Liu, 39, teaches constitutional law and education policy and is associate dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would become the only Asian American serving on the 9th Circuit, which handles appeals of federal cases in nine western states.
Before joining the Berkeley faculty in 2003, Liu was in private practice in Washington, D.C., and worked for the U.S. Department of Education.
Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley said of the news, "Goodwin Liu is an outstanding teacher, a brilliant scholar, and an exceptional public servant."
Liu, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, grew up in Sacramento and received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Yale University.