Kobre & Kim Honors Milestones in the U.S. Federal Judiciary for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May 6, 2022

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Kobre & Kim is reflecting on the achievements and representation of Asian Americans in the United States judiciary. 

Representation of Asian Americans in the legal industry continues to be on the rise. Since 2000, there are approximately 53,000 Asian American lawyers in the United States, comprising nearly 5% of all lawyers nationwide. As of 2021, only 2.8% of the federal judiciary is comprised of Asian Americans. In recent years, there has been significant progress in diversifying our judiciary. Today, we celebrate some of these recent milestones. 

Florence Y. Pan is the first Asian American woman to serve as district judge for the District of Columbia. She was confirmed on September 23, 2021. Judge Pan previously served as an Associate Judge on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia since 2009, making her the first Asian American judge to be appointed to any court in the District of Columbia. As an attorney, she was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from 1999-2009, during which she also served as Deputy Chief of the Appellate Division from 2007-2009. Earlier in her career, she clerked for Judge Ralph K. Winter, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Judge Michael B. Mukasey of the Southern District of New York. She was also a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) from 1995 to 1996.

Loren AliKhan is the first Asian American to serve on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. She was confirmed on February 8, 2022. Judge AliKhan was previously the solicitor general of the District of Columbia, where she oversaw the management of 500 appeals each year in the D.C. Court of Appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. From 2010 to 2013, she worked in the Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Group at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and was a Bristow Fellow from 2008 to 2009. Earlier in her career, Judge AliKhan clerked for Judge Thomas L. Ambro on the U.S. Court of Appeals and Judge Louis H. Pollak on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 

Lucy Koh is the first Korean American to serve on a U.S. federal appellate court. She was confirmed for the Ninth Circuit on December 13, 2021. Judge Koh previously was a U.S. district judge in the Northern District of California since 2010. Prior to that, she was a superior court judge for the California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara. Before her judgeship, Judge Koh was a partner at McDermott Will & Emery focusing on patent, trade secret and commercial civil litigation. She also has an extensive background working in the federal government. Judge Koh was a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and worked in the DOJ as Special Counsel in the Office of Legislative Affairs and as Special Assistant to the U.S. Deputy Attorney General. She also served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California. 

Along with these incredible individuals, we want to recognize Regina Rodriguez, the first Asian American to serve as federal judge for the District of Colorado; Angel Kelley, the second Asian American woman to serve as federal judge for the District of Massachusetts; Tana Lin, the first Asian American to be a federal judge in Washington state; and Sarala Vidya Nagala, the first South Asian American to serve as federal judge for the District of Connecticut.