(CN) - An official ceremony Friday marked the passing of the chief judgeship in the Central District of California -- the nation's highest-volume federal court -- to U.S. District Judge George H. King.
The first Asian-American to hold the position, King succeeds U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins, who served as chief judge since Jan. 5, 2009.
He will lead a bench of 25 active district judges, 10 senior judges, and 24 full-time and one part-time magistrate judges serving seven counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.
With more than 16,500 cases filed last year, the Central District handles the highest caseload of any federal court and serves about 18.6 million people -- nearly half the population of California, according to a district court press release.
King assumed his duties as chief judge on Sept. 14.
"It is a great honor to be able to serve our court as chief judge," King said at Friday's gavel-passing ceremony. "Without a doubt, we face significant challenges in the years ahead, ranging from ongoing vacancies, rising caseloads and diminishing resources. However, our court has been blessed with extraordinary judges and staff who have ensured that, first and foremost, justice is served in our district."
He applauded former Chief Judge Collins' "tireless and proactive leadership," and said he was "grateful that her foresight has laid the groundwork for the court to continue to carry out its constitutional duties."
The ceremony featured a greeting from 9th Circuit Judge Raymond Fisher and several tributes to Collins, according to the press release. U.S. District Judges Christina Snyder and Virginia Phillips presented the former chief judge with a photograph of Audrey Hepburn, her favorite actress, signed by the late actress and the judges.
"It has been an honor to serve as chief judge of the Central District for almost four years," Collins said. "As we face even more severe budgetary challenges and strain on the judicial branch, the Central District is indeed fortunate to have George King as its next chief judge."
She described King as "super-smart, energetic, fully immersed and engaged in the issues this court is now facing, a generous and supportive friend, and more than ready to meet the truly significant challenges facing this court in the years ahead."
King received his undergraduate degree from the University of California Los Angeles and his law degree from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in the 1970s. He served as a magistrate judge for the Central District from 1987 until his appointment as a district judge by President Bill Clinton in 1995.
He could serve up to four years as chief judge of the Central District.
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