- She is the first Asian American judge appointed to a district court in the nation’s capital.
Indian American Rupa Ranga Puttagunta has become the first Asian American judge appointed to the U.S. District Court in D.C., after the Senate confirmed her by 57 to 38 votes. She was nominated by Biden in March to be Associate Judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Puttagunta currently serves as an Administrative Judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission. In that role, she resolves appeals taken from the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, and assists with the commission’s rulemaking function, including issuing, amending, and rescinding regulations, as per the Judicial Nomination Commission.
Along with Puttagunta, the Senate also confirmed Kenia Seoane Lopez and Sean C. Staples to the D.C. Superior Court. The Washington Post reported that the Feb. 2 confirmations were conducted “through roll call votes — which is rare for D.C. judicial nominees, who have typically been confirmed by voice vote or unanimous consent.” The delay was caused by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) who “blocked the approval of D.C. judges and other nominees under unanimous consent in December, causing further delays.”
The Washington, D.C. chapter of the South Asian Bar Association (SABA-DC) took to Twitter to congratulate Puttagunta. “SABA-DC congratulates SABA-DC member Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta on her confirmation to be an Associate Judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. SABA-DC endorsed Judge Puttagunta for the role and are thrilled for her elevation to the D.C. Superior Court!”
Before joining the D.C. Rental Housing Commission in 2019, Puttagunta was a solo practitioner from 2013 to 2019, representing indigent criminal defendants in trial and on appeal. Earlier, she practiced family and appellate law at Delaney McKinney, LLP. While working on domestic relations matters in private practice, Puttagunta also provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services by volunteering at D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court Self-Help Center and Attorney Negotiator Program and representing victims of domestic violence in D.C. Superior Court.
In 2012, she was recognized by D.C. Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll. In 2013, she was selected to serve on the D.C Bar Foundation Young Lawyers Network Leadership Council. Puttagunta remains active in the community and serves on the Domestic Violence Resource Project’s board and the Law School Outreach Committee of the National Association of Women Judges.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College and Juris Doctor from The Ohio State Moritz College of Law, where she graduated as a Public Service Fellow with the Dean’s Special Recognition. She began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge William M. Jackson of the D.C. Superior Court, as well as the Senior Judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals.