Sandill, who is from the Democratic Party and was himself first elected in 2008 as district judge presiding over a civil docket in Harris County, felt that Judge Singh’s swearing in was a really big moment for the Sikh community. He had run for re-election in November 2020, and won.
“Harris County has a big and diverse population and the Asian community is only the fourth largest. The south Asian population is around 20,000 and not a major part of the total population with desis at around 2%. Hence, Indian Americans don’t really have an ethnic base here,” Sandill, who will be running for re-election again as his current term ends in December 2024, told the Times of India. He added that since his county boasts the most diverse urban communities in America; it is important to create a bridge between people and connect with them.
“My wife is white American; my son, who we have adopted, is Guatemalan. The demographics of our city is changing and we must all adapt ourselves. The dynamics of the city are shaping who I am as a part of the overall experience,” he said. Being able to relate to people of all communities is very important, he feels; especially because desis and still not considered insiders.
Judge Sandill finds a growing number of young Indians opting for legal careers in his state. “When I went to law school in 2001, there were only around five South Asians in the class. Now there are around 50 or more only in Houston. Indian Americans are taking big strides not just in the legal field; there are several who have been elected to different government and public offices in Texas. Not just in states such as California and New York, which have traditionally had large south Asian population; Indian Americans are also making a difference here in Texas,” he said.
Sandill is a survivor of cancer having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood cells, when he was just 26. “Having to deal with it gave me a new perspective in life and increased my risk tolerance. I had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and the doctors had given me a 50:50 chance of survival. Though I didn’t know what the next day would bring; I was at a place where I couldn’t give up,” says Sandill who underwent chemotherapy, radiation and a stem-cell transplant and has been cancer free for over 17 years.
He does not rule out an active political role and running for a legislative office from Texas sometime in future. “I will always work towards the progress of south Asians and other communities here. My son will graduate from high school in 2024; after that, I will see what the future holds,” he said. Currently, Judge Sandill serves on the advisory board of iSTEM, an educational programme aimed at supporting the next generation to prepare better in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and maths. He also places two high school students every year into an internship programme at his courthouse.
Sandill has strong links with the Indian American community in Houston and actively participates in the activities organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston as well as social and cultural events such as Diwali. He has relatives from his father’s side in India, who he visits. “I’m looking forward to visiting Indian again in February on a judicial exchange programme,” he says.
Who is Judge Ravi K Sandill
- He is a state district judge presiding over a civil docket in the 127th district court in Harris County, Texas; having first been elected in 2008
- He is the first south Asian and Indian American district court judge ever elected in Texas
- In 2019, Judge Sandill was the Hispanic Bar Association’s trial judge of the year and in 2021, he was named distinguished jurist by the African American Lawyer’s Section of the State Bar of Texas
- He is active in the community and has served as a board trustee for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Gulf Coast chapter. He is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum and serves on the board of the University of Houston Law Center’s alumni association
- Following high school in England, he earned a BA degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998 and a JD from the University of Houston Law Center in 2001. During his time at UT, he served as a summer intern for President Bill Clinton’s council of economic advisors
- He is the son of immigrant parents from India. His father, Retired Lt Col Brij Sandill, served in the US Army and the US Air Force for 28 years
- Judge Sandill has spent several years in private practice where he focused on commercial, appellate, and trade secret litigation
- He lives in central Houston with his wife Kelly and son Asher.
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