Brooklyn judicial candidate Ed King got into law to be in a position to talk back
Ed King said that he never gave much thought to a career as an attorney until he and his friends had a run-in with a police officer one day while he was still in high school. He and two others were sitting in a car in the Bronx, where he grew up, when a plainclothes police officer pulled up next to them.
“I’ll never forget, he pulled up next to us and just barked, ‘You got a problem?’” King said. “I had no idea what he was talking about. I was confused and then he yelled, ‘I’ll solve it for you.’ I was so angry, but I knew if I opened my mouth, I would make things worse. Right then and there, I realized that I needed to be in a position where I could talk back.”
That is a lesson that has always stuck with King and part of the reason why he is running for Civil Court judge in Brooklyn in a countywide primary on June 25. King says that his experiences set him apart from others seeking the position and that he wants to make sure that others have a chance to be heard as well.
Just because he decided to become an attorney didn’t mean he had a direct path to that goal. King grew up bouncing between Harlem and the Bronx living with his mother. She had a consistent job but didn’t make a lot of money so instead of going to college after he graduated from Taft High School, King decided to join the Army.
It was not an easy decision for King, especially with the Vietnam War still going on at the time. However, he said it changed his life.
“Joining the Army was really good for me,” King said. “I wasn’t quite ready for college at the time and at that point I had never really left the city. I had gone on a cruise once when I was 11, but that was about it. Thanks to the Army, I got to meet people from all over the world and all over the country. After basic training I was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. where I spent two days before I was sent to Germany.”
In the Army, King worked as a military police officer and he spent the final year on duty in Germany guarding missile silos. He recalled nearly deciding to stay in the Army, but instead he left and used the G.I. Bill to pursue his dream of a legal career.
“The G.I. Bill gave me the ability to support myself when I went to school,” said King, who went to City College and was a part of the Urban Legal Studies Program. He then went to Antioch School of Law in Washington D.C. where he was able to participate in a clinic that allowed him to practice law with an experienced practitioner while still in school.
While it was one moment that inspired King to become a lawyer, it was another lesson he learned earlier in life that he has taken with him through his legal career.
When King was eight years old, he remembers playing tops in the street when a car nearly crushed him. He said that he was only saved from serious injury because a neighborhood junkie was able to grab him at the last second.
“He might have saved my life,” King said. “This was at a time when the Bronx was experiencing a heroin epidemic. And this was one of those guys that you knew because he was standing around doing the junkie lean. It taught me always to respect everyone because you don’t know what experiences they’ve had. No matter who they are, what they look like or where they come from, you’ve got to respect them.”
King started his legal career as a law assistant to Hon. Milton F. Tingling, and then went on to work for Hon. Randy Jackson in the Civil Court. With Judge Jackson, he moved all over the city, and finally came to Brooklyn when the judge was appointed to the Supreme Court. In the late ‘80s, he left his job in the court to go into private practice.
Now living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, King opened up his practice on the bottom floor of his home. The crack epidemic was still going on in the beginning, and he said that people quickly came to know him as a lawyer in the neighborhood who had trouble saying no to people in need of help.
“There have been good and bad changes in Bed-Stuy over the years,” said King, who has since moved his practice to Atlantic Avenue. “There has been so much redevelopment. It’s nice to see certain services come into the community that weren’t there before. It’s not nice to see the displacement of people who have been there for years and families that are breaking up and losing their homes. It’s also not nice to see outright theft of certain homes.”
In his practice, King handles a lot of real estate issues, including trusts and estates, and does a lot of civil litigation. He does some criminal law practice but is not known for that, so he doesn’t get a lot of clients in that area.
King is highly critical of the city’s Third Party Transfer Program, which Justice Mark Partnow recently ruled had become “overly broad and improper” in its usage, overturning an action that improperly repossessed six homes in Brooklyn.
“You have to have a certain sensitivity for the people who come before you, especially when they’re trying to express themselves,” King said. “You have to know when to have the empathetic hand versus the tightened grip on a case. You want to make sure the laws are followed, but a lot depends on the person in those black robes and what they do in that courtroom. The law is the law, but the issue is how it’s applied.”
King is running for Brooklyn Civil Court judge and will be on the ballot in the June 25 Democratic primary.
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