After more than a decade of practicing law, a Vivian Webb School alumna is running for judge in the state of Texas.
Shampa Mukerji ’97, formerly Shampa Chatterjee, is running for a seat on a Civil District Court bench in Harris County, Texas, which includes the city of Houston. Texas is one of seven states that uses partisan elections to select judges. If Mukerji wins a primary contest in March, she will earn a spot on the ballot in November.
"If I was elected, I would be the first South Asian female judge in Harris County," she said.
As the daughter of immigrants, Mukerji said she has a unique perspective on things that she wants to bring to the table.
Mukerji is focusing on several things in her campaign: equal access to the courts for all, efficiency in the courts, and judicial temperament. When Mukerji refers to judicial temperament, she said she wants to make sure people are treated fairly and with respect.
"A judge is really the ruler in that courtroom and so you can set whatever tone you want to set," she said. "For me, it's really important that people are treated fairly and treated with respect and with dignity, and not berated or humiliated in front of their peers or their clients."
Mukerji wants to continue progress being made to streamline courts in Harris County, but also noted challenges presented by Hurricane Harvey. The storm destroyed multiple county buildings, so she will share space or schedule carefully to help if elected, she said.
In her effort to ensure equal access to courts, she wants to "even the playing field" by making sure people can represent themselves and have access to jurisdiction in their court.
Mukerji has practiced in multiple areas of civil litigation for over a decade. After attending Webb, where she served on the Honor Cabinet, she graduated from Northwestern University and returned home to Houston. Mukerji attended the University of Houston Law Center, and has thought about running for judge ever since.
She believes her time at Webb had a definite impact on her work ethic, and said the time management skills she learned from studying during free periods and at night have "really carried (her) through to this day."
"I'm at the Mukerji Law Firm and we're still managing lots of cases here. I have three kids and then I'm campaigning," she said. "The management of my time to be able to accomplish all of those things and make sure that everything is handled as best as I can do it ... I definitely think that I retained a lot of that from my years at Webb."
Mukerji's sister Pia Chatterjee Kirk ’92 and brother-in-law Scott Kirk ’92 also attended Webb.
"I think Webb really does teach its students that you can accomplish anything that you want to accomplish with hard work and with study," she added.