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Pittsburgh-based US Attorney set to become the first Asian American on Third Circuit Appeals Court

Cindy Chung was sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for western Pennsylvania November 23, 2021.
Courtesy of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the western district of Pennsylvania
Cindy Chung was sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for western Pennsylvania November 23, 2021.

President Biden has nominated the U.S. Attorney for western Pennsylvania to become a judge on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Cindy Chung would be the first Asian American to serve as a judge on that court if the Senate confirms her appointment.

The White House announced her nomination Tuesday, along with the nomination of four other Pennsylvanians to the federal trial court for the eastern part of the state. The group includes candidates who, if confirmed, would become the first Asian American and second Latina judge to sit on the U.S. District Court for eastern Pennsylvania, according to the White House.

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“These choices … continue to fulfill the President’s promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country — both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds,” the White House wrote in a statement.

Racial diversity increases the range of perspectives within the judiciary, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias noted. While data is mixed on whether the demographics of judges impact decision-making, studies have shown they have an effect in cases involving affirmative action, sexual harassment and discrimination, and voting rights.

“And I think it provides increased confidence in society when the federal court judges reflect American society and the people who come into court,” Tobias said.

Chung has served as the top federal law enforcement officer in western Pennsylvania since November. Biden appointed her to that post seven years into her tenure as an assistant U.S. Attorney based in Pittsburgh.

After graduating from Columbia law school in 2002, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Alabama. She then joined the District Attorney’s Office in New York City before becoming a civil rights trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.

“She has a very distinguished record,” Tobias said. 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.”

Tobias said the Senate would likely confirm Chung's nomination to the 3rd Circuit before the November midterm elections. The federal court handles appeals from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands.