Judge Steve Kim – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

On October 8, 2017, Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, a federal judge in Los Angeles, unexpectedly and tragically passed away after collapsing in a middle of a speech to the California State Bar.  Two years after Judge O’Connell’s passing, President Trump has nominated an apolitical magistrate judge to fill that vacancy.

Background

Judge Steve Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1972.  Kim got his B.A. from the University of Oklahoma in 1996, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1999.[1]  After graduating, Kim clerked for Judge Sidney Thomas on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Judge Stephen Wilson on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California before joining Munger Tolles Olson in Los Angeles as an Associate.[2]

In 2003, Kim joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California as a federal prosecutor.[3]  In 2007, he joined Stroz Freidberg LLC.  In 2015, he left to found SK Advisory Services.

In 2016, Kim was selected as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.[4] 

History of the Seat

Kim has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on October 8, 2017 by the untimely death of Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell.

In November 2017, Kim applied and interviewed for a federal judgeship with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[5]  In February 2019, Kim interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in September 2019.  Kim was nominated on November 21, 2019.

Legal Experience

Before he joined the federal bench, Kim worked both as a prosecutor handling criminal matters in federal court, and in private practice handling white collar, cybersecurity, and forensic issues.  Over his career, Kim has litigated eight trials, and has argued five cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As a federal prosecutor, Kim argued before the Ninth Circuit that forensic searches of computers crossing the U.S. border did not require reasonable suspicion, a position adopted by the appellate court.[6]  He also handled the trial and appeal involving a real estate agent convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.[7] 

Jurisprudence

Since 2016, Kim has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Los Angeles.  In this role, Kim presides over settlement, preliminary hearings, bail, and any cases where the parties consent to his jurisdiction.  By his estimation, Kim has presided over five bench trials over his judicial career.[8] 

Notably, Kim presided over the arraignment of Lori Loughlin, who was arrested for her role in fraudulently obtaining college admissions.[9]  Kim allowed Loughlin to be released on a bail of $1 million, although he prohibited her from international travel beyond Vancouver, Canada, where she was filming.[10]  Kim also presided over the bench trial of Robert Rosebrock, who was charged with displaying U.S. flags on the fence of a Veteran’s Affairs facility without permission.[11]  Kim acquitted Rosebrock, finding that the state had failed to provide evidence that Rosebrock lacked permission to display the flags.[12]

Overall Assessment

Judge Steve Kim was recommended for appointment by California’s Democratic senators and has been approved by the White House.  Additionally, given his apolitical background and relatively noncontroversial record, Kim should be confirmed relatively comfortably and will create a relatively moderate record on the district court.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Steve Kim: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] See id. 

[5] Id. at 46-47.

[6] See United States v. Arnold, 533 F.3d 1003 (9th Cir. 2008).

[7] See United States v. Lloyd, No. 05-50300, 2006 WL 1737564 ((th Cir. June 22, 2006).

[8] See Kim, supra n. 1 at 9.

[9] Jonah Valdez, Actress Released on Bail of $1 M, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Mar. 14, 2019.

[10] See id.

[11] U.S. Army Veteran Acquitted of Illegally Displaying Flags at Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Facility, City News Service, Apr. 18, 2017.

[12] See id.

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