Downtown

On RBG’s birthday, Brooklyn judges reflect on the doors she opened

March 15, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
Judge Connie Mallafre Melendez was one of those who spoke about how important Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy is to women in the legal profession. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

A birthday party for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hosted by Borough President Eric Adams gave three Brooklyn judges the chance to reflect on how Bader Ginsburg’s career path cleared the way for their own.

The rally, held on the Supreme Court justice’s 86th birthday on Friday, was a part of Adams’ effort to get the Brooklyn Municipal Building renamed in her honor.

Three members of the local judiciary, Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan, Hon. Patria Frias Colon and Hon. Connie Mallafre Melendez, joined local politicians to wish Bader Ginsburg a happy birthday from afar, and to throw their support behind Adams’ mission.

Judge Patria Frias Colon signs a birthday card for Justice Bader Ginsburg. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
Judge Patria Frias Colon signs a birthday card for Justice Bader Ginsburg. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

“Shout out to Brooklyn for embracing this phenomenal task that we need to get done — recognizing this amazing trailblazer, who is a role model not just locally or nationally, but internationally given what she has provided for all of the women and all of the people of this country and world,” Judge Frias Colon said.

The three judges in attendance are all trailblazers in their own right. Frias Colon is the first Dominican-born elected judge. Mallafre Melendez the first Cuban-born elected judge, and Ling-Cohan is the first Asian-American judge in the Appellate Term in New York State. All three noted that their careers might not have been possible without Justice Bader Ginsburg having come before them.

“I’m especially proud and humble to be here, as I am a first just like she was,” Mallafre Melendez said. “My love for her and admiration started when I was very young. I knew she opened doors for women, and she made my election possible … so that I may be a Civil Court judge.”

A few of the borough’s top dignitaries were in attendance on Friday to show their support (from left): Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership; Deborah Schwartz, president of the Brooklyn Historical Society; Judge Patria Frias Colon, Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, Appellate Term, First Judicial Department; Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon; and Judge Connie Mallafre Melendez. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
A few of the borough’s top dignitaries were in attendance on Friday to show their support (from left): Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership; Deborah Schwartz, president of the Brooklyn Historical Society; Judge Patria Frias Colon, Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, Appellate Term, First Judicial Department; Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon; and Judge Connie Mallafre Melendez. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

Justice Ling-Cohan said that she has seen firsthand how women from outside of the U.S. revere Justice Bader Ginsburg.

“As a former president of the Asian-American judges, she was a role model for us because she showed us that we too could be judges,” Ling-Cohan said.

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“Not only that — she’s a trailblazer all over the world. I had the privilege to lead a group of women judges from China who were studying at Columbia. We went to the U.S. Supreme Court and she spoke to all of these judges. Those women now have a new role model: Justice RBG.”

A number of local politicians were on hand for the rally, including Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and State Sen. Brian Kavanagh. Also on hand were three members of the local judiciary: Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan, Hon. Patria Frias Colon and Hon. Connie Mallafre Melendez.

“There are so few monuments to women in NYC,” Simon said. “There aren’t enough statues. We had Alice in Wonderland in Central Park, but she doesn’t really count. We’re working on that. Statues are one thing, buildings are another — and I don’t even know if there is a building in NYC named after a woman. That is really an outrage. We have the perfect person here: a daughter of Brooklyn, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

There was birthday cake — even though Justice Bader Ginsburg did not attend. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
There was birthday cake — even though Justice Bader Ginsburg did not attend. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

There were just slightly more than 50,000 signatures on Adams’ petition asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to rename the municipal building when he announced the birthday party on Tuesday. Organizers were hoping to boost that number to at least 86,000 in time for her 86th birthday. By Friday morning, that number had already topped 90,000.

Justice Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, raised in Flatbush and attended James Madison High School on Bedford Avenue before she left the borough to attend Cornell University and Columbia Law School.

“We launched this campaign to rename the Municipal Building in her name several months ago with a letter to de Blasio, who has the complete authority to make this happen,” Adams said.

“Today we want to honor the 86th birthday of Justice Ginsburg with close to 90,000 signatures. She’s a legal legend who deserves to be recognized in this borough. We thank you all for coming out and sending a message.”

“This great Supreme Court justice has adorned a black robe in the Supreme Court — and now it’s time to have her name adorned the municipal building in the borough where she was born: Brooklyn, USA,” Adams said.

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