Indian-origin Palm Beach County, Florida, Judge died at age 48

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Judge Meenu Sasser, known as a judicial innovator with a fierce legal mind, died of esophageal cancer on Saturday, July 6.  She was 48.

Sasser, nicknamed The Rocket for the quick pace of her work on foreclosure cases during the housing crisis, was the Palm Beach County, Florida’s first Asian-American judge, having been appointed to the bench in 2009 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

Her husband, divorce attorney Thomas Sasser, told the Palm Beach Post that his wife wanted to be remembered for her work, not her cause of death.

“She was very much about improving the court system for the public,” he said. “At her core, she believed in the American legal system, and more than anything in that belief, she felt it was important for officers of the court — judges, lawyers — to show the public we were doing the best job we can.”

Sasser regularly ranked top among South Florida jurists in surveys by lawyers, assessing skills like impartiality, diligence, timeliness and knowledge and application of the law, according to a DBR report. In addition, in 2018, New York University Law School recognized Sasser as the “most innovative jurist” in the country, DBR reported.

The Palm Beach County Bar gave Sasser the highest number of positive responses in its December 2017 survey of attorneys, the third time in a row Sasser received the survey’s top rating, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Shock at the news of Sasser’s death elicited grief and praise in Florida’s legal community.

It was no surprise to anyone when Sasser was elevated to the bench, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg told Daily Business Review/

“What was really telling about her character was she never changed who she was after she donned the black robes,” Aronberg told DBR. “She was always the same kindhearted person she had always been.”

Miami lawyer Matthew Sarelson. of Kaplan Young & Moll Parron, appeared before Sasser numerous times and met her at various bar functions. He told DBR that the judge’s death is a huge loss for the Palm Beach legal community, where she valued mentorship and diversity.

“Judge Sasser was widely regarded as the best judge in Palm Beach,” Sarelson told DBR. “She was smart, well-prepared and treated lawyers with respect. She would have made a great appellate or federal judge.”

The Federalist Society of South Florida, Palm Beach Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Palm Beach County Bar Association, which Sasser served as president from 2007-2008, also expressed condolences, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The Palm Beach County chapter of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers called Sasser “a trailblazer in our legal community,” according to the Palm Beach Post.

“Judge Meenu Sasser was a distinguished jurist who greatly supported and championed female lawyers,” said Rina Clemens, president of the FAWL chapter.

Sasser received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Sasser came with her family to Washington, D.C., from India when she was in the first grade and didn’t know English but landed in English as a Second Language class, according to published reports.

“I never expected a girl who started off in ESOL classes to have what I have now,” Sasser told The Palm Beach Post in December 2017. “If I can do it, anyone can. It takes hard work, dedication, and a little help. I want the next generation to know that they can do this, too.”

Survivors include her husband and her three children: Andrew, 18, Caroline, 17, and William, 15. She is also survived by her mother, Shukla Talwar and her sister, federal prosecutor Rinku Talwar Tribuiani.

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