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Civil Court honors three during Women’s History Month celebration

March 28, 2019 By Hannah Grossman
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The Kings County Civil Court’s Gender Fairness Committee marked Women’s History Month on Wednesday by celebrating “heroes of the court” that show off the humility and compassion that lie behind the curtain in the Brooklyn justice system.

“Our goal is to honor the unsung heroes,” said Justice Theresa Ciccotto. “Every day the honorees make other people happy and comfortable and they don’t seek personal accolades. They don’t do it to pursue an agenda. They do it because that’s what is in their heart. And we’re taking the time to acknowledge all the efforts that are coming in.”

The honorees included Reverend Taharka Robinson, court officer Lt. Tawnya Young and court officer John Campisi.

Robinson has often been involved in courthouse events over the years and for 17 years has promoted social change through nonviolent means. Judge Connie Mallafre-Melendez shared a story about a time the reverend fought to make sure that the murderer of Chanel Petro Nixon was found and brought to justice by organizing rallies and peaceful demonstrations.

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“As time went on and the case got colder, Reverend Robinson fought to keep law enforcement at task and public awareness alive in efforts to find the perpetrator,” the Judge said.

After Young was honored, she shared the story of her first appearance inside the Civil Court when she was 18, how she was scared, but a kind court officer made her feel better. It ended up changing her whole outlook on the court system.

“Oh my God, what am I going to do?” said Young, who has now worked at the court for longer than 30 years. “I didn’t know what I was getting into, I was afraid to come into this courthouse. Soon, I saw not just a uniform, but I saw a person looking to help.

“I can’t fix it for [the litigants] but I can make the experience a little bit better,” she said. “That is our duty as human beings.”

Young carried that lesson with her during her career and has always tried to show compassion to people. The lieutenant stipulated that on many occasions, aggression stems from fear. So by making the environment comfortable for litigants, and being helpful with whatever is needed, helps keep everybody safe in the end.

The final honoree, Campisi, kept his speech very brief as he offered a few thank-yous and talked about what an honor it was to be recognized.

“This was a big surprise,” Campisi said.

The event got a surprise guest as Attorney General Letitia James made a quick appearance. James remarked that she had worked many hours in the court before she rose up the ranks to one of the state’s highest elected positions.

“I am a Brooklynite and there is not much that gets past me in Brooklyn,” James said about hearing about the event. “I’m here to celebrate some friends.”

“As someone who practiced here, I believe it’s really critically important that we recognize those unsung heroes and those individuals who are on the ground and who represent the face and the spirit of justice,” James said.

The Kings County Gender Fairness Committee hosted the event in conjunction with the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.

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