Peter Sakai was sworn in as the first Asian American district judge in Bexar County

SAN ANTONIO — For the first time in 21 years, a new Bexar County judge will head the Commissioners Court.

Peter Sakai, a Democrat elected by a comfortable margin in November, was sworn in before a crowd of notables including fellow judges, friends and family on Sunday.

The ceremony, held in the District Court’s double-height courtroom, a large ceremonial room, was steeped in allusions to Sakai’s Asian origins. He is the first Asian American to serve as a judge in Bexar County.

Sakai stood on the dais, arms crossed, while brightly dressed lion dancers from the San Antonio Lion Dance Association danced around the courtroom to the pounding drums and cymbals.

Sakai was accompanied by his wife, Raquel “Rachel” M. Dias-Sakai, and family members as he was sworn in by US District Judge Orlando L. Garcia. Sakai took the oath with a hand placed on his father Pete Yutaka Sakai’s 1957 Bible.

“My name is Judge Peter Sakai and I am pleased to be your judge in Bexar County,” he told the crowd of more than 200.

Sakai, who defeated Republican Trish DeBerry in the Nov. 8 election, said he will focus on what he calls the “Bexar needs” — education, workforce development, public safety, public health and accountability to the citizens of Bexar County.

Before running for district judge, Sakai was a district court judge for many years. Prior to that, he was an appellate attorney with the Bexar County Attorney’s Office and an attorney in private practice.

Sakai replaces Nelson Wolff, who has served as a district judge since 2001. Wolff, 82, a former San Antonio congressman, city councilman and mayor, did not seek re-election and is retiring from politics.

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Sakai said the visions of the two men were closely aligned. They worked together for much of Sakai’s tenure at the 225th Circuit Court, to which he was first elected in 2006.


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Attorney Fidel Rodriguez Jr., who served as master of ceremonies at the inauguration, recalled attending law school with Sakai and Garcia at the University of Texas at Austin. They also played baseball together.

“Peter was a winner then, and ladies and gentlemen, he’s a winner now,” Rodriguez said. “His teammates are now citizens of Bexar County, and I’m proud to announce that.”

Sakai told the audience that when he was a student at UT, there weren’t many minorities and he didn’t think he belonged.

“Judge Garcia said hold on and end it, and for that judge I am forever grateful,” Sakai said.