The Pipeline

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Posticker Sig revisedTHE PIPELINE

To paraphrase an old lawyer hate joke – Q. What do you call 42,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) attorneys in a pipeline?  A. A good start…to being nominees for US Supreme Court. “We’re on the cusp of an Asian American justice,” said author and Dean Frank Wu, whose UC Hastings Law School churns out more APA law students into that pipeline than any other law school in the nation. “I am confident that if it’s not with the next appointment, then it will be the next one after that, we will see an Asian American wearing those [US Supreme Court] judicial robes…” Ingredients for Wu’s forecast – President Obama’s last term to appoint a relative young justice to serve long on the gerontocracy of US Supreme Court justices (average age is 67), with talk that the oldest and former President Clinton(1993-2001) nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, is ready to step down before Obama leaves…

UC Hastings Law School Dean Frank Wu and Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Phil Ting (right)

UC Hastings Law School Dean Frank Wu and Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Phil Ting (right)

FIT FOR A ROBE: The California State Supreme Court headquartered in San Francisco has been a cradle for talent for the US Supreme Court. Goodwin Liu, 42, landed in the State Court after the US Senate derailed him in 2011 for the western federal US Court of Appeals 9th Circuit (which is below the US Supreme Court) partially out of fear that President Obama was fast tracking him for the highest court in the land…Ming Chin, 70, appointed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996 to the California Supreme Court, was also ripe for consideration during the Bush Administration (2001-09). Given Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s, 53, prominence as Chief Justice of the world’s largest court system (See “Potstickers” on 2/28/13 at tinyurl.com/an4leqp) should receive a look see. The list doesn’t stop there as US Supreme Court expert and author (The Nine and The OathJeffrey Toobin in New Yorker magazine last month read off potential nominees, including Indian Americans – Obama’s Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, 46, and California Attorney General and former SF District Attorney Kamala Harris and Vietnamese American in Jacqueline Nguyen, 48, of the SF-based 9th Circuit Liu was originally destined for. Obama in January nominated Srinivasan to the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, a launch pad for four of the nine current US Supreme Court justices…

State Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu (Stanford University)

State Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu (Stanford University)

BOXER REBELLION: How big are FilAms in Nevada? Boxer Manny Pacquiao rescued US Senator Harry Reid for a close re-election in 2010 (as well as supporting Jerry Brown’s resurrection as Calif. Governor) by stoking Filipino American turnout. Senate Majority Leader Reid – a Nevada Democrat and former Athletic Commissioner – reciprocated in 2012, calling for an investigation into Pacquiao’s controversial 2012 loss of his title… Senator John Ensign, Republican also from Nevada, showed up for Pacquiao’s May 2009 win for junior welterweight crown. In meeting the boxer, Ensign noted for the boxer in an ESPN story that he was one-eighth Filipino. After voting against FilAm veterans benefits in 2008, his FilAm cred however wasn’t put to the test when a June 2009 extramarital affair disclosure put an end to 2012 presidential aspirations and Senate re-election. The Roseville, Calif. native resigned in 2011…

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

California Attorney General Kamala Harris

California Attorney General Kamala Harris

MILK & TICS: If there’s ever a David vs. David contest – as in Supervisors Chiu vs. Campos for the 17th Assembly District seat (eastside SF) in June and November 2014, a compare and contrast between the two could be revisited on how they handled hallmark legislation two weeks ago. Campos was unable to rename SFO after Supervisor Harvey Milk, and is settling for renaming an airport terminal after the assassinated gay icon. So, no ballot measure galvanizing the LGBT community and raising Campos’ profile for a 2014 Assembly run…Meanwhile, Mark Farrell’s condo conversion legislation helping tenancy-in-common (TIC) owners but amended by Chiu is going back to SF Board of Supervisor committee for more debate. Chiu wanted a conversions moratorium amendment on Farrell’s legislation originally allowing TICs to bypass a conversion lottery for a $20,000 fee apiece into an affordable housing fund. Amendment has scored tenant points for Chiu after 2011 criticism for his swing vote allowing redevelopment of Parkmerced apartments. But homeowner, small property landlords and real estate interests aren’t pleased despite supervisor’s claim of a compromise for tenants and TIC owners…

Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao's husband has the power to slow or sink nominations in the US Senate (Heritage.org)

Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao’s husband has the power to slow or sink nominations in the US Senate (Heritage.org)

LABOR’S NOT WORKING: With any US Supreme Court nominee, they’ll face wily Kentucky US Senator Mitch McConnell who’s gumming up confirmation for Obama’s nominee, Tom Perez for Labor Secretary, a post once held by McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao under President George W. Bush (2001-09). She had become the first Chinese American and APA woman cabinet member after Linda Chavez withdrew her name with the specter of facing a US Senate grilling over her employing an undocumented Guatamalan…

ISLAND POLITICS: Something about Asian, APAs, casinos and their politics…Philippines and China are at odds over islands in the South China or West Philippines seas. Who will China’s Macau root for in this November’s match between welterweight and Philippines congressman Manny Pacquiao and his US challenger Brandon Rios? Tensions escalated as Taiwan prepared to flex its muscles with sanctions and a military exercise after the Philippines apologized for its coast guard killing a Taiwanese fisherman in contested waters. The islands – also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam – are more than 900 miles away from Macau. Meanwhile, the US – calling for restraint – doesn’t have an island in this fight…

US Court of Appeals nominee Sri Srinavasan (Oyez.org)

US Court of Appeals nominee Sri Srinavasan (Oyez.org)

MAKING THE PUSH: Both Frank Wu and California Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Phil Ting noted it’s not a lack of talent for the high court. The issue Liu and other court nominees face is community support and pushing a judicial nomination thru the US Senate. Ting, honoring Wu as a leading educator this week for APA Heritage Month in the State Assembly, said of the first ever Latina American US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “We did not get a Latino jurist because the Latino community sat back and said ‘we’re going to wait.’” Hispanic bar and community leaders had advocated for the President and Congress to respectively appoint and confirm Latinos to the bench. “Confirmation isn’t always easy,” said Wu, noting his friend Goodwin Liu. “In the US Senate, there will be a fight, Sometimes a political fight…It’s crucial for Asian Americans to show that we are a force to be reckoned with. There are a lot of people who don’t take Asian Americans seriously. It’s hard to believe [with many APA political leaders] in San Francisco, or in California. But that’s true in Washington DC and thru out this land,” said Wu, former dean of Howard University Law School, which graduated future first US Supreme Court justice of color in Thurgood Marshall

Jacqueline Nguyen of US Court of Appeals (wikipedia)

Jacqueline Nguyen of US Court of Appeals (wikipedia)

BAY AREA GIRL COMES HOME: Whatever goes around comes around for California State Assembly former Chief Administrative Officer Maeley Tom decades after interviewing a Capitol Tour Guide. Honored on May 3 after running the joint during the Speakership of Willie Brown Jr., Tom ended up getting a resolution honoring her from the same tour guide, Ellen Corbett, now California State Senate Majority Leader representing the 10th District (25% APA voters, including cities like Fremont, Milpitas, Union City and parts of San Jose)…The Tom trophy room in Sacramento got more crowded with the Senate resolution, a documentary about her and lifetime achievement award from the APA Democratic Caucus of Alameda County during a dinner led by Co-Presidents Calvin Fong andPhong La. “It’s a little like coming home,” said Tom, the Oakland Tech grad and political godmom from Westlake Jr. High and Lincoln School

CIVIC HONDAS: Hondas do come in all makes and models, including the civic variety as Rep. Mike Honda discovered SF Board of Appeals Commissioner Darryl Honda at the Congressman’s ping pong fundraiser last month in Fisherman’s Wharf. Both carry that gregarious gene that’s game for politics…While Darryl’s had better success winning appointments (by the Mayor and former State Senator John Burton), Mike’s been in elective office since 1981 as a school board member…

MISS ME?: Email Samson Wong at potsticker@prodigy.net and  follow him at Twitter @SFPotstickers…

About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.