Indian American judge Tejal Mehta plans to help “people see the potential in themselves — and change their endings”
Tejal Mehta, an Indian American judge has become the first justice of Ayer District Court in Massachusetts. She was sworn-in by Stacey Fortes, chief justice of the District Court.
“As a lawyer you can help people, but you can only help them to a point,” Mehta said after taking her oath Thursday. “As a judge, you can do so much more and get to the root of issues and talk to people in such a way that really gets through to them.”
Mehta’s goal to focus on one place and to become the first justice of the Ayer District Court rested in a desire to make a positive impact on the community she has grown close to, Lowell Sun reported.
Read: Arun Subramanian renamed as New York district court judge (January 24, 2023)
“I have seen the same hopes and despairs in every court I have sat in as a traveling judge,” Mehta was quoted as saying. “But when you are the first justice, then you can really get to know the community and make a real impact.”
Mehta also referenced a quote from writer C.S. Lewis: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending,” according to the Sun.
Mehta told the crowd the quote was spoken to her recently by a man on probation for a criminal conviction as he stood before her in court. According to Mehta, the man used the quote to express the revelation he experienced following his conviction.
“His probation had a positive impact on him,” Mehta was quoted as saying. “He had a turning point and realized he had a purpose to fulfill and that purpose was to treat people with compassion, kindness and empathy.
“That is the theme of what we do here in Ayer,” she added. “Help people see the potential in themselves — to start where they are, and change their endings.”
Among those in attendance were several members of Mehta’s family, including her 14-year-old daughter, Mena Sheth, who is one of the three children shared by Mehta and her husband, Ketan Sheth.
Mena, who was among the ceremony speakers, quoted US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when discussing her mother.
“RBG said, ‘Fight for things you care about, but do so in a way that will lead others to join you,’” Mena said. “My mom is the exact embodiment of this quote. Through her kindness and outgoing personality, she encourages people to share her understanding of the world. Being a judge has given her the ability to see and do what’s best and I can’t think of anyone better to have that responsibility.”
Mehta, a resident of Concord, started her career in civil work, before becoming a prosecutor with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, where she served for more than a decade.
She went on to open her own practice, becoming a public defender, before pursuing a position on the bench as a circuit judge.
Read: Indian-American Tejal Mehta sworn in as first justice of Ayer District Court in Massachusetts (March 6, 2023)
A founding board member of the South Asian Bar Association and a board member of the Board of Bar Overseers, Mehta is involved in her community as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts and is a former executive board member of the Bedford Montessori School.
She graduated from Notre Dame University and received a JD from Boston University School of Law.
Ayer District Court serves Ashby, Ayer, Boxboro, Dunstable, Groton, Littleton, Pepperell, Shirley, Townsend, Westford and Devens.