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Judge Florence Pan nominated to Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

Judge Florence Y. Pan testifies on Capitol Hill in 2021. (Reuters)
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President Biden has nominated Judge Florence Y. Pan to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

In 2021, Pan took Ketanji Brown Jackson’s seat on the U.S. District Court for D.C. when Jackson, now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, became an appellate judge. Now Pan is being nominated for Jackson’s appellate court seat.

Both women were elevated as part of a concerted push by the Biden administration to add more women and people of color to the federal bench. Another Biden nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Judge J. Michelle Childs of South Carolina, had her confirmation hearing last month. Pan would be the first Chinese American woman on the appellate court, according to the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

A.B. Cruz III, acting president of the organization, in a statement called Pan “a leader in the Asian Pacific American community” with “a stellar record.”

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Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a statement that Pan “brings much-needed diversity to the federal circuit courts, especially at a time when Asian Americans are being attacked.”

Pan was first nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2016 but was blocked by Senate Republicans, who refused to hold confirmation hearings for his candidates. She was confirmed under Biden by a vote of 68 to 30.

Because of the pandemic, Pan had her investiture ceremony for the District Court seat only on Friday. At the event, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell praised her work ethic and drive. Pan was also warmly introduced by former attorney general Michael B. Mukasey, a Republican for whom she clerked in the Southern District of New York. Pan thanked her parents, who came here from Taiwan as graduate students, for deciding to raise their children in the United States.

As a Superior Court judge, Pan sided with D.C.'s attorney general in fights over digital signs being placed across the city — a dispute that led to a city council member’s resignation — and the landlord of a run-down apartment building.

She also handled the trials of a D.C. corrections officer who smuggled drugs into the jail, a man who killed his ex-girlfriend while her 13-year-old daughter was in a nearby bedroom, and a rapist whose crimes she described as perhaps the “most harrowing this court has ever heard.”

Before becoming a Superior Court judge, Pan served as a federal prosecutor in D.C., including as deputy chief in charge of appellate cases.