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Senate confirms first Asian American judge on 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Cindy Chung’s long public service as a prosecutor fighting hate crimes makes her “precisely the kind of person we want on the federal bench.”
Cindy Chung, nominee
to be United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit, is sworn in during her confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7, 2022.
Cindy Chung, a nominee to be a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is sworn in at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file
/ Source: Reuters

The U.S. Senate on Monday evening confirmed Cindy Chung, the top federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh, to a seat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, making her the first Asian American judge to serve on the Philadelphia-based court.

Chung won approval in the Senate on a 50-44 vote, marking the second confirmation of a federal appeals court judge in the new year and the Biden administration’s 99th overall judicial appointment. The Senate last week confirmed DeAndrea Benjamin to a seat on the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit.

The Biden administration has prioritized diversifying the federal judiciary, nominating women, people of color and lawyers with broad professional experience, including public defenders, to U.S. district and appellate court seats. Twenty-three of Biden’s 30 circuit court appointments thus far are women.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on Monday in remarks on the Senate floor touted Chung’s long public service as a prosecutor fighting hate crimes and said she was “precisely the kind of person we want on the federal bench.”

Soon Chung will join the 3rd Circuit with two other Biden appointees: Arianna Freeman, who was a former federal defender, and Tamika Montgomery-Reeves, who was the first Black woman to serve on Delaware’s highest state court before her appointment to the federal bench.

Chung’s confirmation creates a 7-7 split on the court between Republican-appointed judges and those appointed by a Democrat. The 3rd Circuit hears appeals from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.

Chung did not immediately respond to a message on Monday evening seeking comment about her confirmation.

Since November 2021, Chung has served as the U.S. attorney leading a nearly 60-lawyer team in the Western District of Pennsylvania. She has been a local or federal prosecutor since 2003.

She identified on a U.S. Senate form several hate crime prosecutions as among the most significant cases she handled over her career. Chung was on the prosecution team in 2012 that brought the first case under the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Two defendants were convicted and sentenced to prison for forcing a vehicle carrying Hispanic men off a road.

As a Columbia Law School student, Chung interned in the office of then-circuit judge and now U.S. Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the New York-based 2nd Circuit.