Gina Levy Abadi installed as Brooklyn’s newest judge after 17 years as a law clerk
Members of the Brooklyn legal community packed into a standing-room-only ceremonial courtroom at Borough Hall on Thursday night for the installation of the newly elected Civil Court Judge Gina Levy Abadi.
The event was hosted by Sue Ann Partnow, who serves as the District Leader in Brooklyn’s 59th Assembly District. After a series of speeches, there was a robing ceremony for the new judge, who then got a chance to thank everyone who helped her in her campaign.
“Brooklyn needs highly accommodating and dedicated jurists,” said Hon. Lawrence Knipel, administrative judge for the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Civil Term. “I have no doubt that Gina Levy Abadi will administer justice fairly, honestly and expeditiously and will prove to be a highly valued addition to the bench. Welcome Brooklyn’s newest judge, Gina Levy Abadi.”
After David Abadi opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, Dana Esther Gelfand sang the national anthem, Rabbi Abraham Kayoun read the invocation and Partnow began introducing each of the speakers.
Hon. Frank Seddio, Hon. George Silver, Administrative Judge Knipel, former City Council member Lew Fidler, Charles Small, Ron Tawil, Nathan Hasbani, Maria Aragona, Hon. Donald Kurtz, and two of Abadi’s children, Vivian and Elie, were among the speakers.
“I’m not a betting man, but I would bet that she’s going to be a star on the bench,” said Justice Silver, the deputy chief administrative judge of the NYC Courts. “The citizens of Brooklyn certainly got it right [in] electing her.”
Most of the speeches talked about Judge Levy Abadi’s background or her tireless efforts during her campaign. However, some couldn’t help but roast her a little bit on her big occasion.
“In April 2013, our photo was published together in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle,” said Aragona, president of the Federation of Columbian Lawyers. “Gina was so excited that our photo was in the paper that she ran into Judge Kurtz saying, ‘Look, look our photo is in the paper.’ His response was, ‘you look like two meatballs.’ Thanks to the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Brooklyn Eagle and — most importantly — Judge Kurtz, the meatball nickname may stick with us for an eternity.”
Justice Kurtz also couldn’t help but tease his law clerk for the past 17 years in both the Civil Court and later Supreme Court. When he finally stopped joking, he talked about trying to mentor her, having her sit beside him on the bench very early in her career and how proud he was to see her moving on.
“All kidding aside, Gina has developed a great reputation both in the legal community as well as in the Brooklyn political establishment,” Kurtz said. “In fact, I’m up for reelection next year and when I go before the judicial screening committee, I’m not going to be talking so much about myself so much as I’m going to be stressing that I worked alongside Gina Abadi.”
After she was officially sworn in by Justice Kurtz, Judge Levy Abadi had a lot of people to thank for helping her to get elected. Though the list of people to thank was long, she made a special point to share her parents’ story — how they were forced to flee Syria in the 1970s due to the religious persecution of Jews before she was born, and how they came to the U.S. as refugees.
She explained that despite the fact that her parents, David and Ivette, never graduated from high school themselves, they always encouraged her education and professional goals that weren’t always achievable in her community growing up.
“I’m going to tell you all a secret that I’m not sure my parents would deny — they were worried about me because I wasn’t the most studious,” said Judge Levy Abadi, who graduated from Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School with honors. “As my mom often describes, my sister would come home from school with a 98 and cry about the two points she missed. I would come home waving my test excited that I passed.
“She never said I couldn’t do it. She never said I wouldn’t be anything. She always encouraged me,” Levy Abadi continued. “It was commonplace for the girls in my high school to drop out and get married. It was even more common that they wouldn’t go to college — and at the time, it was unheard of for a woman to go to law school.”
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