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Brooklyn Judges head to Panama to take part in National Bar Association conference

February 8, 2019 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A group of Brooklyn judges took part in a trip to Panama City, Panama, as part of the National Bar Association Judicial Council’s 2019 Mid-Winter Meeting.

Hon. Cenceria Edwards, the treasurer of the NBA Judicial Council, and Hon. Craig Walker, who sits on the council’s board, led a group of eight judges from Brooklyn. The others included Hon. Joanne Quinones, Hon. Carolyn Wade, Hon. Claudia DePeyster, and retired judges Hon. L. Priscilla Hall, Hon. Yvonne Lewis and Hon. Lewis L. Douglass.

Judges doing a boat tour of Monkey Island.

The NBA Judicial Council was created by its parent organization under then-President Edward F. Bell in 1971 in response to the increasing number of black judges. It’s meant to be an independent and autonomous section of the National Bar Association with the objective to rid the judiciary and law enforcement process of racial and class bias.

As part of that mission, the group meets regularly around the world at conferences to exchange ideas and keep judges updated to the newest developments in the law.

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“The conference went really well, and the seminar was exceptional,” said Judge Edwards. “The seminar that struck me the most was about artificial intelligence and Facebook. There was also a seminar on the abduction of women and children and how we as judges can influence the ability to find them and how we can protect them.

Judges from Brooklyn got an opportunity to meet with some of the indigenous people of Panama as part of their trip.

“The whole event is meant for members who are more actively involved in the NBA Judicial Council,” Judge Edwards said. “We hold meetings, seminars, and we plan for the upcoming conferences as well.”

Judge Edwards arrived in Panama three days before the conference, but said she was so busy that she hardly got to be a tourist. The contingent of local judges, which includes some Manhattan, Bronx and Queens judges as well, did get a boat tour of Monkey Island. They had the chance to meet with some indigenous people of Panama who shared their history and culture with them.

“On these trips we meet with the local judiciary, and we try to get an understanding of their laws and the unique challenges that they face,” Judge Edwards said. “One trip, I had an opportunity to visit a trial on war crimes. We go to the different courts as well to understand their system of laws, how it works and how they operate as judges.

“We do a lot of public service work in different areas, but mostly we try to go to countries that are a little more distressed to do public service work. When we can, we have local judges and lawyers participate.”

Judges sitting in on a lecture on artificial intelligence. Pictured from left: Hon. Guy Mitchell, Hon. Marsha Michael, Hon. Claudia DePeyster, Hon. Alvin Yearwood and Hon. Joanne Quinones.

Judge Edwards is also helping to plan for the NBA’s annual conference that will take place in Manhattan in July, along with Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix and Justice Hall, the other co-chairpersons of the planning committee, plus Hon. Lisa Ottley. They expect at least 300 judges from across the country will participate.

“One of the highlights for that event will be a panel of some New York and national Federal Court judges,” Judge Edwards said. “We’re going to highlight some of the good work that the federal judges do.”

Some Panamanian judges took part in the conference, and, since they spoke only Spanish, Hon. Joanne Quinones was called upon to translate.

Judge Edwards pointed out that, while the NBA Judicial Council was created to assist black judges eradicate racism from the legal system, non-minority judges are encouraged to take part as well. Anyone interested in attending or contributing is encouraged to reach out to Judge Edwards.

All of the judges in attendance at convocation, including Hon. Cenceria Edwards and Hon. Craig Walker (at the foot of the steps) and Hon. Carolyn Wade, Hon. Claudia DePeyster, Hon. Joanne Quinones, Hon. Yvonne Lewis and Hon. Lewis Douglass (at the top of the balcony).

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