SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Judge Roger Chan spends his days at the San Francisco County Superior Court. He presides over family, dependency, and juvenile justice cases — helping to give young people a chance to start over.
“I think at the end of the day, what I will be most proud of is the extent to which I may have had positive impact on someone’s life,” Chan said.
Born in Los Angeles, Chan grew up in a family of diverse cultures. His grandfather was a Chinese immigrant, and his mother is of Korean descent. Chan says he grew up a shy kid and hated public speaking. No one in his family expected him to be where he is today.
“It really all clicked together in law school when I found this area of law that really felt like I could make a difference,” Chan said.
That area is working with juveniles. Chan launched his career in law after making his way to the Bay Area for college — attending UC Berkeley then UC Hastings College of Law.
“There is a responsibility for everyone involved in touching that young person’s life to be a responsible adult. To be a role model. To provide guidance,” Chan said.
Chan started out as a public defender in San Francisco, then in Alameda.
In 2009, he started the East Bay Children’s Law Offices in Alameda. In 2016, he was appointed to the Superior Court by then-Governor Jerry Brown.
“I think being the first (openly) gay Asian American on the court is a tremendous honor, a responsibly to the communities,” Chan said. “I think the judiciary court system is stronger when people come to court see that the judges look like them.”
Chan says he was lucky enough to have someone to look up to the first Chinese-American judge in the Bay Area Justice Harry Low.
“Justice Low was a pioneer for me as an Asian-American role model,” Chan said. “He was actually at my swearing in ceremony when I became a judge but I recognize that I stand on the shoulders of other people who created opportunity for me.”
Chan says he always remains neutral on the bench. However, he thinks his experiences as a public defender and his cultural background help him be a better judge.
KRON On is streaming live
“I think that diversity of experience allows me to see things that someone else may not see,” Chan said. “It’s really important that people who come to court feel like they’ve been listened to. They’ve been seen.”
Chan says he strives to treat everyone who comes into the court with dignity and respect.