Jim Tranquada

U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen '87, who two years ago became the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve as a federal judge, has been nominated by President Barack Obama '83 to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


"Judge Nguyen has been a trailblazer, displaying an outstanding commitment to public service throughout her career," Obama said Thursday. "I am honored to nominate her today for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals and confident that she will serve the American people with fairness and integrity."

Nguyen's family was one of the last to flee Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975, when she was 10 years old. After three months in a tent with two other refugee families at California's Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, the Nguyens settled in Montrose and opened a doughnut shop.

An English and comparative literary studies major at Occidental, Nguyen was inspired to go to UCLA Law School by her memories of her family's struggles to navigate the legal system. "I remembered when we were refugees and how ignorant we were as to the legal system in the United States," she toldOccidental Magazine in a 2003 interview. "It can really seem insurmountable."

She began her legal career as a litigation associate with the Los Angeles firm of Musick, Peeler & Garrett, joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1995, where she worked as a federal prosecutor in the general crimes and government fraud sections. Even as she earned the nickname the "Smiling Assassin," she continued to work in her parents' doughnut shop on weekends. "I was sensitive to the fact that it was a family business," she said. "I viewed it as my responsibility."

Nguyen was appointed a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 2002, the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve in the state judiciary. She continued in that capacity until she was appointed to the federal bench by Obama in 2009.

Nguyen's nomination to the Ninth Circuit, which would fill a seat vacant since 2009, must be confirmed by the Senate. If confirmed, Nguyen will become the first Occidental alumnus to serve on a federal appeals court. B. Rey Schauer, Class of 1912, served as an associate justice on the California Supreme Court from 1942 to 1964.a