By Adair Law
On May 20, friends, family, and colleagues gathered in the jury assembly hall of the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse to witness the investiture of Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You.
Judge You is now part of a judicial line whose predecessors include Judge George Juba, Oregon’s first magistrate judge and Judge Janice Stewart, Oregon’s first female magistrate. Judge You continues the string of firsts by being the first Asian American to join the federal bench in the district of Oregon.
Trish Hunt, courtroom deputy for Judge You opened the court. Chief Judge Michael Mosman warmly welcomed judges from the district of Oregon, Multnomah and Washington counties, Oregon Supreme Court justices, and the Oregon Attorney General. He noted that he was pleased to welcome Judge You to the courthouse family.
Judge You was appointed to serve as a U.S. Magistrate on March 1, 2016. Prior to her appointment she was a Multnomah County circuit court judge, 2007-16. She previously served as a senior assistant attorney general for the Oregon Department of Justice, Trial and Appellate Divisions, 2004-07; a death penalty staff attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, 1999-2004; a deputy bureau chief/senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, 1994-97; an assistant attorney general for the Oregon Department of Justice from 1992-94; and, earlier in her career, as a staff attorney for the Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland, Oregon. Judge You was born in New York City and raised in Washington and California. Her parents and several members of her extended family emigrated from Korea. She received her undergraduate degree in economics and urban planning from Wellesley College in 1986 and her law degree from the University of Washington in 1989.
Monica Herranz, a circuit court judge pro tem and referee in Multnomah County and president of the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association, stepped to the podium to offer her remarks. She noted that Judge You is “a woman of impeccable character, an amazing work ethic, a driven leader, contributing community member and a model citizen.” Herranz, whose mother emigrated from the Philippines at the age of 11, noted, “Both of our mothers came to the U.S. as immigrants and each later became naturalized American citizens….We are the face of the court….We both strive to treat all who come before us with respect, common decency and compassion.” In her closing remarks about Judge You, Herranz stated, “I admire her work ethic, character and what she represents. I continue to be hopeful about life and our profession when choices like Judge You becoming a U.S. magistrate judge are made.”
Simon Whang, deputy city attorney for Portland and former president of the Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association brought a note of humor to the proceedings. He noted that an investiture is the celebration of a person’s ascension to a higher station, “Sort of like a funeral, but without that pesky ‘having to die’ part.” He listed the things he and Judge You share: they both worked in New York in district attorney’s offices and in the Oregon Department of Justice. He talked about humility, that as the children of Korean emigrants, growing up they were advised “to be outstanding without standing out.” When Whang discussed his investiture remarks with Judge You, she suggested that he not talk about her, but focus on family and community. Whang joked that part of the Korean culture involved frugality. On a previous occasion, he complimented Judge You on a stylish black dress she was wearing. Pointing to her outfit, Judge You said, “This dress? Thirty-five bucks. Ebay.”
As the laughter died down, a drum was heard. Wearing a lovely traditional hanbok as she drummed and danced down the room’s center aisle, Seunghee Ji of Oregon Korean Performing Arts (OKPA) performed Janggu-chum, a drum dance. Whang quoted Judge You, who said. “I like that the dance, which is performed by a woman, requires precision, and signifies both strength and grace.” He quipped, “Sound like someone we know?”
Chief Judge Mosman stepped to the front of room and asked Judge You to join him. Before giving her the oath of office, he held out the lapel of his jacket and said, “This blazer? Thirty-five bucks.”
Judge You’s sons Kieran and Ackley helped her don her judicial robe. Judge You said that it was humbling to be selected to join a group of such talented and accomplished jurists. She reminded her sons that nine years ago when she had become a Multnomah County judge, her grandmother (their great grandmother, who died at the age of 94) had helped her put on her robe. She remembered living in her extended family and watching her grandmother study for her citizenship test, the same grandmother who, in Korea, hid her younger brother beneath the floor boards of her home when the army came looking for him. Her grandmother received a perfect score on the test and Judge You said she felt that “my success was her success.” Judge You spoke of her father, Byong-Ki You who worked as a houseboy for an American officer and then enlisted in the American armed forces to attain his citizenship. At the close of Judge You’s remarks, her father led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Chief Judge Mosman thanked the crowd for their attendance and invited all to enjoy Korean tacos and an additional performance by OKPA at the reception that followed.