Chanpone Sinlapasai, a Lao immigrant, was appointed as the first ethnic Lao judge in the United States at the Multnomah County Circuit Court in the state of Oregon.
Although Ms. Chanpone was appointed in September 2021, it was this year in October that she was able to celebrate her investiture ceremony with family and friends. The US has seen several Hmong judges in the past, but the 44-year-old is the first Laotian to ever hold the position.
Before becoming a judge, Ms. Chanpone devoted 20 years of her legal career to serving refugees, immigrants, and diverse communities in crisis. She assisted them with obstacles that her own immigrant family faced when she moved to the US as a four-year-old.
“I came to America as a refugee, as a young child leaving war with my family, and that lens really helped me understand the process of trying to integrate into the United States’ system,” Ms. Chanpone said in an interview.
Ms. Chanpone resettled from California to Oregon in 1999 to attend Lewis & Clark Law School and worked with Catholic Charities as an anti-human trafficking attorney for four years before establishing her law firm, named Marandas Sinlapasai Garcia with partners.
She applied to have a seat on the bench in 2016 after her mentors pointed out that she would bring a unique perspective that is needed in the court.
Her family fled the civil war in Laos in 1979 and lived for 18 months in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving to the United States.
Two Laotian-American were elected as mayors of Newport, Rhode Island, and Oakland City, Californian in November this year.