On September 8, 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Lucy H. Koh of California to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
If confirmed, Judge Koh would be the first female Korean American federal circuit court judge in the nation’s history.
“NAPABA congratulates Judge Lucy H. Koh on her historic nomination to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,” said A.B. Cruz III, President of NAPABA. “Judge Koh is a proven entity with over a decade of state and federal judicial service, with strong bona fides in technology, intellectual property, business litigation, and criminal law.”
In 2010, Judge Koh was unanimously confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by a 90-0 vote after her nomination received wide bipartisan support. Prior to her tenure on the federal bench, Judge Koh served on the Superior Court of California for Santa Clara County, having been appointed in 2008 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Judge Koh has held various positions in the U.S. Department of Justice, notably as a special assistant to the U.S. Deputy Attorney General, as Special Counsel in the Office of Legislative Affairs, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Judge Koh has been a partner at the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery in Silicon Valley and before that, worked at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Judge Koh is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting APA communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of all backgrounds in the legal profession.
On May 7, AABANY co-sponsored a panel of Asian Pacific American judges as part two of NAPABA’s Summer Judicial Series. The event was hosted by the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association (GAPABA) and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). In addition to AABANY, the event was co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, D.C. Area (APABA-DC), the Asian Pacific American Bar Association Educational Fund (AEF), the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (NAPALSA), the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA), and the South Asian Bar Association of Georgia (SABA-GA).
In honor of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month as well as to encourage the growing number of young Asian American lawyers aspiring to the bench, GAPABA and NAPABA organized the panel to share the stories and careers of trailblazing APA judges. The panelists were AABANY member Hon. Denny Chin, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Hon. James C. Ho of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Hon. Sri Srinivasan, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit, Hon. Jennifer Choe-Groves of the U.S. Court of International Trade, Hon. Theodore D. Chuang, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and Hon. Lucy H. Koh, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The panel was moderated by GAPABA Board Member Michael C. Wu and Byung Jin (BJay) Pak, Partner at Alston & Bird. GAPABA President and Of Counsel at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner Angela Hsu, GAPABA President-Elect and Associate General Counsel at Delta Air Lines Timothy Wang, and GAPABA Communications Co-Chair and Law Clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Prathyusha Chenji were also in attendance.
Michael and BJay posed several questions to the panelists regarding their backgrounds and experience on the bench. All of the panelists expressed how their upbringing in the U.S. made them keenly aware of their “otherness” and in some cases, motivated them towards public service. Judge Chin (a former AABANY President, 1992-93) shared his background as an immigrant from Hong Kong and his experience growing up in New York City. Judge Chin also noted that, as one of the few Asians in his school and at his work, he was constantly under scrutiny and pressure to perform well. “I felt like Yao Ming,” he stated. Several panelists also reported that they still faced microaggressions in their professional lives, despite their position as judges.
When asked about their career paths and perspectives on diversity on the bench, all of the panelists described varied experiences in private practice, the legislative branch, and executive branch of the government before becoming a federal judge. Many of the panelists also expressed how diversity in the federal government could only lead to better and more informed decisions on behalf of the American people. Many of the panelists also shared their own stories about how they were inspired and encouraged by seeing diverse individuals serving in government and in public positions. All of the judges expressed how the justice system in America ought to be color blind and that all individuals should have the right to a fair trial regardless of their background. Judge Chin also discussed the importance of community and unity despite having diverse perspectives. When asked to respond to Supreme Court Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor’s discussion on the threat of disunity to national security, Judge Chin concurred, pointing out how even after President Biden’s election, Americans have yet to listen to each other without politicizing every single issue.
The moderators then closed the panel with several questions about advice any of the judges might have for young attorneys, law clerks, and others aspiring to become judges themselves. The panelists expressed how being a judge begins with being a good attorney. All of the judges emphasized the importance of relationships and teamwork, of maintaining a good reputation, and of being respectful and professional to all.
AABANY thanks NAPABA for hosting this series and also thanks the justices for their trailblazing example to the APA community. To watch a recording of the event, click here.
NAPABA Supports Judges Lucy Koh and Florence Pan at Nomination Hearing
WASHINGTON — Today, Judges Lucy H. Koh and Florence Y. Pan sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing on their nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, respectively.
“Today’s hearings demonstrate that Judge Lucy Koh and Judge Florence Pan are two highly qualified nominees,” said Jin Y. Hwang, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) president. “Both are experienced and fair jurists who were unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate for their current positions, and they continue to receive strong bipartisan support. It is also important that these two nominees have been and would be trailblazers for Asian Pacific American women in the federal judiciary.
“NAPABA urges for a prompt vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee and for the Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Koh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Pan to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.”
Judge Lucy H. Koh was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, 90-0, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 2010. She enjoys bipartisan support, including former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed her to the Superior Court of California – County of Santa Clara. If confirmed, Judge Koh would become the first Korean American woman to be a circuit court judge and only the second Asian Pacific American woman to serve as a federal appellate court judge.
Judge Florence Y. Pan was confirmed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by unanimous consent by the Senate in 2009, following her nomination by President Obama. She enjoys bipartisan support for her nomination, including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. If confirmed, Judge Pan will be the first Asian Pacific American woman to serve on the federal district court bench in the District of Columbia.
NAPABA provided testimony in support of Judges Koh and Pan, stating: “Judge Koh and Judge Pan would both make an immediate contribution as a federal circuit court judge and a federal district judge, respectively. Their qualifications, integrity, intellect, and commitment to the justice system are unquestionable. They bring a talent and understanding of the issues before the court, and a willingness to tackle complex issues, that is inspiring… [T]he swift confirmation of both Judge Koh and Judge Pan is important to NAPABA and the Asian Pacific American community.”