Cathy Bissoon: First U.S. South Asian Woman Federal Judge

Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon

Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon

By Indiawest

United States: According to her court biography, Judge Cathy Bissoon, who is of Hispanic and Indian American descent, was appointed by a panel of judges in Pennsylvania as a magistrate judge and sworn in Aug. 1, 2008, becoming the first woman of South Asian descent to sit on a federal bench in the U.S.

In 2010, she was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate Oct. 17, 2011.

Born in 1968 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bissoon graduated from Alfred University in 1990 and received a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1993.

She joined the Pittsburgh office of Reed Smith as associate in 1994. After taking a “sabbatical,” during which she clerked for Judge Gary L. Lancaster, Bissoon returned to Reed Smith, where she became a partner and head of the employment group, serving as director of the law firm’s diversity unit for six years.

In 2007, she joined the law firm of Cohen & Grigsby in Pittsburgh, where she was a director and led the labor and employment group.

After being appointed a magistrate judge in 2008, Bissoon became not only the first woman of South Asian descent to sit on a federal bench in the U.S., but also the first person of color to sit on the federal bench in Pittsburgh.

After being named a district judge in 2011, she became the first Hispanic female Article III judge in Pennsylvania and the first Asian American Article III judge in that state.

The Indian American judge’s honors include being a Fellow of the Litigation Council of America, being named a “Pennsylvania Super Lawyer” by Philadelphia Magazine and being recognized as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania under the age of 40 by Pennsylvania Law Weekly.

Bissoon has served on the Lawyers Advisory Committee for the Third Judicial Circuit and the Local Rules Advisory Committee for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

She was named in 2010 by Pittsburgh Professional Women as one of their Women of Integrity. Bissoon also served on the boards of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Girl Scouts and Mt. Lebanon Teen Center. She is a Girl Scout troop leader and a Black Belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do.