Derrick K. Watson: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Derrick Kahala Watson hawaii, Derrick Kahala Watson hawaii court, Derrick Kahala Watson district court

Derrick Kahala Watson is a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. (

Judge Derrick Kahala Watson has frozen President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban nationwide just hours before it was to take effect.

This came after Watson heard the state of Hawaii’s case against the ban. Hawaii was the first state to challenge President Trump’s new executive order, which replaced the one that was signed at the end of January but that was halted by a federal judge. The new order was specifically designed to fare better in court, but Hawaii’s lawyers argued that it is still discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Here’s what you need to know about Derrick Watson, the federal judge who froze Trump’s travel ban on Wednesday.

1. He Was Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2012

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Barack Obama speaks on the government shutdown and the budget and debt ceiling debates in Congress during a visit to M. Luis Construction, a construction company, in Rockville, Maryland, October 3, 2013. (Getty)

In November 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Derrick Kahala Watson to serve on the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. This came after Judge David Alan Ezra assumed senior status in June 2012.

In April 2013, the Senate unanimously confirmed Watson in a 94 to 0 vote after months of delays. This is contrast to the other federal judge who ruled against the travel ban this week, Theodore Chuang, whose nominated was vehemently opposed by Republicans and who received a party-line vote. This was due to Chuang’s involvement in the Benghazi hearings; he provided legal counsel for the State Department when Congress was investigating the 2012 terrorist attack.

Judge Watson is married, and his wife’s name is Gloriann. He also has two sons, Cade and Daly, who are 10 and seven years old respectively. His wife and children attended his Senate confirmation hearing in 2013, according to a transcript from the U.S. Government Printing Office.

The White House announced seven judicial nominees at the same time in November 2012. In addition to Watson, President Obama also nominated Valerie E. Caproni, Kenneth John Gonzales, Raymond P. Moore, Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, Judge William L. Thomas, and Judge Analisa Torres.

2. He Previously Served as an Assistant Attorney in California & Hawaii

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Derrick Watson served as an attorney for the Northern District of California. (

According to the Obama White House, Derrick Kahala Watson earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, graduating in 1991. Upon graduating, he started work at the San Francisco law firm Landels, Ripley & Diamond. He was an associate at the firm from 1991 to 1995.

From 1995 to 2000, Watson served as an assistant United States attorney in the Northern District of California. And from 1999 to 2000, he was the deputy chief of the Civil Division.

In 2000, Watson joined the San Francisco law firm Farella Braun + Martel LLP, where he focused on product liability, toxic tort, and environmental cost recovery litigation.

“In Mr. Watson’s distinguished career, he has displayed exemplary legal skills, a strong work ethic, and acted with integrity and fairness in his decade as a federal prosecutor and attorney in Northern California and Hawaii,” Senator Brian Schatz said during Watson’s confirmation hearing. “…His work has covered all manner of civil litigation at the trial and appellate court levels, including claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, employment discrimination and harassment actions, individual capacity claims brought against government employees for alleged constitutional violations, programmatic challenges under the Administrative Procedures Act, and privacy and information claims under the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act.”

According to Watson’s Senate confirmation hearing, he has also provided pro bono work in cases concerning human trafficking, common law tort, and wage and hour claims on behalf of Mexican nationals in San Francisco.

After spending 15 years in California, Watson moved back home to Hawaii to serve as assistant United States attorney in the District of Hawaii, and in 2009 he became the chief of the Civil Division. He said in his Senate testimony in 2013 that he moved for family reasons; Watson and his wife had just had their first child, Cade, and they wanted him to get to spend time with his grandparents, who live in Hawaii.

“[His grandparents] have no intention of leaving Hawaii,” Watson said. “And, quite frankly, neither do we. That was the reason for our decision to leave the Bay Area at that time.”

3. He Was the Fourth Article III Judge of Native Hawaiian Descent in U.S. History

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Judy Chu delivers remarks on the third day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Getty)

When Derrick Kahala Watson was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, he became only the fourth person of Native Hawaiian descent to serve as an Article III judge in American history, according to the Asian Pacific American Caucus. Watson was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

At the time of Watson’s confirmation, Hawaii Congresswoman and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Judy Chu released a statement celebrating the selection.

“I am thrilled that the Senate has voted to confirm Derrick Kahala Watson’s nomination to the U.S. District Court,” she said at the time. “This decision continues a significant trend of working to ensure that our federal judiciary reflects the diversity of the American people. Judge Watson is a strong addition to the federal bench, and will surely be a great public servant for the people of Hawaii.”

In addition, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said that Watson will do Hawaii proud.

“Today, Judge Watson made history,” she said in a statement. “I am confident he will serve Hawaii with distinction and honor. He has dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice and fairness in our legal system. I am proud to welcome this Kamehameha Schools graduate to serve in such a prestigious capacity. We are fortunate to have someone of his stature serving on our District Court.”

Upon announcing Watson’s nomination, President Barack Obama said that the selection represents his “continued commitment to ensure that the judiciary resembles the nation it serves.”

4. He Says That the Executive Order Was Intended to ‘Disfavor a Particular Religion’

President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Getty)

In his decision, Watson stated that President Donald Trump’s travel ban was intended to disfavor a particular religion, even if the White House argues otherwise.

He does say that it is “undisputed” that the order does not “facially discriminate for or against any particular religion,” but he goes on to say that “Because a reasonable, objective observer – enlightened by specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance – would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose, the Court finds that Plaintiffs…are likely to succeed on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim.”

Those who have brought challenges to the travel ban have argued that it discriminates against Muslims and violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The original travel ban called for religious minorities in the Muslim-majority countries to receive special treatment, but this was removed in the second version of the order so that there is no longer any reference to religion.

Overall, Watson says that the new order isn’t any less unconstitutional than the old one, though he specifies that it isn’t as if the administration could never put a similar order in place and have it be found constitutional.

“Here, it is not the case that the Administration’s past conduct must forever taint any effort by it to address the security concerns of the nation,” Watson writes in his decision. “Based upon the current record available, however, the Court cannot find actions taken during the interval between revoked Executive Order No. 13,769 and the new Executive Order to be ‘genuine changes in constitutionality significant conditions.'”

Watson quotes from the 10th Circuit’s decision; they said that any future travel ban should be “purposeful enough for an objective observer to know, unequivocally, that the government does not endorse religion. It should be public enough so that people need not burrow into a difficult-to-access legislative record for evidence to assure themselves that the government is not endorsing a religious view.”

5. He Cited Donald Trump’s Past Comments in His Decision

Donald Trump press conference, Donald Trump Shinzo Abe, Donald Trump February 10

Donald Trump stands during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on February 10, 2017. (Getty)

In his decision on Wednesday, Watson took into account past statements that Donald Trump has made as proof that his executive order is a Muslim ban, with Watson saying that this is vital context and that he need not only rely on the actual text of the order.

“A review of the historical background here makes plan why the Government wishes to focus on the Executive Order’s text, rather than its context,” he writes.

For instance, Watson quotes from a Trump press release from December 2015 which reads, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States…”

Watson also quotes from some of Donald Trump’s advisors like Rudy Giuliani, who said in a Fox News interview in January 2017 that Trump asked him to come up with a way to legally ban Muslims from the United States.

Giuliani explained, “I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.'”

Watson also quoted Stephen Miller, a White House senior advisor who said in February that this new travel ban will have “the same basic policy outcome” as the first one, which suggests to Watson that the order has not fundamentally changed.

In addition, Watson quotes from a March 2016 interview in which Donald Trump says, “I think Islam hates us.” Trump went on to say in that interview that “there’s tremendous hatred” and that “we have to be very vigilant. We have to be very careful.”

Watson says in his decision that these “plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose.” Watson also says that any reasonable person would conclude that the order’s stated secular purpose is secondary to its goal of suspending Muslim immigration.

Finally, Judge Watson rejected the White House’s argument that the travel ban is not discriminatory because it only affects six countries.

“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable,” Watson writes. “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed.”

