City Attorney Dennis Herrera hails appointment of ‘brilliant and exceptional’ Chief of Appellate Litigation to judgeship
SAN FRANCISCO (July 20, 2018) — Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that he has appointed San Francisco Deputy City Attorney and Chief of Appellate Litigation Christine Van Aken to serve as a judge on the San Francisco Superior Court bench.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement in response to the appointment:
“It has been my deep honor to have Christine Van Aken as part of our team. We will miss her insight, wit and thoughtfulness tremendously. It is those traits that helped make her such a brilliant and exceptional lawyer, and they will serve her well in this next chapter of her career. Christine is indispensable, but our loss is the people of California’s gain. She is going to be a fantastic judge. Christine is fair, meticulous and principled. She knows the details better than anyone, but she never loses sight of the big picture. In other words, she is exactly the type of person who should be a judge.”
Van Aken, 44, of San Francisco, joined the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office as a Deputy City Attorney in February 2006. Prior to joining the office she served as a law clerk for the Honorable David H. Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court for the 2004-05 term and for the Honorable Pierre N. Leval on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for the 2002-03 term.
She became Chief of Appellate Litigation at the City Attorney’s Office in 2012 and has played a crucial role in cases ranging from marriage equality to presidential overreach.
Van Aken’s represented the City at trial and on appeal in the federal challenge to Proposition 8, the controversial 2008 ballot measure that eliminated marriage rights for same-sex couples, and she was instrumental in the office’s nearly decade long battle for marriage equality. Van Aken also led the City’s successful defense of 2014’s voter-approved Proposition B, which gave San Francisco voters approval over height increases for new development on waterfront property managed by the Port of San Francisco.
Most recently, Van Aken argued San Francisco’s case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit against President Donald Trump’s unconstitutional executive order that sought to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities.
Her work includes defending city gun laws from Second Amendment challenges brought by the NRA and leading major consumer protection actions, such as: securing a $5 million settlement with a Bank of America credit card subsidiary; a $1 million settlement with one of the nation’s largest credit card arbitrators; and a $14 million settlement by two payday lender chains, Money Mart and Check ‘n Go, to reimburse consumers for unlawful interest charges and forgive consumer debts.
In 2012, the Daily Journal, the state’s largest circulation legal newspaper, named her to the list of California’s “Top 20 Lawyers Under 40.” The list represents “the best and brightest in the legal industry,” according to the Daily Journal’s editors, and Van Aken was one of only two public sector attorneys to be honored in 2012.
Van Aken earned a Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University.
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office has seen a number of deputies and former deputies elevated to the bench in recent years. Other deputy city attorneys who went on to serve on the judiciary include San Francisco Superior Court Judges Loretta M. Giorgi (appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006); Anne-Christine Massullo (appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006); Andrew Y.S. Cheng (appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2009); and Monica F. Wiley (appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2009). Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2014 to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Also in 2014, Gov. Brown appointed San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese M. Stewart to serve as a justice on the California Court of Appeal for the First District. In 2017, Gov. Brown appointed Danny Y. Chou, a former Chief of Appellate Litigation and former Chief of Complex and Special Litigation at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, to the San Mateo County Superior Court bench.