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President Biden's Ninth Circuit Nominees Are a Diverse Bunch

By Camila Laval, J.D. | Last updated on

President Biden's seventh round of judicial nominations is true to his promise of ensuring that U.S. courts reflect the country's diversity. For the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he nominated candidates who, if appointed, would be the first Korean-American woman federal appellate judge, the second Black woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit, in addition to a Latino nominee.

Judge Lucy H. Koh

Judge Lucy H. Koh, 53, is a double-Harvard graduate who has been on the bench since 2008. She spent her first two years as a trial judge in Santa Clara County, California. In 2010, Koh was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. If her current nomination is confirmed, she would be the first Korean-American woman to hold the title of federal appellate judge.

After obtaining her bachelor's and law degrees from Harvard, Koh went on to work for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. She then worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and later the U.S. Attorney General's Office. Her last position before joining the bench was as a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, where she litigated patents, trade secrets, and commercial matters for technology companies.

Judge Koh is married to California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. They have two children.

Judge Holly A. Thomas

Judge Holly A. Thomas, 41, is a Stanford University and Yale Law graduate who has served as a judge in the Family Law Division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2018. If confirmed, she would be the second Black woman to ever serve on the Ninth Circuit.

After law school, Thomas served as a law clerk to Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw on the Ninth Circuit. And from 2005 to 2010, she was assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Thomas then served as special counsel for the New York Solicitor General for a year. She left New York to return to her roots in California, where she was the Deputy Director of Executive Programs at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing from 2016-2018 before being appointed to the bench.

Judge Thomas is a first-generation college student. Her mother used to take her to the local courthouse as a child.

Justice Gabriel Sanchez

Justice Gabriel Sanchez, 45, is a double-Yale graduate who has been on the bench as an associate justice for the California First District Court of Appeal since 2018. If confirmed, he would add to the Latino representation at the federal courts.

Sanchez received his bachelor's degree from Yale College and his Master's of Philosophy from Cambridge. In 1999, he was a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina, where he researched presidential campaign politics. Before becoming a judge, Sanchez worked in the California state government as deputy legal affairs secretary to Governor Edmund Brown and as a deputy attorney general in the correctional-law section of the California Attorney General's Office. From 2006 to 2011, he was an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, where he litigated civil matters.

Justice Sanchez is a Los Angeles native and lives in Oakland with his wife and child.

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