(January 14, 2023) The happiness and excitement were palpable as Manpreet Monica Singh took her oath as the first female Sikh judge of the United States, where she was sworn in as a Harris county judge. The daughter of immigrant parents, and a woman of colour, Manpreet understands what it means to break the glass ceiling. Sharing her elation, she wrote on Facebook, “Mama we made it! It is a ‘true honor’ to rep the people of Harris County as a Sikh civil court judge. Thank you to everyone for making this a historic moment, one that someday won’t be an uncommon event – because there will be a judiciary that includes countless Sikh people and other minorities. I’m ready to put my 2 decades of experience to good use. (sic)”
Forming 0.1 percent of the United States population with nearly 500,000 people, American Sikhs are the country’s seventh-largest religious group. Out of which 20,000 Sikhs live in the Houston area, and for the very first time a female Sikh has made it to the ranks. “It means a lot to me because I represent H-town the most, so for it to be us, I’m happy for it…I thought it was important for kids, as they go through their education, that they could see that there’s a possibility for professions that we never had access to before,” she was quoted as saying.
A trial lawyer for two decades, Manpreet has been involved with many civil rights organisations at the local, state, and national levels.
Born and raised in Houston, Manpreet is a fierce advocate of her hometown. As a daughter of immigrants from India, she learned the value of hard work, the American dream, and service from an early age. In the early 70s, her father moved to the US as an architect after getting a green card. As a young, turbaned Sikh, he moved wherever his work took him – Miami, New Jersey, Atlanta, and Dallas. But it was in Houston that he decided to “put down his roots.” It wasn’t easy for him as he faced blatant discrimination time and again. But he was focused on achieving the American goal along with his wife, Hardeep. The two owned and operated a small print shop, and it flourished with the “help of sweat equity from their two children,” reads Manpreet’s website.
It was this grit that she inherited from her parents, and soon made her way to the world of law after attending the University of Texas at Austin, and finally the South Texas College of Law. Being a woman of color, she was familiar with systems of inequality and empathetic towards the hardships that the average American faces while trying to achieve their own dreams. This made her push harder, and she ended up being a runner-up for Houston Young Lawyers Association Most Outstanding Attorney in 2010 and won the South Asian Bar Association Distinguished Member Award in 2017.
Additionally, she serves on the boards of the Sikh Coalition, the Texas Lyceum, and the ACLU of Texas (also serving as Trustee). She also lectures regularly for the Texas Bar CLE classes and is a Chapter Representative for the elite American Board of Trial Advocates.
The state’s first South Asian judge Ravi Sandill, who presided over the oath ceremony, said, “It’s a really big moment for the Sikh community,” adding, “When they see someone of colour, someone a little different, they know that possibility is available to them. Manpreet is not only an ambassador for Sikhs, but she’s an ambassador for all women of colour.”
Monica has been married to her husband Mandeep for 19 years and the couple moved to Bellaire after getting married in 2003. Together they enjoy traveling and spending time with their two soccer-loving boys who attend Bellaire High School.