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Justice Randall Eng offers tips to Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association on ‘How to Become a Judge’

October 6, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA) had an opportunity to sit down for lunch with Hon. Randall T. Eng on Wednesday. Pictured is BWBA President Sara J. Gozo and Hon. Randall T. Eng. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA) kicked off its “Lunch with a Judge” series in Brooklyn Heights on Wednesday with Hon. Randall T. Eng, presiding justice of the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department.

“This has been billed as ‘Lunch with a Judge,’ but we have so many judges here that it’s more like lunch with a lawyer,” Eng said jokingly after recognizing the many members of the BWBA who are judges themselves.

The series is designed to help BWBA members get to know judges away from the courtroom atmosphere. It also gives the judges an opportunity to discuss a topic they feel would be beneficial to the Brooklyn legal community. This event was titled “How to Become a Judge,” which Eng discussed, in addition to offering some notes on oral arguments.

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Eng, who has been both appointed to the bench and elected during his career, spoke mostly about being appointed, though he did give tips on both. His two biggest suggestions for those at the event were to keep active records of their experience as an attorney and to participate in voluntary judicial screening commissions such as the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission (IJEQC).

“You want to present a clear picture of yourself as a candidate for judgeship,” said Eng. “I’ve found candidates to be at a disadvantage when they can’t come up with their 10 most recent trials, the names of the judges, the names of the adversaries. I assure that these things will come back and haunt you if you are submitting an application and you don’t have these details.”

Eng explained that while most judicial qualification commissions are not mandatory, they can help prove an attorney is qualified, especially to the general public when running in an election.

“It’s voluntary, and I’m sorry to say that many candidates don’t avail themselves to screening by it,” Eng said of the IJEQC. “I don’t know why, because the process itself is something that is helpful in that the results are published and available publically. That is a credential that I think is useful to have if you are a serious candidate, if you can say that you’ve passed the scrutiny of this body.”

Eng noted that being qualified for the position is not the only prerequisite for the job and explained that it is necessary to have the right temperament.

“It is very easy to lose it in the courtroom, but I assure you that when they evaluate you for judicial office, they are going to be looking at your legal ability and your temperament,” he said. “Anything regarding your temperament you should be addressing immediately if you can. If there are any grievance complaints against you, don’t blow it off.”

Attorneys must have at least 10 years of experience before they can become a judge, but Eng suggested that there are positions within the legal community that can help set a person on a path to the bench. He recommended that interested people should consider looking into becoming a court attorney referee.

“You have to know the lay of the land,” Eng said. “If you have a judgeship in mind, find out what the process is. Find out who the players are; they’re all knowable online. You have to do your homework and prepare the package to make yourself the kind of candidate that you want presented.”

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