WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Jacqueline H. Nguyen of Los Angeles to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, making her the first Asian American woman to sit on a federal appellate court.
By a 91-3 vote, the Senate agreed to Nguyen's nomination as part of an earlier deal to begin acting on President Obama's nominees. Republicans had been holding up some of the president's choices as part of a protest over White House appointments.
The Senate also approved Kristine Gerhard Baker of Arkansas and John Lee of Illinois to federal district courts — making Lee the second Korean American on a federal district court.
When Obama announced Nguyen's nomination last fall, he called her a trailblazer.
Nguyen fled Vietnam as a girl with her family as Saigon fell in 1975. They lived temporarily in a tent city at Camp Pendleton before settling in the Los Angeles area.
Her family eventually operated a doughnut shop in North Hollywood, where she studied between helping customers, according to a 2002 interview with the Los Angeles Times.
"That really grounded me in reality," she said.
"I congratulate Judge Nguyen and her family on this important and historic day," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said.
Nguyen is a 1987 graduate of Occidental College, where Obama also studied, and a graduate of UCLA School of Law, the White House said. She worked at the law firm of Musick, Peeler & Garrett LLP from 1991 to 1994, and then joined the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
In 2002 she was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, and in 2009 Obama selected her as a federal judge for the Central District of California.