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News >  Washington

Biden nominates first Latino judge from WA to 9th Circuit Court

UPDATED: Wed., April 13, 2022

By Annette Cary Tri-City Herald

U.S. Judge Sal Mendoza Jr. of the Tri-Cities may be about to break through another barrier for the Latino community.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated Mendoza to serve as a judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If his nomination is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Mendoza will be the first Hispanic judge from Washington state to serve on the 9th Circuit, according to an announcement from the White House.

A lifelong resident of Washington and graduate of Prosser High School, he worked the crops of the Mid-Columbia alongside his parents. There were days he rose before dawn then rushed home to change clothes and get to school in time to get credit for a full day of classwork.

“That’s how we grew up. That was part of our reality,” Mendoza said when he was nominated for the Tri-Cities Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award in 2016.

“It was something we needed to do in order to survive.”

His parents emigrated from Mexico to find jobs as migrant farmworkers, laborers and maids.

Their son would become the first Latino judge in the Benton Franklin justice system and the first Latino U.S. judge in Eastern Washington, working out of the Richland federal courthouse.

His nomination along with four other federal judicial nominations made Wednesday ensure that the nation’s courts reflect “the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country,” the White House said in an announcement.

“As the son of farmworkers, Judge Mendoza will bring an important perspective to one of the most powerful and consequential federal courts in this country,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who recommended him for the position.

Mendoza briefly worked for her as an intern.

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