Indian American attorney Kulvinder Singh, a registered Republican, is running against two Democrats for an open Placer County Superior Court judge seat.
Singh, who is making his first bid for judicial office, believes he has a shot to win in the June 5 California primary election; if any of the three candidates get less than 50 percent of the vote, the top two contenders go on to the Nov. 6 general election. Placer County is deeply red; more than 45 percent of the rural region is registered Republican.
In an interview with India-West, Singh said he first served as a judge pro-tem a decade ago, and shared experiences from 22 years of practice in the trial court system.
“I watched people not being able to understand what was going on,” he said, noting that many lacked English proficiency and had limited education skills, yet were dealing in matters which could completely up-end their lives, as public defenders and judges tried to rush their case through.
“The court system is denying people due process,” said the attorney, noting a life-changing case he had recently worked on, in which an 18-year-old boy was accused of brandishing weapons as he confronted a person who hit his truck.
The boy’s public defender suggested he take a plea deal, admitting to brandishing weapons; he was not told that a conviction on such a charge would make him deportable.
Singh took on the case after the boy entered the plea deal. “I had to file a motion to set aside the plea for failure to advise of the immigration consequences,” he explained to India-West. The public defender admitted she had not looked into the immigration consequences.
The case nevertheless was set for trial. But prosecutors found they had no witnesses to testify that the boy had brandished weapons. The case was eventually dismissed; the boy is now a U.S. citizen and a truck driver.
In another remarkable case, Singh defended a nurse who – with her green card – travelled to a foreign country, but was not allowed back in once she returned to the U.S., because of two petty thefts that had occurred several years ago. She also took a plea deal, and then came to Singh, who filed a motion to withdraw the plea deal and then had her petty thefts expunged from her record. That woman also eventually became a citizen.
“Both these cases are examples of people who didn’t know their rights and took a plea deal. This is a huge problem,” Singh told India-West, noting the resulting over-charging of felonies.
In his Voter’s Edge profile, Singh writes that he is running to improve access to justice and to “protect the people's opportunity to be heard, present evidence, and be adjudicated by an impartial court officer.”
The turbaned Sikh American said he is also running to increase the diversity of the court; interestingly, one of Singh’s contenders, Todd Irby, is African American; the other, Rebecca Chenoweth, is a woman.
Singh has lived in Roseville, the largest city in Placer County, since 2004. He attended Sierra College, California State University, Sacramento, and University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, all local schools.
Singh’s two teenage children attend school in Roseville. The family has deep ties to the small community; Singh is involved with the organization People of Faith Together, which advocates for social and restorative justice. He is also active with the local Rotary Club and the Kiwanis, and has participated in several get-out-the-vote drives.
Scott Alvord, a Roseville City Councilmember, has endorsed the candidate in his Voter’s Edge profile: “Mr. Singh is the type of judge that I'd like to have in front of a criminal or a family member who made a bad choice. He's tough on criminals but fair to those needing a course correction.”
“My experience and knowledge of litigation, my temperament and the ability to learn new areas of the law, and my interest in serving the public will make me a good judge,” said Singh.