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Chhabria Tapped for Illston's SeatIf confirmed, the S.F. deputy city attorney would be the state's first South Asian federal judge.
2013-07-25 05:54:45 PM
SAN FRANCISCO — Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria has been tapped by the White House to serve on the Bay Area's federal bench.
The White House announced on Thursday Chhabria's nomination to fill the seat vacated by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who took senior status on July 1. If confirmed, Chhabria — who is of Indian descent — will be the first district judge of South Asian ancestry in California. Chhabria did not respond to a request for comment.
"We have one of the highest concentrations of South Asian Americans in the Northern District, and now we'll have a representative on the judiciary," said Kiran Jain, a senior deputy attorney for the City of Oakland and past president of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California. "I think it speaks volumes to have a judiciary that reflects the community that they serve."
Chhabria, who serves as deputy city attorney for government litigation and co-chief of appellate litigation, has had a hand in a number of high-profile cases since joining the office in 2005. Last year, Chhabria squared off against the cell phone industry in his unsuccessful fight for the city's "Right to Know" ordinance, which required retailers to post warnings of possible health risks associated with using cellphones. He was also associate counsel in the city's challenge to the state ban on gay marriage.
"Vince has been a true professional in these hotly contested cases, always thinking objectively, taking seriously the arguments of our opponents and treating those opponents with complete respect," City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement. "That is exactly the kind of person you want in the federal judiciary."
Chhabria was recommended for the slot by Senator Barbara Boxer's judicial selection committee.
Although many recent judicial nominees have been ensnared by partisan fights in the U.S. Senate, Jain said she does not expect Chhabria's involvement in controversial cases to hinder his nomination. She noted that he has been endorsed by both the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the Central Labor Council.
"I think that speaks to his temperament and his broad support," she said.
Friends in the legal community noted that Chhabria offers the perspective of a corporate attorney, too, having represented both companies and officers in criminal and civil matters as an associate at Covington & Burling.
"I have no doubt that he will be totally fair on the bench, having represented both sides of the divide," said Quinn Emanuel partner John Potter, who worked with Chhabria at Covington.
Chhabria, who received his J.D. from UC-Berkeley School of Law in 1998, joined Covington after clerking for the late Judge James Browning of the Ninth Circuit and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
"He has a brilliant legal mind and impeccable judgment," Potter said. "He was clearly one of the best lawyers I've had the pleasure of working with or against in my 20-odd years as a practicing lawyer."
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