Sep 9, 2023

Juli Mathew

 Juli Mathew is a professional with a background in management consulting, healthcare, and project management. She has experience working with a diverse range of clients, including hospitals, healthcare systems, and government agencies. Juli is skilled in project management, healthcare management, and process improvement. She is passionate about driving positive change in the healthcare industry and improving patient outcomes. Currently, Juli is pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Juli Mathew is a professional with a background in management consulting, healthcare, and project management. She has experience working with a diverse range of clients, including hospitals, healthcare systems, and government agencies. Juli is skilled in project management, healthcare management, and process improvement. She is passionate about driving positive change in the healthcare industry and improving patient outcomes. Currently, Juli is pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Juli Mathew is a professional with a background in management consulting, healthcare, and project management. She has experience working with a diverse range of clients, including hospitals, healthcare systems, and government agencies. Juli is skilled in project management, healthcare management, and process improvement. She is passionate about driving positive change in the healthcare industry and improving patient outcomes. Currently, Juli is pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Episode Highlights

  • (0:52 – 1:14) Juli Mathew is a judge, elected in 2018 as the first Indian-American woman to the bench in the U.S. and the first Asian-American judge in Fort Bend, Texas, a historically red county that turned purple after her election.

    – (1:46 – 2:44) Juli ran for judge in 2016 to bring diversity to the judiciary, feeling like an outsider in the monochromatic legal system. She believes in being the change she wants to see in the world.

    – (4:12 – 5:22) Juli presides over a general jurisdiction bench, handling various cases, including criminal, juvenile, probate, and mental health cases. She created the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in her county, focusing on rehabilitating children with mental health issues.

    – (8:52 – 9:57) One of Juli’s biggest challenges is not being able to help everyone, especially children with severe issues who may be beyond repair.

    – (12:48 – 13:04) Juli created programs like Tie and Chat and Kitchen to the Courthouse to engage and educate the public, especially South Asian girls.

    – (18:25 – 19:59) Juli loves to travel, learn about different cultures, garden, and cook, finding joy in simple pleasures.

    – One-line life lessons include “don’t limit yourself,” “failure is part of the journey, but getting back up matters,” and “keep pushing forward, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

    (0:52 – 1:14) Juli Mathew is a judge, elected in 2018 as the first Indian-American woman to the bench in the U.S. and the first Asian-American judge in Fort Bend, Texas, a historically red county that turned purple after her election.

    – (1:46 – 2:44) Juli ran for judge in 2016 to bring diversity to the judiciary, feeling like an outsider in the monochromatic legal system. She believes in being the change she wants to see in the world.

    – (4:12 – 5:22) Juli presides over a general jurisdiction bench, handling various cases, including criminal, juvenile, probate, and mental health cases. She created the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in her county, focusing on rehabilitating children with mental health issues.

    – (8:52 – 9:57) One of Juli’s biggest challenges is not being able to help everyone, especially children with severe issues who may be beyond repair.

    – (12:48 – 13:04) Juli created programs like Tie and Chat and Kitchen to the Courthouse to engage and educate the public, especially South Asian girls.

    – (18:25 – 19:59) Juli loves to travel, learn about different cultures, garden, and cook, finding joy in simple pleasures.

    – One-line life lessons include “don’t limit yourself,” “failure is part of the journey, but getting back up matters,” and “keep pushing forward, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

    (0:52 – 1:14) Juli Mathew is a judge, elected in 2018 as the first Indian-American woman to the bench in the U.S. and the first Asian-American judge in Fort Bend, Texas, a historically red county that turned purple after her election.

    – (1:46 – 2:44) Juli ran for judge in 2016 to bring diversity to the judiciary, feeling like an outsider in the monochromatic legal system. She believes in being the change she wants to see in the world.

    – (4:12 – 5:22) Juli presides over a general jurisdiction bench, handling various cases, including criminal, juvenile, probate, and mental health cases. She created the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in her county, focusing on rehabilitating children with mental health issues.

    – (8:52 – 9:57) One of Juli’s biggest challenges is not being able to help everyone, especially children with severe issues who may be beyond repair.

    – (12:48 – 13:04) Juli created programs like Tie and Chat and Kitchen to the Courthouse to engage and educate the public, especially South Asian girls.

    – (18:25 – 19:59) Juli loves to travel, learn about different cultures, garden, and cook, finding joy in simple pleasures.

    – One-line life lessons include “don’t limit yourself,” “failure is part of the journey, but getting back up matters,” and “keep pushing forward, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

    (0:52 – 1:14) Juli Mathew is a judge, elected in 2018 as the first Indian-American woman to the bench in the U.S. and the first Asian-American judge in Fort Bend, Texas, a historically red county that turned purple after her election.

    – (1:46 – 2:44) Juli ran for judge in 2016 to bring diversity to the judiciary, feeling like an outsider in the monochromatic legal system. She believes in being the change she wants to see in the world.

    – (4:12 – 5:22) Juli presides over a general jurisdiction bench, handling various cases, including criminal, juvenile, probate, and mental health cases. She created the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in her county, focusing on rehabilitating children with mental health issues.

    – (8:52 – 9:57) One of Juli’s biggest challenges is not being able to help everyone, especially children with severe issues who may be beyond repair.

    – (12:48 – 13:04) Juli created programs like Tie and Chat and Kitchen to the Courthouse to engage and educate the public, especially South Asian girls.

    – (18:25 – 19:59) Juli loves to travel, learn about different cultures, garden, and cook, finding joy in simple pleasures.

    – One-line life lessons include “don’t limit yourself,” “failure is part of the journey, but getting back up matters,” and “keep pushing forward, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Show Transcript

Transcript - Full Episode

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:02 – 0:11)

Hey everyone, welcome to The Industry Show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj, and joining me today is Judge Juli Mathew. Judge Mathew, welcome on the show.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:12 – 0:14)

Thank you, thank you for having me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:14 – 0:18)

Pleasure is all ours. Let’s start with the big question. Who is Juli?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:19 – 0:34)

Who is Juli? Juli is a mother, a wife, a gardener, a judge, and a bunch of other things. I’m not sure we can all fit into that one-minute question that you want me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:36 – 0:40)

Well, a superwoman in one word, right?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:41 – 0:43)

I try sometimes. I feel like I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:44 – 0:51)

There’s the modesty. Well, you kind of hinted at this, but tell us what you do for a living.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:52 – 1:14)

I am a judge. I was elected in 2018, and when I was elected, I became the first Indian-American woman elected to the bench in the United States, and the first Asian-American judge in my county, in Fort Bend, in Texas. It was a red county, and when I won, it became a blue, and now currently it’s purple.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (1:16 – 1:46)

Many, many first years there, and congratulations on every single one of them. I know it came with a tremendous amount of hard work going door to door, trying to just get people to even listen to you, so many, many kudos to you. I’m very interested in knowing the why behind this. Why do this? You could do so many different things to earn a living, to just do some awesome work. Why this?

 

[Juli Mathew] (1:46 – 2:44)

I was a practicing attorney for about 15 years, and one of the things when I moved to Texas that I noticed, at least in the judiciary, is just very monochromatic. It was definitely, I felt every time that I walked into the courthouse in my own county, I felt somewhat like an outsider, and so I truly believe in Gandhi’s words that if you want to see the change in this world, you have to do it, so I became the change that I wanted to see in the world. In 2016, when the political climate was very divisive, I really, you know, the judiciary is the last-ditch effort to make sure that everything, the constitution is protected, people’s rights are protected, and so I felt it was the right time and the right place for me to run for a judicial position, and I put my name in and had a lot of pushback, but I’m glad that I did, and here I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (2:46 – 3:02)

Pushback is a very timid word for what you’ve faced, and also, as we discussed, this is not where people want to donate their money. No, definitely not.

 

[Juli Mathew] (3:02 – 3:51)

It’s very much, you know, what benefit does anyone get, you know, paying or donating to a judicial campaign, but really, judges handle so many things that people don’t even realize or recognize, and it opens doors to, you know, things, access that people may have never had a community, you know, no one ever thought there would be an Indian American on the bench in our county, no one, and especially females. We only had one female judge on the county level, so for the first time, we had three and three, three males and three females in 2018. Those are things that the county has in existence since 1835 that has never happened before, and I am proud to have played a part in making that happen.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (3:52 – 4:09)

That is so cool. That is really amazing, and, you know, you started talking about this, so I want to take this moment to get the sense of impact your work has been able to, and what you’ve been able to accomplish, just even in the last few years that you’ve been doing this.

 

[Juli Mathew] (4:12 – 5:22)

So, I said I preside over a general jurisdiction bench, which handles criminal misdemeanor cases, juvenile felonies, and misdemeanors, probate when people die, guardianships, mental health, as well as many other subject matter jurisdiction, eminent domain, so we come across every single resident of our county one time or another in their lifetime or their death, so it is a very crucial role that we play in the county itself, and to have an opportunity where, you know, I think some people are surprised when they walk into the court and see a judge that, you know, even when I was elected, people used to say, you’re not who I thought of as a judge, and it kind of pushes me, you know, I still get taken back by it a little bit, but why not? Why can’t you see me as a judge? Why can’t someone who looks like me, you know, and one of the things there’s also some age, you know, say, you’re too young to be a judge, so what exactly is, you know, I’m qualified, I’ve been practicing for a long time, and so, you know, you had to push against some of the stereotypes that you come across.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (5:23 – 5:40)

True, and, you know, I would take every single one of them as a compliment. I think you should, that you have been able to accomplish all of these things despite all of those challenges combined. So, kudos, kudos to you. Thank you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (5:40 – 7:03)

I mean, as an attorney, it’s not, I didn’t practice every area of the law that I sit and preside over, so it definitely, there was a learning curve, but it’s been a challenge that I welcome. I absolutely love having to deal with things that I’ve never dealt with, and, you know, sometimes I really do have to step back, and as I take things under advisement and read on it and study it, and I also got to create something extraordinary, the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in our county. It is a court, it’s a specialty court that I created that kids who are already in the system with mental health issues, we make sure that they successfully complete their probation.

 

A lot of times, those kids needs to be, their hands need to be held because they are, have a lot of struggles that we can’t possibly imagine, and so we give them the guidance, whether it be counseling sessions, some of them have had some traumatic issues in their life, so we give them counseling, we give them the tutoring that they need, whether it be passing their GED or completing their high school courses, we give them food if they don’t have food, we provide services that they need, medical services, all of them are taken care of through our system because it really does cost more to incarcerate someone than to help them rehabilitate them, and that’s our purpose in the juvenile system.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:03 – 7:35)

I love that holistic approach because as we know, a lot of this, what we see as crime, the reasons could be so varied, so different because of what may have happened in that individual’s life, and to be able to take that step back and say, how can I cure this instead of punishing this? I really applaud that big picture holistic view that really bounds the community together instead of separating one side from the other.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:36 – 7:42)

Thank you. It has worked out well. We have about an 85% success rate in that program that we created.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:43 – 7:44)

That is amazing.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:44 – 8:09)

A lot of work. There’s a lot of people that work behind the scenes, our counselors, our probation officers. There’s a lot of people that work to make sure that these kids, the attorneys in the program, there’s a number of factors that we do everything that we can.

We work hand in hand with the state, the prosecution, and the defense attorneys, work hand in hand to help these kids.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (8:10 – 8:48)

I really love that approach. It’s really what we need, coming from where we have in the past few years of that divisive thought, the polarization of our communities. We’re headed in the right direction under your leadership. You talked about touching pretty much every citizen in your community. I’m sure there is many challenges that come about because of that wide perspective you need to have. I’m curious to hear what’s that one big challenge that’s ahead of you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (8:52 – 9:57)

I think the biggest challenge ahead of me, I think, is sometimes as being, I can’t help everybody. There are children that come through the system that sometimes, unfortunately, are beyond repair. There are people that come that we can’t help. The trauma that they have endured in their life or have dealt with is too drastic for us to be able to do something. There are choices that sometimes I have to make. For example, we have the TJJD, which is like child jail, which sometimes I have no other option and nowhere to send a child except to that.

I have two kids right now that I am faced with, and we’ve worked out on every avenue to help them, but there’s not. That is the only option available. There are families that don’t want their kids. Sometimes there are family situations that we cannot send that child back to, and the system cannot help. That is, I think, the biggest challenge that we face as judges is sometimes not having an avenue or not being able to help someone.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (9:58 – 10:21)

That can feel very limiting despite the, for lack of a better term, the power you have can feel for that challenge. Now, on the other side are opportunities, and I would love to hear what’s that one most exciting opportunity that you’re really either working on or looking forward to.

 

[Juli Mathew] (10:22 – 12:46)

I have two programs that I created. One bringing in my Indian culture is called Tie and Chat, which is where we introduce the local public to either local government or somebody who has achieved great things, and we open up our courthouse. We, of course, have tie and chat, meaning snacks, but it is spelled C-H-A-T, so kind of that whole, my background mixing into the courthouse. I love having people come, seeing the chambers, seeing what it’s like to sit on the bench, or they never have that opportunity otherwise, opening up local government for the community. Another one that I have is Kitchen to the Courthouse, so when I was in my last year of college, I took a job working at a country club because I just wanted somewhere where I wasn’t using my brain. I wanted to kind of just like chill for the summer, so I worked at a country club, and I was a server, and one of the things I realized, and this is a very high-end country club, and most of the chefs in the club were all males, and not just that. If you look like at Michelin star restaurants and various things, most of the chefs are male, so I created this Kitchen to the Courthouse because although historically females are the ones who do most of the cooking, it seems when you come to those restaurants, it’s a male chef, so to be able to accomplish anything and everything, so I created this program a few years ago, and we have had extraordinary female CEOs, lawyers, judges, politicians who come through and talk to children. I created it specifically for South Asian girls because South Asian girls, I think, sometimes need more of that, but for anyone, it was a welcome to it, and we had a wide variety and diversity, and even males who joined just to hear what these females encountered and the glass ceilings that they broke and shattered, so I have one plan for Women’s History Month coming up, and I’m excited, and I hope it works out, but it’s somebody who is very, very high up in NASA, and we have some big plans for this person, so those are programs I created that I absolutely love because I think being in the community, the outreach that I’m able to do, I’m very excited of it and makes me very happy to have a role in developing young minds.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (12:48 – 13:04)

I love both the programs, and especially bringing in that culture, that perspective into something, as you said, is very monochromatic or has been traditionally, and bringing in that flavor. I’m curious to hear how many people end up calling, still calling it chai tea and not just chai.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:05 – 13:17)

I was recently at a gala, and they had chai tea, and just, yeah, so it was like, what in the world?

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (13:20 – 13:45)

So, as we look forward to more of these opportunities, I want to pause and reflect, and take a moment to ask you to share about two instances in your career, in your personal life, where one blew your own expectations and became a success beyond your imagination, and another one that did not work out as you had expected, was a failure, became a lesson.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:47 – 17:22)

So, my success story would be definitely the mental health court, and also even running the elections. You know, when I decided to run, I was, I had a six-month-old, I had a child who was a year and a half, and I had a 12-year-old. So, I had a wide spectrum of kids, and not only that, in the meantime, at some point, my middle child was diagnosed with autism, and I was working as a full-time attorney, and my husband was getting quite frustrated with the fact that I would go to work and then come home briefly, take care of the kids or feed them, and then immediately leave to go campaign, and campaigning is going from event to event, driving from place to place, talking to everybody, shaking hands, and just, you know, randomly asking people that I come across to vote for me, and I remember walking into HEB, which is our local grocery store, and my child, my 12-year-old, as soon as I said, I mean, some lady, I remember, was just checking out grapes, and I was like, hi, ma’am, my name is Julie Mathew, and I’m running for judge, would you vote for me? She, I remember my 12-year-old, like, darted to the other side of the grocery store. So, I mean, it, I don’t even think I did that in my last very recent election, I don’t think I was that forward, but I was not leaving not a single stone unturned, because what if it is what that one vote that, you know, got me through, and being a judge sometimes is limiting, you know, although I have strong views on some of the things, I cannot actually ever express them. I have to be mum on how I truly think about things, and it’s very limiting as a judge in that sense, but I absolutely love it. I’m glad I took this risk, and my, I would say my personal life, the biggest failure, I was married once before, and being an Indian woman, especially being an Indian Christian woman, having gone through divorce was not something that was looked upon, even I considered that when I was running for judge, what would people think, and I have to get out of that stereotype, because a lot of times, it really doesn’t, I mean, it doesn’t matter what people think, it’s really what you think of yourself, and you can’t be limited. Even, you know, regard, like, I post about my middle child having autism, and my parents called me the very first time I posted and said, why, why would you put that out there, and in our community, there’s a lot of things we hide in the closet, and as an Indian American woman, I don’t want to hide things in the closet. I think we, as a community, need to be open. We need to speak about things that matter. Mental health is another thing. People don’t want to talk about these things. I have, on a regular basis, calls from parents asking what can they do. This is happening in our lives. My child has this issue. My child has that issue, and they’re afraid to let anyone know. When I posted about my middle child, for example, I had friends who called me and asked, well, my child is not verbal. What should I do? You know, people have a hard, and please don’t tell anybody. That’s the next thing I get. Please don’t tell anybody. As an attorney, as a judge, I’m protecting, you know, I can’t, but overall, why are we so afraid to talk about some of these topics? Why are we so reluctant? These things happen in life, and having been now on the bench for the last five years, there’s nothing that I have not seen. People have worse circumstances than you and I could ever imagine. So, I think to be living the life as to who you are and what you are, I think that’s the most important thing in that life lesson that I learned.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (17:23 – 18:24)

It’s so, so key and important. I think it’s something we were born and raised with, to keep our secrets, especially the negative ones, that it has in many ways become limiting for a lot of us to not be able to share and be one as a community. So, I really applaud your vulnerability, your openness in sharing not the good, but also the not so good things that are all around us. So, kudos for being that, you know, that source of inspiration, for being that connector, for the other people to be able to reach out and have an open conversation with you. So, before we move on to my favorite section of this show, I would love to ask you, what is that one thing you do to have fun, kick off, other than taking up a job at a country club? What do you do on a regular basis to take a break?

 

[Juli Mathew] (18:25 – 19:59)

So, I do love to travel. I sometimes, I mean, I like to just sometimes with my husband alone, sometimes with the kids. I love to learn about people. I love to go to hole in the walls and try foods. And every time I travel to a country, I’ll go into that tiny convenience store, just as even what their local snacks are, the local candy, the local tips. I’m always curious. I love to garden. My biggest accomplishment this year is I had a plumeria plant that my mom had given me for my birthday, either last year or the year before. And that was in my garage.

And I replanted in the spring, and it has flowered. So, that is the biggest accomplishment. I love to garden. It is sometimes gets very hot in Texas. So, I’m not out there every evening. But whenever I can, I go out there and I pull the weeds myself. I also love to cook. The other day, I made something called chakka aluwa, which is jackfruit halwa. And who would have thought that? I mean, I would have never thought that I would ever in my lifetime make it. But there was this container called an urad dali from Kerala that I brought maybe about 20-25 years ago from India. It was in our house in Kerala. And I brought it and it was sitting there for the longest time. And I was like, you know what, I need to make use out of it. What was the point of bringing this 10 pound thing in my luggage? And I decided to make aluwa. We had some jackfruit in the house. And that’s what I did late night that night.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:00 – 20:03)

That is so cool. I will invite myself.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:04 – 20:17)

I make all the Indian stuff. I love making fish curry. I love fish curry. So I do make it. So I do like to think I’m a domestic diva and I’m not doing official stuff.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:18 – 20:30)

Hey, you’ve earned it. So might as well. Okay, on to my favorite part. One line life lessons. Would love to hear a few of yours. And I’m sure so would the audience.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:31 – 21:05)

Mine is definitely don’t limit yourself. No one else gets to tell you who you are or what you are. The other one of the things that I tell the kids that come through my courtroom is, you will have failure. Absolutely. Every single person will, but it’s what you do next that matters. Are you going to stay down? Are you going to get back up and fight? Because that’s what makes the difference as to what happens in your life. And so those are really my thing is keep pushing, keep going forward. There is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Take that deep breath. So that is it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:06 – 21:24)

Love it. Love it. Well, Judge Mathew, such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for making the time. And again, keep doing what you do. You’re a source of inspiration.

You’re a power to reckon with and would love to bring you back on more stories, more achievements to share. Thank you so much.

 

[Juli Mathew] (21:24 – 21:26)

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:27 – 21:27)

Thank you.

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:02 – 0:11)

Hey everyone, welcome to The Industry Show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj, and joining me today is Judge Juli Mathew. Judge Mathew, welcome on the show.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:12 – 0:14)

Thank you, thank you for having me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:14 – 0:18)

Pleasure is all ours. Let’s start with the big question. Who is Juli?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:19 – 0:34)

Who is Juli? Juli is a mother, a wife, a gardener, a judge, and a bunch of other things. I’m not sure we can all fit into that one-minute question that you want me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:36 – 0:40)

Well, a superwoman in one word, right?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:41 – 0:43)

I try sometimes. I feel like I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:44 – 0:51)

There’s the modesty. Well, you kind of hinted at this, but tell us what you do for a living.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:52 – 1:14)

I am a judge. I was elected in 2018, and when I was elected, I became the first Indian-American woman elected to the bench in the United States, and the first Asian-American judge in my county, in Fort Bend, in Texas. It was a red county, and when I won, it became a blue, and now currently it’s purple.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (1:16 – 1:46)

Many, many first years there, and congratulations on every single one of them. I know it came with a tremendous amount of hard work going door to door, trying to just get people to even listen to you, so many, many kudos to you. I’m very interested in knowing the why behind this. Why do this? You could do so many different things to earn a living, to just do some awesome work. Why this?

 

[Juli Mathew] (1:46 – 2:44)

I was a practicing attorney for about 15 years, and one of the things when I moved to Texas that I noticed, at least in the judiciary, is just very monochromatic. It was definitely, I felt every time that I walked into the courthouse in my own county, I felt somewhat like an outsider, and so I truly believe in Gandhi’s words that if you want to see the change in this world, you have to do it, so I became the change that I wanted to see in the world. In 2016, when the political climate was very divisive, I really, you know, the judiciary is the last-ditch effort to make sure that everything, the constitution is protected, people’s rights are protected, and so I felt it was the right time and the right place for me to run for a judicial position, and I put my name in and had a lot of pushback, but I’m glad that I did, and here I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (2:46 – 3:02)

Pushback is a very timid word for what you’ve faced, and also, as we discussed, this is not where people want to donate their money. No, definitely not.

 

[Juli Mathew] (3:02 – 3:51)

It’s very much, you know, what benefit does anyone get, you know, paying or donating to a judicial campaign, but really, judges handle so many things that people don’t even realize or recognize, and it opens doors to, you know, things, access that people may have never had a community, you know, no one ever thought there would be an Indian American on the bench in our county, no one, and especially females. We only had one female judge on the county level, so for the first time, we had three and three, three males and three females in 2018. Those are things that the county has in existence since 1835 that has never happened before, and I am proud to have played a part in making that happen.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (3:52 – 4:09)

That is so cool. That is really amazing, and, you know, you started talking about this, so I want to take this moment to get the sense of impact your work has been able to, and what you’ve been able to accomplish, just even in the last few years that you’ve been doing this.

 

[Juli Mathew] (4:12 – 5:22)

So, I said I preside over a general jurisdiction bench, which handles criminal misdemeanor cases, juvenile felonies, and misdemeanors, probate when people die, guardianships, mental health, as well as many other subject matter jurisdiction, eminent domain, so we come across every single resident of our county one time or another in their lifetime or their death, so it is a very crucial role that we play in the county itself, and to have an opportunity where, you know, I think some people are surprised when they walk into the court and see a judge that, you know, even when I was elected, people used to say, you’re not who I thought of as a judge, and it kind of pushes me, you know, I still get taken back by it a little bit, but why not? Why can’t you see me as a judge? Why can’t someone who looks like me, you know, and one of the things there’s also some age, you know, say, you’re too young to be a judge, so what exactly is, you know, I’m qualified, I’ve been practicing for a long time, and so, you know, you had to push against some of the stereotypes that you come across.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (5:23 – 5:40)

True, and, you know, I would take every single one of them as a compliment. I think you should, that you have been able to accomplish all of these things despite all of those challenges combined. So, kudos, kudos to you. Thank you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (5:40 – 7:03)

I mean, as an attorney, it’s not, I didn’t practice every area of the law that I sit and preside over, so it definitely, there was a learning curve, but it’s been a challenge that I welcome. I absolutely love having to deal with things that I’ve never dealt with, and, you know, sometimes I really do have to step back, and as I take things under advisement and read on it and study it, and I also got to create something extraordinary, the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in our county. It is a court, it’s a specialty court that I created that kids who are already in the system with mental health issues, we make sure that they successfully complete their probation.

 

A lot of times, those kids needs to be, their hands need to be held because they are, have a lot of struggles that we can’t possibly imagine, and so we give them the guidance, whether it be counseling sessions, some of them have had some traumatic issues in their life, so we give them counseling, we give them the tutoring that they need, whether it be passing their GED or completing their high school courses, we give them food if they don’t have food, we provide services that they need, medical services, all of them are taken care of through our system because it really does cost more to incarcerate someone than to help them rehabilitate them, and that’s our purpose in the juvenile system.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:03 – 7:35)

I love that holistic approach because as we know, a lot of this, what we see as crime, the reasons could be so varied, so different because of what may have happened in that individual’s life, and to be able to take that step back and say, how can I cure this instead of punishing this? I really applaud that big picture holistic view that really bounds the community together instead of separating one side from the other.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:36 – 7:42)

Thank you. It has worked out well. We have about an 85% success rate in that program that we created.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:43 – 7:44)

That is amazing.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:44 – 8:09)

A lot of work. There’s a lot of people that work behind the scenes, our counselors, our probation officers. There’s a lot of people that work to make sure that these kids, the attorneys in the program, there’s a number of factors that we do everything that we can.

We work hand in hand with the state, the prosecution, and the defense attorneys, work hand in hand to help these kids.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (8:10 – 8:48)

I really love that approach. It’s really what we need, coming from where we have in the past few years of that divisive thought, the polarization of our communities. We’re headed in the right direction under your leadership. You talked about touching pretty much every citizen in your community. I’m sure there is many challenges that come about because of that wide perspective you need to have. I’m curious to hear what’s that one big challenge that’s ahead of you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (8:52 – 9:57)

I think the biggest challenge ahead of me, I think, is sometimes as being, I can’t help everybody. There are children that come through the system that sometimes, unfortunately, are beyond repair. There are people that come that we can’t help. The trauma that they have endured in their life or have dealt with is too drastic for us to be able to do something. There are choices that sometimes I have to make. For example, we have the TJJD, which is like child jail, which sometimes I have no other option and nowhere to send a child except to that.

I have two kids right now that I am faced with, and we’ve worked out on every avenue to help them, but there’s not. That is the only option available. There are families that don’t want their kids. Sometimes there are family situations that we cannot send that child back to, and the system cannot help. That is, I think, the biggest challenge that we face as judges is sometimes not having an avenue or not being able to help someone.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (9:58 – 10:21)

That can feel very limiting despite the, for lack of a better term, the power you have can feel for that challenge. Now, on the other side are opportunities, and I would love to hear what’s that one most exciting opportunity that you’re really either working on or looking forward to.

 

[Juli Mathew] (10:22 – 12:46)

I have two programs that I created. One bringing in my Indian culture is called Tie and Chat, which is where we introduce the local public to either local government or somebody who has achieved great things, and we open up our courthouse. We, of course, have tie and chat, meaning snacks, but it is spelled C-H-A-T, so kind of that whole, my background mixing into the courthouse. I love having people come, seeing the chambers, seeing what it’s like to sit on the bench, or they never have that opportunity otherwise, opening up local government for the community. Another one that I have is Kitchen to the Courthouse, so when I was in my last year of college, I took a job working at a country club because I just wanted somewhere where I wasn’t using my brain. I wanted to kind of just like chill for the summer, so I worked at a country club, and I was a server, and one of the things I realized, and this is a very high-end country club, and most of the chefs in the club were all males, and not just that. If you look like at Michelin star restaurants and various things, most of the chefs are male, so I created this Kitchen to the Courthouse because although historically females are the ones who do most of the cooking, it seems when you come to those restaurants, it’s a male chef, so to be able to accomplish anything and everything, so I created this program a few years ago, and we have had extraordinary female CEOs, lawyers, judges, politicians who come through and talk to children. I created it specifically for South Asian girls because South Asian girls, I think, sometimes need more of that, but for anyone, it was a welcome to it, and we had a wide variety and diversity, and even males who joined just to hear what these females encountered and the glass ceilings that they broke and shattered, so I have one plan for Women’s History Month coming up, and I’m excited, and I hope it works out, but it’s somebody who is very, very high up in NASA, and we have some big plans for this person, so those are programs I created that I absolutely love because I think being in the community, the outreach that I’m able to do, I’m very excited of it and makes me very happy to have a role in developing young minds.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (12:48 – 13:04)

I love both the programs, and especially bringing in that culture, that perspective into something, as you said, is very monochromatic or has been traditionally, and bringing in that flavor. I’m curious to hear how many people end up calling, still calling it chai tea and not just chai.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:05 – 13:17)

I was recently at a gala, and they had chai tea, and just, yeah, so it was like, what in the world?

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (13:20 – 13:45)

So, as we look forward to more of these opportunities, I want to pause and reflect, and take a moment to ask you to share about two instances in your career, in your personal life, where one blew your own expectations and became a success beyond your imagination, and another one that did not work out as you had expected, was a failure, became a lesson.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:47 – 17:22)

So, my success story would be definitely the mental health court, and also even running the elections. You know, when I decided to run, I was, I had a six-month-old, I had a child who was a year and a half, and I had a 12-year-old. So, I had a wide spectrum of kids, and not only that, in the meantime, at some point, my middle child was diagnosed with autism, and I was working as a full-time attorney, and my husband was getting quite frustrated with the fact that I would go to work and then come home briefly, take care of the kids or feed them, and then immediately leave to go campaign, and campaigning is going from event to event, driving from place to place, talking to everybody, shaking hands, and just, you know, randomly asking people that I come across to vote for me, and I remember walking into HEB, which is our local grocery store, and my child, my 12-year-old, as soon as I said, I mean, some lady, I remember, was just checking out grapes, and I was like, hi, ma’am, my name is Julie Mathew, and I’m running for judge, would you vote for me? She, I remember my 12-year-old, like, darted to the other side of the grocery store. So, I mean, it, I don’t even think I did that in my last very recent election, I don’t think I was that forward, but I was not leaving not a single stone unturned, because what if it is what that one vote that, you know, got me through, and being a judge sometimes is limiting, you know, although I have strong views on some of the things, I cannot actually ever express them. I have to be mum on how I truly think about things, and it’s very limiting as a judge in that sense, but I absolutely love it. I’m glad I took this risk, and my, I would say my personal life, the biggest failure, I was married once before, and being an Indian woman, especially being an Indian Christian woman, having gone through divorce was not something that was looked upon, even I considered that when I was running for judge, what would people think, and I have to get out of that stereotype, because a lot of times, it really doesn’t, I mean, it doesn’t matter what people think, it’s really what you think of yourself, and you can’t be limited. Even, you know, regard, like, I post about my middle child having autism, and my parents called me the very first time I posted and said, why, why would you put that out there, and in our community, there’s a lot of things we hide in the closet, and as an Indian American woman, I don’t want to hide things in the closet. I think we, as a community, need to be open. We need to speak about things that matter. Mental health is another thing. People don’t want to talk about these things. I have, on a regular basis, calls from parents asking what can they do. This is happening in our lives. My child has this issue. My child has that issue, and they’re afraid to let anyone know. When I posted about my middle child, for example, I had friends who called me and asked, well, my child is not verbal. What should I do? You know, people have a hard, and please don’t tell anybody. That’s the next thing I get. Please don’t tell anybody. As an attorney, as a judge, I’m protecting, you know, I can’t, but overall, why are we so afraid to talk about some of these topics? Why are we so reluctant? These things happen in life, and having been now on the bench for the last five years, there’s nothing that I have not seen. People have worse circumstances than you and I could ever imagine. So, I think to be living the life as to who you are and what you are, I think that’s the most important thing in that life lesson that I learned.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (17:23 – 18:24)

It’s so, so key and important. I think it’s something we were born and raised with, to keep our secrets, especially the negative ones, that it has in many ways become limiting for a lot of us to not be able to share and be one as a community. So, I really applaud your vulnerability, your openness in sharing not the good, but also the not so good things that are all around us. So, kudos for being that, you know, that source of inspiration, for being that connector, for the other people to be able to reach out and have an open conversation with you. So, before we move on to my favorite section of this show, I would love to ask you, what is that one thing you do to have fun, kick off, other than taking up a job at a country club? What do you do on a regular basis to take a break?

 

[Juli Mathew] (18:25 – 19:59)

So, I do love to travel. I sometimes, I mean, I like to just sometimes with my husband alone, sometimes with the kids. I love to learn about people. I love to go to hole in the walls and try foods. And every time I travel to a country, I’ll go into that tiny convenience store, just as even what their local snacks are, the local candy, the local tips. I’m always curious. I love to garden. My biggest accomplishment this year is I had a plumeria plant that my mom had given me for my birthday, either last year or the year before. And that was in my garage.

And I replanted in the spring, and it has flowered. So, that is the biggest accomplishment. I love to garden. It is sometimes gets very hot in Texas. So, I’m not out there every evening. But whenever I can, I go out there and I pull the weeds myself. I also love to cook. The other day, I made something called chakka aluwa, which is jackfruit halwa. And who would have thought that? I mean, I would have never thought that I would ever in my lifetime make it. But there was this container called an urad dali from Kerala that I brought maybe about 20-25 years ago from India. It was in our house in Kerala. And I brought it and it was sitting there for the longest time. And I was like, you know what, I need to make use out of it. What was the point of bringing this 10 pound thing in my luggage? And I decided to make aluwa. We had some jackfruit in the house. And that’s what I did late night that night.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:00 – 20:03)

That is so cool. I will invite myself.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:04 – 20:17)

I make all the Indian stuff. I love making fish curry. I love fish curry. So I do make it. So I do like to think I’m a domestic diva and I’m not doing official stuff.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:18 – 20:30)

Hey, you’ve earned it. So might as well. Okay, on to my favorite part. One line life lessons. Would love to hear a few of yours. And I’m sure so would the audience.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:31 – 21:05)

Mine is definitely don’t limit yourself. No one else gets to tell you who you are or what you are. The other one of the things that I tell the kids that come through my courtroom is, you will have failure. Absolutely. Every single person will, but it’s what you do next that matters. Are you going to stay down? Are you going to get back up and fight? Because that’s what makes the difference as to what happens in your life. And so those are really my thing is keep pushing, keep going forward. There is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Take that deep breath. So that is it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:06 – 21:24)

Love it. Love it. Well, Judge Mathew, such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for making the time. And again, keep doing what you do. You’re a source of inspiration.

You’re a power to reckon with and would love to bring you back on more stories, more achievements to share. Thank you so much.

 

[Juli Mathew] (21:24 – 21:26)

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:27 – 21:27)

Thank you.

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:02 – 0:11)

Hey everyone, welcome to The Industry Show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj, and joining me today is Judge Juli Mathew. Judge Mathew, welcome on the show.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:12 – 0:14)

Thank you, thank you for having me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:14 – 0:18)

Pleasure is all ours. Let’s start with the big question. Who is Juli?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:19 – 0:34)

Who is Juli? Juli is a mother, a wife, a gardener, a judge, and a bunch of other things. I’m not sure we can all fit into that one-minute question that you want me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:36 – 0:40)

Well, a superwoman in one word, right?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:41 – 0:43)

I try sometimes. I feel like I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:44 – 0:51)

There’s the modesty. Well, you kind of hinted at this, but tell us what you do for a living.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:52 – 1:14)

I am a judge. I was elected in 2018, and when I was elected, I became the first Indian-American woman elected to the bench in the United States, and the first Asian-American judge in my county, in Fort Bend, in Texas. It was a red county, and when I won, it became a blue, and now currently it’s purple.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (1:16 – 1:46)

Many, many first years there, and congratulations on every single one of them. I know it came with a tremendous amount of hard work going door to door, trying to just get people to even listen to you, so many, many kudos to you. I’m very interested in knowing the why behind this. Why do this? You could do so many different things to earn a living, to just do some awesome work. Why this?

 

[Juli Mathew] (1:46 – 2:44)

I was a practicing attorney for about 15 years, and one of the things when I moved to Texas that I noticed, at least in the judiciary, is just very monochromatic. It was definitely, I felt every time that I walked into the courthouse in my own county, I felt somewhat like an outsider, and so I truly believe in Gandhi’s words that if you want to see the change in this world, you have to do it, so I became the change that I wanted to see in the world. In 2016, when the political climate was very divisive, I really, you know, the judiciary is the last-ditch effort to make sure that everything, the constitution is protected, people’s rights are protected, and so I felt it was the right time and the right place for me to run for a judicial position, and I put my name in and had a lot of pushback, but I’m glad that I did, and here I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (2:46 – 3:02)

Pushback is a very timid word for what you’ve faced, and also, as we discussed, this is not where people want to donate their money. No, definitely not.

 

[Juli Mathew] (3:02 – 3:51)

It’s very much, you know, what benefit does anyone get, you know, paying or donating to a judicial campaign, but really, judges handle so many things that people don’t even realize or recognize, and it opens doors to, you know, things, access that people may have never had a community, you know, no one ever thought there would be an Indian American on the bench in our county, no one, and especially females. We only had one female judge on the county level, so for the first time, we had three and three, three males and three females in 2018. Those are things that the county has in existence since 1835 that has never happened before, and I am proud to have played a part in making that happen.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (3:52 – 4:09)

That is so cool. That is really amazing, and, you know, you started talking about this, so I want to take this moment to get the sense of impact your work has been able to, and what you’ve been able to accomplish, just even in the last few years that you’ve been doing this.

 

[Juli Mathew] (4:12 – 5:22)

So, I said I preside over a general jurisdiction bench, which handles criminal misdemeanor cases, juvenile felonies, and misdemeanors, probate when people die, guardianships, mental health, as well as many other subject matter jurisdiction, eminent domain, so we come across every single resident of our county one time or another in their lifetime or their death, so it is a very crucial role that we play in the county itself, and to have an opportunity where, you know, I think some people are surprised when they walk into the court and see a judge that, you know, even when I was elected, people used to say, you’re not who I thought of as a judge, and it kind of pushes me, you know, I still get taken back by it a little bit, but why not? Why can’t you see me as a judge? Why can’t someone who looks like me, you know, and one of the things there’s also some age, you know, say, you’re too young to be a judge, so what exactly is, you know, I’m qualified, I’ve been practicing for a long time, and so, you know, you had to push against some of the stereotypes that you come across.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (5:23 – 5:40)

True, and, you know, I would take every single one of them as a compliment. I think you should, that you have been able to accomplish all of these things despite all of those challenges combined. So, kudos, kudos to you. Thank you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (5:40 – 7:03)

I mean, as an attorney, it’s not, I didn’t practice every area of the law that I sit and preside over, so it definitely, there was a learning curve, but it’s been a challenge that I welcome. I absolutely love having to deal with things that I’ve never dealt with, and, you know, sometimes I really do have to step back, and as I take things under advisement and read on it and study it, and I also got to create something extraordinary, the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in our county. It is a court, it’s a specialty court that I created that kids who are already in the system with mental health issues, we make sure that they successfully complete their probation.

