Brooklyn Family Court Judge Javier Vargas honored by the Cervantes Society
Court Officers and Chief Judge DiFiore among others honored
The Cervantes Society of the Courts of the State of New York held its 23rd annual awards ceremony in Manhattan on Tuesday where it honored four including Brooklyn Family Court Judge Javier Vargas.
“I’m glad that we’re honoring Judge Vargas,” said Hon. Ariel E. Belen. “He has served with distinction, I can tell you myself. More than once I have been able to turn to him for help.”
Judge Vargas was honored alongside Hon. Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the Court of Appeals and the State of New York; and a pair of court officers, Edwin Colon, from Brooklyn Supreme Court, Civil Term; and Lorraine Alicea of the Bronx Supreme Court, Civil Term.
While all of the honorees have made significant contributions to the legal community, these four were picked not only because of their distinguished careers, but also for what they did in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“This ceremony is on the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico,” said Major Luz Bryan, president of the Cervantes Society. “We are recognizing four individuals tonight for the work and leadership they have shown in assisting the people of Puerto Rico.”
The ceremony, which was held at the Manhattan Supreme Court, Civil Term, was started off when Colon led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. Jose Manuel Mitaynes sang the national anthem and Sgt. Michael Garcia performed the invocation. Justice Belen, who served as master of ceremonies, the introduced each of the honorees.
Justice Belen praised Judge Vargas’ work as a mentor to high school and college students and his many contributions to the legal community before he presented him with the Spirit Award.
Judge Vargas, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo, has worked in various positions within the court system since 1993. In 2013 he became a Civil Court judge assigned to the Housing Part in the Bronx and in 2015 he became a judge in Brooklyn Family Court. He was named Latino Judge of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association in 2017 and is currently president-elect of the Puerto Rican Bar Association.
“I am distinctly honored to be receiving this award next to our Chief Judge DiFiore and so grateful to receive this recognition by the Cervantes Society which puts me with prior recipients whom I admire,” Judge Vargas said. “The Honorable Ariel Belen early on supported me and encouraged me to become a judge.”
Judge Vargas explained that he loves helping people, particularly immigrants involved in special immigrant status cases, and that he particularly likes helping out students trying to get into law school. His excitement was somewhat tempered, he explained, because of the current climate immigrants face in the U.S.
“We cannot despair,” Vargas said. “We can all volunteer to help immigrants, perhaps be foster parents, perhaps making donations, or tutoring those children. If you are an attorney perhaps you could donate pro bono legal services.”
After Chief Judge DiFiore was presented with the Leadership Award by Justice Belen, she talked about the important role that the Cervantes Society plays within the court system and said that working with organizations like it is one of the best parts of being the chief judge.
“When Cervantes and the courts worked together in the wake of Hurricane Maria, we found ways to be supportive of each other and make certain that we would collaborate to bring much needed assistance and donations to the people of Puerto Rico who were devastated during the hurricanes,” DiFiore said.
Officer Colon was recognized for his work within the Cervantes Society, including working with the Toys for Tots Committee, and also for his work with the students of P.S. 151. Justice Belen also pointed out a lot of the work he did after Hurricane Maria.
“He tirelessly worked on getting donations, packing sorting and delivering those donations,” Justice Belen said. “Many people donated, but it wouldn’t have been possible without people like him working behind the scenes. He also designed a T-shirt that was very successful and all of the proceeds from the sales went to the Ricky Martin Foundation to assist some of the work in Puerto Rico.”
During the ceremony, Justice Belen and Major Bryan also announced that the Cervantes Society will be giving Tonni Dawn Sherard, a Stony Brook University student, the 2018 Gilberto Ramirez Scholarship.
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