Kristy Yang: Breaking Barriers as Wisconsin’s First Hmong-American Judge

Kristy Yang: Breaking Barriers as Wisconsin’s First Hmong-American Judge

In the rich tapestry of American legal history, Kristy Yang stands out as a beacon of resilience and achievement. Her remarkable journey from a refugee camp in Thailand to becoming Wisconsin’s first Hmong-American judge is a testament to her unwavering dedication and perseverance. Yang’s story is not only an inspiration to the Hmong community but also a powerful example of the American dream in action.

Early Life

Kristy Yang was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after her family fled the war-torn region of Laos. At the age of six, her family immigrated to the United States, settling in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The transition was challenging, as her family faced significant language barriers and cultural adjustments in their new home. Despite these hurdles, Yang’s parents emphasized the importance of education and hard work, values that would shape her future endeavors.


Yang attended local schools in Sheboygan, where she quickly adapted and excelled academically. She pursued higher education at Lakeland University, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2003. After working as a systems analyst for a few years, a family tragedy – her brother’s car accident – motivated her to switch careers. Witnessing the difficulties her family faced in navigating the healthcare and legal systems inspired her to become an advocate for others in similar situations.

Determined to make a difference, Yang enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2006, graduating with her Juris Doctor in 2009. During her time in law school, she focused on family law, worker’s compensation, and social security disability law, areas where she felt she could have the most impact.

Career and Becoming a Judge

After law school, Kristy Yang established her own law practice, Kashoua Yang, LLC, where she dedicated herself to serving underserved communities. Her work earned her recognition from the Milwaukee Bar Association and the Association of Women Lawyers for her pro bono efforts. Her commitment to justice and community service laid the groundwork for her judicial ambitions.

In 2017, Yang made history by being elected as a Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee County. She became the first Hmong-American judge in Wisconsin and the first female Hmong judge in the United States. Her election was a significant milestone, reflecting her dedication and the support she garnered from her community. As a judge, Yang continues to focus on fairness, compassion, and justice, aiming to ensure that everyone receives equal treatment under the law.

Kristy Yang’s journey from a refugee camp to the judiciary is a powerful narrative of resilience and success. Her story exemplifies the strength of the Hmong community and their contributions to American society. Yang’s dedication to justice and her groundbreaking achievements serve as an inspiration to many, illustrating that with perseverance and hard work, any barrier can be overcome. As she continues to serve on the bench, Kristy Yang remains a role model for future generations, embodying the spirit of the American dream.

For more detailed information on Kristy Yang’s journey and her contributions, you can visit Hmong American, Wisconsin Historical Society, and Madison365.

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