Neetu Badhan-Smith: The First Sikh Woman Judge in the United States

Neetu Badhan-Smith: From Public Defender to Historic Judge

In a significant milestone for both the legal profession and the Sikh community, Neetu Badhan-Smith has become the first Sikh woman judge in the United States. Appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court of California by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2017, Badhan-Smith’s journey is an inspiring testament to resilience, dedication, and the breaking of barriers.

Neetu Badhan-Smith: A Journey Rooted in Determination

Neetu Badhan-Smith was born into an immigrant Ravidasia Sikh family in California. Her parents, who embraced the values of hard work and education, instilled in her the importance of perseverance and community service.

Neetu Badhan-Smith earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and went on to obtain her Juris Doctor degree from Southwestern Law School.

Before her appointment to the Superior Court, Badhan-Smith had a distinguished career as a deputy public defender at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office from 2004. Her commitment to social justice was also evident in her tenure at the Southern California Housing Rights Center, where she worked from 2003 to 2004, advocating for fair housing practices.

An Advocate for Diversity and Justice

Inspired by the esteemed Indian jurist Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his movement against casteism, Neetu Badhan-Smith has been a vocal advocate for equality and justice throughout her career. Her work reflects a deep commitment to these principles, striving to ensure that the legal system serves all members of society fairly and equitably.

As a judge, she brings this passion to the bench, making decisions that impact lives while upholding the core values of justice and impartiality. Her role as a trailblazer extends beyond her courtroom, as she actively engages with the community and mentors future generations of legal professionals.

Empowering the Next Generation

Badhan-Smith’s influence reaches far beyond her judicial responsibilities. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Cornerstone Theater Company, demonstrating her dedication to enriching cultural and community endeavors.

Her engagement with students and young professionals is particularly noteworthy. For instance, during a guest lecture at the UCLA Downtown Los Angeles campus, hosted by Associate Professor Bobby Rimas, she shared her insights on court procedures, the importance of diversity on the bench, and maintaining a work-life balance.

Her advice to students was both practical and inspirational. She emphasized the necessity of thorough preparation and understanding the nuances of each case.

“Be and know why you are uniquely you,” she advised, encouraging students to recognize their intrinsic value and approach interviews with confidence and authenticity. Her presentation was lauded as “phenomenal beyond words,” highlighting the profound impact she has on those aspiring to careers in law.

Also Read:Satnam Rattu: From Deputy District Attorney to Superior Court Judge

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