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Palo Altan becomes first South Asian Santa Clara County judge

Judgeship of Sunil Kulkarni adds to recent state, federal appointments

A Palo Alto resident has become the first South Asian ever to be appointed to Northern California judgeship, according to the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California.

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Sunil R. Kulkarni to the Santa Clara County Superior Court on Aug. 29. Kulkarni, 41, has been senior counsel in the University of California, Office of the General Counsel's litigation group since 2011. He specialized in administrative hearings and complex litigation, according to the university's website.

He held multiple positions at Palo Alto law firm Morrison and Foerster LLP from 1998 to 2011, including partner and associate, where he represented technology and other companies in patent, securities, and complex civil litigation.

An Indian American, Kulkarni served as a law clerk for the Judge Oliver W. Wanger, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California from 1996 to 1997. He earned his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

As judge, he fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Marcel B. Poche. Kulkarni is a Democrat.

Kulkarni was born in Los Angeles and was raised in King City. When not practicing law, he enjoys playing racquetball and attending sporting events and traditional and musical theater.

"I think it's important for a judge to bring not only legal knowledge, but also a sense of the community to the position. It's also critical for a judge to be fair and respectful to all parties who appear in a courtroom," he said in an email.

Kulkarni joins a number of recent appointments of South Asians to the California courts. Brown appointed Rupa S. Goswami to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Alka Sagar, who was named a federal magistrate judge for the Central District of California, became the first South Asian woman to serve as a federal judge west of the Mississippi, according to the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California.

President Barack Obama appointed Indian American Paul Singh Grewal as a federal magistrate judge in 2010 to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

On Aug. 29, Brown also appointed Lori E. Pegg of San Jose as a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge. She has been assistant county counsel at the Santa Clara County Office of the County Counsel since 2013, where she has served in multiple positions since 2001. She was previously a labor and employment attorney in private practice.

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