Ramsey County Courts
Ramsey County Judge Sophia Y. Vuelo is all about breaking boundaries — and solving problems.
Appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2017, Vuelo became the first female Hmong American judge appointed in the United States, and the first Hmong American of either gender in Minnesota. But when the governor’s office was preparing to announce her appointment, she asked that they not lead with that fact.
“I’ve never set out to be the first of anything,” she said. “I just wanted to be known for doing good work.”
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in history, Vuelo quickly pivoted to law school. She graduated from Hamline University School of Law in 1998.
“I was always fascinated with how the legal system can impact issues like social justice and really move society forward,” she said.
Vuelo eventually founded her own law firm, dealing with juvenile delinquency matters, family and criminal cases.
During her career, Vuelo has made a point of enriching the Minnesota legal world however she can. She’s an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, an advisory board member of Minnesota Women Lawyers and a mentor at St. Thomas University School of Law.
Judge Vuelo routinely uses her platform to elevate the importance of diversity in the legal profession and on the bench. In one interview, she explained that diversity is more than just a good thing. It is a necessity to ensure “we are doing the work that our constitution intended for us to do, which is to treat everyone equal under the law. Last October she spoke at the Hmong Women Take on the World 2020 Global Summit, sharing her experience to help and elevate others.
In the two decades-plus since she earned her law degree, Vuelo said she has seen a lot of progress when it comes to citizens of diverse backgrounds finding a place in the legal world. But she also sees a lot of work yet to be done.
“The legal field is one of the slowest to change when it comes to diversity and gender equity,” she said. “But the landscape is always changing.”
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