On May 25, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Florence Y. Pan to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She is nominated to the seat being vacated by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed to be a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Pan has served as a judge for over ten years, on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. District Court for the District of D.C. Before taking the bench, Judge Pan worked in federal government.
Early Life and Education
Judge Florence Y. Pan was born in New York in 1966 to parents who had recently immigrated from Taiwan. She graduated summa cum laude from University of Pennsylvania in 1988; at Penn, she was a Benjamin Franklin Scholar and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. In 1993, Judge Pan earned a law degree from Stanford Law, where she served on Stanford Law Review, the Stanford Law and Policy Review, and worked as a research assistant for former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission member Joseph A. Grundfest. After law school, she completed two federal judicial clerkships, the first for Judge Michael B. Mukasey of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the second for Judge Ralph K. Winter of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Before her time on the bench, Judge Pan worked exclusively for the federal government. After her clerkships, she served at the U.S Department of Justice, initially as a Bristol Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General and later as an attorney in the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section. In these positions, Judge Pan briefed and argued cases in multiple United States Courts of Appeals including the District of Columbia Circuit, First Circuit, Fifth Circuit, and Ninth Circuit.
Between 1998-1999, Judge Pan served as a Senior Advisor for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In 1999, she moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia where she worked for the next decade. There, she worked in numerous roles, culminating in a promotion to Deputy Chief of the Appellate Division in 2007. While at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Judge Pan received the Special Achievement Award four times as well as the Team Award.
In March 2009, President Obama nominated Judge Pan to serve on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. She was confirmed in the Senate by voice vote in May 2009. The Superior Court is a trial court of general jurisdiction, and during Judge Pan’s 12 years of service, she heard a wide range of cases including civil, criminal, family court, and tax matters. In 2016, during her time on the Superior Court, President Obama nominated Judge Pan to the D.C. District Court but her nomination was never considered by the full Senate.
In June 2021, President Biden renominated Judge Pan to the D.C. District Court. She was confirmed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan 68-30 vote in September 2021 and has been serving on that court ever since.
The following cases are illustrative of Judge Pan’s record on the Superior Court and D.C. District Court.
On the District Court, Judge Pan has ruled on Administrative Procedures Act (APA) cases. In Philip Morris v. United States Food and Drug Administration, cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris challenged a March 2020 Federal Drug Administration rule requiring manufacturers to prominently display graphic warnings about the danger of smoking. Philip Morris sought a preliminary injunction, arguing that the rule violates the APA and their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. After a Texas federal judge delayed the effective date of the rule to late 2022, Judge Pan denied the preliminary injunction, writing that it could be brought again later, closer to the effective date of the rule. Since Judge Pan’s ruling, the effective date has been delayed further, until July 2023.
In St. Mary Medical Center v. Becerra, Judge Pan adjudicated a case brought by plaintiffs, urban California hospitals who challenged the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ interpretation of rules regarding Medicare reimbursement for rural versus urban hospitals. Plaintiffs asserted that the interpretation violated the plain language of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 as well as the APA. Judge Pan granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the interpretation neither violated the plain language of the statute nor the APA as the Secretary’s interpretation was reasonable.
On the Superior Court, Judge Pan regularly adjudicated consumer protection matters. In District of Columbia v. Jefferson-11th Street, LLC et al., the District of Columbia sued a landlord whose neglect of his apartment building threatened the safety and health of his tenants. The apartment building’s issues included mold, crumbling and rotting walls, and rat and roach infestations. Judge Pan ruled that the landlord violated the Tenant Receivership Act, the Air Quality Amendment Act, and the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The case was fully resolved in 2021, when the landlord was ordered to pay a record-setting half million dollars to tenants. In EduCap Inc., et al. v. Evans, plaintiff Evans took out $6,000 in educational loans in 2006, joined the miliary in 2008, and soon after defaulted on her loans. The plaintiff sued the loan collector for not giving her a military interest-rate reduction and the debt-servicing agency for deducting a monthly service charge without her consent. Judge Pan granted summary judgement in favor of Evans on the second claim, finding that the debt-servicing agency had violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
In Frankeny v. District Hospital Partners LP, plaintiff Rachel Frankeny underwent surgery at George Washington Hospital that left her with a permanent loss of taste. Afterwards, she sued the hospital for violating the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act by failing to inform her that her surgery would be performed by a resident rather than the surgeon she selected. Judge Pan granted summary judgement in favor of George Washington Hospital, finding that plaintiff failed to prove that the Hospital’s misrepresentation was intentional and motivated by financial gain. The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed, finding that plaintiff should not have been required to prove that misrepresentation was intentional and motivated by financial gain, as this is a federal standard; the Court of Appeals vacated the summary judgement and remanded the case for trial.
On the Superior Court, Judge Pan ruled on criminal law matters. In Brown v. U.S., police officers responded to reports of a man with a gun and stopped Donald Brown, who ultimately fled leaving his jacket. Judge Pan found that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they stopped him and then frisked his jacket after he abandoned it in their presence. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, agreeing that officers had reasonable suspicion to stop the man and that he had no expectation of privacy after dropping his jacket.
