Indian-American appointed federal judge in California

Narayan Lakshman

Washington DC: In yet another historic appointment for the Indian-American community under the Obama administration, Vijay Gandhi was sworn in Magistrate Judge for the District Court of the Central District of California.

Mr. Gandhi is the first Indian-American federal judge in California and only the second ever Indian-American federal judge in the history of the United States. The first was Judge Amul Thapar, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Kentucky on December 13, 2007.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association said at 38, Mr. Justice Gandhi was also “one of the youngest federal judges currently serving in the Central District”. He will preside in Los Angeles and serve more than 19 million people in the largest district in the nation, said a NAPBA press release.

NAPABA emphasised the recognition Mr. Justice Gandhi had gained as a “Rising Star Lawyer” in the Super Lawyers magazine and also as a prolific writer and speaker on securities and business litigation including co-authoring a book on securities law.

Speaking to The Hindu, NAPABA Executive Director Tina Matsuoka said she was “very excited about nomination of Judge Vijay Gandhi” as the community had been “severely under represented in the federal courts and this appointment goes a long way in remedying that”. She said she was hopeful that the pendulum was swinging towards inclusion and diversity.

While Mr. Justice Gandhi was not appointed by the White House, he had to go through a rigorous district courts selection process including appearing before a merit selection panel, interviews by the full court and appointment by statute, said Ms. Matsuoka.

Mr. Justice Gandhi joins the District Court with 12 years of experience as a litigation partner at law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker LLP. He also worked on a full-time basis as a volunteer Deputy District Attorney and first-chaired multiple jury trials as a prosecutor, according to NAPABA. Earlier, he had clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt at the Southern District of Texas. He is an alumnus of the University of Southern California law school, from where he graduated “Order of the Coif” and received multiple American Jurisprudence awards.

Other high-profile appointments of Indian-Americans by the Obama administration include Rajiv Shah as administrator, USAID; Vivek Kundra as Federal Chief Information Officer; Aneesh Chopra as First Chief Technology Officer; Farah Pandith as Special Representative to Muslim communities; Richard Verma as Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the State Department; Preet Bharara as U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York; and actor Kal Penn as White House's Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison.

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