Florence Pan Becomes First-Ever Asian American Woman Confirmed to DC Federal Court

In a positive sign of increasing diversity and representation in America’s court system, Florence Pan has been confirmed as the first-ever Asian American woman to hold a seat in the D.C. federal court system.

Nate Raymond of Reuters reported that on Thursday, Sept. 23, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Pan’s appointment as a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., “filling a seat vacated by now-U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was promoted to the D.C. Circuit.”

According to Raymond, “the 68-30 vote came shortly after the U.S. Senate Judiciary voted to advance five of President Joe Biden’s other judicial picks, including Toby Heytens, the Virginia state solicitor general nominated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

A former federal prosecutor, Pan became a judge on the D.C. Superior Court back in 2009 and has served there since. Former President Barack Obama nominated Pan to a seat in the federal court in 2016. However, even though the then-Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee voted to advance her nomination, she was never confirmed by the full Senate. 

“When Republican President Donald Trump took office, he nominated Dabney Freidrich to fill the seat she had been up for,” Raymond reported.

Pan once again became a candidate for the Federal bench when Biden announced she was his pick to fill the court seat formerly held by Jackson. Her nomination was officially announced after Jackson was confirmed in June for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where she replaced Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“Jackson, who is Black, has been seen as a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court should a vacancy emerge,” Raymond reported. “The nomination of Pan furthered Biden’s overall promise to bring greater diversity to the federal judiciary.”

Pan is the 14th of the 43 judicial nominees Biden has nominated so far in his presidency to receive Senate approval.

In a statement on the Senate floor ahead of Pan’s confirmation vote, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said, “the historic nature of Judge Pan’s nomination will help build a federal bench that reflects full diversity.”


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