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  1. Thank you Obama you’re the gift that keeps on giving.
    I wonder how many, illegal constitutional rulings this man has made?
    What are the ties ,if any,
    too terrorist organizations ?
    Is this man mentally capable of making a rash decision ?
    Is this man mentally fit sit on the bench ? Something is going on here ?
    The terrorists that are banned from these countries, have made there claim to destroy America ; and to kill Americans.
    Is this what this judge agrees with ?
    To destroy America and to kill Americans ?

  2. He wrote a 43 page decision in two hours. Bull Crap. His mind was made up before even hearing this case. On basis of law this man is out to lunch. In addition. From this point forward Watson is responsible for any terrorist attack that happens from any person who is allowed into this country. Any deaths, Watson is responsible. Not Trump. Deaths happen, what will Watson’s punishment be? Not a damned thing.

    • Greatnesslostislegend, he indeed set a new Hawaiian speed record for typing and proof-reading. And he introduced some local phrasing that approaches incomprehensible. I wonder just how much one American life is worth to this judge. Apparently one American life is worth less than one Muslim’s life in Hawaii at least, And one American life is worth less than some unclear number of Muslim students coming to learn in Hawaii’s schools. Makes one wonder what the heck they are going to learn.

    • This is how the criminal thug left operates. They fill courts with judges who are willing to circumvent the law to keep their ridiculous beliefs in tact. They lose an election and legislate from the bench to stop Conservatives from ruining their destruction of America. If I were Trump, I would ignore this ban, just like Obama did when the court told him his immigration order was illegal. It is time to go to war folks. Our entire government has gone rogue

  3. Even before I saw it I told my wife that this judge had to be appointed by Obama…after all, Obama was supposed to be a law scholar. He proved how much he wasn’t as I’m sure we will be able to see if we look at this guy’s rulings. Part of the 9th Circuit, the most overturned in the land.

  4. This Judge was ordered by Obama to stop the Bill. He claims that President Trump is singling out one religion. Well were the terrorists Baptist? Were they Catholic? Were they Jewish? No. All the terrorists have been Muslim. Not all Muslims are terrorists. But all terrorists are Muslims. So how do we keep terrorists out if this Judge says we’re profiling one religion?

    • Did you get that info. from a wiretap too? Speculating! Keep terrorists out by having them join Scientology…LOL

      • If you’re insinuating Christian scientology. It’s not Christian. Scientology is a bunch of liberal believers, you idiot!

  5. When the next American is killed by a Muslim immigrant, I want this judge, and judge Robart from Washington state, to be charge with murder also. They are solely responsible for allowing the murderer to come here. And if our government refuses to charge them, then we the citizens will hold them accountable

      • Pithy response ignores the truth: blood will be on the hands of these Article III judges. They will likely sleep ok, though, because they suffer from the same neurosis that afflicts all liberals: they believe they can do no wrong and accept no responsibility for their actions.

  6. This has been the liberal plan for a long time. They all want America’s Constitution, or freedom, destroyed. They will succeed in this by letting millions of Muslims come here. They are like roaches. They infiltrate and assimilate, then take over your governments. It is already happening here, and look at the UK. This is what Obama wants. Obama and the liberal are this country’s greatest threat, along with the MSM. If we do not put a stop to this now, it is all over

  7. You are a POS Derrick Watson who gives a damn about your tourist industry im sure the people from those 6 countries do a lot. We are talking about the safety of our nation last time I checked Trump was president not your liberal ass! There is turning a blind eye to what is happening in Europe and then there is the idiot that is you who has put our country in danger. You were the 50th and last state you do not dictate our policies. The judiciary branch has nothing to do with immigration it is a presidential choice and we are moving forward with the ban, homeland security is on our side!! You are a nobody your word means nothing and you will be replaced soon or you can secede with California but you do not represent the people of our country

  8. They keep bringing religious rights into the ban issue. These judges should be more concerned with the religious rights of Americans that are being trampled all over.Our Servicemen and Chaplains rights have been trampled all over. Have they even noticed. NO. These same judges never responded to this injustice.I think that anyone who thinks that it is wrong to protect
    Americans from terrorists coming into this country and block all attempts from doing so should replace some of our soldiers in battle. They need to see the enemy up and close. When did we get so stupid? Protecting America and it’s people should always come first.


