Indian American Judge Moxila A Upadhyaya has presided over the initial appearance of former US president Donald Trump in a federal courthouse in downtown Washington DC on charges of trying to stay in power despite his electoral loss in 2020.
Trump, who is seeking to contest the 2024 presidential election from the Republican Party pleaded not guilty before Upadhyaya as he appeared at the courthouse that sits just blocks away from the Capitol, where his angry supporters stormed the US Congress on January 6, 2021.
Upadhyaya has handled proceedings for several January 6 defendants at the E Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington. Upadhyaya was appointed as a United States Magistrate Judge on September 7, 2022.
Born in Gujarat and raised near Kansas City, Missouri, Upadhyaya received her Bachelor of Journalism, magna cum laude, from the Missouri School of Journalism and Bachelor of Arts, with honors in Latin, from the University of Missouri.
She received her JD, cum laude, from the American University, Washington College of Law, where she earned distinction for her trial work representing clients in the Criminal Justice Clinic and was a member of the Administrative Law Review.
After graduating from law school, Upadhyaya served a two-year term as a law clerk to Eric T Washington, former Chief Judge of the DC Court of Appeals. She then joined Venable LLP`s Washington, DC office, where she practiced complex commercial and administrative litigation. She left Venable in 2011-12 to serve as the first law clerk to Robert L Wilkins (currently the US Circuit Judge for the DC Circuit) during his tenure as a district judge in this court.
Upadhyaya then rejoined Venable after her clerkship with Judge Wilkins and continued her litigation practice until her appointment to the bench. During her time as an associate and ultimately partner at Venable, according to her resume, Upadhyaya devoted her pro bono practice to representing indigent clients in post-conviction proceedings, including representing clients who raised challenges under the DC Innocence Protection Act and the DC Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act.
For her work in this capacity, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project awarded Judge Upadhyaya its Defender of Innocence Award in 2009 and Venable named her Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 2006. From 2021-22, Judge Upadhyaya was appointed to serve on this court`s Committee on Grievances. She is the former co-chair of the DC Bar Litigation Section Steering Committee and has served on the board of directors for the DC Access to Justice Foundation and Council for Court Excellence. She is also a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.