Alka Sagar, most recently assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District in Los Angeles, Calif., has been named federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by a panel of district judges.
According to the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California, she becomes the first South Asian woman to serve as a federal judge in the Central District and the first South Asian woman federal judge west of the Mississippi.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to continue to pursue my career in public service and to serve the people in the Central District of California as a magistrate judge,” Sagar told India-West in an e-mail. “I hope to see many future appointments of South Asian jurists on the bench both on the state and federal level.”
(Judge Cathy Bissoon, who is of Hispanic and Indian American descent, was appointed by a board of judges in Pennsylvania as a magistrate judge and sworn in Aug. 1, 2008, thus becoming the first woman of South Asian descent to sit on a federal bench in the U.S. In 2010, she was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania by President Barack Obama and confirmed to the post by the U.S. Senate Oct. 17, 2011. See sidebar.)
“This appointment is exciting,” said Puneet V. Kakkar, president of SABA-SC. Sagar “has been a leader and a mentor for South Asian attorneys for more than two decades. She has embraced public service her entire life, and the bench and people of the Central District will be enriched with her appointment.”
Sagar has been an assistant U.S. attorney for 26 years and served as deputy chief of the major frauds and major crimes sections.
“I have been fortunate to have worked on a wide variety of cases as an assistant U.S. attorney — including a myriad of complex fraud prosecutions, securities fraud, criminal tax, as well as money laundering, computer counterfeiting and sound piracy,” she told India-West. “I also prosecuted the largest cash robbery in U.S. history — the $18.9 million robbery of Dunbar armored.”
Sagar has received the Attorney General’s “Director’s Award for Superior Performance” and was named by the Los Angeles Business Journal one of the top 50 trial lawyers in Los Angeles.
She is active with Project Lead, a program where prosecutors teach inner city school children about the legal system. Sagar has also served on the board of directors of SABA-SC, most recently as SABA-SC’s judicial appointments co-chair.
“I also served as a judge pro tem for the Los Angeles Superior Court and volunteered with public counsel to assist families with adoptions. I found my community service to be very rewarding and it has confirmed my dedication to a career in public service,” she told India-West.
Sagar joins Magistrate Judge Jay C. Gandhi, former SABA-SC president, on the bench.
Gandhi, in a SABA-SC press release, said Sagar “as a decorated” federal prosecutor “exemplifies the best of America and the court is privileged to have her ample talents at hand. She has not only one of the sharpest legal minds, but the rare gift of impeccable judgment. She has also exhibited a steadfast commitment to public service.”
Born in Uganda, Sagar said her parents were also born in Uganda and Kenya. “My grandparents were from North India. They came to East Africa in the early 1900s to help build the railroad for the British colonies.”
“My family moved to Bangalore for a short time when I was four years old and thereafter immigrated to Canada when I was five. I grew up in Montreal and Vancouver, graduating from high school in Montreal. My family then moved to Los Angeles where I attended UCLA, graduating with a degree in anthropology and continuing on to UCLA law school.”