Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and U.S. District Court nominee Derrick Kahala Watson in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda with students from Kamehameha Schools in February, when Watson’s nomination to the federal bench cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on April 18 confirmed the appointment of Derrick Kahala Watson to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Watson is now the sole person of Native Hawaiian descent serving as an Article III judge, and only the fourth in U.S. history.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), released the following statement:

“I am thrilled that the Senate has voted to confirm Derrick Kahala Watson’s nomination to the U.S. District Court. This decision continues a significant trend of working to ensure that our federal judiciary reflects the diversity of the American people. Judge Watson is a strong addition to the federal bench, and will surely be a great public servant for the people of Hawaii.”

Watson most recently served as the chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii. Previously, he worked in private practice in San Francisco and spent several years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. Watson also served in the U.S. Army Corps and was a captain in the JAG Corps from 1998-2006. He is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools and attended both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Statements from Hawaii’s congressional delegation:

Sen. Mazie Hirono: “Derrick Watson’s confirmation today recognizes his eminent qualifications to serve Hawaii and our nation from the federal bench. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I have had the opportunity to interact with Mr. Watson and am confident he will serve with distinction. Beyond his legal acumen, he brings sorely needed diversity and cultural perspective to the federal bench as the sole Native Hawaiian currently serving. Congratulations to Mr. Watson and his family on this momentous occasion.”

Sen. Brian Schatz: “I’m proud that the Senate confirmed Derrick Watson for U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. His leadership and wealth of experience as a long-time attorney has made him a proven leader for the people of Hawaii. I am confident he will continue to serve our country well, and with Native Hawaiians being underrepresented on the federal bench, his confirmation is a big step in the right direction towards diversifying the court.”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa: “With his fine legal reputation and personal connection to our state and our host culture, I am confident Mr. Watson will be an excellent addition to Hawaii’s federal bench. Both Sen. (Daniel) Inouye and Sen. (Daniel) Akaka supported his nomination, and their recommendation remains important to me. I am proud that President Obama has reflected our state’s diversity and rich heritage with this nomination, and continued his support of women and minorities.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: “Today, Judge Watson made history. I am confident he will serve Hawaii with distinction and honor. He has dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice and fairness in our legal system. I am proud to welcome this Kamehameha Schools graduate to serve in such a prestigious capacity. We are fortunate to have someone of his stature serving on our District Court.”

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