Biden Judges Making an Impact: Jennifer Sung



United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Confirmed December 15, 2021

After a career dedicated to labor justice, Judge Jennifer Sung was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on December 15, 2021. Dedicated to uplifting American workers, Judge Sung worked as an SEIU organizer before law school. She carried her passion for workers’ rights into her legal career, representing workers and labor unions across a variety of roles. Judge Sung began her legal career as a Skadden Fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice where she represented workers fighting for a living wage, drafted model legislation, and testified before state legislatures. After her fellowship, she represented workers and unions first as an associate at Altshuler Berzon LLP and then as a partner at McKanna Bishop Joffe LLP. In 2017, Oregon Governor Kate Brown nominated Judge Sung to serve as a member of the Oregon Employment Relations Board, which adjudicates disputes over unfair labor practices and employment litigation. She was nominated for Ninth Circuit by President Biden on June 30, 2021.  

“[Judge Sung] is one of a handful of labor lawyers on the federal bench.”

Since joining the federal bench, Judge Sung has been a champion for equal justice. For example, in Kiran v. Kijakazi, an administrative law judge denied the plaintiff, who has major depressive disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Social Security disability benefits. Upon review, Judge Sung, joined by two other judges, found that this decision discounted evidence from a physician confirming the plaintiff could not maintain long-term full-time employment due to their diagnoses as well as the testimony of the plaintiff’s friends and family. Further, Judge Sung objected to the administrative law judge’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s testimony as inconsistent because the decision lacked citation of specific inconsistencies. As a result, she reversed the decision, and the plaintiff was awarded disability benefits. 

Judge Sung represents a necessary and powerful shift on our federal courts. When she was confirmed, she became the first judge from the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community to serve on the Ninth Circuit from Oregon, and only the third AAPI woman to serve on any federal Circuit Court. Further, she is one of a handful of labor lawyers on the federal bench. Her personal and professional experiences bolster the wealth of knowledge on our federal courts, creating a judicial system that better reflects the communities it serves.