Nation’s first Hmong-American judge to serve in county

An historic judicial achievement is scheduled Friday in Merced.

Paul Lo will be sworn in to serve on the Merced County Superior Court bench, making him the first ever Hmong-American judge in American history.

“I feel very blessed and grateful that had it not been for all the wonderful people in the county supporting me and the wonderful opportunities for education in this country, I may not have had this opportunity otherwise,” Lo said.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Lo, a 45-year-old veteran attorney, to the Superior Court bench in late December. The historic significance of the appointment has been confirmed by the governor’s office and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a civil liberties advocacy group.

Lo will preside over civil cases in Merced County. His starting salary as a judge will be $181,292, the governor’s office said in a news release. The appointment fills the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Hugh M. Flanagan, who stepped down last year after a 13-year term.

Lo was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1994 and has been a solo legal practitioner since 2003, according to State Bar records. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Davis and his law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

Lo spoke no English when he came to the United States at the age of 11, but eventually mastered the language, working hard through school, college and law school.

He said he appreciates the appointment’s historic relevance, but said it wouldn’t change “the person I am now.”

“I think a lot of people in the Hmong community are very proud of it, but I’m equally excited for the opportunity to serve this community, this town,” Lo said.

Lo’s investiture ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre, 301 W. Main St. Presiding Judge Brian McCabe will officiate the proceedings. The public is invited to attend.