Roopali H. Desai becomes first South Asian woman judge on 9th circuit

Daughter immigrants from India confirmed by Senate with most votes for any of Biden’s circuit court nominees

With her Senate confirmation Indian American lawyer Roopali H. Desai has become the first South Asian woman Judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit court.

The daughter of immigrants from India was confirmed on Aug 4 with a 67-29 Senate vote to replace Judge Andrew David Hurwitz, who retired in late January.

Read: Kamala Harris, Roopali Desai among USA Today’s Women of the Year (March 31, 2022)

The San Francisco based circuit court hears appeals of district court rulings in nine states and two territories – Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington state, the US territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“The Senate confirmed Roopali Desai as a Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit! She’s one of Arizona’s top elections lawyers,” tweeted Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer.

“Now she’ll make history as the first South Asian judge to serve on the Ninth Circuit and only the fifth AAPI woman ever to sit on a federal circuit court,’” he wrote.

“I’ve known Roopali Desai for 10 years and couldn’t be more delighted to introduce her for consideration for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,” tweeted Kyrsten Sinema, Democratic senator from Arizona.

“She’s well-respected by Arizonans of all political affiliations for her integrity and fairness. We look forward to a swift confirmation,” she wrote before the vote.

Leading Indian American community organization Indian American Impact saw her win as a major win for the community.

“Roopali Desai’s bold and inspired work as an attorney in Arizona earned her a reputation and career of which she should be immensely proud,” Neil Makhija, executive director, Indian American Impact stated.

Read: Biden nominates two Indian American woman to key posts (June 16, 2022)

“A fierce defender of democracy, she valiantly represented the Arizona state secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, against a lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s campaign that sought to overturn Biden’s victory in Arizona.”

Desai’s confirmation is being seen as historic because of the huge bipartisan support that “delivered the most votes that any circuit court nominee has received since President Joe Biden took office.”

“The period between her nomination and confirmation, just 50 days, is the fastest for a circuit court nominee since President Bill Clinton’s administration,” Arizona Central noted.

Desai was nominated for the judgeship on June 15, and had her hearing before the Senate judiciary committee on July 13. Her nomination was reported to the Senate floor on July 28.

Desai was born in Canada before coming to Phoenix as a child. She was a partner at Coppersmith Brockelman where she has practiced since 2007.

Before that, she was an associate at Lewis & Roca and served as a law clerk for chief judge Mary Schroeder on the US court of appeals for the 9th Circuit. She received her JD in 2005, her MPH in 2001, and her BA in 2000, all from the University of Arizona.

She was named the Arizona honoree among USA Today’s “Women of the Year” in March, “after becoming prominent in her work fighting lawsuits over Biden’s election victory in Arizona.”

Read: Biden nominates Arizona attorney who fought attempts to overturn election as judge for 9th Circuit (June 15, 2022)

While in law school, Desai was a legal intern for the office of the federal public defender in the district of Arizona. Following law school, she clerked for then chief judge Mary M. Schroeder of the US court of appeals for the ninth circuit from 2005 to 2006.

Desai has been a member of the American Law Institute since 2021. She has served on numerous community boards, including the Arizona Center for Law in the public interest where she served as president of the board of directors from 2015 to 2017.

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