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Professional Spotlight: Judge Nina Wang


Judge Nina Wang and chambers staff

Former APABA President Judge Nina Wang became an Article III judge of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado in July 2022. She finds it a joy and privilege to spend her time fairly applying the law. She enjoys that her job is mission-driven. Every case that comes before her is important and she wants people who are in her courtroom to feel confident that they were seen and heard.


As a child, Judge Wang experienced firsthand the U.S. legal system when her family fought to stay in the United States. Judge Wang immigrated to the United States when she was three years old because her father was a diplomat for Taiwan. When the U.S. decided to break relations with Taiwan and diplomats were called back to Taiwan, her family applied to adjust their immigration status through a program the U.S. government offered to consulate officers. Unfortunately, the application Judge Wang’s family submitted was lost. It was not found and processed until after the program had expired. In response, her father sued the U.S. government. He won at the district court level but lost at the appellate level. Being subjected to these legal proceedings as a child motivated Judge Wang to pursue a career in law.

In addition to the legal icon that Thurgood Marshall is, Judge Wang is inspired by people she personally knows and who share a vision of what the law should and could be. She looks up to Judge Peter Messitte in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland who she clerked for and Judge Paul Friedman in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia who she interned for. To Judge Wang, they set a good example of how a judge should be: they were prepared, thoughtful, and considerate to staff. She is also inspired by the great colleagues she has had over the years in D.C. and in Colorado, including Judge Regina Rodriguez who hired her at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado


Judge Wang’s previous experiences helped prepare her to be an Article III judge. As a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Judge Wang handled similar cases to the ones that may come before an Article III judge. She also served for four years in the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado, where she was exposed to a variety of cases and practiced in the same courthouse she serves in today. Her experience as a practicing attorney influences how she treats other attorneys before her in court. She tries to be understanding and reflects on the more practical aspects of the job, which a judge can forget about as they become more removed from those aspects, such as remembering how much time discovery takes and how challenging it might be to engage with opposing counsel. Her various work experiences have taught her valuable organization, research, writing, and advocacy skills that she continues to use today.

In addition to her impressive work experiences, Judge Wang has been very involved with APABA. In 2007-2008 Judge Wang served as APABA Colorado president. Judge Wang remarks that it was a different time for her back then, as APABA was smaller. She was also pregnant for part of her term and remembers planning the annual banquet with a newborn baby. She adds that APABA is a second home to her and that she has great admiration for what her APABA peers do. APABA has been a great source of support for both her and her peers throughout their careers. APABA has provided a space for creating connections and has offered many learning opportunities. Furthermore, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association was very influential during her judicial confirmation process. Over the years she has seen APABA continue to grow and foster an amazing new generation of movers and shakers. She used to look up to the older generation in APABA, and now she feels that she herself is part of the older generation that younger attorneys can look up to. She believes APABA has done a good job integrating with the broader Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and hopes to see APABA continue to support the community and AAPI lawyers in the years to come.


One piece of advice Judge Wang has to share with AAPI law students and new attorneys is to think big: do not limit yourself! There were many times she was the only AAPI person, woman, or AAPI woman in a room, but she did not let that limit her. She kept thinking big, and look at her now – a federal district court judge!


When she is not working, Judge Wang values spending time with her family which includes going to baseball and soccer games. She also enjoys jogging, cooking, hanging out with her friends, and trying new things.


 


Aili Miyake is a 2L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law (DU) focused on studying civil rights and labor law. She is the Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association at DU and is interning for APABA Colorado. Outside of school, Aili enjoys painting, baking, and ice skating.


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