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Lucy Koh was confirmed as a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Lucy Koh was confirmed as a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Lucy Koh becomes first Korean-American federal appeals judge

Koh was initially nominated for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Barack Obama in 2016, but wasn’t confirmed by a Republican Senate.

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On Monday, Dec. 13, in a 50-45 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Lucy Koh to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, making her the first Korean-American woman to serve on a federal appeals court. 

Koh has spent more than a decade as a district court judge in San Jose, California where she has presided over many of Silicon Valley’s most prominent cases. 

Fifty-three-year-old Koh is one of President Biden’s 16 appellate nominees and one of four picks for the 9th Circuit, which hears appeals from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and Montana. 

She was previously nominated by former President Barack Obama to the 9th Circuit in 2016, but was never confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate. 

Koh is a member of the American Law Institute and serves as advisor on the Institute’s Data Economy Project. She is a lifetime member of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley, where she has held many leadership positions. 

“My good friend federal judge Lucy Koh was just confirmed by the US Senate to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. So happy for Lucy and her family and very proud of her long public service career,” Virginia Delegate Mark Keam wrote on Twitter. 

On Monday, Dec. 13, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that by the end of the week, the Senate will have confirmed 11 of Biden’s appellate nominees and 20 district court picks, a majority of whom are women and half of whom are people of color.

“They bring sorely needed diversity to the bench,” Schumer said. 

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, Schumer pledged to keep making judicial confirmations a priority. 

“Many of these individuals have served admirably on the bench, but we hope the trailblazers of today can be closer to the norm of tomorrow: we want our courts to include more women, more diverse candidates – both demographically and professionally – and more judges who come from unique walks of life,” he said. 

The Senate is already scheduled to vote on two more judicial nominees this week. One of them, Jennifer Sung, who is Chinese-American, is also up for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. If confirmed, she will join Koh as one of very few Asian-Americans to sit on the federal judiciary. 

Senator Alex Padilla, the first Latino to represent California, helped introduce Koh at her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year. 

“Our country is stronger and fairer when we are guided by the voices and experiences of all of our people," Padilla said.

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