Deputy SF City Attorney Might Be First Judge Of South Asian Descent On NorCal Federal Court

A deputy San Francisco city attorney who defended city laws in several high-profile cases has been nominated by President Obama for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

Vince Chhabria, 43, was proposed for the federal trial court judgeship by Obama on Thursday. He must be confirmed by the Senate.

Chhabria joined the city attorney’s office in 2005 and currently serves on its government litigation team and as co-chief of appellate litigation.

In that role, he defended a number of city laws, including measures banning tobacco sales in pharmacies; requiring local employers to help pay for health insurance for their workers; and reducing cash welfare grants according to the value of housing and other benefits given to recipients.

Chhabria also participated in briefs filed by the city to challenge the state’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, “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.

“That is exactly the kind of person you want in the federal judiciary,” Herrera said.

If confirmed, Chhabria, whose ancestors were from India, would be the first judge of South Asian descent on the San Francisco-based federal court.

“We are proud to support him. He has the credentials, experience, and temperament to be an exemplary judge,” said Wendy Shiba, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Chhabria earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998 and his undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz in 1991.

He was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in 2001-2002. Before that, he clerked for Breyer’s brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco, in 1998-99 and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Browning in 2000-01.

Chhabria worked for three years for the law firm of Covington and Burling before joining the city attorney’s office.

Chhabria was recommended to Obama by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to fill the seat vacated when U.S. District Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco assumed senior, or semi-retired, status on July 1.

“His extensive federal court experience will make him a tremendous addition to the court,” Boxer said Thursday.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!