Judges meet with the community and answer questions at an East Flatbush town hall
Judges matter in your lives.
For the average voter, picking a judge can often be the hardest decision on the ballot as there is often a lack of information available about candidates as compared to races for executives and legislators.
Some local politicians in Brooklyn tried to help community members in East Flatbush get to know some of the judges by hosting a town hall meeting where judicial candidates could talk about why they became judges and answer audience questions.
“People don’t know the role of the judges, how they got elected, how political it can get,’ said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. “Most people just don’t know the process, so typically when people are out voting for judges they’re just voting on a name that is comfortable to them.
“That’s not how we should be voting,” Bichotte continued. “We should be voting for the best candidates. For the judges who will be the best representation for our community.”
Not all judges running for office attended, partially due to religious holidays, but three were in attendance: Hon. Ingrid Joseph, supervising judge of the Kings County Civil Court, and Hon. Loren Baily, who are running for re-election on the Democratic primary ballot on Sept. 13; and Hon. Harriet Thompson, who is running for judge in the Surrogate’s Court and will be on the general election ballot in November.
The two judges up for re-election spoke in length about their backgrounds. Justice Joseph, who is also an adjunct professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, called herself the “travelling judge” because she has worked in nearly every courthouse in Brooklyn. She also discussed some of the things she is doing in the Brooklyn Civil Court as supervising judge.
“We’ve made efforts to make the courts as user friendly as possible,” Justice Joseph said. “We have do-it-yourself forms that you can come in and sit at a computer and fill out, we’ve got signs in the building to try to help direct you to the place you need to be, and we’ve worked on getting rid of old cases so that your case won’t take as long as it did before.”
Justice Baily emphasized her 20-year career as a judge and also spoke on her previous experience working with Brooklyn Legal Services. Currently, she serves as acting supreme court justice where she primarily hears accident cases, personal injury cases, medical malpractice cases and other kinds of malpractice cases.
“For me, it is really important that people who are not represented by counsel understand the process and get a full opportunity to speak,” Justice Baily said. “It should be a good experience coming into the court. In my courtroom, I make clear that I put my pants on one leg at a time, I’m a human being and people can talk to me about what they want.”
Justice Thompson currently serves as an acting justice of the Supreme Court. She is not running against an opponent in the primary, but will be on the ballot for the general election. She spent a lot of her time explaining what a Surrogate’s Court judge does and why it’s important.
“The ‘Queen of Soul,’ Aretha Franklin, did not have a will and died a multi-millionaire,” Justice Thompson said. “(Her estate) is going to be determined by somebody who is not her.”
Both justices, Baily and Joseph, have been approved for election to the Civil Court by the Brooklyn Bar Association. They are running alongside Sheryl Orwel and Saul Cohen for two countywide civil court bench spots in the Sept. 13 primary. Hon. Harriet Thompson will appear on the ballot on Nov. 6.
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