Indian American named as federal judge nominee for DC


US President Joe Biden on Tuesday, March 30, nominated a diverse group of individuals for the country’s top judicial positions. Among this group is also an Indian American federal judge.

Biden named 10 individuals for Federal Circuit and District Court judge posts, and one individual to serve as a Superior Court Judge for the District of Columbia.

Then Indian American candidate is Rupa Ranga Puttagunta, nominated for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

If confirmed, Puttagunta would be the first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman to serve on the US District Court for the District of DC, the White House has said.

“Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta currently serves as an Administrative Judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission. Prior to joining the Commission in 2019, Judge Puttagunta was a solo practitioner from 2013 to 2019, representing indigent criminal defendants in trial and on appeal.

Before opening her own practice, Judge Puttagunta practiced family and appellate law at Delaney McKinney, LLP from 2012 to 2013,” the readout from the White House stated.

While working on domestic relations matters in private practice, Judge Puttagunta also provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services by volunteering at D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court Self-Help Center and Attorney Negotiator Program and representing victims of domestic violence in D.C. Superior Court.

Judge Puttagunta began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge William M. Jackson of the D.C. Superior Court from 2008 to 2010, as well as the Senior Judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals from 2010 to 2011.

She had earlier represented the poor in criminal cases and worked with victims of domestic abuse, according to the White House.

Meanwhile, Biden has appointed a Pakistani American, Zahid N. Quraishi, to be a federal judge. He would become the nation’s first Muslim federal judge if confirmed by the Senate.

Another Muslim, Abid Qureshi, was nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2016 to be a federal judge but the Senate did not act on his nomination before Trump took office and it lapsed.

The federal judgeship would be an elevation for Quraishi who is now a federal magistrate judge in New Jersey. Magistrate judges are appointed by the federal judges to assist them on matters like first appearances by the accused in criminal cases and setting bail. Unlike federal judges, they are not nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate and, therefore, do not issue judgments or hear cases.

Quraishi is a former US Army captain who had served in Iraq and has also worked as an assistant chief counsel in the Department of Homeland Security and as an assistant federal prosecutor.

The South Asian Bar Association welcomed their nominations, tweeting, “We are proud to see Judges Rupa Ranga Puttagunta and Zahid Quraishi on the list” of Biden’s judicial nominees.

The White House said that the nominations announced on Tuesday reflect Biden’s “intent to nominate highly-qualified candidates to federal courts that reflect his deeply-held conviction that the federal bench should reflect the full diversity of the American people — both in the background and in professional experience.”