Muslim-American Superior Court Judge Halim Dhanidina shares endeavors that preceded his election
BY KYLE NAULT
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Halim Dhanidina shared his hardships and experiences in his journey to become the first Muslim-American judge in the state of California as part of a presentation hosted by Associated Students Inc. Lobby Corps Monday.
In an hour-long speech, Dhanidina chronicled the barriers he faced before he was elected to the superior court by Gov. Jerry Brown in May 2012 and provided advice to students.
“If you’re a member of a minority group or an unpopular minority group, you have to put yourself out there,” he said. “Let people know you, even if they’re people you don’t want to know.”
Not only did Dhanidina provide advice to the students in attendance, he also addressed the development of racial interactions in America.
“At the heart of human interaction is the ability to empathize and to see yourself in other people, and when there’s bigotry, and there’s racism, and there’s discrimination, more often than not it’s fueled by a lack of empathy or understanding of someone else and an inability to identify with someone else based off a perceived difference,” Dhanidina said.
Dhanidina graduated from Pomona College in 1994, earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations and ultimately obtained his law degree from UCLA’s School of Law. His achievements in the field include hearing over 52 jury trials, 25 murder cases and seven death penalty prosecutions.
“It’s very important to get engaged in public life,” he said. “There’s something different about being involved in public institutions.”
Dhanidina was appointed during a period of gradual shift in political culture nationally which is encouraging more minority judges in order to create a more diverse judiciary.
In California, 61.2 percent of judges and justices are white, 11.7 percent are Hispanic, 9.0 percent are black, 7.7 percent are Asian, 4.1 percent are unidentified and 3.8 percent are multiracial, according to 2012 demographic data provided by the state.
Dhanidina said it is important for individuals who are pioneers in their desired fields to tackle the responsibility for their community.
“Everyone wants to make the world more accepting and it’s kind of part of the responsibility for those people who do it first, and this is repeated throughout history,” he said.
As February marks Black History Month, students hear about several historical figures who paved the way for others. Among those include Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball and President Barack Obama, who is the first African-American to become president.
“I think it’s really important for us to understand how law, society, and race all intersects because it is such an important social aspect of our world,” ASI Lobby Corps Advocacy Coordinator Kelsey Brewer said.
On the social level, her Lobby Corps colleague agrees. ASI Lobby Corps Director Harpreet Bath said actually witnessing Dhanidina’s presentation provided a lot to students, as they were able to ask him questions and speak with him.
“Being a first pretty much in any category is a big deal,” he said. “What we are trying to do is empower our student body to think beyond the capabilities of what they thought they could do or not do to achieve their dreams.”
Dhanidina’s presentation marked another event that is part of ASI’s plan to host more innovative events during this semester.
“They all face challenges that are very different, and for someone to come talk about how they overcame those challenges and went on and did something is very inspirational for our student body,” Bath said.