Judge helps troubled youth find a better future

(KRON) — During the month of May, we’re spotlighting members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community who are making a difference right here. Judge Roger Chan has been working for more than two decades with young teens who find themselves getting in trouble with the law.

He’s also the first openly LGBTQ Asian American appointed to the San Francisco Superior Court. He presides over family dependency in juvenile justice cases helping to give young people a chance to start over.

“I think at the end of the day, what I will be most proud of is the extent to which have had a positive impact in somebody’s life,” he said.


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His grandfather was a Chinese immigrant and his mother of Korean descent. He says he grew up a shy kid and his family expected him to be where he is today. Now his area of law is working with juveniles.

Judge Chan launched his career in law after making his way to the Bay Area for college, attending UC Berkeley and then UC Hastings College of Law.

Judge Chan started out as a public defender in San Francisco, then in Alameda. In 2009, he started the Bay Children’s Law Offices in Alameda in 2016, he was appointed to the superior court by then Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I think I’m being the first gay, Asian American on the court is a tremendous honor and a responsibility to the communities. I think the court system, the judiciary is stronger when people come to court see that the judges look like them,” said Judge Chan.

Judge Chan says he was lucky enough to have someone to look up to, the first Chinese American judge in the Bay Area, Justice Harry Low.

“Justice Low was a pioneer for me as an Asian-American. He was actually at my swearing-in ceremony when I became a judge. But I recognize that I stand on the shoulders of other people who created opportunity for me,” Judge Chan said.

Judge Chan always remains neutral on the bench. He thinks his experience as a public defender and his cultural background helps him to be a better judge.

“I think that diversity of experience maybe allows me to see something that someone else might not see. It’s really important that people come to court feel seen,” he said.

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