Cindy Chung was confirmed Monday as a judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, making her the first Asian American judge to serve on the federal court.
According to the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, Chung was the top federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh and has been a U.S. Attorney for western Pennsylvania since 2021. Prior to that she was a trial attorney in the criminal section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and served as an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 2003 to 2009.
Her role as a U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh was “especially meaningful” because it was where her parents lived when they first came to the U.S., Bloomberg Law reported. That title also allowed her to make history as the first Korean-American woman to be a U.S. attorney.
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. She was also the Biden administration’s 99th overall judicial appointment; President Joe Biden nominated Chung in July 2022.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey announced the news of her confirmation Monday, noting that she “made history.”
“She is the first Asian Pacific American judge to sit on the Third Circuit and, thanks in part to President Biden’s commitment to making our federal courts reflect the great diversity of our Nation, she is now one of five women who will actively serve on that bench,” Casey said.
Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania also applauded Chung and voted in her favor after returning to the Senate floor following a hospitalization.
“I was able to speak with Judge Chung as one of my first meetings as a Senator last month, and it was clear from our conversation that she is going to serve the people of Pennsylvania with honor,” Fetterman said in a statement.
President Joe Biden nominated Chung for the appeals court in July 2022. According to NBC News, 23 of Biden’s 30 circuit court appointments thus far are women.
As a member of the Third Circuit, Chung will join two other Biden appointees including 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.
She will fill the seat previously held by D. Brooks Smith, a George W. Bush appointee. As a result, her confirmation creates an even 7-7 split between Republican-appointed judges and Democratic.
The Third Circuit Court handles appeals from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands.
In addition to her extensive career as an attorney and being the first Asian American judge on the Third Circuit, Chung is also the seventh Asian American woman to serve on any federal circuit court.
“She has a very distinguished record,” University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told WESA. Beyond her tenure in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he noted, “she's got some civil rights experience, which is great to have on the federal bench. And … the New York District Attorney’s office … is a really high-powered office.”
Congrats, Judge Chung!