An Indian woman who migrated to the US about 27 years ago has become the first person of Indian origin to be named as a criminal court judge in New York City.
Hailing from Chennai, 43-year-old Raja Rajeswari worked as an assistant district attorney at the Richmond County District Attorney's office for 16 years. She was nominated by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and was sworn in on 14 April.
"It's like a dream. It's way beyond what I imagined," a Staten Island news website silive.com had quoted her as saying, IANS reported.
"For someone like me, an immigrant who comes from India, I'm beyond grateful... I told the mayor this is not only my American Dream, but it shows another girl from a far away country that this is possible," Rajeswari said.
Rajeswari worked at the district attorney's office for 16 years, in addition to serving as the deputy chief of the Special Victims Unit for more than four years.
The website quoted her as saying that she will encourage interpreters to have greater access to aid immigrants as part of an effort to "improve the judicial system".
She wants to utilise her position to uplift the societal status of South Asians staying in New York, as most of the cases she took up as a prosecuting attorney in New York were abuse of spouses and child among South Asians in New York.
"Many of the domestic violence victims have been South Asians, Sri Lankans," Rajeswari said.
A high point in her career was the conviction of Carlos Rosario, accused of raping children and videotaping hundreds of others, and was the first to be convicted under the Predatory Sexual Assault law in 2009. Rajeswari called Rosario "the poster child of predatory sexual assault."
Rajeswari is also an accomplished Bharat Natyam and Kucchipudi dancer and often performs at Hindu cultural and community events and temples as part of her troupe called Padmalaya Dance Academy, for free.
Rajeswari is the daughter of dance exponent Padma Ramanathan and Krishna Ramanathan.
While Rajeswari is the first Indian-origin person to be appointed to a criminal court, there are two male judges of Indian origin – Jaya Madhavan on the New York City Housing Court in Bronx County, and Anil C. Singh of New York County Supreme Court, 1st District – in civil courts, according to a report in an ethnic publication New India Times.