Trump trial puts two immigrant American women in the hot seat

Judges Upadhyaya and Chutkan were born in India and Jamaica respectively
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

You couldn’t make it up. Two immigrant female US federal judges randomly picked to respectively superintend Donald Trump’s arraignment and oversee the case against an ‘America First’ president for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

On Thursday (Aug 3), it was magistrate judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya, born in Gujarat, India, who was in the limelight. It was her job to conduct the relatively routine matter of this wildly unusual situation in which a former American president running once again for the highest office is accused of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against civil rights.

It fell to Judge Upadhyaya to read Mr Trump his rights, explain the charges against him, outline the conditions of his release and set the next court date. She did it with poise and despatch, the whole thing lasting no more than half an hour. It bears thinking that the judge, whose first university degree was a Bachelor of Journalism, may have been acutely aware of both the news and legal precedents set on this most extraordinary of ordinary court proceedings.

Later this month, the world’s focus will move to district judge Tanya S. Chutkan, born in Jamaica. She will oversee the case against Mr Trump, the most high-profile defendant ever to appear in her court. In America’s highly polarised political climate, it will require nifty footwork, something Judge Chutka, a trained classical dancer, may be well placed to execute. The consequential proceedings, set to play out not just in her courtroom but the court of public opinion, will require impeccable clarity of thought and communication, skills Judge Chutkan must surely have acquired as she worked towards her first university degree, a BA in Economics.

Who would’ve thought this particular criminal case against Mr Trump, probably the most important of his three indictments (a possible fourth looms in the US state of Georgia), would have two immigrant American women in the hot seat?

In so many ways, the random assignments that have pushed Judges Upadhyaya and Chutkan to public prominence, speak to the nature of the great melting pot that is one of America’s first characteristics.