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Patria Frias-Colon gears up for general election, addresses Puerto Rico situation

October 20, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Civil Court Judge candidate Patria Frias-Colón visits the Brooklyn Eagle offices. Eagle photo by John Alexander
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Patria Frias-Colón won the Democratic primary seeking a seat on the Civil Court Bench. If she is elected in the general election in November, she will be the first Dominican-born to serve in such a capacity.

Frias-Colón moved to Brooklyn as a young girl. She graduated from Bushwick High School, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester, and graduated from Hofstra University School of Law. She was awarded a Public Justice scholarship.

Frias-Colón has most recently served as the Brooklyn Borough Chief for the New York City law Department’s Family Court Division, where she oversees the juvenile justice practice.

Frias-Colón spoke to the Brooklyn Eagle about her primary win and what’s ahead for her in the general election. She also addressed the situation in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Frias-Colón’s husband is from Puerto Rico.


Brooklyn Eagle: First of all, congratulations on your primary win. Please tell us about the next step — running in the general election.

Frias-Colon: Thank you so much. It was a huge battle. As you know, there were 11 candidates running in the Democratic primary for five Civil Court judgeships. And I came in third from the 11 candidates, so I was very pleased with that, and very happy that all my engagement with the Brooklyn community paid off, which was nice.


Eagle: So now there are five open Civil Court judge positions in the general election facing challenges from another party, correct?

Frias-Colón: Well, there are actually six. The reason that there are six in the general election instead of five as in the primary is that one position went unchallenged during the primary. And that one belonged to currently sitting Judge Carolyn E. Wade. So Civil Court sitting Judge Wade did not have a primary because she did not have anyone challenging her from the Reform Party slate. But now that seat becomes available in the general election, and so there are six Civil Court judgeship positions, two of which are currently sitting judges.


Eagle: So out of the six positions, with six people running on the Democratic slate that means there are challenges from another party?

Frias-Colón: Yes, and that would be from the Reform Party, although it has not been confirmed as of yet. These candidates were people who were originally on the Democratic slate but did not win the Democratic primary and were able to secure support from the Reform Party, so I expect that the Reform Party will have them as candidates in the general election.


Eagle: Do you know who you are running against from the Reform Party?

Frias-Colón: The ballots are not made available to us until two weeks before the election. And there’s also the Republican Party that can have a candidate.


Eagle: Who are the five Democrats running alongside you?

Frias-Colón: In addition to myself we have Connie Melendez, Judge Robin Sheares, Judge Carolyn Wade, Ellen Edwards and Sandra Roper.


Eagle: So what is the next step with the election coming up?

Frias-Colon: Nov. 7 is our election. And on that day we have to remind folks to definitely come out and vote. Because even though I was happy that I came in third during the primary election, it was the second-lowest voter turnout. So I was disappointed in that. If anything, what I’ve learned through this process is one, having a lot more respect and appreciation for elected officials and the jobs that they have to do, especially in terms of getting the community civically engaged. And secondly, I learned that it is very challenging to get the community civically engaged.


Eagle: Have you heard from Democratic Party leader Frank Seddio, and has he offered you any words of advice?

Frias-Colón: Frank was amazing during this entire process, I have to say. He gave us so much support. Not just by endorsing us, but he put the entire weight of the Democratic Party behind us. That included the full assistance of the district leaders from Brooklyn and many of the borough’s elected officials. He’s just a wonderful leader who allowed me to participate in this process.


Eagle: Being from the Dominican Republic, and your husband from Puerto Rico, I have to ask: In light of what happened with Hurricanes Irma and Maria, how is your family over there?

Frias-Colón: My family in the Dominican Republic is okay, because as a result of Hurricane Irma, the eastern part of the country was really adversely affected. In terms of Puerto Rico, we have been so disappointed with the response, at least what we have heard from the people who are there and trying to survive. The good news is that there were no deaths in our family. But there have been deaths in Puerto Rico as a result of the hurricane.

We have never experienced anything of this magnitude before. As a family we are trying to stick together as best we can. It’s difficult to have communication, but we know someone who was there and returned. He lived through the hurricane and was able to come back and be with his family. And so he reported that there were no casualties on my husband’s side of the family, although physical structures were greatly damaged.


Eagle: What would you like people to know about you as you prepare for the general election?

Frias-Colón: I want people to remember that first, I am an immigrant. I want immigrants in our communities to understand that they can live their dreams regardless of what they may be going through and what others tell them. When I was growing up I had people who had no confidence in my ability to become anything really, but there were others who did have that confidence in me. I want all our communities to recognize the value in our immigrant population.

This is a historic election for Brooklyn.  I will be the first Dominican-born to be elected to serve as a civil court judge. It has never happened in the history of this Borough. I’m really proud of that but I’m also not happy with that reality. Dominicans in the United States have contributed so much and in so many ways and we’re still talking about firsts.

Secondly, I want people to know that when you come to my courtroom, you will leave satisfied that you were heard. You may not be happy with your outcome, but you will be pleased that you have come into a courtroom where there is a judge who is knowledgeable and will apply the law even-handedly, objectively and the way it should be done.


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