Obama names veteran Fil-Am litigator to DC court

By Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Aug 24 2010 11:41 AM | Updated as of Aug 25 2010 01:28 AM

WASHINGTON DC - President Obama has appointed Filipino-American Ma. Elizabeth (Maribeth) Raffinan as Associate Justice of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Raffinan is the second Fil-Am to be nominated to a top judiciary post after California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger named Appellate Judge Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye to be the next Chief Justice of California last month.

“Throughout her career, Maribeth Raffinan has shown a commitment to justice and public service,” President Obama declared when he announced her appointment.

Raffinan’s appointment now goes to the US Senate for confirmation. If she hurdles this, she will serve a 15-year term in the DC tribunal.

The Superior Court of DC consists of a chief judge and 61 associate judges who are assisted by 24 magistrate judges.

Raffinan is the daughter of Jun and Maria Raffinan, who are both physicians, from Tampa, Florida.

The couple is well known in the Fil-Am community because of their active participation in the Couples for Christ Movement as well as Gawad Kalinga.

Raffinan herself has shown a predilection for helping the needy much like her parents.

She is supervising attorney in the Trial Division of the Public Defender Service of Washington DC. She has been defending indigent clients in criminal cases since 1999, according to reports.

In 2007 she co-chaired the Deborah Creek Criminal Practice Institute which helps train criminal defense practitioners in DC.

She is also a member of the Superior Court Drug Court committee and taught at her alma mater, the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America.

Raffinan graduated with a bachelor in science degree at the Boston College, where she majored in political science and philosophy. She earned her law degree at Columbus School of Law.

She will replace Associate Justice Odessa Vincent in the Superior Court bench.

Raffinan is the second prominent US justice appointment in as many months. Earlier, Cantil-Sakauye became the first Asian and Fil-Am nominated to the top court of California.

She is the daughter of a Filipina mother and Filipino-Portuguese father who worked as farm workers in Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations until they relocated to Sacramento, California.

Cantil-Sakauye has been a judge in the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Califonia since 2005.