Chennai-born Raja Rajeswari, who had migrated to the U.S as a teenager, has become the first person of Indian origin to be named as a criminal court judge in New York City. She was nominated by New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and was sworn in on April 14, 2016. The judges in the New York City Criminal Court and the Family Court within the city are appointed for a term of 10 years by the Mayor. Presently, there are two male judges of Indian origin in civil court settings – Jaya Madhavan on the New York City Housing Court in Bronx County, and Anil C. Singh of New York County Supreme Court, 1st District, according to ethnic New India Times.
On May 2, she took the oath of office at a ceremony in New York City along with 27 other judges appointed earlier this month to the Family Court, Criminal Court, and Civil Court, which are part of the New York State Unified Court System. She joined her new office on Tuesday.
43-year-old Rajeswari had previously worked with the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for past 16 years in several bureaus including Criminal Court, Narcotics, Supreme Court, and the Sex Crimes Special Victims Bureau, where she last served as Deputy Chief for more than four years.
She has mostly worked on cases involving women and children asserting that they are the ones that touched her the most. Apart from her legal intelligence, she is a well-known Bharathanatyam and Kucchipudi dancer and continues to perform at Indian events and temples with her troupe from the Padmalaya Dance Academy, named after her mother, Padma Ramanathan.
Rajeswari said that she hopes to use her new position to improve the judicial system by encouraging interpreters to have more access to aid immigrants. “I’m honoured to sit on a city bench and make Staten Island proud,” she said.
Mayor praised her for utilizing her ability to speak in different languages to work. Besides Indian languages, she can also speak Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian languages.
“To ensure New Yorkers have access to a fair, equitable justice system, we need judges who are qualified, honest and reflective of the people of this city,” Mr. de Blasio said.
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“With their wealth of legal experience, these appointees represent all five boroughs and all walks of life. From the first female South Asian-American judge in New York City to a former NYPD First Deputy Commissioner, these talented leaders truly reflect the diverse range of communities that make up our great city,” he said.
“For someone like me, an immigrant who comes from India, I’m beyond grateful,” she had said. “I told the mayor this is not only my American Dream, but it shows another girl from a faraway country that this is possible.”
Written by Pashchiema with inputs from The Hindu