 

A lot of times, those kids needs to be, their hands need to be held because they are, have a lot of struggles that we can’t possibly imagine, and so we give them the guidance, whether it be counseling sessions, some of them have had some traumatic issues in their life, so we give them counseling, we give them the tutoring that they need, whether it be passing their GED or completing their high school courses, we give them food if they don’t have food, we provide services that they need, medical services, all of them are taken care of through our system because it really does cost more to incarcerate someone than to help them rehabilitate them, and that’s our purpose in the juvenile system.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:03 – 7:35)

I love that holistic approach because as we know, a lot of this, what we see as crime, the reasons could be so varied, so different because of what may have happened in that individual’s life, and to be able to take that step back and say, how can I cure this instead of punishing this? I really applaud that big picture holistic view that really bounds the community together instead of separating one side from the other.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:36 – 7:42)

Thank you. It has worked out well. We have about an 85% success rate in that program that we created.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:43 – 7:44)

That is amazing.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:44 – 8:09)

A lot of work. There’s a lot of people that work behind the scenes, our counselors, our probation officers. There’s a lot of people that work to make sure that these kids, the attorneys in the program, there’s a number of factors that we do everything that we can.

We work hand in hand with the state, the prosecution, and the defense attorneys, work hand in hand to help these kids.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (8:10 – 8:48)

I really love that approach. It’s really what we need, coming from where we have in the past few years of that divisive thought, the polarization of our communities. We’re headed in the right direction under your leadership. You talked about touching pretty much every citizen in your community. I’m sure there is many challenges that come about because of that wide perspective you need to have. I’m curious to hear what’s that one big challenge that’s ahead of you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (8:52 – 9:57)

I think the biggest challenge ahead of me, I think, is sometimes as being, I can’t help everybody. There are children that come through the system that sometimes, unfortunately, are beyond repair. There are people that come that we can’t help. The trauma that they have endured in their life or have dealt with is too drastic for us to be able to do something. There are choices that sometimes I have to make. For example, we have the TJJD, which is like child jail, which sometimes I have no other option and nowhere to send a child except to that.

I have two kids right now that I am faced with, and we’ve worked out on every avenue to help them, but there’s not. That is the only option available. There are families that don’t want their kids. Sometimes there are family situations that we cannot send that child back to, and the system cannot help. That is, I think, the biggest challenge that we face as judges is sometimes not having an avenue or not being able to help someone.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (9:58 – 10:21)

That can feel very limiting despite the, for lack of a better term, the power you have can feel for that challenge. Now, on the other side are opportunities, and I would love to hear what’s that one most exciting opportunity that you’re really either working on or looking forward to.

 

[Juli Mathew] (10:22 – 12:46)

I have two programs that I created. One bringing in my Indian culture is called Tie and Chat, which is where we introduce the local public to either local government or somebody who has achieved great things, and we open up our courthouse. We, of course, have tie and chat, meaning snacks, but it is spelled C-H-A-T, so kind of that whole, my background mixing into the courthouse. I love having people come, seeing the chambers, seeing what it’s like to sit on the bench, or they never have that opportunity otherwise, opening up local government for the community. Another one that I have is Kitchen to the Courthouse, so when I was in my last year of college, I took a job working at a country club because I just wanted somewhere where I wasn’t using my brain. I wanted to kind of just like chill for the summer, so I worked at a country club, and I was a server, and one of the things I realized, and this is a very high-end country club, and most of the chefs in the club were all males, and not just that. If you look like at Michelin star restaurants and various things, most of the chefs are male, so I created this Kitchen to the Courthouse because although historically females are the ones who do most of the cooking, it seems when you come to those restaurants, it’s a male chef, so to be able to accomplish anything and everything, so I created this program a few years ago, and we have had extraordinary female CEOs, lawyers, judges, politicians who come through and talk to children. I created it specifically for South Asian girls because South Asian girls, I think, sometimes need more of that, but for anyone, it was a welcome to it, and we had a wide variety and diversity, and even males who joined just to hear what these females encountered and the glass ceilings that they broke and shattered, so I have one plan for Women’s History Month coming up, and I’m excited, and I hope it works out, but it’s somebody who is very, very high up in NASA, and we have some big plans for this person, so those are programs I created that I absolutely love because I think being in the community, the outreach that I’m able to do, I’m very excited of it and makes me very happy to have a role in developing young minds.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (12:48 – 13:04)

I love both the programs, and especially bringing in that culture, that perspective into something, as you said, is very monochromatic or has been traditionally, and bringing in that flavor. I’m curious to hear how many people end up calling, still calling it chai tea and not just chai.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:05 – 13:17)

I was recently at a gala, and they had chai tea, and just, yeah, so it was like, what in the world?

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (13:20 – 13:45)

So, as we look forward to more of these opportunities, I want to pause and reflect, and take a moment to ask you to share about two instances in your career, in your personal life, where one blew your own expectations and became a success beyond your imagination, and another one that did not work out as you had expected, was a failure, became a lesson.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:47 – 17:22)

So, my success story would be definitely the mental health court, and also even running the elections. You know, when I decided to run, I was, I had a six-month-old, I had a child who was a year and a half, and I had a 12-year-old. So, I had a wide spectrum of kids, and not only that, in the meantime, at some point, my middle child was diagnosed with autism, and I was working as a full-time attorney, and my husband was getting quite frustrated with the fact that I would go to work and then come home briefly, take care of the kids or feed them, and then immediately leave to go campaign, and campaigning is going from event to event, driving from place to place, talking to everybody, shaking hands, and just, you know, randomly asking people that I come across to vote for me, and I remember walking into HEB, which is our local grocery store, and my child, my 12-year-old, as soon as I said, I mean, some lady, I remember, was just checking out grapes, and I was like, hi, ma’am, my name is Julie Mathew, and I’m running for judge, would you vote for me? She, I remember my 12-year-old, like, darted to the other side of the grocery store. So, I mean, it, I don’t even think I did that in my last very recent election, I don’t think I was that forward, but I was not leaving not a single stone unturned, because what if it is what that one vote that, you know, got me through, and being a judge sometimes is limiting, you know, although I have strong views on some of the things, I cannot actually ever express them. I have to be mum on how I truly think about things, and it’s very limiting as a judge in that sense, but I absolutely love it. I’m glad I took this risk, and my, I would say my personal life, the biggest failure, I was married once before, and being an Indian woman, especially being an Indian Christian woman, having gone through divorce was not something that was looked upon, even I considered that when I was running for judge, what would people think, and I have to get out of that stereotype, because a lot of times, it really doesn’t, I mean, it doesn’t matter what people think, it’s really what you think of yourself, and you can’t be limited. Even, you know, regard, like, I post about my middle child having autism, and my parents called me the very first time I posted and said, why, why would you put that out there, and in our community, there’s a lot of things we hide in the closet, and as an Indian American woman, I don’t want to hide things in the closet. I think we, as a community, need to be open. We need to speak about things that matter. Mental health is another thing. People don’t want to talk about these things. I have, on a regular basis, calls from parents asking what can they do. This is happening in our lives. My child has this issue. My child has that issue, and they’re afraid to let anyone know. When I posted about my middle child, for example, I had friends who called me and asked, well, my child is not verbal. What should I do? You know, people have a hard, and please don’t tell anybody. That’s the next thing I get. Please don’t tell anybody. As an attorney, as a judge, I’m protecting, you know, I can’t, but overall, why are we so afraid to talk about some of these topics? Why are we so reluctant? These things happen in life, and having been now on the bench for the last five years, there’s nothing that I have not seen. People have worse circumstances than you and I could ever imagine. So, I think to be living the life as to who you are and what you are, I think that’s the most important thing in that life lesson that I learned.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (17:23 – 18:24)

It’s so, so key and important. I think it’s something we were born and raised with, to keep our secrets, especially the negative ones, that it has in many ways become limiting for a lot of us to not be able to share and be one as a community. So, I really applaud your vulnerability, your openness in sharing not the good, but also the not so good things that are all around us. So, kudos for being that, you know, that source of inspiration, for being that connector, for the other people to be able to reach out and have an open conversation with you. So, before we move on to my favorite section of this show, I would love to ask you, what is that one thing you do to have fun, kick off, other than taking up a job at a country club? What do you do on a regular basis to take a break?

 

[Juli Mathew] (18:25 – 19:59)

So, I do love to travel. I sometimes, I mean, I like to just sometimes with my husband alone, sometimes with the kids. I love to learn about people. I love to go to hole in the walls and try foods. And every time I travel to a country, I’ll go into that tiny convenience store, just as even what their local snacks are, the local candy, the local tips. I’m always curious. I love to garden. My biggest accomplishment this year is I had a plumeria plant that my mom had given me for my birthday, either last year or the year before. And that was in my garage.

And I replanted in the spring, and it has flowered. So, that is the biggest accomplishment. I love to garden. It is sometimes gets very hot in Texas. So, I’m not out there every evening. But whenever I can, I go out there and I pull the weeds myself. I also love to cook. The other day, I made something called chakka aluwa, which is jackfruit halwa. And who would have thought that? I mean, I would have never thought that I would ever in my lifetime make it. But there was this container called an urad dali from Kerala that I brought maybe about 20-25 years ago from India. It was in our house in Kerala. And I brought it and it was sitting there for the longest time. And I was like, you know what, I need to make use out of it. What was the point of bringing this 10 pound thing in my luggage? And I decided to make aluwa. We had some jackfruit in the house. And that’s what I did late night that night.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:00 – 20:03)

That is so cool. I will invite myself.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:04 – 20:17)

I make all the Indian stuff. I love making fish curry. I love fish curry. So I do make it. So I do like to think I’m a domestic diva and I’m not doing official stuff.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:18 – 20:30)

Hey, you’ve earned it. So might as well. Okay, on to my favorite part. One line life lessons. Would love to hear a few of yours. And I’m sure so would the audience.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:31 – 21:05)

Mine is definitely don’t limit yourself. No one else gets to tell you who you are or what you are. The other one of the things that I tell the kids that come through my courtroom is, you will have failure. Absolutely. Every single person will, but it’s what you do next that matters. Are you going to stay down? Are you going to get back up and fight? Because that’s what makes the difference as to what happens in your life. And so those are really my thing is keep pushing, keep going forward. There is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Take that deep breath. So that is it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:06 – 21:24)

Love it. Love it. Well, Judge Mathew, such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for making the time. And again, keep doing what you do. You’re a source of inspiration.

You’re a power to reckon with and would love to bring you back on more stories, more achievements to share. Thank you so much.

