Steven Chu: The Geeky Federal Magistrate
Steven Chu, the first Asian American Federal Magistrate in San Diego, is a self-described geeky fan. His two identities – that of a judge and a pop culture enthusiast – often intersect, particularly during the four days of Comic-Con. While not every judge has an Autobot Matrix of Leadership in their chambers, Chu proudly displays his “Transformer” collectible toy. According to Chu, the Autobot Matrix of Leadership contains the accumulated wisdom of the Autobot ancients and serves as a source of inspiration when making decisions as a judge.
Unlike typical judges, Chu believes that a judge’s chambers should reflect who they are as an individual. For Chu, the properties he loves, such as “Transformers,” “G.I. Joe,” “Star Wars,” and “Star Trek,” play an integral role in shaping his identity. He finds inspiration from characters like Captain Picard, who embodies dignity, command, fairness, and justice.
In his previous career as a lawyer, Chu often encountered the mantra of “win at all costs.” However, after becoming an assistant U.S. Attorney, his perspective shifted. Chu was taught to prioritize doing the right thing for the right reason, in the right way. He draws parallels between this approach and Superman’s mission of fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way.”
In Chu’s chambers, comics and law books share equal space, representing his dual passions. He pulls out a Daredevil comic, highlighting that Daredevil, like Chu himself, became an attorney as a means to stand up against bullies and fight for justice. Chu believes that the law, through enforcing and exercising the rules, provides a way to confront and address bullying.
Recently sworn in as a U.S. Federal Magistrate, Chu acknowledges the importance of ensuring that the law treats everyone equally and operates on a level playing field. Embracing his dual identity, Chu joined the Legal Geeks, a group of attorneys and judges who share a passion for films, comics, and science fiction. Through mock trials and events, they aim to make the law more accessible and engaging for the public.
Chu’s dedication to the law extends beyond his role as a judge. He meticulously prepares for mock trials, drafting arguments, outlining strategies, and meeting with witnesses. Whether in a mock trial or a real courtroom, Chu’s commitment to the law remains unwavering.
This year, Chu will participate in a Comic-Con panel addressing the legal issues raised in the Indiana Jones movies. The Legal Geeks plan to explore topics such as the fictional Treaty for the Protection of Antiquities and the government’s classification of the Lost Ark of the Covenant as top secret. Chu approaches these discussions with the same diligence and seriousness as a real trial, recognizing the importance of critically analyzing legal aspects raised in popular culture.
With his black robe symbolizing his superhero-like commitment to protecting the ideals of the legal system, Steven Chu stands out as a remarkable figure. Knowing that he strives to ensure fairness and justice in both his professional and personal endeavors brings reassurance to those who value the law.