In a unanimous voice vote Dec. 16, the U.S. Senate confirmed Indian American Amit Priyavadan Mehta as judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
He becomes the first Asian Pacific American to serve as a federal district court judge in the District of Columbia.
Nominated by President Barack Obama in July, Mehta has been a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP since 2010, where he represents clients in civil and criminal cases.
He rejoined the firm as counsel in 2007, after serving as a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia from 2002-2007.
Mehta was an associate at Zuckerman Spaeder from 1999-2002, a law clerk for Judge Susan P. Graber of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1998-1999 and an associate at Latham & Watkins LLP from 1997-1998.
He received his law degree in 1997 from the University of Virginia School of Law and a B.A. in 1993 from Georgetown University.
Mehta’s high-profile cases have included the civil and criminal defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French diplomat who was charged with sexual abuse by a New York hotel maid; and the defense of the former president of the Salt Lake City Olympic bid committee against charges of fraud and racketeering.
Mehta’s community service includes serving as director of Facilitating Leadership in Youth — a nonprofit dedicated to after-school activities and mentoring for at-risk youth — and as vice president of the board of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to correcting and preventing the conviction of innocent people in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Recognized nationally by The National Law Journal and Benchmark Litigation, Mehta was born in India and came to the U.S. when he was one year old.
“We are pleased that the Senate confirmed Amit Mehta in short order given his exceptional qualifications,” Mansi Shah, president of the South Asian Bar Association of North America, said in a statement.
Congressman Ami Bera, D-Calif., said Mehta’s “experiences as a public defender, as a clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals and as a practicing attorney have prepared him well for this new role.”
George C. Chen, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, said Mehta’s confirmation “marks a milestone. He is not only the first South Asian American, but also the first Asian Pacific American to ever serve on this court.”
“NAPABA is proud to have supported Judge Mehta’s nomination to the bench. We applaud President Obama and Congresswoman [Eleanor] Holmes Norton [of the District of Columbia] for putting his name forward."
NAPABA said that Mehta’s confirmation increases the number of active Asian Pacific American Article III judges to 26 nationwide — four federal appellate court judges and 22 federal district court judges.
Mehta is not the highest-ranking Asian American judge serving in the District of Columbia.
Indian American Srikath “Sri” Srinivasan was confirmed May 23, 2013, to serve as U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the D.C. Circuit, often called the country’s second most powerful court and considered a fast track to a U.S. Supreme Court appointment.