Native Hawaiian Poised to Join Federal Bench | Courthouse News Service
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Native Hawaiian Poised to Join Federal Bench

(CN) - President Barack Obama nominated Derrick Kahala Watson to serve as a federal judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Upon Senate confirmation, Watson will fill a vacancy left by U.S. District Judge David Ezra who took senior status on June 27, 2012.

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus says Watson will be the only person of Native Hawaiian descent serving as an Article III judge, and only the fourth to serve in U.S. history.

Watson went to Harvard University after graduating in 1984 from the Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, a private school system primarily attended by native Hawaiians.

He earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1988 and earned his law degree there three years later.

Watson joined the San Francisco firm of Landels, Ripley & Diamond as an associate in 1991. He then worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of California from 1995 to 2000, serving as deputy chief of the Civil Division.

Returning to the private sector, Watson next joined Farella Braun & Martel in San Francisco and became a partner there in 2003.

Watson next started as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii in 2007, becoming chief of the office's Civil Division in 2009.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii had 1,697 new case filings in 2011 and currently has one vacancy.

Watson will earn a salary of $174,000 per year.

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