Schofield Is First FilAm Federal Judge In NY

by Joseph G. Lariosa


CHICAGO (jGLi) – Even if she believes that the Supreme Court or the Court Appeals had seriously erred in rendering a decision, Lorna G. Schofield told the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, she would still be bound to follow and would follow the precedent of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

With this answer to one of numerous questions fielded to her by the Committee, the U.S. Senate by a 91-0 vote has confirmed Thursday (Dec. 13) the nomination of Lorna Gail Schofield as the first Filipino American “Art. III” federal judge in the Southern District of New York.

A daughter of a Filipina mother and a U.S. serviceman father, Schofield, 56, who was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, told the Committee that “a federal court must declare a federal statute to be unconstitutional if the issue is properly before the court, and the statute violates a provision of the Constitution or if Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in enacting the statute.”

Schofield, who had been in private law practice all her life, said, “It is not proper for judges to rely on foreign law, or the views of the “world community” in determining the meaning of the (U.S.) Constitution.”

She said, “The most important attribute of a judge is to be fair and impartial in applying the law. A society governed by the rule of law is one in which the laws apply equally, predictably, transparently and in the same fashion to all regardless of the identity of the litigants or the judge. I believe I have the ability to be fair and impartial.”

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) national chair Ed Navarra described Schofield’s confirmation as “historic moment not only for our community but for the entire nation. Given that Asian Americans are significantly underrepresented in the federal judiciary, Schofield’s addition will greatly enhance the judiciary’s diversity.”


President Obama and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York nominated Judge Schofield in April this year. “Their laudable action is a demonstration of their continued commitment to nominate well-qualified and diverse candidates to the federal bench,” adds Rozita Lee, former NaFFAA national vice chair and now a member of the White House Commission on Asian Pacific American Islanders. “We are elated with her confirmation and our community is very proud to see a Filipino American achieve this honor and distinction.”

Adds Gloria T. Caoile, a former White House commissioner: “We need more role models like Judge Schofield to inspire our young people to aspire for public service.”

Schofield is the only child of a Filipina mother who came to the United States during the post-World War II reconstruction of the Philippines. The pharmacist mother and daughter remained in the Midwest after Schofield’s father left the family when she was only three years old.

She grew up in a blue-collar community and received a full tuition scholarship to attend Indiana University. She earned her law degree from the New York University Law School and in 2008 was named one of the nation’s 50 most influential minority lawyers by the National Law Journal.

She served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York for four years before joining the firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP where she is currently serving as Of Counsel.


As an “Article III” judge, Schofield is a member of the vast majority of federal courts called “Article III courts,” including the U.S. Supreme Court, the various U.S. Courts of Appeals (for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, D.C. and Federal Circuits), and all of the United States District Courts other than the territorial courts. The U.S. Court of International Trade is also an Article III court. Judges of Article III courts enjoy salary protection and life tenure (that is, they may only be removed by impeachment and conviction).

As of January 2010, federal district judges were paid $174,000 a year.

On the other hand, “Article I” judges address the legislative power of the federal government, which includes Congress’s power over non-state territories (e.g., American Samoa). Article I courts include territorial courts (such as U.S. District Court for the Virgin Islands), and also some specialized courts created by Congress for specific purposes (such as the United States Tax Court, the United States Court of Military Appeals and U.S. Court for China). Judges of Article I courts generally do not have the constitutional protections of life tenure or salary protection, and are instead often appointed for fixed terms (such as 10 or 14 years).

“Article II” judges address the executive power of the federal government, which includes the President’s power as commander in chief, including military courts and the “anomalous U.S. Court for Berlin.” (

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