 

[Juli Mathew] (21:24 – 21:26)

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:27 – 21:27)

Thank you.

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:02 – 0:11)

Hey everyone, welcome to The Industry Show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj, and joining me today is Judge Juli Mathew. Judge Mathew, welcome on the show.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:12 – 0:14)

Thank you, thank you for having me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:14 – 0:18)

Pleasure is all ours. Let’s start with the big question. Who is Juli?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:19 – 0:34)

Who is Juli? Juli is a mother, a wife, a gardener, a judge, and a bunch of other things. I’m not sure we can all fit into that one-minute question that you want me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:36 – 0:40)

Well, a superwoman in one word, right?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:41 – 0:43)

I try sometimes. I feel like I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:44 – 0:51)

There’s the modesty. Well, you kind of hinted at this, but tell us what you do for a living.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:52 – 1:14)

I am a judge. I was elected in 2018, and when I was elected, I became the first Indian-American woman elected to the bench in the United States, and the first Asian-American judge in my county, in Fort Bend, in Texas. It was a red county, and when I won, it became a blue, and now currently it’s purple.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (1:16 – 1:46)

Many, many first years there, and congratulations on every single one of them. I know it came with a tremendous amount of hard work going door to door, trying to just get people to even listen to you, so many, many kudos to you. I’m very interested in knowing the why behind this. Why do this? You could do so many different things to earn a living, to just do some awesome work. Why this?

 

[Juli Mathew] (1:46 – 2:44)

I was a practicing attorney for about 15 years, and one of the things when I moved to Texas that I noticed, at least in the judiciary, is just very monochromatic. It was definitely, I felt every time that I walked into the courthouse in my own county, I felt somewhat like an outsider, and so I truly believe in Gandhi’s words that if you want to see the change in this world, you have to do it, so I became the change that I wanted to see in the world. In 2016, when the political climate was very divisive, I really, you know, the judiciary is the last-ditch effort to make sure that everything, the constitution is protected, people’s rights are protected, and so I felt it was the right time and the right place for me to run for a judicial position, and I put my name in and had a lot of pushback, but I’m glad that I did, and here I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (2:46 – 3:02)

Pushback is a very timid word for what you’ve faced, and also, as we discussed, this is not where people want to donate their money. No, definitely not.

 

[Juli Mathew] (3:02 – 3:51)

It’s very much, you know, what benefit does anyone get, you know, paying or donating to a judicial campaign, but really, judges handle so many things that people don’t even realize or recognize, and it opens doors to, you know, things, access that people may have never had a community, you know, no one ever thought there would be an Indian American on the bench in our county, no one, and especially females. We only had one female judge on the county level, so for the first time, we had three and three, three males and three females in 2018. Those are things that the county has in existence since 1835 that has never happened before, and I am proud to have played a part in making that happen.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (3:52 – 4:09)

That is so cool. That is really amazing, and, you know, you started talking about this, so I want to take this moment to get the sense of impact your work has been able to, and what you’ve been able to accomplish, just even in the last few years that you’ve been doing this.

 

[Juli Mathew] (4:12 – 5:22)

So, I said I preside over a general jurisdiction bench, which handles criminal misdemeanor cases, juvenile felonies, and misdemeanors, probate when people die, guardianships, mental health, as well as many other subject matter jurisdiction, eminent domain, so we come across every single resident of our county one time or another in their lifetime or their death, so it is a very crucial role that we play in the county itself, and to have an opportunity where, you know, I think some people are surprised when they walk into the court and see a judge that, you know, even when I was elected, people used to say, you’re not who I thought of as a judge, and it kind of pushes me, you know, I still get taken back by it a little bit, but why not? Why can’t you see me as a judge? Why can’t someone who looks like me, you know, and one of the things there’s also some age, you know, say, you’re too young to be a judge, so what exactly is, you know, I’m qualified, I’ve been practicing for a long time, and so, you know, you had to push against some of the stereotypes that you come across.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (5:23 – 5:40)

True, and, you know, I would take every single one of them as a compliment. I think you should, that you have been able to accomplish all of these things despite all of those challenges combined. So, kudos, kudos to you. Thank you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (5:40 – 7:03)

I mean, as an attorney, it’s not, I didn’t practice every area of the law that I sit and preside over, so it definitely, there was a learning curve, but it’s been a challenge that I welcome. I absolutely love having to deal with things that I’ve never dealt with, and, you know, sometimes I really do have to step back, and as I take things under advisement and read on it and study it, and I also got to create something extraordinary, the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in our county. It is a court, it’s a specialty court that I created that kids who are already in the system with mental health issues, we make sure that they successfully complete their probation.

 

A lot of times, those kids needs to be, their hands need to be held because they are, have a lot of struggles that we can’t possibly imagine, and so we give them the guidance, whether it be counseling sessions, some of them have had some traumatic issues in their life, so we give them counseling, we give them the tutoring that they need, whether it be passing their GED or completing their high school courses, we give them food if they don’t have food, we provide services that they need, medical services, all of them are taken care of through our system because it really does cost more to incarcerate someone than to help them rehabilitate them, and that’s our purpose in the juvenile system.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:03 – 7:35)

I love that holistic approach because as we know, a lot of this, what we see as crime, the reasons could be so varied, so different because of what may have happened in that individual’s life, and to be able to take that step back and say, how can I cure this instead of punishing this? I really applaud that big picture holistic view that really bounds the community together instead of separating one side from the other.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:36 – 7:42)

Thank you. It has worked out well. We have about an 85% success rate in that program that we created.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:43 – 7:44)

That is amazing.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:44 – 8:09)

A lot of work. There’s a lot of people that work behind the scenes, our counselors, our probation officers. There’s a lot of people that work to make sure that these kids, the attorneys in the program, there’s a number of factors that we do everything that we can.

We work hand in hand with the state, the prosecution, and the defense attorneys, work hand in hand to help these kids.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (8:10 – 8:48)

I really love that approach. It’s really what we need, coming from where we have in the past few years of that divisive thought, the polarization of our communities. We’re headed in the right direction under your leadership. You talked about touching pretty much every citizen in your community. I’m sure there is many challenges that come about because of that wide perspective you need to have. I’m curious to hear what’s that one big challenge that’s ahead of you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (8:52 – 9:57)

I think the biggest challenge ahead of me, I think, is sometimes as being, I can’t help everybody. There are children that come through the system that sometimes, unfortunately, are beyond repair. There are people that come that we can’t help. The trauma that they have endured in their life or have dealt with is too drastic for us to be able to do something. There are choices that sometimes I have to make. For example, we have the TJJD, which is like child jail, which sometimes I have no other option and nowhere to send a child except to that.

I have two kids right now that I am faced with, and we’ve worked out on every avenue to help them, but there’s not. That is the only option available. There are families that don’t want their kids. Sometimes there are family situations that we cannot send that child back to, and the system cannot help. That is, I think, the biggest challenge that we face as judges is sometimes not having an avenue or not being able to help someone.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (9:58 – 10:21)

That can feel very limiting despite the, for lack of a better term, the power you have can feel for that challenge. Now, on the other side are opportunities, and I would love to hear what’s that one most exciting opportunity that you’re really either working on or looking forward to.

 

[Juli Mathew] (10:22 – 12:46)

I have two programs that I created. One bringing in my Indian culture is called Tie and Chat, which is where we introduce the local public to either local government or somebody who has achieved great things, and we open up our courthouse. We, of course, have tie and chat, meaning snacks, but it is spelled C-H-A-T, so kind of that whole, my background mixing into the courthouse. I love having people come, seeing the chambers, seeing what it’s like to sit on the bench, or they never have that opportunity otherwise, opening up local government for the community. Another one that I have is Kitchen to the Courthouse, so when I was in my last year of college, I took a job working at a country club because I just wanted somewhere where I wasn’t using my brain. I wanted to kind of just like chill for the summer, so I worked at a country club, and I was a server, and one of the things I realized, and this is a very high-end country club, and most of the chefs in the club were all males, and not just that. If you look like at Michelin star restaurants and various things, most of the chefs are male, so I created this Kitchen to the Courthouse because although historically females are the ones who do most of the cooking, it seems when you come to those restaurants, it’s a male chef, so to be able to accomplish anything and everything, so I created this program a few years ago, and we have had extraordinary female CEOs, lawyers, judges, politicians who come through and talk to children. I created it specifically for South Asian girls because South Asian girls, I think, sometimes need more of that, but for anyone, it was a welcome to it, and we had a wide variety and diversity, and even males who joined just to hear what these females encountered and the glass ceilings that they broke and shattered, so I have one plan for Women’s History Month coming up, and I’m excited, and I hope it works out, but it’s somebody who is very, very high up in NASA, and we have some big plans for this person, so those are programs I created that I absolutely love because I think being in the community, the outreach that I’m able to do, I’m very excited of it and makes me very happy to have a role in developing young minds.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (12:48 – 13:04)

I love both the programs, and especially bringing in that culture, that perspective into something, as you said, is very monochromatic or has been traditionally, and bringing in that flavor. I’m curious to hear how many people end up calling, still calling it chai tea and not just chai.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:05 – 13:17)

I was recently at a gala, and they had chai tea, and just, yeah, so it was like, what in the world?

