By Peggy Chapman
Northwest Asian Weekly
Ketu Shah never imagined he would be a judge. He visualized himself as an engineer, and took the practical classes in school—physics and <!–more–>calculus—and then, since he didn’t have much interest, he took an interest in philosophy.
Shah is the first Indian American judge to serve for the King County District Court.
He was born in St. Paul, Minn., and throughout his childhood, he was raised in the Tri-Cities, California, Alaska, and regularly visited India, where his parents are from (and moved from in the 1960s).
“My father would move for better economic opportunities and so my younger sister and our parents were very close because often we did not know many people when we moved. Every few years, we would return to India for the summer to spend time with my grandparents and extended family. Our family was very big in India, so I remember those summers fondly playing with my cousins, playing cards with my grandparents, and going to the local markets for food and shopping. I played soccer … so I always made friends quickly because of that. “Shah went to high school in Anchorage, then attended Whitman College. After graduating, he took a year off and went to India to work with his uncles in business and then went to law school at the University of Minnesota.
Shah moved to Seattle because he wanted to be on the West Coast and had friends and colleagues here. Seattle also appealed to him because of its diverse culture (and being near water and mountains). He met his wife Monica here. She was also the daughter of immigrants from India, and born and raised in Seattle (not Minnesota). Shah and Monica have two daughters, 14 and 11.
When asked what has been the most rewarding serving as judge for King County, he responded:
“… it is a court where we handle 215,000 cases a year, both civil and criminal, and have communities from all over the world appear for the first time. We are often the first experience of the judicial system by many people. And on the Eastside, Bellevue has a 40 percent immigrant population and so being able to serve this community is especially rewarding.”
He also believes that it is important, for a first experience in court, that a face that is similar can make the process less frightening.
Aside from the rewards, being a judge certainly has its quirks. According to Shah, “I have been called ‘Your Lordship’ … by someone who came from a British court system in Nigeria, and I have also been cursed at in court by other folks.”
“…Both ends of the spectrum.” (end)
Peggy Chapman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.