After being sworn in as a Criminal Court Judge, Ms. Raja Rajeswari has become first India-born woman to be appointed a judge in the New York City. She took the oath of office at a ceremony held on Monday, along with 27 other Judges appointed earlier this month to the Family Court, Criminal Court, and Civil Court, which are part of the New York State Unified Court System.
Currently, there are two male judges of Indian descent in civil court settings - Jaya Madhavan on the New York City Housing Court in Bronx County, and Anil C Singh of New York County Supreme Court, 1st District, according to ethnic New India Times.
Judges are appointed by the Mayor for 10 year terms in the New York City Criminal Court and the Family Court. Mayor de Blasio lauded Rajeswari’s ability to speak in India, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian languages. He further said that she has put her history as an immigrant and ability to speak all these languages to work, "helping to reach immigrants" in the Staten Island communities where she served as an Assistant District Attorney.
Earlier this month, Ms. Rajeswari was quoted as saying she is "honored and humbled" by her appointment.
Born in Chennai, Ms. Rajeswari migrated to the US as a teenager. She worked with the Richmond County District Attorney's Office for her entire career in several bureaus including Criminal Court, Narcotics, Supreme Court, and the Sex Crimes Special Victims Bureau, where she last served as Deputy Chief. She has served in the district attorney's office for the past 16 years and has been the deputy chief of the Special Victims Unit for more than four years.
Ms. Rajeswari is also an accomplished Bharat Natyam and Kucchipudi dancer who continues to perform at Indian events and temples with her troupe from the Padmalaya Dance Academy, named after her mother, Padma Ramanathan.
As a prosecuting attorney in New York, she has come across numerous cases of spousal and child abuse with in the South Asian community in New York, Ms Rajeswari had said, “Many of the domestic violence victims have been South Asians, Sri Lankans.” She hence, wishes to use her new position to improve the judicial system by encouraging interpreters to have more access to aid immigrants.