Cindy Kyunga Chung made history last week when she was confirmed as the first Asian American judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Justice Cindy Chung won approval in the Senate by a 50-44 vote, making her the Biden administration’s 99th overall judicial appointment.
Judge Chung is the third Korean American to ever be appointed to a federal appellate court. Michael Hun Park was appointed to the 2nd circuit by President Trump in 2019, and Lucy Haeran Koh was appointed to the 9th circuit by President Biden in 2021.
Three GOP senators voted “yes” with the Democrats: Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Chung’s confirmation creates a 7-7 split on the court between Republican and Democrat-appointed judges. The 3rd Circuit hears appeals from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.
Justice Chung’s appointment is a significant milestone for Asian American representation in the legal field, as Asian Americans have long been underrepresented in the judiciary. According to the National Asian-Pacific American Bar Association, Asian Americans make up only 2% of federal judges, despite being one of the fastest-growing minority groups in the United States. (The Asian American population has grown by over 80% in the last two decades and now represents 7.2% of the overall population.)
Judge Chung, 47, brings with her a wealth of legal experience and accomplishments. She had been a local or federal prosecutor since 2003. Since November 2021, Chung has served as a U.S. Attorney leading a nearly 60-lawyer team in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Cindy Chung is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School. She interned in the office of then-circuit judge, and now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, on the New York-based 2nd Circuit. Chung then clerked for U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Alabama. She later joined the District Attorney’s Office in New York City before becoming a civil rights prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice.