IN PUBLIC SERVICE: Judge Dweynie Paul Speaks Out About Brooklyn Surrogate Race
Among the hottest campaigns in Brooklyn this year is the fiercely contested battle for Kings County Surrogate Judge. The Surrogate’s responsibilities include supervising the estates of those who pass away without wills, guardianships of disabled adults and minors, adoptions of children, and deciding complex legal issues. The Eagle is providing each candidate a forum to clarify their experience and assets to assume the role of Kings County Surrogate Judge.
Today’s candidate: NY State Supreme Court Judge Dweynie Esther Paul, interviewed by the EAGLE’s panel of contributors to our regular series, In Public Service.
PANEL: To what do you attribute your endorsements by so many large labor organizations and elected officials?
JUDGE PAUL: First, I believe Brooklyn citizens want reform and accessible courts. That’s why I’ve been endorsed for Kings County Surrogate Judge by the 200,000-member United Federation of Teachers (UFT), District Council 37, Local 237 Teamsters, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, as well as many government officials. These organizations and our representatives reflect the many Brooklynites who want responsive courts, and that’s why I am their candidate.
PANEL: Your qualifications, Judge Paul, to be the next elected Kings County Surrogate Judge?
JUDGE PAUL: As the daughter of immigrants from Haiti, I bring a different perspective about the importance of justice, and how Brooklyn needs an impartial unbiased judiciary. Elected to the Civil Court, I presently serve as an acting Supreme Court Justice in Family Court. In my present assignment, I deal with many issues the Kings County Surrogate Judge faces: custody, adoptions, and guardianships. Often, I see families, children in some of life’s most difficult moments, much as the Kings County Surrogate Judge experiences.
PANEL: Please tell us about your education.
JUDGE PAUL: From the State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook, I earned a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Social Science with a minor in Child and Family Studies. Continuing my academic career, I then earned a Master of Arts in Public Policy and a Juris Doctor from the George Washington University School of Law. I also studied abroad at the British Legal System Program, Middlesex University in London.
Rigorous academics plus judicial and legal experience have prepared me to serve as the next Kings County Surrogate Judge.
PANEL: You talk publicly about your community activities. Is that type of experience important for the next Kings County Surrogate Judge?
JUDGE PAUL: I am proud to have been the Director of Community Service for the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, and a member of Community Board 3. Organizing the first annual Community Law Day, annual Domestic Violence prevention workshops, and creating the Young Men’s Leadership Initiative are activities that brought the legal system closer to our communities. As a Deacon at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, my work supports providers of elder and mental health care. Understanding and respecting citizens makes for better Judges.
PANEL: You have indicated extensive experience practicing law in diverse areas that include complex corporate litigation, alternative conflict resolution, and supervising legal submissions by other attorneys. While this is a good indicator of your legal experience, what will make you the kind of Surrogate Judge Brooklyn needs in this era of reform?
JUDGE PAUL: My highly diversified experience, community activities, and personal proven commitment to Brooklyn and to all its diverse communities are only the beginning. Brooklyn deserves a Surrogate Court Judge who understands that compassion, integrity, and respect for the law — learned through experience — are the basis for courts that serve the people. Politics are last on my list. Service to the people of Brooklyn comes first. And always will.
PANEL: As a resident of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, you describe yourself as firmly rooted in community. Can you give us a final statement, or pledge to the community if elected.
JUDGE PAUL: If elected I would take office on January 1. I pledge my efforts and conviction to show that the road to reform is through our courts, through equal justice for all. That’s the kind of judge I’ve been. And with the help of the people of Brooklyn, that’s the kind of Kings County Surrogate Judge I will be.
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