimination.
“Ms. Chen is a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Her leadership skills, her commitment to justice, and her extensive experience make her an fantastic choice for a position on the Eastern District Court,” said Schumer.