Judge Nina Wang – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

Judge Nina Wang has spent the better part of the last decade as a federal magistrate judge. That background, along with a relatively uncontroversial career, makes Wang favored to take a seat on the District of Colorado.

Background

Born in Taiwan, Wang attended Washington University in St. Louis graduating in 1994. Wang then received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1997.

After graduating, Wang joined Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobsen as an associate before clerking for Judge Peter Messite on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Wang then spent four years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Colorado.

In 2004, Wang joined the Denver Office of Faegre Drinker, where she worked until 2015, when she was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

History of the Seat

Wang has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. This seat will open on July 15, 2022 when Judge Christine Arguello takes senior status. Wang was previously recommended by Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper to replace Judge R. Brooke Jackson, but another candidate, Charlotte Sweeney was chosen instead. Wang was then nominated to replace Arguello.

Legal Experience

Wang began her legal career at the firm of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobsen before spending four years as a federal prosecutor, where, among other matters, Wang represented the government in immigration habeas petitions. See, e.g., De Maria Gonzalez-Portillo v. Reno, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19537 (D. Colo. Dec. 6, 2000). From 2004 to 2015, Wang was at the Denver office of Faegre Drinker, where she worked on civil and intellectual property litigation. See, e.g., Pragmatus Telecom, LLC v. NETGEAR, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68616 (N.D. Cal. May 13, 2013).

Jurisprudence

Wang has served as a federal magistrate judge since her appointment in 2015. In this role, she presides by consent over civil matters and misdemeanors, assists district judges with discovery and settlement, and writes reports and recommendations on legal issues. Among her cases that she presided over, Wang recommended that a Failure to Protect claim filed by a group of incarcerated plaintiffs against correctional officers not be dismissed, which was largely adopted by U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer. See Leal v. Falk, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60556 (D. Colo. Mar. 29, 2021). In a separate case, Judge Christine Arguello adopted Wang’s recommendation to dismiss civil rights claims against Erie County officials who the plaintiff claims defamed her and her boyfriend by claiming that he was a sex-offender. See Trujillo v. Wren, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178342 (D. Colo. Sept. 20, 2021).

In another matter, Wang sanctioned plaintiff’s counsel in an antitrust lawsuit involving surgical bone mills, noting that they had failed to be forthright with the court. See Fink Densford, Lenox MacLaren Lawyers Draw Sanctions in Medtronic Anti-Trust Suit, MassDevice, Sept. 21, 2015. Wang also presided over a review of a settlement agreement for the release of the mentally ill who are incarcerated pending a return to competency. See Allison Sherry, Lawyers Seek Release of Mentally Ill From Colorado Jails, A.P. State & Local, Dec. 5, 2018.

Writings

As a law student, Wang authored a book review of Lucy Salyer’s Laws Harsh as Tigers, which discussed anti-Chinese racism and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the late 19th Century. See Nina Wang, Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law. Lucy E. Salyer. Chapel Hill, N.C. & London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995, 31 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 587 (Summer, 1996). Wang describes Salyer’s writing as “a vivid reminder of the insidious effects of racism. Id. at 598.

Political Activity

Wang has made a handful of political donations, including to former Gov. Bill Ritter, a Colorado Democrat. In 2008, Wang also donated $50 to a Committee opposing Amendment 46, a proposed constitutional amendment (which narrowly failed in the general election) that would have banned affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting.

Overall Assessment

With two decades of experience both as a judge and a litigator, it is hard to question Wang’s qualifications for a federal judgeship. As such, Wang’s nomination is unlikely to attract the opposition of her colleague Sweeney, and is likely to be confirmed before Judge Arguello moves off the bench.