Pamela K. Chen
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Pamela Chen is a federal District Court Judge in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, New York. She was nominated to the federal bench in January 2013 by President Barack Obama, confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 4, 2013, and sworn in on March 19, 2013. Judge Chen is the first openly gay Asian-American federal judge and only the second Chinese female federal district court judge.
Since her appointment to the bench, Judge Chen has presided over a wide array of civil and criminal cases, including a civil lawsuit challenging New York’s ban on the possession of nunchuks, a civil lawsuit alleging religious profiling of Muslims by the New York City Police Department, the tax fraud prosecution of former U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm of Staten Island, New York, and the RICO prosecution of FIFA soccer officials.
Between September 1998 and March 2013, Judge Chen was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), except for a brief period in 2008, when she served as Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement in the New York State Division of Human Rights. During her tenure in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Judge Chen investigated and prosecuted cases involving terrorism, gang violence, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and civil rights crimes.
As the Chief of the Civil Rights Unit, Judge Chen oversaw the development of the Office’s anti-human trafficking program, which resulted in the investigation and prosecution of hundreds of traffickers and the identification, rescue, and restoration of hundreds of survivors of trafficking. One of the first cases brought by the EDNY U.S. Attorney’s Office under Judge Chen’s tenure, United States v. Carreto, which involved the sex trafficking of young Mexican women and girls, resulted in 50-year sentences for the two lead defendants, and the reunification of the victims with their children, whom the traffickers had been holding in Mexico. In 2015, Judge Chen and then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch were honored by Sanctuary for Families for the anti-human trafficking work done by the U.S. Attorney Office under Attorney General Lynch’s leadership as U.S. Attorney for the EDNY.
Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Judge Chen was a Senior Trial Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where she litigated matters relating to conditions of confinement for individuals in state and local institutions, such as facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, nursing homes, juvenile detention centers, and prisons. She also litigated cases around the country to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances soon after its passage in 1994.
Judge Chen began her legal career at the law firm of Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., and also worked at Asbill, Junkin, Myers and Buffone in Washington, D.C. Judge Chen is a 1986 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center.