Obama Nominates Top Fil Am Lawyer; Congressional Leaders Urge Swift Confirmation By Senate

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – President Barack Obama sent Wednesday (April 25) the nomination of Filipino American Lorna G. Schofield of New York to the United States Senate for confirmation as a federal judge in the Southern District of Court of New York in place of retiring Judge Shira A. Sheindlin.

Attorney Schofield, if confirmed, will become the first American of Filipino descent ever to serve on the federal bench.

A press release from the White House received by this reporter nominated Schofield along with four others, namely, Terrence G. Berg, Jesus G. Bernal, and Shelly Deckert, to different federal district courts in Eastern District of Michigan, Central District of California and Middle District of Louisiana, respectively, and Charles R. Breyer as member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Ed Navarra, national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) congratulated Schofield on her nomination, saying, “As a second-generation Filipino American, Ms. Schofield’s nomination and confirmation by the Senate would make her the first in the history of the United States to serve as a federal judge. Given that Asian Americans are significantly underrepresented in the federal judiciary, Ms. Shofield’s addition will greatly enhance the judiciary’s diversity.”

“GREAT ADDITION TO THE BENCH”

Rozita Lee, NaFFAA National Vice Chair Emeritus, added, “We are elated with her nomination and our community is very proud to see a Filipino American achieve this honor and distinction. Given her professional background and experience, she will no doubt bring a unique perspective to the U.S. District Court.”

In recommending Lorna G. Schofield to serve “as a judge on the prestigious U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York,” Senator Charles Schumer said Schofield, 56, “would make a great addition to the bench.”

“As a top-flight lawyer and former Assistant US Attorney, Schofield has had a distinguished legal career and would make a fantastic judge,” said Schumer. “When I select judges, I always look for three things – excellence, diversity, and moderation – and Schofield exemplifies all of these qualities. I’m pleased to recommend her to President Obama for the Southern District Bench.”

Leading luminaries of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) also welcomed the nomination of Schofield.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC Chair said,  “Lorna Schofield is an exceptionally well qualified nominee with the intellect, experience, and credentials to serve as an Article III judge. … If confirmed, … she would be serving in a district where nearly one in ten residents identifies as Asian American or Pacific Islander”  She commended Senator Schumer for recommending Ms. Schofield, and thank President Obama for his firm commitment to promoting diversity in our federal judiciary.

“Over the past three years, the President and Senate leadership have literally doubled the number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on the federal bench to ensure that our courts reflect the populations they serve. I urge the Senate to move forward with Ms. Schofield’s confirmation to the District Court for the Southern District of New York,” Chu said.

On the other hand, Congressman Mike Honda, Chair Emeritus of CAPAC, said: “I am proud to support the Obama Administration’s efforts to nominate experienced candidates like Ms. Schofield to the judiciary.  I thank Senator Schumer and President Obama for their leadership with her nomination, and I now urge the Senate to act swiftly in confirming her to ensure a more diverse representation of AAPIs on the federal bench.”

Schofield graduated from Indiana University magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and from NYU Law School, where she served as staff editor and note-and-comment editor of the NYU Law Review. Schofield then went to work at the law firm of Clearly, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton.

She then left to work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where she worked as a prosecutor on cases involving domestic terrorism, arms smuggling and tax fraud.

After four years, Schofield left to work at Debevoise & Plimpton, where she was made partner in 1991. At the firm, she worked on civil cases as well as white-collar crime.

SUPER LAWYER

According to a profile in the The College Magazine of the Arts and Sciences at Indiana University (her alma mater) in Spring 2011 edition, Schofield (BA, 1977) has been named a “Super Lawyer for five years in a row by Super Lawyers magazine.”

The College profile said Schofield lists “her most memorable – and most fun – case” when she represented Hollywood comic Rosie O’Donnell in the lawsuit filed against O’Donnell by the publisher of (O’Donnell’s) magazine.”

In 2003, O’Donnell’s publishers sued her for $300-million over her decision to terminate her interest in Rosie magazine after the company attempted to seize editorial control from her.

By the end of the contentious litigation, the presiding judge, not content with merely stopping the case, admonished lawyers for the publishing group, saying their case was “ill-conceived.” Following the O’Donnell trial, Schofield was interviewed by many news programs, including the Today Show.  Dan Rather on 60 Minutes II interviewed her on corporate confidentiality agreements and sealing orders.

HEADS 70,000-MEMBER ABA’S LITIGATION SECTION

She is the first Asian American to chair the 70,000-member litigation section of the American Bar Association.

The only child in her family, Schofield said, “My father (a U.S. serviceman) left us when I was 3. My mother came to the United States because of her idealism about the country that had saved her during World War II, and remained here, I believe, because of the stigma and shame she would have suffered had she returned to the Philippines as a divorced woman.  She was a pharmacist and stressed achievement, independence and self-sufficiency as essential values.”

Schofield double-majored in German and English, graduated with honors, and considered pursuing an academic career.  She soon settled on law school, however, and a stint as a prosecuting attorney sealed the deal: she was going to be a litigator. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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