Women’s Bar honors Justice Betsy Barros during Hispanic Heritage event
The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association hosted its second annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Tuesday where it honored Justice Betsy Barros. The event was co-sponsored by the New York City Trial Lawyers Alliance.
“Tonight, we pay tribute to an outstanding Latina and jurist, the Honorable Betsy Barros,” said Hon. Connie Mallafre Melendez. “Her career is truly founded on performing and being of service to all communities in Brooklyn and not just the Latino communities.”
This year’s event was just the second time the BWBA has celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, but President Meryl Schwartz said it was a celebration that she looked forward to continuing and explained that the BWBA plans to continue the event as an annual tradition.
Justice Barros, a graduate of Cornell University and NYU School of Law, was born in the U.S. to parents who immigrated from Chile. Her legal career started at the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn; she then became a prosecutor for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. There, she served as a bureau chief for the criminal rights and felony trial bureaus.
In 1995, she was elected to the Brooklyn Civil Court and assigned to the Manhattan Criminal Court where she presided over criminal cases until she was elected to the Brooklyn Supreme Court in 1997. After being elected to a second term in the Supreme Court, she was selected by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to join the Appellate Division, Second Department, in 2014.
Justice Barros was the first Latina to serve in the Brooklyn Supreme Court and the Appellate Division, Second Department.
Before Justice Barros was presented with an award, Judge Joanne Quinones spoke about this year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month — “Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving our Nation.”
Judge Quinones explained that the theme had encouraged her to think about her own career and legacy.
“After thinking about what I want to be remembered for, my answer is mentoring future lawyers and leaders,” Judge Quinones said. “I myself am the beneficiary of mentoring, from some of the very people in this room, so my act of service is to pay it forward by mentoring and exposing as many young people as possible to the legal profession and our system of justice.”
Justice Barros talked about her heritage and her family history during her speech and she remembered her father, who came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant and didn’t become a citizen until after he had served in World War II. She fondly remembered the stories he told her when she was a child and said that it was this history that he passed on to her that helped her to be more empathetic.
“I remember walking down the street with him as a child when someone asked him for money and he gave him some change,” Judge Barros said. “I thought that was really nice. He recalled the Depression and that he too had relied on the kindness of others. My takeaway from that was to learn to walk in other people’s shoes.”
The event ended with a pair of dance performances by the Ballet Folklorico Riviera Maya, who danced in front of the crowd of over 50 judges and lawyers in the regal auditorium of the bar association.
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