President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law Associate Dean and Professor Goodwin Liu to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Liu, 39, is a nationally recognized expert on constitutional law and education law and policy.

A Democrat, he'll have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to this lifetime appointment on the nation's largest federal appellate court, based in San Francisco and serving nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions.

In a news release, Liu said he's "very humbled by this nomination and grateful to President Obama for this honor." He also thanked U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer for their support and confidence. Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley called Liu "an outstanding teacher, a brilliant scholar, and an exceptional public servant" who is "widely admired for his intellect, fairness, and good judgment — this is a superb nomination."

Boxer issued a statement calling Liu "a proven authority on constitutional law with a keen intellect. When confirmed, Professor Liu will be the only active-status Asian-American judge on the Ninth Circuit."


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In 2007, Liu won the Education Law Association's Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law. In 2009, he won the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award, the university's most prestigious award for excellence in teaching.

He's a frequent commentator on constitutional law and education policy in media, including The New York Times, Washington Post, PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and National Public Radio. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and several state Legislative committees, and served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition's education policy and agency review teams.

Before joining Boalt Hall's faculty in 2003, Liu was an associate at O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2000-2001, and for Judge David Tatel on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1998-1999.

Between his clerkships, Liu served as a special assistant to the deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

He has also worked for the Corporation for National Service, where he helped launch the AmeriCorps program.

Liu was born in Augusta, Ga., to parents who emigrated from Taiwan, and he grew up in Sacramento, where he attended public schools. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1991 from Stanford University; a master's degree in philosophy and physiology in 1993 from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar; and a law degree in 1998 from Yale Law School. He's married to Ann O'Leary, executive director of the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic and Family Security; they have a daughter, Violet.

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