  10. This dirtbag is trying to get some glory and trying to help out that so called Muslim President Obama, but it won’t last long. He will loose and he can go crawling back to his boyfriend Obama. I hope his life gets miserable as he wanted the attention.

  11. We have one president and it’s not Obama anymore. President Trump has the right and responsibility to defend this country. This judge met with Obama regarding this issue, he’s disrupting our President’s right and responsibility to protect us

  12. Don’t Worry, Blood will be on Judge Watson’s hands. Please look into his past public comments on people and cases, if he spoke against Trump during the last 2 years, he needs to recuse himself from this case. Please everyone, go back and dig up this guys past.

  13. lmao im lovng all the fatass rednecks Haoles saying they wont visit Hawaii now. Stick to your inbred shit holes cause no one wants you here either

  14. There should be some consequence for judges who have sworn to uphold the Constitution and then openly try to subvert it. His ruling is an attack on our Constitution and our form of government. He should be removed immediately.

    • Helen, there is: impeachment in the House. However, the spineless Republicans won’t go there. They should but they won’t.

  15. watson is the scum plaguing this earth that is going to lead to a civil war. He needs to be thrown in with these other muslim extremists, and be dealt with accordingly… that includes obama ” the closet muslim”

  16. What happens to our society when federal judges act outside the law? Judge Watson, a political hack and Obama appointee, ignored traditional protocols in his legal analysis to reach his results-oriented decision. Number One in all cases is whether the plaintiff has standing. He doesn’t address standing. He just accepts that the plaintiffs have it. But how? Who showed real harm here? Students at Hawaii Universities? How so? Have any been denied entry yet? Will they be denied entry–as the Order includes a clear possibility for an exemption for students. Watson, a hack’s hack, ignores standing. Then, incredibly, ignore the federal statute and the Constitutional imperatives under which the Order was written. Federal law gives the President clear authority for this Order. The federal statute does not say a President can exercise his authority only if a hack Democrat Article III judge agrees. Moreover, the Constitution grants to the President clear authority to protect our borders. He ignores law and the Constitution because Supreme Court precedent is against him. Inconvenient truths are anathema to liberal hacks like Watson and other judges. He moves directly to the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause issue, again ignoring judicial precedent that if a case can be decided on other grounds, it should. His findings on the First Amendment are remarkably lawless: No court has ever recognized a foreigner’s right to protections by our Constitution. What happens when judges act lawlessly? Society itself is imperiled. We do not elect federal judges and we should not sit idly by while idiots like Watson and the other hack Obama appointees set themselves up as a separate branch of government in place to decide when the Executive Branch is legitimate and legitimately expending its power–don’t kid yourselves, that’s what this is about. Whatever crap law school issued him a degree should consider revoking it.

  17. Can’t believe this how can this judge speak for the entire United States. So this means this judge has more power than the president of the United States does this guy know what he is playing with…he damn sure doesn’t give a shit of our national security an religion omg give me a break there religion is the reason they want to kill us …oboma must be sucking this guys dick this is uncanny for him to rule this way I mean where’s this guys brain…..oh I forgot they lost the election so it’s pay back time bunch of crying little pussies

  18. This judge and all others like him need to be rid of immediately. They do us no good. Their only goal is to destroy.

  19. Sorry, I believe his real problem is he won’t get the kids and drugs in the back door anymore I feel someone is watching. I bet he is connected to pizzagate and the drug bust on the Ss Michele ( I think that’s what is was called ) wait and see. Obama went to Hawaii and California after it was busted is it a coincidence the two corrupt judges live in those states.

  20. To Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii: My question to you Judge Watson….If the Muslim belief is so peaceful; then you Judge Watson must be in favor of Sharia Law. The perception, I continue to read and see posted on BBC news. Muslims are shown attacking raping women, little girls, and boys; They are abusing their women and throwing people off buildings. Why eould you want this in the United States. As an American Citizen and a voter; I should embrace, and have their beliefs shoved down my throat. You judge need a reality check.