Judge Harriet Thompson agrees to resign from Surrogate’s Court bench
Justice Harriet Thompson, a Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court Judge who has been suspended for more than a year for allegedly making racist and discriminatory comments about courthouse employees, has agreed to resign from the bench for medical reasons, according to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Thompson has also agreed to never again seek public office. She will reportedly make her resignation official on March 1, 2023 and she will be allowed to keep her judicial pension.
Thompson had been scheduled to appear at a hearing before the State Commission next week regarding her suspension. Instead, she has resigned from her position due to an alleged shoulder injury.
“My understanding is that the Commission on Judicial Conduct does not release details of an investigation in this type of situation, nonetheless, I think this will bring some closure to years of uncertainty in the Surrogate’s Court,” said Brooklyn attorney Daniel Antonelli, who regularly practices in Surrogate’s Court.
“We’re in good hands with Judge Rosemarie Montalbano as Surrogate and Judge Bernard Graham as Acting Surrogate,” Antonelli continued. “But it looks like we’re headed toward another election to find a permanent replacement for Thompson.”
Thompson had been accused of allegedly saying that homosexuality is an “abomination” and that people of Hispanic descent have “deceitful traits”. She also allegedly called four judges “gay racist fa–ots” who were “all fucking each other.”
As a result, Thompson was suspended by the Office of Court Administration in December 2021 after the OCA inspector general substantiated the misconduct claims against her.
The Commission for Judicial Conduct charged Thompson for the biased comments in May 2022. Part of the Commission’s findings said that she failed to carry out court duties in a timely manner and caused substantial delays during a time when COVID had already caused a significant slowdown.
Thompson had previously submitted paperwork stating that she was unfit to stand trial, according to the Commission. On December 16, the Commission filed another complaint that accused Judge Thompson of being medically unfit to be a judge.
Thompson also sued the Office of Court Administration and claimed that it had no authority to suspend her. OCA declined to comment on the resignation announcement, since the lawsuit is still active, and said that it will let the Commission’s determination speak for itself.
Thompson was initially replaced by acting Surrogate Court judge Hon. Carol Edmead. Immediately after Judge Edmead took over, attorneys told the Brooklyn Eagle that the Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court immediately began to function more smoothly. Judge Edmead retired at the end of 2022 and was replaced by Hon. Bernard Graham.
In New York, every county has a Surrogate’s Court judge that gets elected once every 14 years. Brooklyn, because it is the state’s largest county, has two Surrogate Court judges. Despite their 14-year terms, Brooklyn will have its fourth Surrogate’s Court election in the past four years going back to Justice Margarita Lopez-Torres’ reelection in 2019.
Judge Thompson, who graduated from Albany Law School, was admitted to practice law in 1982 and worked in private practice out of her own office in Fort Greene until 2011 when she was elected to the civil court bench in Queens. She also served time in the Office of the Attorney General prior to joining the bench.
Thompson had previously been highly involved in local bar associations and served as the treasurer of the Kings County Housing Court at one point, was secretary of the Judicial Friends, was vice president of the local chapter of the National Association of Women Judges, and had made regular appearances during at the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Surrogate’s Court Committee meetings during her time as judge in that court.
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