Indian American Shama Hakim Mesiwala created history with her confirmation as Associate Justice of the California Third District Court of Appeal to become the first South Asian and Muslim American woman on any appellate court in the US.
Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero administered the oath of office to Mesiwala after she was unanimously confirmed as an associate justice of the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento, according to California Courts website.
The 48-year-old Democrat was confirmed on Feb 14 by the Commission on Judicial Appointments after being nominated by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Dec 23, 2022.
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She was rated exceptionally well qualified, the highest rating given by the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE), according to her official bio on California Courts website.
Congratulating Mesiwala on her unanimous confirmation, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association noted she “is the first South Asian American woman and the first Muslim American woman CA state appellate court justice.
A native Californian, Mesiwala was born in Stanford in 1974 and raised in Cupertino among the fruit orchards and burgeoning technology industries of Silicon Valley.
Her father immigrated from Mumbai, India in the 1960’s for educational opportunities and freedoms found only in America. She attended all public schools, graduating from UC San Diego magna cum laude in three years. She started law school at UC Davis King Hall at age 20 and graduated in 1998.
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Mesiwala devoted her legal career to public service. She represented indigent criminal defendants at the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Sacramento and the Central California Appellate Program, where she argued cases before the California Supreme Court and California Courts of Appeal, according to the website.
Mesiwala then transitioned to working for the judiciary. She was a central staff attorney at the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District for one and a half years, followed by a chamber’s attorney for Justice Ronald B. Robie for 11 years.
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She was appointed commissioner in 2017 and 10 months later, judge of the Sacramento County Superior Court. In her six years on the trial court, Mesiwala presided over from criminal jury trials to juvenile dependency, drug court, mental health hospital hearings, civil harassment restraining order hearings, collaborative courts, and small claims.
She created Northern California’s first Indian Child Welfare Act courtroom. And she served as the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) judge for the Hall of Justice.
Mesiwala is also active in the community. She has been professor of Appellate Advocacy to over 650 students at UC Davis Law School for a decade; president of the Schwartz/Levi American Inn of Court; cofounder of the South Asian Bar Association of Sacramento and host of its annual Diversity Law Student Reception for 15 years; and member of the California Supreme Court Ethics Opinion Committee.
For her community service, Mesiwala has received the UC Davis Law School’s pro bono certificate, the Unity Bar community service award, the Women Lawyers of Sacramento Frances Newell Carr award, the King Hall Legal Foundation’s judge of the year award, and named a Sacramento Bee top 25 Asian American/Pacific Islander change maker.
Mesiwala lives in Yolo County with her spouse of 20 years and their only son.