New to the Bench: Rachna B. Sullivan

Judge Rachna B. Sullivan is a firm believer in hard work, being prepared, and the importance of giving back. At the age of 17, Sullivan embarked on a flight from New Delhi, India to the United States to pursue her studies. Born into a supportive family who believed in and encouraged her to follow her dreams, Sullivan left India to study in the United States during a time when not many women were afforded opportunities for education.

At Sullivan’s investiture, she spoke about the sacrifices her family made in order for her to achieve success. Sullivan is the first person on her side of the family to attend law school, the first to become a lawyer, and the first Indian-American judge to serve on the Hennepin County District Court bench. “Many people in my life made sacrifices for me to be the first.” After graduating from Pace University in New York City, Sullivan attended the University of Minnesota Law School.

The decision to attend law school was not originally part of her plans, since Sullivan comes from a family of accountants. Upon graduating from law school, Sullivan worked as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn. There, she was able to experience
first-hand a high volume of criminal cases and a disparate number of people of color in the criminal justice system.

Sullivan moved to Minnesota and clerked for the Hon. James M. Rosenbaum, where she continued to cultivate a love for the courtroom and litigation. With a smile on her face, she recalled feeling embraced by the legal community as she continued to expand her connections as an attorney. Once she completed her clerkship, she continued to practice law for two decades as a partner and co-chair of the Federal Practice Group at Rider Bennett, and a shareholder at Fredrikson & Bryon.

She brings a variety of skills and experiences that will serve her well as a judge. Currently on a criminal law assignment, Sullivan is enjoying her new role. She points to her organizational, analytical, and critical thinking skills as assets on the bench. “There are always different facts, requiring different solutions for every case. I strive to bring a level of passion and hopefully move the dial to ensure equal justice under the law.”

Sullivan beamed as she talked about the importance of diversity on the bench. “It is imperative when a defendant walks into the courtroom, they see themselves reflected in the judiciary.” She also shared her desire to see more lawyers volunteer their time to individuals who need adequate representation but cannot afford to hire an attorney. “Pro bono representation is vital for our justice system.” She provided legal services to several clients with limited means during her time at Fredrikson & Byron through their pro bono program.

Sullivan wants her courtroom to be a place where every litigant leaves the courtroom knowing that win or lose, they appeared before a judge who cared, listened, was patient, and followed the law. While her commitment to equal justice and giving back can be easily traced back to her familial upbringing, Sullivan’s leadership and community involvement demonstrate she also practices what she preaches. Whether she is volunteering to provide food to families in need or serving as a leader in the community through various organizations, Sullivan is grounded and guided by always remembering to giveback more than she’s received. “I want to be remembered as a judge who cares, listens, is patient, kind, and works hard to understand all who appear before me.”
By Dorothy Summers
Ms. Summers graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2018. After graduation she worked at the Legal Rights Center where she facilitated restorative justice Family Group Conferences for youth referred for school discipline, truancy, juvenile diversion, family engagement, and academic support. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Ms. Summers taught students with special needs for three years before moving to Minnesota to attend law school. Currently, she is a law clerk to the Hon. William H. Koch in Hennepin County District Court.

Managing Editor
Nick Hansen

Executive Editor
Joseph Satter