Full Biography for Ming William Chin
Overcoming economic adversity, defending individual freedoms, and exhibiting a dedicated commitment to the law are hallmarks of the distinguished career of California Supreme Court Associate Justice Ming W. Chin.
The son of Chinese immigrants and the youngest of eight children, Justice Chin learned early in his life the importance of hard work. Working seven days a week on his family's farm near Klamath Falls, Oregon, Justice Chin learned how to operate a tractor, jeep, hay baler and a combine by the age of 14. The importance of education, a determined spirit of optimism, an appreciation of conservation, and a dedication to community service were virtues instilled in Justice Chin by his parents.
"My parents didn't have the opportunity to go to grammar school, or high school, much less college, and yet they were among the very best teachers I have ever known," said Justice Chin. "My father never asked for a handout – only a helping hand. He only asked for the freedom to raise and educate his family, to give us the education he was denied."
Justice Chin's education took him from Catholic boarding school in Klamath Falls to Bellarmine College Preparatory School in San Jose to the University of San Francisco. While attending USF, he was an award-winning editor of the campus yearbook, The Don. In 1964, he completed his undergraduate studies at USF in political science and completed his Juris Doctorate degree from the USF School of Law in 1967.
As the Vietnam War escalated in Southeast Asia, Justice Chin entered military service after his graduation from USF. Stationed in Quang Tri, seven miles south of the DMZ, he rose to the rank of captain in the U.S. Army and was decorated with the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal.
Upon returning from Vietnam in 1970, Justice Chin was admitted to the State Bar of California and began his legal career as a Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County. Justice Chin tried numerous felony and misdemeanor trials.
In 1973, Justice Chin joined Aiken, Kramer & Cummings, a prominent Oakland law firm specializing in business and commercial litigation. As the head of the firm's litigation department, Justice Chin focused mostly on defense-oriented business cases. Three years later, he became a partner.
After 16 years in private law practice, Justice Chin began his career as a jurist in 1988 when Governor George Deukmejian appointed him to the Superior Court in Alameda County. Justice Chin earned praise for his ability to quickly learn the intricacies of family law within a matter of weeks. "I am amazed that in such a short time he has gotten a grip on the complex legal matters that family law judges must face," said Theodore Craig III, a certified family law specialist.
In August 1990, Governor Deukmejian appointed Justice Chin to the First District Court of Appeal, Division Three, to serve as Associate Justice. Four years later, Governor Pete Wilson elevated him to Presiding Justice of the same court. During his time on the First District bench, Justice Chin issued ground-breaking rulings on the admissibility of DNA evidence in criminal trials, surrogate parenting and environmental liability issues.
On January 25, 1996, Governor Pete Wilson appointed Justice Chin to the Supreme Court of California. He was confirmed and sworn in as an Associate Justice on March 1, 1996. His judicial opinions have been described as "thorough and scholarly" and he has won the praise and admiration of his peers. "He is destined to leave his mark as a great Supreme Court justice," said Judge Paul Boland of the Los Angeles Superior Court and president of the California Judges Association.
Within months of his appointment, Justice Chin was an active questioner at oral argument and authored six majority opinions during his first nine months on the court. "Justice Chin already seems to be taking a leadership role," said UC Berkeley Law professor Stephen Barnett.
Described by the Oakland Tribune as "judicious, fair-minded...a positive addition to the Supreme Court," Justice Chin has emerged as a leader in an effort to restore respect and credibility to the California Supreme Court. Gerald Uelmen, former dean of the University of Santa Clara Law School, said of Justice Chin: "His conservative credentials are pretty solid, but he's open-minded. He calls them as he sees them." Associate Justice Carol Corrigan of the First District Court of Appeal praised her former colleague as "exceptionally talented, breathtakingly bright, indefatigably hard working. Justice Chin is man of character, a man of courage, and a man of commitment."
Justice Chin describes his personal philosophy as best summarized by the concept of "constant improvement." The simple, yet profound, phrase embraces the concept that we all are responsible for making our families, communities, and the world around us better today than yesterday.
Presently, Justice Chin, 55, serves as President of the California Commonwealth Club. He has served on the Board of Trustees for the University of San Francisco, on the California Judiciary Council's Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts and on the San Francisco District Attorney's commission on hate crimes. He was the first Asian-American attorney in the Alameda District Attorney's office, the first Asian-American partner in a major Oakland law firm, and the first Asian-American to serve as president of the Alameda County Bar Association.
Justice Chin has been married to Carol Joe, a pharmacist, for 27 years. They reside in the San Francisco Bay Area and have two children, Jennifer, 24, and Jason, 22.
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