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Justice Laporte recalls her unlikely ascent to the bench at Hispanic Heritage Celebration

September 25, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Justice Evelyn J. Laporte (left) was presented with a certificate by Supervising Judge Amanda White during the Kings County Family Court Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration this past Thursday. Hon. Jacqueline D. Williams is in the background. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

Justice Evelyn J. Laporte’s unlikely legal career started in Puerto Rico, where after just one year in college, she left to come to the U.S. to pursue her goal of becoming a flight attendant. Somewhere in her transition, her goal changed — and today she is a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

“Sometimes on your journey to accomplish your dream, you get lost and get a better dream — and that’s exactly what happened to me,” Laporte said. “If any of you are doubting your dream, go after it with a passion, and don’t be afraid to try something different.”

Laporte recalled her story as the keynote speaker at the third annual Kings County Family Court Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday.

Laporte missed out on her early dream of being a flight attendant because she didn’t know any English when she came to the U.S., so she went to John Jay College to learn. She graduated from John Jay and also got a master’s degree in criminal justice.

Afterward, with very little money, Laporte said she often ate only cookies, bread and milk, living off student loans while going to Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. After graduation, she worked as an attorney and an assistant district attorney, and in 2004, she ran for and was successfully elected to the bench.

“Before that, I never dared to think about becoming a judge because of the way I speak with an accent and the way I look,” Laporte said. “Throughout my years of experience as an attorney, I never saw anybody that looked like me. Nobody else sounded like me; they sounded perfect and proper, and I never dared to think that was a position in my reach.”

One of the members of the family court’s Hispanic Heritage Month committee said that Justice Laporte’s story perfectly fit into this year’s theme, “Hispanic Americans: Energizing Our Nation’s Diversity.”

“From one conversation, you’ll realize that Justice LaPorte represents all of that,” Hon. Jacqueline D. Williams said. “Her personal story [of] arriving here from Puerto Rico, her efforts in obtaining her education, to her work experience over the years, her practice as an assistant district attorney, her introduction to the bench as an elected civil court judge to her ultimate rise to the supreme court reflect her determination, her spirit and her commitment to the legal process.”

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As part of the court’s celebration, it also recognized Vilma J. Cruz, who has been essential in organizing events at the court over the years, including the first two Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrations.

“Without a doubt, from the early days of American history, Latinos have played an important role in shaping our nation,” said Supervising Judge Amanda White. “It is an honor to be able to celebrate such a rich heritage at such an event. We’re proud that our court also reflects this diversity within our ranks in our judges, our court attorneys, our court officers, our clerks. So many of our court staff are advocates.”

Shown above: From left: Hon. Robert Mulroy; Hon. Jacqueline Williams; Hon. ShawnDya L. Simpson; Hon. Eric Pitchal; Hon. Alan Beckoff; Hon. Amanda White, Supervising Judge, Kings County Family Court; Hon. Terrence McElrath; Hon. Lillian Wan; Hon. Judith Waksberg; Hon. Yvonne Lewis; Hon. Ann E. O’Shea; Hon. Adam Silvera; Hon. Evelyn J. Laporte; Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix; Hon. Elizabeth Barnett; Hon. W. Franc Perry; Hon. Susan Danoff; Hon. Alicea Elloras; Hon. Jacqueline Deane; Hon. Ilana Gruebel; Hon. Margarita Lopez-Torres and Hon. William Miller.

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