Judge Dhanidina Is Raising the Bar in California

Candidate spotlight on the recently confirmed Muslim justice of the California Court of Appeals

September 19, 2018


A number of American Muslims are successfully vying for public office or have risen up the ranks of their respective fields. In a continuation of our series highlighting these trailblazers, we are directing our attention to Los Angeles, and specifically to the work of Judge Halim Dhanidina. Judge Dhanidina was recently confirmed as a justice to the California Court of Appeal for the Second District, becoming the first Muslim and South Asian-American justice in the history of the California Courts of Appeals.

Dhanidina served as the deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County from 1998 until 2012, when Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to a judgeship in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Dhanadina has left no doubts about his commitment to both democratic values and the overall American experiment. As Donald Trump began to question the juridical legitimacy of judges who belong to underrepresented communities on the campaign trail, Dhanidina spoke openly about both the misguidedness of xenophobic bigotries as well as the necessity for public servants from underrepresented communities to serve as examples.

To those with whom he works and for whom he serves, Dhanidina has won praise for his crisp prosecutorial style and the command he exerts over a courtroom. He has also leaned into his various identities, serving as a founding member of the Association of South Asian Prosecutors, as well as a member of the Asia Pacific American and South Asian Bar Association.

In rising up in his professional ranks, Dhanidina has noticed that some Americans will take issue with American Muslims regardless of whether they insulate within their communities or engage in more general public affairs. In grappling with this double-bind, as well as with a personal uncertainty over whether “he knew enough about his own religion to speak for it in public,” Dhanidina has realized the power of his voice in articulating what Islam is and the good it serves in the world. In centering his faith as a catalytic force behind his professional success while also keeping his faith separate from his judicial decisions, Dhanidina disrupts the stereotypical image of what a Muslim looks like to the general American public.

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