California attorney Harmeet Dhillon in running for DOJ top job

Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon delivers the invocation by reciting the ardas in Punjabi at the start of the second session at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 19, 2016. (Photo: Reuters

A top California state Republican operative is a front-runner for the position of chief of the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Harmeet Dhillon, a successful trial lawyer in California, the first woman and Indian-American to represent her state in the national Republican Party, if selected for the post would replace Vanita Gupta, another Indian-American who held the post in the second term of the Obama administration. Dhillon could not comment on the matter when contacted.

Dhillon received national recognition when she covered her head with her shawl and said a Sikh prayer at the Republican Party Convention last year where President Donald Trump was anointed as the candidate for the White House.

Heading an eponymous law firm in San Francisco founded in 2006, Dhillon has received numerous awards as a top lawyer, including the Northern California Super Lawyer in business litigation by Thomson/West Publishing, an accolade reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the jurisdiction.

She previously served at the Justice Department before going into private practice, and is credited with growing GOP support in the heavily Democratic state. As an at-large Indian-American delegate from California, Dhillon delivered the invocation to start the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland July 19, 2016. Watched by not just the thousands of Republican delegates at the Convention, but the nation and the world, Dhillon is remembered for delivering a Sikh prayer in Gurmukhi.

Born in Punjab, Dhillon came to the United States as a small child with her family. She attended public schools in North Carolina, where her father started his medical practice, and she graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. She majored in Classical Studies at Dartmouth College, where she was the editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth Review. She did law at the University of Virginia Law School.

A lifelong Republican, she served as Vice Chair of the California Republican Party for three years before becoming the first woman-of-color ‘National Committeewoman’ to the Republican National Committee May 1, 2016, when the California GOP elected her at the state convention. With that election, Dhillon also became the first Indian-American on the RNC, and promised to stir things up during her four-year stint at the high table. That term may be cut short if the Trump administration selects her to head the important position as head of the Civil Rights Division at DOJ.

Dhillon has considerable litigation experience having represented a range of clients in state and federal courts and administrative tribunals, from e-Commerce leaders, private companies, entrepreneurs, celebrities, film and music artists, authors, advertising executives, franchisees, public utilities, educational institutions and nonprofits. She has won numerous awards and recognition for her pro bono legal work on behalf of domestic violence survivors, religious discrimination plaintiffs, and political refugees, according to her website. Her experience also encompasses securities, entertainment, employment discrimination and civil rights matters. She has developed a niche practice offered by a mere handful of companies in California, in election and campaign law matters.

In an interview with this correspondent prior to her election to the RNC, Dhillon said “While the RNC is not in trouble, it needs some changes.” She is credited with bringing members back to the party in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. Her position as vice chair of the California Republican Party for three years before she became National Committeewoman in the RNC, she said, was the training ground for bringing about that change.

When Dhillon took over as vice-chair of the state GOP, she said, the  party was going through hard times with a financial deficit, a leadership in disarray, and several electoral losses. “We have turned it around,” she told News India Times.





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