The Senate vote was 59-39 to confirm Du for the lifetime appointment.
Du was recommended by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said Du’s journey through life that began in Vietnam proved the “American dream is alive and well.”
“Her academic achievements and extremely successful legal career are a true American success story,” said Reid, D-Nev. “I am confident she will serve with honor and fairness on Nevada’s bench and will be an excellent federal judge.”
Du’s confirmation received bipartisan support, though some detractors questioned her qualifications and cited sanctions imposed on her in 2008 by a federal court in Nevada for mishandling a case.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said while Du’s life story was admirable, she was unqualified for the appointment.
“This is no place for on-the-job training,” Grassley said.
Born in 1969, Du was 9 when she left Vietnam with her family in 1978. They traveled by boat to Malaysia, where the family lived for a year in refugee camps before coming to the United States.
The family first lived in Alabama, where her father worked on a dairy farm. They later moved to California.
“She didn’t speak English when she enrolled in an American school for the first time. But even as a third-grader, she was quick to learn and picked up the language right away,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
Du received a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from the University of California, Davis, and her law degree from UC Berkley. She moved to Nevada shortly after and joined the law firm of McDonald Carano Wilson, where she was made partner in 2002.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said Du will make an “outstanding” judge.
“Miranda has maintained a dedication to the preservation of justice and integrity throughout her career,” Heller said. “She is highly respected and I have no doubt that she will serve the Silver State proudly.”
But Heller’s nonsupport of Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish could doom her appointment to fill another vacancy on the federal bench in Nevada.
Reid on Wednesday told The Associated Press he was “kind of stunned” when Heller’s office informed him he did not support Cadish. Without Heller’s endorsement, the nomination will not be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reid said Cadish, a state judge since 2007, “is not out of sight or out of mind,” suggesting Reid may try to persuade Heller to endorse her or recommend her for a future opening on the Nevada bench.
Heller spokesman Stewart Bybee would not explain Heller’s opposition to Cadish.
“Sen. Heller looks forward to supporting the confirmation of Miranda Du to be U.S. District judge for the District of Nevada,” Bybee said in a statement. “In addition, Sen. Heller will continue to work with Sen. Reid to fill any judicial vacancies in the state of Nevada.”
Nevada has seven federal judges, but two took senior status last year and a reduced caseload, and a third said he will retire this summer. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts earlier declared the vacancies a “judicial emergency” because of the rising caseload.
Du will replace Judge Roger Hunt. Cadish was nominated to replace Judge Philip Pro.
Earlier this month, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Judge Kent Dawson informed President Barack Obama of his intent to retire July 9.