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Judge Simpson inducted into Brooklyn Supreme Court

January 17, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
ShawnDya Simpson addresses the packed ceremonial courtroom in Borough Hall on Thursday after her swearing in. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

In front of a packed audience in Borough Hall’s ceremonial courtroom, ShawnDya Simpson had one of Brooklyn’s largest induction ceremonies this year. It featured multiple politicians, nearly 20 speakers and even a former NBA player as she was sworn in as the first Panamanian-American judge in the New York State Supreme Court on Thursday.

“We are here to celebrate our sister in her induction tonight, Judge ShawnDya Louisa Simpson,” said Assemblymember Latrice Walker, who served as the master of ceremonies for the event. “It’s great to see a woman named ShawnDya from East New York make it as a Supreme Court justice. That says to a young girl from Brownsville named Latrice or a young lady in Long Island who is in law school named Lasheda that we too can have this day, and the world is limitless.”

Borough President Eric Adams; Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte; District Leader Olanike T. Alabi, of the 57th District; District Leader Anthony Jones, of the 55th District; Alejandro Posse, the general counsel of Panama in New York City; and Comptroller Scott Stringer were just a few of the many politicians who spoke at the event.

Brooklyn’s judges attended in force to support Simpson. Of the dozens in attendance, Hon. Matthew J. D’Emic and Hon. Theresa Ciccotto made remarks. Other members of the legal community who spoke included Dean Kevin Deasy, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Gerald L. Shargel; and Hon. Michelle A. Armstrong, supervising judge, Criminal Court, Queens County. Hon. L. Priscilla Hall gave remarks and performed at the induction ceremony.

“Judge Simpson has the temperament and determination, she has served as a law professor, an assistant district attorney, an assistant attorney general, a television legal commentator and analyst, and, since 2004, as a judge handling civil and criminal cases,” Hall said. “She is spectacularly prepared to assume her duties of office.”

Many of the speakers remarked how incredible it was to have a girl who grew up in the projects in East New York become a state Supreme Court justice and said that it made her uniquely qualified. Ciccotto, who worked with Simpson at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office together prior to joining the bench, said that it was her past experiences that made her who she is today.

“The true essence of our friend ShawnDya is her heart,” Ciccotto said. “Her heart is full of compassion, sensitivity, integrity and honor. It’s her heart that gives her the desire to right wrongs, repair lives and to give hope. It is also the heart of a lion, a champion, a warrior, a hero who fought long and hard in the face of adversity for what was and rightfully is hers.”

D’Emic added that one of her best qualities as a judge is her ability to handle pressure.

“Judge Simpson has heard some very high-profile cases that have garnered national attention,” D’Emic said. “High-profile cases mean high pressure, and yet this is a woman who handles all of these cases with humor, with grace and she is unflappable. Those are qualities that we have to appreciate.”

Former New York Knick and former classmate of Simpson’s at the University of Pittsburgh Charles Smith also spoke, as did her husband Jacob Walthour, two of her daughters and two of her nieces.

After everyone had given their remarks and the pomp and circumstance was over, Simpson took the podium and spoke about the sacrifices that her grandmothers made to get her to this point and what her mother went through raising her daughters in the projects. She also spoke about her duty to not forget where she came when on the bench.

“I believe it is my obligation and responsibility to be fair. As a judge it is not only about judging, but invoking justice, which is dignity for all, integrity for all. Given the current climate of distrust, I increasingly believe that more weight should be given to integrity than any other quality.” 

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