Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato, who died on Dec. 17, 2017 at the age of 65.
Nakazato was the first Japanese American to be appointed as a U.S. magistrate judge in the continental United States. The child of World War II incarcerees, he was appointed as a magistrate judge for the Central District of California in 1996. He served the court for nearly 20 years and retired in 2016.
Nakazato received his Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in 1975 from the University of Pittsburgh, where he had a double major in economics and English literature. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1978 from Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia, where he also served on the law review.
Before his judicial appointment, Nakazato was a successful business trial and appellate lawyer. He served as the founding president and founding director of the Orange County Asian American Bar Association and was also a founding director of the Orange County Japanese American Lawyers Association, a Central District lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, and an active member of the Orange County Bar Association and Federal Bar Association.
During his tenure, Nakazato earned multiple honors, including the Trailblazer Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA); the Distinguished Jurist Award from the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association (SCCLA); the Judge of the Year Award from the Orange County Women Lawyers Association (OCWLA); the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Orange County Asian American Bar Association (OCAABA); the Alicemarie H. Stotler Award from the Federal Bar Association/Orange County Chapter (FBAOC); and recognition as the “Best Judge in Orange County” from **OC Weekly.**
Nakazato is survived by his wife Deborah Bau, his mother Lillian, and his brother Paul.
In honor of Nakazato, the flags outside the courthouses of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California were flown at half-mast from Dec. 20-22, 2017.
The court said in a statement: “For Judge Nakazato’s staff, members of the federal court family and his friends in the bar, his loss is monumental, and he will be truly missed for his kindness, selflessness, and sense of humor.”