Hon. César Quiñones remembered as a humble with great temperament for the bench
Friends and family members of the late Justice Cesar Quinones held a memorial service in his honor at the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Criminal Term, on Friday, Sept. 14.
The event was meant as a way to highlight Quinones’ career achievements and to let his colleagues and family members get a chance to remember him and his contributions to the bench. Nearly 10 people spoke on Friday night and nearly all of them described Quinones as a judge with excellent temperament who was extremely humble and a loyal friend.
“The inspiration for this event came from two people who knew Uncle Cesar very well. That’s Judge Ciparick and his former law partner Joseph R. Erazo,” said Susan L. Quinones, the judge’s niece.
“My uncle was a very private person and he would be very humbled by all of you being here, especially knowing that some of you came from very far distances,” Susan continued. “Many of you only had an opportunity to get a limited glimpse of my uncle and who he was, but he was a renaissance man.”
Judge Ciparick and Erazo were the first to speak about Justice Quinones. The two recalled his 25-year career, where he was known as a compassionate judge who believed in reparative justice. Quinones was installed to the NYC Family Court bench in 1970 under Mayor John V. Lindsay and appointed by Mayor Abraham D. Beame in 1976. In 1987, Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed Quinones to the Court of Claims and assigned him to the Supreme Court, Criminal Division, where he served until his retirement in 1995.
“He has been consistently described as a fair, effective, knowledgeable, timely, committed and enthusiastic judge,” said Justice Ciparick. “What more do we want from a judge?”
Erazo, Quinones’ law partner, explained that while Quinones was advancing the cause for Puerto Rican people as a judge, their law partnership allowed Erazo himself to get involved in community activism.
“Cesar let me loose,’ Erazo said. “We had a law firm and he let me out to do a lot of community stuff. I was a rabble rouser and a troublemaker, because it was a time where Puerto Ricans struggled for community recognition.”
Other speakers included Hon. Jeanette Ruiz, administrative judge of the NYC Family Courts, Hon. Joseph A. Zayas, administrative judge of the Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term, retired Justice Lewis Douglass, Stephanie R. Correa and a handful of family members including E. Ricardo Quinones.
“He was so humble, had a great temperament and always wanted to do justice,” Justice Ruiz said. “He was a law professor who taught juvenile justice and he would be so happy with the Raise the Age programs we are implementing. He would be really cheering us along. But I stand on his shoulders and would not be able to do this if not for the work he had done before.”
Quinones, a prolific piano player who was often known to joke that he played on the same bandstands as Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri, just not at the same time. His law practice also represented neighborhood groups like the Puerto Rican Community Development Project and worked to support then Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
Quinones was also the founding member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage, which is now known as the Latino Judges Association. He served as chairman of the board of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Legal Services Corporation and was on the board of other local organizations including Medgar Evers College.
He served as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University School of Law and was a member of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commision on Minorities.
“Justice Quinones was very kind and always listened to you and made you feel important,” said Justice Margarita Lopez Torres. “To be a kid from East New York and to have a person like that care about me — it made such a big impact on my life.”
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