A Sikh is Judged

Sat Jivan Singh’s first trial shows
the power of the Khalsa projection

It was 1975, my very first trial, and there I sat, sweating bullets in the chambers of the Administrative Judge of the Court, trying to understand what grievous blunder I had made to provoke him into calling me here alone, without the District Attorney. During a trial, Judges never ask for a meeting with just one attorney. It isn’t done. Proper decorum demands both counsel be present in every meeting with the Judge. There was only one exception: when counsel was being reprimanded.

So it was clear to me that in the exuberance of my first trial I had crossed some line. I must have done something so wrong it meant I should be disciplined. The thought of being disbarred flashed into my brain and the sweat poured faster. All that time and money for law school not to mention my first trial and client down the tubes.

It was a first in more ways than one, however. I am a Sikh: I have a beard and wear a white turban. And at the time I wasn’t just a Sikh, I was the Sikh. I was the first and only Sikh ever admitted to the Bar in New York! No one would forget me. If I was going to be remembered I wanted to be remembered well. So I prepared.

I don’t think anyone ever prepared a case like I had prepared this one and as a student of Kundalini Yoga, I also practiced meditative techniques to be calm and relaxed for trial. I was ready. As far as I was concerned, it was the trial of the century. Forget about the Lindbergh kidnapping or the O.J. murder trials. In my mind it couldn’t get any bigger than this, even if it was only a shoplifting case. It was my case and my client deserved the best defense possible.

When the trial began I could hardly contain myself. As the prosecutor began his case I was continuously on my feet: "Objection: Hearsay!" "Objection: Counsel is leading the witness!" The DA. wasn’t going to get anything past me. I was up at every perceived infraction of the evidentiary rules. I was feeling great and I thought I was doing great, too. I just knew my client was going to be found "Not Guilty."

Then it happened. Mid-trial, the Judge said, "Let’s take a recess. Mr. Khalsa, I want to see you in my chambers."

It took me a moment to grasp the gravity of this request. He didn’t want the District Attorney; just me. The walk to his chambers seemed like miles. He opened the door, motioned for me to sit down and then seated himself behind the biggest desk I had ever seen. He sat silent for what seemed like an eternity, sizing me up; obviously preparing to deliver the crushing blow, telling me how badly I had blown it for my client and what punishment I was facing. He leaned forward and looked intently at me.

"Mr. Khalsa," he said with the utmost seriousness, "Can you help me relax?"

Sat Jivan Singh Khalsa was the first Sikh attorney in the state of New York. He is a Sikh Minister and works with Amar Infinity Foundation, Kundalini Research Institute, and the Khalsa Council. He is the founder and President of the Sikh Lawyers Bar Association and a member o f the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

This article is from the winter 2005 issue of Aquarian Times Magazine