Meet Minnesota's first Hmong American judge

Sophia Vuelo sworn in to become the first Hmong American to serve as a judge in Minnesota.

This week in Minnesota, Sophia Vuelo was sworn in as the 29th member of the Ramsey County District Court bench, becoming the state's first Hmong American judge, and only one of a few in the country.

Minnesota swears in state's first Hmong-American judge

Vuelo has nearly 20 years experience as an attorney in both the private and public sectors, working as both a prosecutor and public defender. She was running her own law firm specializing in juvenile protection, family and criminal law when Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her to replace retired Judge Margaret Marrinan.

She is the first Hmong American to serve as a judge in Minnesota, and believed to be only the third Hmong American judge in the United States.

Born in Laos during wartime, Vuelo resettled in Wisconsin with her widowed mother and six siblings in 1978.

"We didn't have a dime to our name," she tells the Pioneer Press. "We truly were poorer than a church mouse."

Fast-forward forty years. Sophia Vuelo is now a judge. On Thursday, at public ceremony in downtown St. Paul, she addressed a large crowd of supporters who gathered to see her take the oath. Speaking in both Hmong and English, she offered some advice for young people.

"Never let your circumstances or your birthplace define who you are, and don't let it prevent you from dreaming big dreams."

More here: St. Paul lawyer sworn in as Minnesota’s first Hmong-American judge

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