Judge Pan also adjudicated numerous juvenile law matters. in In Re J.W., Judge Pan convicted J.W., a juvenile, of being the principal, or “at least an aider and abettor,” in a robbery of a train passenger’s cell phone. No one had seen J.W. take the phone and the phone was traced to a location on a different platform. However, Judge Pan found that based on circumstantial evidence, including J.W. running up and down the train, that J.W. had committed the offense. The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed the decision. In In re K.H., juvenile K.H. pled guilty to felony assault, carrying a knife, and simple assault. After K.H. threatened suicide, he entered residential psychiatric treatment and found a family placement with a cousin. When the case closed, K.H. was mentally healthy, in school, and employed.
Since her elevation to the D.C. District Court, Judge Pan has also overseen the cases of multiple January 6 insurrectionists. For example, she sentenced James Wayne Entrekin, an Arizona man who stormed the U.S. Capitol as a member of the January 6 insurrection; Entrekin pled guilty to entering the Capitol without permission and was sentenced to 45 days in jail, restitution, and probation.
On the D.C. District Court, Judge Pan has ruled on numerous immigration cases regarding visa delays. For example, in Alshawy v. United States Citizenship & Immigration Services, plaintiff Murooj Ashawy sought to obtain a visa for her mother, who wished to move to the United States from Iraq. After more than two years of waiting, plaintiff sued the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the APA and Due Process Clause. Judge Pan granted the motion to dismiss, finding that the visa delay was not unreasonable under the APA. Similarly, in Khushnood v. United States Citizenship & Immigration Services, plaintiff Umir Khushnood, a Pakistani citizen who lived in Canada, waited for over two years to have an employer-sponsored visa approved. Plaintiff sued, claiming violations of the APA and the Due Process Clause. Judge Pan granted the motion to dismiss, finding that the visa delay was not unreasonable under the APA. In both cases, Judge Pan found the delays reasonable in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of State Department activity.
On the Superior Court and D.C. District Court, Judge Pan oversaw employment discrimination cases. For example, in Holbrook v. District of Columbia, James Holbrook and other former Department of Corrections (DOC) workers sued under D.C.’s Whistleblower Protection Act. Plaintiffs claimed that DOC had fired them for objecting to DOC’s discriminatory treatment of two LGBTQ+ colleagues who sued for discrimination. Judge Pan granted summary judgement, finding that plaintiffs could not prove that they were fired because of their objecting to the discrimination. The D.C. Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed, finding that plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated a causal link and that a reasonable jury could find in favor of plaintiffs.
On the D.C. District Court, in Bakerville v. CBS News, Inc., Kia Bakersville alleged that CBS fired her because of her disability and in retaliation for her taking an extended leave of medical absence. CBS argued that plaintiff, who had worked at CBS for over two decades, was fired instead for poor work performance. Judge Pan granted CBS’s motion for summary judgement, finding that plaintiff did not prove that her disability was substantially limiting and did not prove that her disability was the but-for cause of her firing. In Best v. District of Columbia, plaintiff Michael Best, a Black man, sued his employer, the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services, for racial discrimination. Plaintiff pled numerous incidents of discrimination, including a failure to process internal race discrimination complaints, overhearing white coworkers tell his supervisor to transfer him because he is Black, explicit text messages, and being cursed at by a supervisor. Judge Pan granted defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding that multiple of the discriminatory incidents were time barred due to the timing of plaintiff’s filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
Judge Pan has heard notable labor cases on both the Superior Court and D.C. District Court. In Sivaraman v. Guizzetti & Associates, plaintiff Balasubramaniam Sivaraman sued his former employer for failing to pay his full salary, moving stipend, business expense reimbursements, and consulting fees. Mr. Sivaraman also alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for seeking the money he was owed. Judge Pan entered default against the defendant but denied his request for treble damages. The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed the decision, finding that Judge Pan had been required to award plaintiff treble damages.
In Mudd v. Occasions Caterers, Inc., plaintiff Steven Mudd sued his former employer, Occasions Caterers, Inc., for violating the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law. Mr. Mudd was the comptroller of Occasions Caterers, Inc. for several years. He was fired after Occasions hired a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who took over his job responsibilities, but never paid the wages he was owed. Judge Pan granted defendant’s motion for summary judgement, finding that when defendant hired the CFO, it clearly indicated that they intended to terminate Mr. Mudd. The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed in 2011, finding that a reasonable jury might conclude that hiring a CFO did not constitute an intent to terminate Mr. Mudd.
More recently on the D.C. District Court, in Castro v. Tierno Care Health Home Agency, Judge Pan presided over a lawsuit in which plaintiffs, home health workers, sued an employer for wage and hour law violations and sought class certification. Judge Pan denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss and approved conditional certification of the class.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Judge Pan has taken a leadership role in the legal community. Judge Pan was inducted as a member of the American Law Institute and serves as a member of the National Association of Women Judges, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the District of Columbia Bar, among others. She has received numerous accolades during her time on the bench, including the Asian Pacific American Trailblazer Award from the Georgetown Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and the Member Appreciation Award from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the District of Columbia. She has also served her community outside of the courtroom, including by volunteering at a local senior citizens’ home, tutoring, and mentoring.