Latino Judges Association honors three including Brooklyn’s Chief Judge Irizarry
Irizarry: More Hispanic judges are needed in Federal Court
The Latino Judges Association held its annual Hispanic Heritage Awards Gala at Battery Gardens in Manhattan on Tuesday where it honored three including Hon. Dora Irizarry, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
“This is our largest dinner to date and that is due in great part to our spectacular honorees,” said Hon. Joanne Quinones, the president of the Latino Judges Association. “Tonight’s success is due in large part to you our guests who came out to support our organization and our honorees.”
Chief Judge Irizarry was given the Hon. Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick Lifetime Achievement Award and the other honorees included Joyce T. Hartsfield, the executive director of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission, and Hon. Joseph Zayas, the administrative judge of the Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term.
When she accepted her award, Chief Judge Irizarry pointed out that while Brooklyn and New York City have diverse benches that include many Hispanic judges that there are many courts that lack them, especially in the federal court system.
“There is still a lot left to be done,” Chief Judge Irizarry said. “While a lot of strides have been made in the state courts, everyone forgets about the federal courts. I will soon be a senior judge and there will be a vacancy in my court.”
She then pointed out that in this history of the Second Circuit of the U.S. District Courts there have only been two Hispanic chief judges — Hon. José A. Cabranes and Hon. Sonia Sotomayor.
“Within the entire Second Circuit, only the Eastern District of New York has a diverse magistrate judge bench. Now,” Irizarry said. “There are no Hispanic magistrate judges in the Southern District or North District of New York. It’s the same in the Western District, the District of Connecticut and the District of Vermont.”
“We need to encourage our law students to apply to these positions of leadership in the future,” Irizarry went on to say. “That way we can hope to get our future magistrate judges and district judges.”
Hon. Rolando T. Acosta, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, presented Hon. Joseph Zayas with the Hon. John Carro Award for Judicial Excellence. Hon. Zayas was a former law clerk for Judge Acosta, and he said that he’s proud to have seen him become an excellent administrator.
Hon. Zayas explained that it was an extreme honor not only to be given the award, but for it to be named after a judge who helped him become a judge himself and that he received it from Acosta, one of his earliest bosses and best friends.
“I feel like the most blessed man in New York City tonight,” Justice Zayas said. “Imagine the pride I feel today. I get to receive a judicial excellence award from an esteemed association that I love so much and am so proud of. It’s an association of judges with whom I’ve build great relationships with over the years.”
Perhaps a better person to receive the Hon. Frank Torres Award for Commitment to Diversity could not have been chosen as Hartsfield has served as the chair of the court’s diversity committee for the last 25 years and worked as a legal aid attorney and solo practitioner prior to that.
“Diversity must always matter,” Hartsfield said. “Coming from the Midwest I didn’t know how diverse “diverse” can be, but now I know. We must encourage and promote young lawyers from within our communities and we must not let poverty stand in the way of the next great jurists and lawyers to emerge from our group.”
Justice Quinones also took an opportunity to acknowledge Israel Rodriguez Rubio, a Columbia University Law School student who served as a summer intern for the Latino Judges Association. The association started the program just two years ago, and Rodriguez Rubio had nothing but great things to say about it.
“Ever since I was five years old I wanted to be a lawyer and I used to tell people that I wanted to be a lawyer or a Power Ranger,” Rodriguez Rubio joked. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity to work with the judges and their staff. All of them imparted on me their ability, their experiences, their adversity and the ability to overcome the challenges in their lives to make a difference.”
Finally, as the gala wrapped up, Hon. Sallie Manzanet-Daniels stood up to talk about what a fabulous job Justice Quinones has done in helping to organize the event and as president.
“Serving on a board is really hard because you don’t always have great leadership,” Justice Manzanet-Daniels said. “It’s been the best board experience I have ever had in over 30 years of sitting on boards. That’s not a small measure because of this incredible woman. I could do without the 2 a.m. texts, and the 6 a.m. texts and emails, but when I tell you she’s on point, she cares about our community, and steps up when we need her to.”
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