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (13:20 – 13:45)

So, as we look forward to more of these opportunities, I want to pause and reflect, and take a moment to ask you to share about two instances in your career, in your personal life, where one blew your own expectations and became a success beyond your imagination, and another one that did not work out as you had expected, was a failure, became a lesson.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:47 – 17:22)

So, my success story would be definitely the mental health court, and also even running the elections. You know, when I decided to run, I was, I had a six-month-old, I had a child who was a year and a half, and I had a 12-year-old. So, I had a wide spectrum of kids, and not only that, in the meantime, at some point, my middle child was diagnosed with autism, and I was working as a full-time attorney, and my husband was getting quite frustrated with the fact that I would go to work and then come home briefly, take care of the kids or feed them, and then immediately leave to go campaign, and campaigning is going from event to event, driving from place to place, talking to everybody, shaking hands, and just, you know, randomly asking people that I come across to vote for me, and I remember walking into HEB, which is our local grocery store, and my child, my 12-year-old, as soon as I said, I mean, some lady, I remember, was just checking out grapes, and I was like, hi, ma’am, my name is Julie Mathew, and I’m running for judge, would you vote for me? She, I remember my 12-year-old, like, darted to the other side of the grocery store. So, I mean, it, I don’t even think I did that in my last very recent election, I don’t think I was that forward, but I was not leaving not a single stone unturned, because what if it is what that one vote that, you know, got me through, and being a judge sometimes is limiting, you know, although I have strong views on some of the things, I cannot actually ever express them. I have to be mum on how I truly think about things, and it’s very limiting as a judge in that sense, but I absolutely love it. I’m glad I took this risk, and my, I would say my personal life, the biggest failure, I was married once before, and being an Indian woman, especially being an Indian Christian woman, having gone through divorce was not something that was looked upon, even I considered that when I was running for judge, what would people think, and I have to get out of that stereotype, because a lot of times, it really doesn’t, I mean, it doesn’t matter what people think, it’s really what you think of yourself, and you can’t be limited. Even, you know, regard, like, I post about my middle child having autism, and my parents called me the very first time I posted and said, why, why would you put that out there, and in our community, there’s a lot of things we hide in the closet, and as an Indian American woman, I don’t want to hide things in the closet. I think we, as a community, need to be open. We need to speak about things that matter. Mental health is another thing. People don’t want to talk about these things. I have, on a regular basis, calls from parents asking what can they do. This is happening in our lives. My child has this issue. My child has that issue, and they’re afraid to let anyone know. When I posted about my middle child, for example, I had friends who called me and asked, well, my child is not verbal. What should I do? You know, people have a hard, and please don’t tell anybody. That’s the next thing I get. Please don’t tell anybody. As an attorney, as a judge, I’m protecting, you know, I can’t, but overall, why are we so afraid to talk about some of these topics? Why are we so reluctant? These things happen in life, and having been now on the bench for the last five years, there’s nothing that I have not seen. People have worse circumstances than you and I could ever imagine. So, I think to be living the life as to who you are and what you are, I think that’s the most important thing in that life lesson that I learned.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (17:23 – 18:24)

It’s so, so key and important. I think it’s something we were born and raised with, to keep our secrets, especially the negative ones, that it has in many ways become limiting for a lot of us to not be able to share and be one as a community. So, I really applaud your vulnerability, your openness in sharing not the good, but also the not so good things that are all around us. So, kudos for being that, you know, that source of inspiration, for being that connector, for the other people to be able to reach out and have an open conversation with you. So, before we move on to my favorite section of this show, I would love to ask you, what is that one thing you do to have fun, kick off, other than taking up a job at a country club? What do you do on a regular basis to take a break?

 

[Juli Mathew] (18:25 – 19:59)

So, I do love to travel. I sometimes, I mean, I like to just sometimes with my husband alone, sometimes with the kids. I love to learn about people. I love to go to hole in the walls and try foods. And every time I travel to a country, I’ll go into that tiny convenience store, just as even what their local snacks are, the local candy, the local tips. I’m always curious. I love to garden. My biggest accomplishment this year is I had a plumeria plant that my mom had given me for my birthday, either last year or the year before. And that was in my garage.

And I replanted in the spring, and it has flowered. So, that is the biggest accomplishment. I love to garden. It is sometimes gets very hot in Texas. So, I’m not out there every evening. But whenever I can, I go out there and I pull the weeds myself. I also love to cook. The other day, I made something called chakka aluwa, which is jackfruit halwa. And who would have thought that? I mean, I would have never thought that I would ever in my lifetime make it. But there was this container called an urad dali from Kerala that I brought maybe about 20-25 years ago from India. It was in our house in Kerala. And I brought it and it was sitting there for the longest time. And I was like, you know what, I need to make use out of it. What was the point of bringing this 10 pound thing in my luggage? And I decided to make aluwa. We had some jackfruit in the house. And that’s what I did late night that night.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:00 – 20:03)

That is so cool. I will invite myself.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:04 – 20:17)

I make all the Indian stuff. I love making fish curry. I love fish curry. So I do make it. So I do like to think I’m a domestic diva and I’m not doing official stuff.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:18 – 20:30)

Hey, you’ve earned it. So might as well. Okay, on to my favorite part. One line life lessons. Would love to hear a few of yours. And I’m sure so would the audience.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:31 – 21:05)

Mine is definitely don’t limit yourself. No one else gets to tell you who you are or what you are. The other one of the things that I tell the kids that come through my courtroom is, you will have failure. Absolutely. Every single person will, but it’s what you do next that matters. Are you going to stay down? Are you going to get back up and fight? Because that’s what makes the difference as to what happens in your life. And so those are really my thing is keep pushing, keep going forward. There is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Take that deep breath. So that is it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:06 – 21:24)

Love it. Love it. Well, Judge Mathew, such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for making the time. And again, keep doing what you do. You’re a source of inspiration.

You’re a power to reckon with and would love to bring you back on more stories, more achievements to share. Thank you so much.

 

[Juli Mathew] (21:24 – 21:26)

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:27 – 21:27)

Thank you.

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:02 – 0:11)

Hey everyone, welcome to The Industry Show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj, and joining me today is Judge Juli Mathew. Judge Mathew, welcome on the show.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:12 – 0:14)

Thank you, thank you for having me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:14 – 0:18)

Pleasure is all ours. Let’s start with the big question. Who is Juli?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:19 – 0:34)

Who is Juli? Juli is a mother, a wife, a gardener, a judge, and a bunch of other things. I’m not sure we can all fit into that one-minute question that you want me.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:36 – 0:40)

Well, a superwoman in one word, right?

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:41 – 0:43)

I try sometimes. I feel like I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (0:44 – 0:51)

There’s the modesty. Well, you kind of hinted at this, but tell us what you do for a living.

 

[Juli Mathew] (0:52 – 1:14)

I am a judge. I was elected in 2018, and when I was elected, I became the first Indian-American woman elected to the bench in the United States, and the first Asian-American judge in my county, in Fort Bend, in Texas. It was a red county, and when I won, it became a blue, and now currently it’s purple.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (1:16 – 1:46)

Many, many first years there, and congratulations on every single one of them. I know it came with a tremendous amount of hard work going door to door, trying to just get people to even listen to you, so many, many kudos to you. I’m very interested in knowing the why behind this. Why do this? You could do so many different things to earn a living, to just do some awesome work. Why this?

 

[Juli Mathew] (1:46 – 2:44)

I was a practicing attorney for about 15 years, and one of the things when I moved to Texas that I noticed, at least in the judiciary, is just very monochromatic. It was definitely, I felt every time that I walked into the courthouse in my own county, I felt somewhat like an outsider, and so I truly believe in Gandhi’s words that if you want to see the change in this world, you have to do it, so I became the change that I wanted to see in the world. In 2016, when the political climate was very divisive, I really, you know, the judiciary is the last-ditch effort to make sure that everything, the constitution is protected, people’s rights are protected, and so I felt it was the right time and the right place for me to run for a judicial position, and I put my name in and had a lot of pushback, but I’m glad that I did, and here I am.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (2:46 – 3:02)

Pushback is a very timid word for what you’ve faced, and also, as we discussed, this is not where people want to donate their money. No, definitely not.

 

[Juli Mathew] (3:02 – 3:51)

It’s very much, you know, what benefit does anyone get, you know, paying or donating to a judicial campaign, but really, judges handle so many things that people don’t even realize or recognize, and it opens doors to, you know, things, access that people may have never had a community, you know, no one ever thought there would be an Indian American on the bench in our county, no one, and especially females. We only had one female judge on the county level, so for the first time, we had three and three, three males and three females in 2018. Those are things that the county has in existence since 1835 that has never happened before, and I am proud to have played a part in making that happen.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (3:52 – 4:09)

That is so cool. That is really amazing, and, you know, you started talking about this, so I want to take this moment to get the sense of impact your work has been able to, and what you’ve been able to accomplish, just even in the last few years that you’ve been doing this.

 

[Juli Mathew] (4:12 – 5:22)

So, I said I preside over a general jurisdiction bench, which handles criminal misdemeanor cases, juvenile felonies, and misdemeanors, probate when people die, guardianships, mental health, as well as many other subject matter jurisdiction, eminent domain, so we come across every single resident of our county one time or another in their lifetime or their death, so it is a very crucial role that we play in the county itself, and to have an opportunity where, you know, I think some people are surprised when they walk into the court and see a judge that, you know, even when I was elected, people used to say, you’re not who I thought of as a judge, and it kind of pushes me, you know, I still get taken back by it a little bit, but why not? Why can’t you see me as a judge? Why can’t someone who looks like me, you know, and one of the things there’s also some age, you know, say, you’re too young to be a judge, so what exactly is, you know, I’m qualified, I’ve been practicing for a long time, and so, you know, you had to push against some of the stereotypes that you come across.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (5:23 – 5:40)

True, and, you know, I would take every single one of them as a compliment. I think you should, that you have been able to accomplish all of these things despite all of those challenges combined. So, kudos, kudos to you. Thank you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (5:40 – 7:03)

I mean, as an attorney, it’s not, I didn’t practice every area of the law that I sit and preside over, so it definitely, there was a learning curve, but it’s been a challenge that I welcome. I absolutely love having to deal with things that I’ve never dealt with, and, you know, sometimes I really do have to step back, and as I take things under advisement and read on it and study it, and I also got to create something extraordinary, the first juvenile intervention and mental health court in our county. It is a court, it’s a specialty court that I created that kids who are already in the system with mental health issues, we make sure that they successfully complete their probation.

 

A lot of times, those kids needs to be, their hands need to be held because they are, have a lot of struggles that we can’t possibly imagine, and so we give them the guidance, whether it be counseling sessions, some of them have had some traumatic issues in their life, so we give them counseling, we give them the tutoring that they need, whether it be passing their GED or completing their high school courses, we give them food if they don’t have food, we provide services that they need, medical services, all of them are taken care of through our system because it really does cost more to incarcerate someone than to help them rehabilitate them, and that’s our purpose in the juvenile system.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:03 – 7:35)

I love that holistic approach because as we know, a lot of this, what we see as crime, the reasons could be so varied, so different because of what may have happened in that individual’s life, and to be able to take that step back and say, how can I cure this instead of punishing this? I really applaud that big picture holistic view that really bounds the community together instead of separating one side from the other.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:36 – 7:42)

Thank you. It has worked out well. We have about an 85% success rate in that program that we created.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (7:43 – 7:44)

That is amazing.

