By Anne O’Connor
Concord resident Tejal R. Mehta is stepping into a new position.
As of March 2, the former associate justice is the newest First Justice of the Ayer District Court, nominated by Stacey J. Fortes, Chief Justice of the District Court.
“Strong women get it done,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote in a letter read out loud before Mehta took the oath of office in the Ayer courtroom on March 2.
The room was crowded with friends: other judges, law enforcement personnel, court house staff and other family and friends. All looked proud of Mehta. Her smile was the brightest in the room.
Speakers used words like “smart,” “kind,” “leader,” “grace” and “empathy” to describe the judge.
“She is the pride and joy of Ayer District Court,” Chief Magistrate Damian Riddle said in his opening remarks.
During Mehta’s four-year tenure as an associate justice, traveling from court to court as needed, Ayer became a second home for her.
“Ayer is just very special to me. It was the only key I kept on my home keys,” she said in an interview before the ceremony.
The cases she hears are interesting and varied. A good 90 percent are criminal and the rest civil. Gun violence, driving under the influence and domestic violence are all a part of the court’s load. Oh, and lots of restraining orders she said.
Mehta sees the people involved in the court system as those who need help.
As an assistant district attorney in Middlesex, where she received the John Droney Award for Excellence in the District Courts, her goal was justice, not convictions, she said.
As a prosecutor she saw the need for defense and left the DA’s office, opening her own firm and often representing indigent clients.
Not only was she seeing the law from the other side, the switch had another benefit. “It’s fun to get out of your comfort zone,” she said.
As a working mother of three, her experience helps her relate to people under pressure. “When you’re in the thick of it, you’re living the life, it makes you really respect peoples’ time,” she said.
Her job has led to other joys. While attending the confirmation hearings in Washington D.C. for Margaret Guzman, the previous first justice in Ayer who was nominated by Pres. Joseph Biden to a federal judgeship, Mehta saw many prominent legislators.
“I was starstruck,” she said.
Mehta was depicted in an exhibit at the Concord Museum that featured trailblazing women, named “Every Path Laid Open: Women of Concord and the Quest for Equality.”
Her parents were born in India and one of her board positions was on the South Asian Bar Association. She earned her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, and she earned her J.D. from Boston University School of Law
“It’s been a good journey, I must say,” she said.