The U.S. Senate voted 50-45 on Monday to confirm Lucy Koh to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, making her the first Korean American woman to serve on a federal appeals court.
A historical vote: The decision came about in spite of Republican objections to a decision she wrote earlier this year as a district court judge allowing California to restrict religious gatherings during the pandemic.
- During confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, Republicans expressed disapproval about a ruling she issued in February that said California could ban small religious gatherings in homes in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
- The 9th Circuit upheld that decision, but the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court in April overturned it, saying it was an improper curb on in-home religious services.
- Despite Republicans like Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri calling Koh’s decision a “deeply troubling” affront to religious rights, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced her nomination 13-9.
- The 53-year-old is one of President Joe Biden’s 16 appellate nominees to date and one of four picks for the 9th Circuit, which hears appeals from Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
- She was previously nominated by former President Barack Obama during his administration to the 9th Circuit in 2016 but was never confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate at the time.
Biden nominee: Koh was nominated by Biden on Sept. 20 and is his first appointee confirmed to the Ninth Circuit court.
- Koh was a district court judge for over a decade in San Jose, California, where she presided over many of Silicon Valley’s biggest cases, including class actions arising out of the massive data breaches at Yahoo! Inc. in 2016 and smartphone patent litigation between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., according to Reuters.
- She had been a state court judge in California and a partner at McDermott Will & Emery before 2010.
- At her Oct. 6 confirmation hearing, Koh said diversity on the bench “reaffirm[s] the American dream — anyone can become a judge.”
Looking forward: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a press release he expects the Senate to confirm more of Biden’s nominees by the end of the week.
- “I’m proud to say over half of them are women,” Schumer said in the release. “Over half of them are people of color. All of them are outstanding, highly-qualified, and they bring sorely-needed diversity to the bench — not just personal diversity, but professional diversity as well.”
- Schumer confirmed another vote will be held this week for Jennifer Sung, an Oregon state labor board member nominated to the 9th Circuit, who has also faced Republican opposition. Biden’s other two 9th Circuit nominees, Gabriel Sanchez and Holly Thomas, are still pending.