Governor Jerry Brown’s appointment July 12 of Rupa S. Goswami of South Pasadena, Calif., to the Los Angeles County Superior Court marks a historic first. She becomes the first South Asian American woman named to the judiciary in California.
The 46-year-old Goswami has worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California since 2001. She fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Gary E. Daigh.
“I am very thrilled to be the first South Asian woman judge (in California) and I hope there are many more to come,” she told India-West in a phone interview July 15.
A Bengali American born in east India, Goswami, a Democrat, thanked Brown, a fellow Democrat, for the appointment. She added that she hopes to see many more people of color and women named to the bench. “So many young girls have called me (from law school),” she said with some emotion. “I hope I’m not the last.”
She said pursuing a career while raising children has been “a balancing act.” She and her husband, Timothy Searight, a prosecutor who works in the same office, have one son, Kumar.
“This appointment is profound," Puneet V. Kakkar, co-president (with Goswami) of the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California, told India-West.
In a statement, Kakkar said Goswami has been “a bedrock for the South Asian American community in Southern California through her leadership, mentorship, and service. She is a trailblazer with respect to the legal issues she tackles and the justice she accomplishes. All of this will only be multiplied now that she is on the bench.”
SABA-SC board member and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra added, “This is a proud moment for the entire South Asian community and all immigrants. Rupa has once again demonstrated that in America, with hard work and opportunity, anything is possible. Her experience and long-standing commitment to serving the public will serve her well in her transition to the bench.”
Goswami currently works in the Los Angeles-based Central District’s environmental crimes section. Her previous positions in the district have included deputy chief of the general crime section, assistant U.S. attorney in the cyber crime section and working in the domestic security, immigration, terrorism and organized crime sections.
She was adjunct professor at Loyola Law School in 2011 and a litigation associate at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher and Flom.
Goswami, who grew up in rural Ohio and Florida, has a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law and an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago, where she received her bachelor’s degree.
SABA-SC pointed out that Goswami’s work protecting child victims of sexual exploitation, environmental crimes and endangered species has been recognized by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI and the Humane Society.
Before becoming a prosecutor, Goswami clerked for then-U.S. District Judge Nora Manella and for the late Terence T. Evans of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
A former commissioner of the Judicial Nominees Evaluation commission, which investigates the governor’s candidates for judicial appointments, she has served as a pro tem judge and a teen court moderator.
The Indian American prosecutor has been recognized by SABA-SC’s Public Interest Foundation and the National South Asian Bar Association for public service and community outreach.
Her new post pays $178,789 a year.