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Attorney Tana Lin is now the first Asian American U.S. judge in Washington state

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate confirmed the civil rights attorney as a federal judge in Seattle, making her the first Asian American federal judge in Washinton state.
Image: Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., right, with Tana Lin in Washington on June 9, 2021.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., right, with Tana Lin in Washington on June 9, 2021.John Shinkle / U.S. Senate Photographic Studio via AP

SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed civil rights attorney Tana Lin as a federal judge in Seattle.

Lin, the president of the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, will be the first former public defender and the first Asian American to serve as a federal judge in Washington state, said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

“Americans deserve a justice system that will uphold the rights of everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected,” Murray said. “Building a more fair and just court system starts by appointing more public defenders and more civil rights lawyers — like Ms. Lin — as judges.”

The 55-year-old Lin helped challenge former President Donald Trump’s travel ban and has represented workers in employment discrimination cases, including immigrant farmworkers in Washington state who were cheated out of wages.

President Joe Biden has said he wants his nominees to bring more professional and demographic diversity to the federal courts. Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell recommended Lin’s appointment after Lin was chosen by a judicial merit selection panel.

Civil rights groups cheered her confirmation, which came on a 52-45 vote.

“Tana Lin is a trailblazing lawyer and exactly what we need to ensure that our federal courts benefit from a diversity of perspectives,” said Christopher Kang, chief counsel of the progressive legal reform group Demand Justice.

The Senate has also recently confirmed Lauren King, a tribal law expert who is serving as Washington state’s first Native American federal Judge, and David Estudillo, a former immigration attorney and Grant County Superior Court judge, for the federal bench in the Western District of Washington.

Before the confirmations, five of the seven active judge positions in the Seattle and Tacoma courthouses were vacant — the highest ratio in the country.

Lin began her career as a public defender in Washington, D.C., before becoming a trial attorney in the employment litigation section of Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

She immigrated from Taiwan at age 3 and spoke only Mandarin at home before being enrolled in school.

She attended Cornell University and New York University School of Law.