Judge John Z. Lee made history by becoming the first Asian American judge confirmed to the Seventh Circuit.
Lee previously made history when he became the first Korean American to serve as an Article III judge in Illinois. Since 2012, he has served as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Lee in a 50-44 vote to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the Chicago-based court, which handles appeals from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Seventh Circuit, which is one of the 13 courts of appeals in the nation, is a federal appellate court with appellate jurisdiction.
“Judge Lee is an embodiment of the American dream. Born to Korean parents and immigrating to Chicago at the age of four, he has dedicated his career to public service and the evenhanded administration of justice,” U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote in a press release.
Lee received a J.D. degree at Harvard Law School in 1992 before serving as a trial attorney in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1992 to 1994. He was also an associate at Grippo & Elden LLC, Mayer Brown LLP and Freeborn & Peters LLP in Chicago before being nominated by former President Barack Obama in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
“We are excited that Judge Lee will soon be serving on the Seventh Circuit, as he already possesses great experience as a fair-minded jurist who is committed to protecting the rights of all people,” Lena Zwarensteyn, senior director of the fair courts program at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement. “Today marks a historic milestone, as Judge Lee becomes the first Asian American judge to serve on the Seventh Circuit. This confirmation is an important step towards ensuring that our federal courts reflect varied perspectives and represent the diversity of our nation.”
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