White House to Promote Silicon Valley’s Most Famous Judge

February 25, 2016, 11:09 PM UTC
Photo: Jason Doiy— AP

The Obama Administration is expected on Thursday to nominate U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who has presided over many of the country’s most important technology cases, to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the country’s most important appellate courts.

Koh, who is the first Korean-American to become a district federal judge, has become something of an icon in Silicon Valley in recent years for her deft handling of some of major cases involving Apple, Google, and other tech icons.

The White House formally announced the appointment, rumors of which first surfaced in early February, on Thursday afternoon.

“Judge Lucy Haeran Koh has distinguished herself as a first-rate jurist with unflagging integrity and evenhandedness,” President Obama said in a statement. “I am grateful for her service to the state of California and look forward to adding her considerable wisdom and experience to the Ninth Circuit Court.”

Koh gained prominence for presiding over the epic patent battles between Apple and Samsung over the iPhone, which resulted in an initial $1 billion jury verdict in 2012. She has earned praise for her deft handling of that case and, more generally, for her fluency with technology — a rare quality among many judges.

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Koh has also ruled in a number of other high-profile cases, including a class action suit against Silicon Valley companies, such as Google and Apple, that conspired to suppress wages through an illegal anti-poaching pact. She has also presided over several of the privacy lawsuits that regularly bedevil the tech industry, including one related to Google’s scanning of consumer emails.

In addition to her legal prowess and a work ethic that has won respect, Koh also has a compelling personal story. As a 2015 Bloomberg profile described, Koh was raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where she worked in her father’s hat store, before ascending to Harvard Law School and a seat on the bench.

It’s unlikely Koh will face significant opposition in her promotion to the Ninth Circuit, which covers an enormous territory, including California and eight western states. In 2012, Koh received a 90-0 confirmation vote from the U.S. Senate.

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