Judge Jacqueline Nguyen had never met a lawyer before attending law school at UCLA. She fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon with her parents and five siblings all younger than 11 and started life in the U.S. living in a tent city with other refugees at Camp Pendleton.
Now President Obama has nominated Nguyen, who two years ago became the first Vietnamese American woman to serve as a federal judge, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.
“Judge Nguyen has been a trailblazer, displaying an outstanding commitment to public service throughout her career,” Obama said.
After fleeing Vietnam, Nguyen’s parents saved enough money to open a doughnut shop in North Hollywood. Her mother cleaned dental offices at night and peeled apples for a pie company, jobs Nguyen would often help with, as her father transitioned from being a major in the South Vietnamese Army to being an overnight-shift worker at a bank and a gas attendant.
In high school, Nguyen would study between customers at the doughnut shop her parents eventually opened, a habit that helped her receive a full academic scholarship at Occidental College in Eagle Rock.