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November 07, 2022

New York judge Pamela K. Chen to receive Stonewall Award

CHICAGO, Nov. 7, 2022 — The American Bar Association Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) will honor Judge Pamela K. Chen of the Eastern District of New York with its Stonewall Award during a ceremony on Feb. 4, 2023, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.

Named after the New York City Stonewall Inn police raid and riot of June 28, 1969, which was a turning point in the gay rights movement, the award recognizes lawyers who have considerably advanced lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the legal profession and successfully championed LGBT legal causes. 

Chen started her legal career at Arnold & Porter in 1986, then worked at the boutique law firm of Asbill, Junkin, Myers & Buffone from 1989-91, both in Washington, D.C. From 1991-98, she was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. Beginning in 1998, she served as a criminal assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Chen was elevated to chief of that office’s Civil Rights Section in 2002, where she oversaw the development of its anti-human trafficking program, resulting in the investigation and prosecution of scores of traffickers and the identification, rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking survivors, including transgender victims of sexual exploitation and violence.

In 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Chen to serve as a U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of New York. Receiving her commission in 2013, Chen is the first openly LGBTQ+ Asian-American person to serve on the federal bench. She is the board chair of the Sonia & Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program, a pipeline organization that places high school, college and law school students from diverse and underserved communities in judicial internships in state and federal courts in New York City. She also mentors students through the Henry Hank Fellowship, a judicial internship program specifically for LGBTQ law students.

Chen has a B.A. from University of Michigan and J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

The ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity leads the ABA’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and full and equal participation by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the ABA, the legal profession and society. Created in 2007, the commission seeks to secure equal treatment in the ABA, the legal profession and the justice system without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.