Paul Lo, who grew up as a child in refugee camps, said he is honored to "make a little bit of history" with his appointment Friday as a Merced County Superior Court judge.
Lo, 45, is the first Hmong-American judge ever appointed in the United States, according to Gov. Jerry Brown's office. The governor's office said that Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a civil-liberties advocacy group, confirmed the appointment's significance.
Lo, a Merced resident and practicing attorney for 20 years, reflected on the achievement Friday. He said he didn't speak any English when he came to the United States at age 11, but that he worked hard at his studies that took him through University of California at Davis and UCLA School of Law.
He said his appointment was particularly meaningful because of the struggles his parents endured.
"I'm so thankful and so proud of them for what they had to do going through the Vietnam War, and what they and everyone in their generation sacrificed, and all the lives that were lost so that we could be here today. I have always felt a deep debt of gratitude for those who died to bring us to this country."
Merced County District Attorney Larry D. Morse II hailed the appointment as "a great source of pride for the community. Paul has been a leader since he arrived in Merced and, with his diverse background in many areas of law, I think he's an excellent choice."
Lo's starting salary will be $181,292, the governor's office said. He is filling the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Hugh M. Flanagan, who stepped down over the summer after serving 13 years.
A formal swearing-in ceremony has yet to be scheduled.
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