California’s First Indian-American Judge Urges Minority Lawyers Not to Forget the Ones Behind at SABA Anniversary Reception

On June 6th, 2014, I had the privilege of attending Sacramento’s South Asian Bar Association’s 6th Anniversary Reception. The event was sponsored by several law firms including Downey Brand, Shergill Law Firm and Wilke Fleury. The keynote speaker for the evening was the recently appointed United States District Court Judge Vince Chhabria for the Northern District of California.

During his keynote, Judge Chhabria, the first Indian-American Judge in California, said something that really stuck with me and I just wanted to make sure I shared it with you all.

He said, for persons like myself i.e. first and second generation children of immigrants, we MUST remember to pay-it -forward to those directly behind us who have now relocated to the USA but do not have the opportunities we enjoyed.

His statement really stuck because while I have been and continue to be a big believer and doer when it comes to contributions to my local legal and non-legal community here in the States, my heart also is in Africa and I certainly think and do a lot also for my international community.

I was grateful for the reminder not to also forget the local community, especially our minority legal communities.

For me, as I continue to survey the legal landscape, the practice of law is no longer what it used to be especially from law firms to court rooms. It could be seen as a bad thing or an opportunity to innovate and be a part of a shifting paradigm that brings the practice of law into the digital age. While technology has been good, there is no denial that it has also adversely impacted the legal community, especially since it appears courtrooms and lawyers are not necessarily keeping pace with  technology.

In addition, speaking strictly of the career opportunities available for young lawyers here in the USA, I think it would not be far fetched if I say the picture has been dismal for a while now. It is even more dismal if you zone in on minority lawyers.

So, my friends, law colleague friends that is, I share Judge Chhabria’s admonition and reminder with you as well. We’ve got work to do and even as we focus on being and remaining successful in our careers, let us never forget that the ones behind us do not enjoy the same opportunities we once enjoyed. Let’s do more and do so in a very strategic, collaborative and intelligent fashion to create opportunities for our young lawyers, especially minority lawyers.

I wish you all a great week ahead. I have been sharing some law podcasts covering both the fashion and entertainment industries here in the USA and Africa on my other law blog. You can stay updated on these podcasts here.

Again have a great week ahead and hope to catch you all soon.

My warmest regards.


Photocredit: Hillary Jones-Mixon for The American Lawyer

“Chhabria was born in 1969 in San Francisco, California.He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received a Juris Doctorate in 1998 from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, graduating Order of the Coif. He served as a law clerk to Judge Charles R. Breyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, from 1998 to 1999. He clerked for Judge James R. Browning of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, from 1999 to 2000.

In 2001, he worked as an associate at the law firm of Keker & Van Nest, LLP. From 2001 to 2002, he clerked for Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the United States Supreme Court. From 2002 to 2004, he worked as an associate at the law firm of Covington & Burling, LLP. From 2005 to 2013, he served in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, finally as Deputy City Attorney for Government Litigation and as the Co-Chief of Appellate Litigation.

On July 25, 2013, President Obama nominated Chhabria to serve as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, to the seat vacated by Judge Susan Illston, who took senior status on July 1, 2013. He was reported out of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary on January 16, 2014. On March 5, 2014 the motion to invoke cloture on his nomination was agreed to by a vote of 57-43. His nomination was confirmed later that day by a vote of 58-41. He received his judicial commission on March 7, 2014. . .” – Wikipedia