Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Lawyers Form Political Committee to Support South Asian Judges
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Members of the South Asian legal community have created the South Asian Bar Association Political Action Committee, also known as the SABA PAC, to support the reelection of judges of South Asian descent in the state of California, a local attorney said yesterday.
“This is separate from the South Asian Bar Association,” Los Angeles attorney Puneet V. Kakkar, who is the principal officer of the PAC, said yesterday “it’s goal is to educate the public about judicial elections and to mobilize community solidarity behind the stellar judicial officers we have.”
Kakkar said that “in the past month, the SABA PAC has raised thousands of dollars and reached out to hundreds of voters about judicial elections, and in particular, the ballot challenges against the South Asian community.”
Among the judges the group is supporting, he said, are Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Halim Dhanidina and Rupa Goswami, both of whom are so far unopposed.
Kakkar said the PAC was formed after Judge Sanjay Kumar was challenged in 2012 by Hawthorne Deputy City Attorney Kim Smith, whom the Los Angeles County Bar Association rated as “Not Qualified.” Kumar had received a rating of “Exceptionally Well Qualified,” the highest possible.
Kakkar referred in an email to a comment by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Sotelo, who supervised Kumar in his first assignment as court commissioner, and said of the race:
“It is an awful thing that a mediocre man and average lawyer named Kim Smith, a person with a reputation for racial and gender bigotry, would target Judge Kumar simply because Sanjay’s father and his British mother named him Sanjay, rather than Harold Kumar. And it is even more disheartening that a so-called officer of the Court, and ‘unqualified’ man named Smith, would bank that Los Angeles voters will elect him simply because his name is Smith over an ‘exceptionally well qualified’ judge who’s name is Sanjay Kumar.”
Kumar defeated Smith for the judicial office. But, Kakkar explained, Smith was still able to garner 40 percent of the votes while spending almost no money. “The South Asian community was shocked that this happened,” the attorney said.
The group has held fundraisers in Cerritos, which it calls the “Little India community in Southern California,” and San Francisco, the lawyer said.
“These events,” Kakkar said, “have educated the broader community, in particular, the South Asian non-legal community, about the potential challenges their community now faces.”
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