 

[Juli Mathew] (7:44 – 8:09)

A lot of work. There’s a lot of people that work behind the scenes, our counselors, our probation officers. There’s a lot of people that work to make sure that these kids, the attorneys in the program, there’s a number of factors that we do everything that we can.

We work hand in hand with the state, the prosecution, and the defense attorneys, work hand in hand to help these kids.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (8:10 – 8:48)

I really love that approach. It’s really what we need, coming from where we have in the past few years of that divisive thought, the polarization of our communities. We’re headed in the right direction under your leadership. You talked about touching pretty much every citizen in your community. I’m sure there is many challenges that come about because of that wide perspective you need to have. I’m curious to hear what’s that one big challenge that’s ahead of you.

 

[Juli Mathew] (8:52 – 9:57)

I think the biggest challenge ahead of me, I think, is sometimes as being, I can’t help everybody. There are children that come through the system that sometimes, unfortunately, are beyond repair. There are people that come that we can’t help. The trauma that they have endured in their life or have dealt with is too drastic for us to be able to do something. There are choices that sometimes I have to make. For example, we have the TJJD, which is like child jail, which sometimes I have no other option and nowhere to send a child except to that.

I have two kids right now that I am faced with, and we’ve worked out on every avenue to help them, but there’s not. That is the only option available. There are families that don’t want their kids. Sometimes there are family situations that we cannot send that child back to, and the system cannot help. That is, I think, the biggest challenge that we face as judges is sometimes not having an avenue or not being able to help someone.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (9:58 – 10:21)

That can feel very limiting despite the, for lack of a better term, the power you have can feel for that challenge. Now, on the other side are opportunities, and I would love to hear what’s that one most exciting opportunity that you’re really either working on or looking forward to.

 

[Juli Mathew] (10:22 – 12:46)

I have two programs that I created. One bringing in my Indian culture is called Tie and Chat, which is where we introduce the local public to either local government or somebody who has achieved great things, and we open up our courthouse. We, of course, have tie and chat, meaning snacks, but it is spelled C-H-A-T, so kind of that whole, my background mixing into the courthouse. I love having people come, seeing the chambers, seeing what it’s like to sit on the bench, or they never have that opportunity otherwise, opening up local government for the community. Another one that I have is Kitchen to the Courthouse, so when I was in my last year of college, I took a job working at a country club because I just wanted somewhere where I wasn’t using my brain. I wanted to kind of just like chill for the summer, so I worked at a country club, and I was a server, and one of the things I realized, and this is a very high-end country club, and most of the chefs in the club were all males, and not just that. If you look like at Michelin star restaurants and various things, most of the chefs are male, so I created this Kitchen to the Courthouse because although historically females are the ones who do most of the cooking, it seems when you come to those restaurants, it’s a male chef, so to be able to accomplish anything and everything, so I created this program a few years ago, and we have had extraordinary female CEOs, lawyers, judges, politicians who come through and talk to children. I created it specifically for South Asian girls because South Asian girls, I think, sometimes need more of that, but for anyone, it was a welcome to it, and we had a wide variety and diversity, and even males who joined just to hear what these females encountered and the glass ceilings that they broke and shattered, so I have one plan for Women’s History Month coming up, and I’m excited, and I hope it works out, but it’s somebody who is very, very high up in NASA, and we have some big plans for this person, so those are programs I created that I absolutely love because I think being in the community, the outreach that I’m able to do, I’m very excited of it and makes me very happy to have a role in developing young minds.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (12:48 – 13:04)

I love both the programs, and especially bringing in that culture, that perspective into something, as you said, is very monochromatic or has been traditionally, and bringing in that flavor. I’m curious to hear how many people end up calling, still calling it chai tea and not just chai.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:05 – 13:17)

I was recently at a gala, and they had chai tea, and just, yeah, so it was like, what in the world?

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (13:20 – 13:45)

So, as we look forward to more of these opportunities, I want to pause and reflect, and take a moment to ask you to share about two instances in your career, in your personal life, where one blew your own expectations and became a success beyond your imagination, and another one that did not work out as you had expected, was a failure, became a lesson.

 

[Juli Mathew] (13:47 – 17:22)

So, my success story would be definitely the mental health court, and also even running the elections. You know, when I decided to run, I was, I had a six-month-old, I had a child who was a year and a half, and I had a 12-year-old. So, I had a wide spectrum of kids, and not only that, in the meantime, at some point, my middle child was diagnosed with autism, and I was working as a full-time attorney, and my husband was getting quite frustrated with the fact that I would go to work and then come home briefly, take care of the kids or feed them, and then immediately leave to go campaign, and campaigning is going from event to event, driving from place to place, talking to everybody, shaking hands, and just, you know, randomly asking people that I come across to vote for me, and I remember walking into HEB, which is our local grocery store, and my child, my 12-year-old, as soon as I said, I mean, some lady, I remember, was just checking out grapes, and I was like, hi, ma’am, my name is Julie Mathew, and I’m running for judge, would you vote for me? She, I remember my 12-year-old, like, darted to the other side of the grocery store. So, I mean, it, I don’t even think I did that in my last very recent election, I don’t think I was that forward, but I was not leaving not a single stone unturned, because what if it is what that one vote that, you know, got me through, and being a judge sometimes is limiting, you know, although I have strong views on some of the things, I cannot actually ever express them. I have to be mum on how I truly think about things, and it’s very limiting as a judge in that sense, but I absolutely love it. I’m glad I took this risk, and my, I would say my personal life, the biggest failure, I was married once before, and being an Indian woman, especially being an Indian Christian woman, having gone through divorce was not something that was looked upon, even I considered that when I was running for judge, what would people think, and I have to get out of that stereotype, because a lot of times, it really doesn’t, I mean, it doesn’t matter what people think, it’s really what you think of yourself, and you can’t be limited. Even, you know, regard, like, I post about my middle child having autism, and my parents called me the very first time I posted and said, why, why would you put that out there, and in our community, there’s a lot of things we hide in the closet, and as an Indian American woman, I don’t want to hide things in the closet. I think we, as a community, need to be open. We need to speak about things that matter. Mental health is another thing. People don’t want to talk about these things. I have, on a regular basis, calls from parents asking what can they do. This is happening in our lives. My child has this issue. My child has that issue, and they’re afraid to let anyone know. When I posted about my middle child, for example, I had friends who called me and asked, well, my child is not verbal. What should I do? You know, people have a hard, and please don’t tell anybody. That’s the next thing I get. Please don’t tell anybody. As an attorney, as a judge, I’m protecting, you know, I can’t, but overall, why are we so afraid to talk about some of these topics? Why are we so reluctant? These things happen in life, and having been now on the bench for the last five years, there’s nothing that I have not seen. People have worse circumstances than you and I could ever imagine. So, I think to be living the life as to who you are and what you are, I think that’s the most important thing in that life lesson that I learned.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (17:23 – 18:24)

It’s so, so key and important. I think it’s something we were born and raised with, to keep our secrets, especially the negative ones, that it has in many ways become limiting for a lot of us to not be able to share and be one as a community. So, I really applaud your vulnerability, your openness in sharing not the good, but also the not so good things that are all around us. So, kudos for being that, you know, that source of inspiration, for being that connector, for the other people to be able to reach out and have an open conversation with you. So, before we move on to my favorite section of this show, I would love to ask you, what is that one thing you do to have fun, kick off, other than taking up a job at a country club? What do you do on a regular basis to take a break?

 

[Juli Mathew] (18:25 – 19:59)

So, I do love to travel. I sometimes, I mean, I like to just sometimes with my husband alone, sometimes with the kids. I love to learn about people. I love to go to hole in the walls and try foods. And every time I travel to a country, I’ll go into that tiny convenience store, just as even what their local snacks are, the local candy, the local tips. I’m always curious. I love to garden. My biggest accomplishment this year is I had a plumeria plant that my mom had given me for my birthday, either last year or the year before. And that was in my garage.

And I replanted in the spring, and it has flowered. So, that is the biggest accomplishment. I love to garden. It is sometimes gets very hot in Texas. So, I’m not out there every evening. But whenever I can, I go out there and I pull the weeds myself. I also love to cook. The other day, I made something called chakka aluwa, which is jackfruit halwa. And who would have thought that? I mean, I would have never thought that I would ever in my lifetime make it. But there was this container called an urad dali from Kerala that I brought maybe about 20-25 years ago from India. It was in our house in Kerala. And I brought it and it was sitting there for the longest time. And I was like, you know what, I need to make use out of it. What was the point of bringing this 10 pound thing in my luggage? And I decided to make aluwa. We had some jackfruit in the house. And that’s what I did late night that night.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:00 – 20:03)

That is so cool. I will invite myself.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:04 – 20:17)

I make all the Indian stuff. I love making fish curry. I love fish curry. So I do make it. So I do like to think I’m a domestic diva and I’m not doing official stuff.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (20:18 – 20:30)

Hey, you’ve earned it. So might as well. Okay, on to my favorite part. One line life lessons. Would love to hear a few of yours. And I’m sure so would the audience.

 

[Juli Mathew] (20:31 – 21:05)

Mine is definitely don’t limit yourself. No one else gets to tell you who you are or what you are. The other one of the things that I tell the kids that come through my courtroom is, you will have failure. Absolutely. Every single person will, but it’s what you do next that matters. Are you going to stay down? Are you going to get back up and fight? Because that’s what makes the difference as to what happens in your life. And so those are really my thing is keep pushing, keep going forward. There is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Take that deep breath. So that is it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:06 – 21:24)

Love it. Love it. Well, Judge Mathew, such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for making the time. And again, keep doing what you do. You’re a source of inspiration.

You’re a power to reckon with and would love to bring you back on more stories, more achievements to share. Thank you so much.

 

[Juli Mathew] (21:24 – 21:26)

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

 

[Nitin Bajaj] (21:27 – 21:27)

Thank you.

 

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