AGE: 41

Chicago Lawyers take pride in the recent appointments to the local federal bench, but they’re especially impressed with Edmond Chang, who has tackled a number of difficult cases with composure since he became a U.S. district court judge in December 2010.

Earlier this year, Chang denied Fed­Ex Corporation’s motion for summary judgment in a failure to accommodate claim brought by employee Eric Weathers, a self-described conservative evangelical Christian. According to Chang’s decision, the company “instructed Weathers that he could not discuss religion even at the prompting of a coworker,” arguing in court that it wasn’t required “to permit Weathers to create a hostile working environment for others in order to accommodate his beliefs.” Chang called that argument “dubious,” adding, “To suggest that Weathers could not be accommodated without creating a hostile work environment overstates the nature of Weathers’s requests for clarification.” The two parties came to a settlement in May.

And in Jane Doe v. Village of Arlington Heights, Chang ruled that a female teenage minor could not sue the police officer who, after responding to a 911 call about teenagers who were drinking and smoking, left her with three underage males who later sexually assaulted her. When other police officers responded to a second 911 call, they found one of the males raping the girl. In her suit, the girl claimed that the first officer violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to adequately investigate the first 911 complaint. In a March ruling, Chang dismissed the claim, writing that the officer “neither created nor increased the danger.” The Constitution is intended to limit government intervention, Chang wrote, not to requre it.

Four Chicago litigators who spoke to us about Chang used words like “outstanding” and “universally well-respected” to describe the judge. “He truly is the nicest guy you’ll meet,” says one laywer who also knew him as an assistant U.S. attorney. Chang is still relatively young for a federal judge, this lawyer says, adding, “He’s got an unlimited future.”

Chang is the first Asian American federal district court judge to serve in Chicago. After graduating from Northwestern University School of Law in 1994, he clerked for Judge James Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and then worked as an associate at Sidley Austin. Chang joined the Chicago U.S. attorney’s office as an assistant in 1999. He later served as deputy chief of the general crimes unit and chief of appeals for the criminal division.

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