By Sumaiya Malik
Judge Dimple Malhotra is the first and only Asian American female Judge in Travis County.
She emerged as a clear winner in the Democratic runoff on July 14 for Travis County Court at Law #4 with 55% of the votes.
Malhotra comes to the prestigious position of Judge with perseverance, compassion and empathy, along with a desire to serve the community. Her term will last four years.
Judge Dimple Malhotra’s life is a living example of the American Dream. Born in India, she moved to the US with her parents at a young age — her mother arriving first to work as a nurse. Malhotra attended UT Austin for both undergraduate studies and for law school.
Her career took her and her husband, who she met at UT Law, to California in 1998 only to return to Austin in 2004. Throughout, she worked in nonprofits or for the government and accumulated years of experience dealing with domestic violence and family abuse cases.
The Travis County Court Judge Malhotra presides over is a specialty court that deals almost exclusively in misdemeanor domestic violence cases.
The court also oversees a diversion program for people charged with prostitution called Phoenix Court.
The day after her election, Sumaiya Malik of Austin South Asian spoke with Malhotra about her candidacy and future plans as a judge:
SM: Congratulations on the big win! Could you tell us more about your role?
JDM: Thank you! The Travis County Court is a civil court which hears bench trials and jury trials. It is a specialty court which hears misdemeanor and domestic violence cases.
I handle a docket of 3K to 4K cases of domestic violence every year. I preside over the protective order docket. I hear those who say they have experienced assault harassment.
There are hearings on Fridays. This hasn’t stopped [even in time of Covid-19 pandemic]. Violence has [in fact] increased in pandemic.
[I also oversee] the Phoenix Court – Whenever participants are arrested for prostitution, we address the issues leading to prostitution.
Prostitution is a form of human trafficking. We need to address prostitution and victims of sexual assault at a young age.
SM: How did you start working for the government?
JDM: My career in the government started as a non-profit staff attorney at the Women’s Advocacy Project.
[Later] I ended up at the Travis County Attorney’s office in the prosecutor position, handling new arrests related to family violence cases. Eventually I became Chief Prosecutor and then Head of family violence cases.
When Judge Denton [the prior Judge at Travis County Court at Law #4] retired, I went through the selection process [to take his place].
The seat had to be filled… Nineteen people applied including my opponent [Margaret Chen Kercher].
Most of them were defense lawyers. Only one prosecutor of violent crimes. A couple of us had experience and I was one of them.
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