New York: Justice Ushir Pandit-Durant who spent her childhood in Ahmedabad, took oath as a Supreme Court judge in the state of New York. She immigrated to the US with her family in the 1970s, when she was 11. Turning 57 next month, this Gujarati will now preside over criminal cases in Queens County. Her induction ceremony was also a first of sorts, as she took her oath on the Bhagavad Gita. As an Indian teenager in the US, her first challenge was to learn English as she was not taught the subject in her Ahmedabad public school. But she was quick to pick up the American culture and establish herself in the community and school.
She remained a first in many ways. After attending St John’s University for four years, where she received her bachelor’s degree, she spent three years at New York Law School. After graduation when other law graduates wanted to join big law firms, she joined the Queens District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney. As a prosecutor, she tried numerous felony cases - from armed robbery and narcotics sales to assaults on women and the elderly. She then advanced to the appeals division of the District Attorney’s Office. The division argues cases in the higher courts, confronting legal challenges in attempts to overturn lower court decisions. As an appellate advocate over a period of 15 years, she successfully represented the district attorney on more than 30 appellate arguments in the higher state and federal appellate courts.
Later, she left the district attorney’s office in 2015 when she was elected as a civil court judge. She presided over criminal court cases pending in Manhattan and then Queens. While her term in the civil court was 10 years, after getting elected to the New York State Supreme Court, her term is 14 years now.