Like her parents, Justice Walker-Diallo wants to lead by example
Justice Carolyn Walker-Diallo made news as a judge in Brooklyn before she even heard her first case as there was an ugly uproar due to the fact that she used a Quran instead of a bible when she was sworn in.
Since then, Justice Walker-Diallo has known that many people will be watching each step she takes both personally and responsibly and that’s why she has grasped onto something her parents taught her as a child — lead by example.
“I’m the daughter of parents who migrated from Mississippi and North Carolina as part of the great migration to New York City to escape the racism and oppression of the South at the time,” Justice Walker-Diallo said. “The stories he used to tell me about what he went through in Mississippi horrified me and at the same time motivated me to achieve what he could not.”
“My mother passed away last August, less than two weeks after I was appointed as administrative judge, and she too shared with me the many challenges she faced in the segregated South and why she has such a strong work ethic,” Judge Walker-Diallo said. “She was a bookkeeper and when I was younger I knew she kept the books for the entire federal government because she was so meticulous. She always told me if you are going to do something, don’t half do it or even do it 110 percent, go above and beyond what is expected of you.”
Justice Walker-Diallo became the first Muslim to serve as a judge in New York State when she was elected to the New York City Civil Court in 2015. She served the Brooklyn Criminal Court and then the Manhattan Civil Court before, in December 2018, she was appointed supervising judge of the Brooklyn Civil Court.
From January 2019 until August 2021, she served as supervising judge until she was promoted to be the administrative judge of the Civil Court of New York City, the busiest court in the state. In this position, she is in charge of the day-to-day operation and administration of the city’s civil court system.
Justice Walker-Diallo was elected as a State Supreme Court justice in November 2021. Her term expires in 2035.
“When I reflect on how far I have come I am reminded of people who told me I would not become a judge because nobody had seen a judge wearing a hijab in New York and the politics of the day would not allow it,” said Walker-Diallo. “I was also told that I would not be able to move up because people would be afraid of what I represented just because I look a certain way.”
Judge Walker-Diallo recently received the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Lynn R. Terrelonge Bridge to Diversity Award alongside fellow honorees Charles Small, the chief clerk of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, and Hon. Raja Rajeswari.
Joy Thompson, chair of the BBA’s Diversity Committee, who helped create the award named for the association’s first Black president, ran through the list of impressive accomplishments from Justice Walker-Diallo’s career and pointed out ways in which the judge is setting her own example.
Thompson highlighted the judge’s career as a litigator, an assistant corporation counsel at the NYC Law Department, a hearing officer at OATH, as general counsel and chief compliance officer of Brooklyn Community Services.
Thompson also placed special emphasis on the work that Justice Walker-Diallo has done in the community, especially with the George Walker Jr. Community Coalition Inc., a youth developed nonprofit based in Cypress Hills and East New York named after her late father. She has also served as a board member of the East New York Restoration Local Development Corporation, a member of the 75th Precinct Community Council, and was founder and troop leader of several Girl Scout troops in East New York and Cypress Hills.
“In the face of intimidation and ugliness, Justice Walker-Diallo has persevered, carrying out her judicial duties with competence, and distinguishing herself as an extraordinary jurist,” Thompson said. “Standing in her truth as a judge, as a Muslim woman, Jusitice Walker-Diallo is a profile in courage and an example to all of us who are made to feel less than for being who we are, where we come from, or how we look.”
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