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Experiencing Injustice, and Now Prosecuting It, From the Top

Gurbir Grewal, who is expected to become the next New Jersey attorney general, said it was important for a Sikh American...

PARAMUS, N.J. — On a back wall in Gurbir Grewal’s office, three portraits of Japanese-Americans detained at the Manzanar internment camp in California hang above his desk, a reminder for Mr. Grewal of when the power of domestic law went horribly awry.

Though the portraits are from decades ago, Mr. Grewal sees alarming parallels to the current political environment, where patriotism is sometimes measured by race, faith or political affiliation. The notion to combat this type of injustice has helped inspire Mr. Grewal, a Sikh, throughout his career, an arc that has seen him rise through the ranks of the federal justice system and now has him poised to become New Jersey’s top law enforcement official.

If, as expected, the Democratic-controlled State Legislature approves his appointment by the governor-elect, Philip D. Murphy, Mr. Grewal, 44, would become the first Sikh in the United States to hold the position of statewide attorney general.

“It’s important for someone like me to do this job that’s front-line law enforcement, to show people that you don’t have to look a particular way to love this country,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Grewal made his mark in criminal justice with significant federal convictions in financial and cybersecurity crimes, including a case involving two Russian hackers named Drinkman and Smilianets, who oversaw a network that stole more than 160 million credit card numbers. 

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