Bar and bench work together to improve services in Brooklyn’s courts
The collegiality between the courts, the judges and the bar associations in Brooklyn has helped establish the borough as one of the most progressive in the country.
The local legal community has worked together on progressive issues such as drug and other types of treatment courts, wrongful conviction cases, the Right to Counsel program that provides attorneys to those in need in Housing Court, the implementation of Raise the Age and many other programs, all while dealing with a smaller budget than it had a decade ago.
On Wednesday, the Brooklyn Bar Association and its president David Chidekel hosted the organization’s annual Judiciary Night which more than 200 of its members attended to thank the judges for their support.
“This has been the most successful judiciary night we’ve had many years,” Chidekel said. “I’d like to thank the judges for attending. We have judges from every court in Brooklyn as well as other boroughs.So many judges support our work in the community and we greatly appreciate that.”
Each year at the event, the supervising, administrative, presiding and chief judges from each court in Brooklyn take the stage and give updates on what’s happening in their court; they usually introduce their court’s newly elected and reappointed judges as well.
On the podium this year were Hon. Dora Irizarry, Hon. Lawrence Knipel, Hon. Reinaldo Rivera, who stood in for Hon. Alan Scheinkman, Hon. Michael Pesce, Hon. Carolyn Walker-Diallo, Hon. Margarita Lopez Torres, Hon. Michael Yavinsky and Hon. Amanda White, as well as Scott M. Karson, who will be named president-elect of the NYS Bar Association in June. Hon. Cheryl Gonzales, supervising judge of the Housing Court, was in attendance, but did not speak.
Everyone agreed that the best speech of the night came from Justice Michael Pesce, who is expected to retire this year, as he simply said, “thank you.”
Justice Lopez Torres talked about, among other things, the new Help Center that was installed in the Surrogate’s Court to help pro se litigants earlier this year. It was at this event two years ago that she publicly asked Hon. Frank Seddio for help getting the Help Center. A year ago, Seddio was able to report back that there would be one coming soon to Brooklyn. It was officially opened in October 2018.
President Chidekel joked that he wanted to give out 30 awards that night, but instead honored 10 judges.
Hon. Martin Murphy and Hon. Michael Gary were honored, but could not make the event. Those in attendance who received plaques included Hon. Ruth Shillingford, Hon. Theresa Ciccotto, Hon. Michael Yavinsky, Hon. Betsy Barros, Hon. Carl Landicino, Hon. Peter Sweeney, Hon. Carolyn Wade and Hon. Francois Rivera.
“This year we wanted to recognize some of those who we have not had a chance to recognize in the past,” Chidekel said. “They’re very special to us. They’re real Brooklyn people who are committed to justice, diversity and committed to being mensches.”
Chidekel also used the opportunity to announce that Anthony Vaughn Jr. has been named as the BBA’s next treasurer. This puts him on the path to be the association’s third black president, after Lynn R. Terrelonge and Armena Gayle, who is expected to take over in 2021, and first black male president.
After all of the awards were given out, past president Andrew Fallek took a moment to thank Chidekel and highlight the work that he has done as president over the past year. His words drew a standing ovation.
“There are many, many bar associations,” Fallek said. “There are groups like ours and David has really excelled at bringing all of these groups together under one roof in a way that is unprecedented. I think it makes for a richer and better organization for all of us.”
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