Indian American attorney Vibhav Mittal, of Yorba Linda, California, became the first judge of South Asian descent on the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, after being sworn in Sept. 10 by Assistant Presiding Judge Maria Hernandez.
California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Judge Mittal on Sept. 3, 2021, according to a SABA-SC press release. Before that, the Indian American lawyer was an Assistant United States Attorney, Deputy Chief in the Santa Ana Branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. In his ten years as a federal prosecutor, Judge Mittal tried 13 criminal trials to verdict, including a groundbreaking public-corruption matter where a state traffic court clerk accepted over $400,000 in bribes, a $24 million Ponzi scheme fraud case, numerous drug-trafficking and gun-related cases, and cases involving child exploitation.
Judge Mittal also served as an instructor for trial advocacy and was a member of the office’s hiring and diversity committees. His career as a prosecutor earned him awards from the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Treasury, noted the release.
Earlier in his career, Mittal was a law clerk for Amul Thapar, the first U.S. federal judge of South Asian descent. He is a graduate of NYU School of Law and received his undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and political science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Mittal has long been dedicated to his community. Since 2014, he has been the lead attorney coach for Segerstrom High School’s mock trial team, educating dozens of high school students in Santa Ana on criminal law and courtroom advocacy. He served as a lecturer for the University of California, Irvine School of Law, where he mentored and designed curriculum for students interested in careers as prosecutors and public defenders, and twice monthly prepares meals for the homeless at Mary’s Kitchen in Orange.
An Indian American, Judge Mittal has also served the Asian American Pacific Islander community and has helped diversify the California judiciary and legal profession at large. As a board member of South Asian Bar
Association of Southern California (SABA-SC) from 2014 to 2018, Judge Mittal helped vet and endorse candidates for judicial office. He also served on the board of SABA-SC’s Public Interest Foundation—an organization aimed at supporting nonprofit organizations serving the South Asian community.
On behalf of the SABA-SC, which endorsed Judge Mittal’s candidacy for the Orange County bench, Marize Alphonso and Rohit D. Nath praised the appointment: “We are thrilled about Judge Mittal’s appointment to the Orange County bench, an appointment that reflects the significant and growing South Asian population in the region. Judge Mittal has dedicated his career to public service, and he has also been an integral part of the South Asian legal community. The governor could not have found a better pick to blaze this trail for the South Asian community in Orange County.”