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Appellate Division remembers Judge Thompson, honors Judge Wilson for BHM

March 3, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department celebrated Black History Month on Wednesday, Feb. 22 by celebrating the legacy of Hon. William Thompson, and honoring Hon. Rowan Wilson. Attorney General Letitia James was also honored, though was not able to attend.

The courtroom of the Appellate Division was packed with judges from Brooklyn and all across the state as dignitaries remembered Hon. William Thompson, Jr.

The event opened with Cassandra Allen singing the National Anthem and Black National Anthem. Bishop Rev. Johnny Youngblood gave the invocation before Hon. Hector LaSalle, the court’s presiding judge, welcomed everyone.

The list of speakers at the event included District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association President Susan Mauro, Brooklyn Bar Association President Richard Klass, Hon. Verna Saunders, president of the Judicial Friends Association, and Letitia James gave brief remarks virtually.

Hon. Hector LaSalle, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department.

Justice Wilson was the event’s keynote speaker as its honoree. Bill Thompson Jr., the son of Justice Thompson, spoke about his father and his father’s love of the Appellate Division. Judges Valerie Brathwaite-Nelson, Hon. Paul Wooten, who helped to organize the event, and Hon. Deborah Dowling also gave remarks.

Justice Thompson had an impressive career in law, politics, and the judiciary and was Brooklyn’s first Black State Senator. He graduated from Franklin K. Lane High School and Brooklyn College, and received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1954.

He was admitted to the bar in 1955. He served in the New York State Senate from 1965 to 1968 and worked with Senator Robert F. Kennedy to establish the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

From 1969 to 1973, he was a member of the New York City Council. Thompson joined the judiciary as a Justice of the Supreme Court in 1974, and was later designated to the Appellate Term, appointed Assistant Administrative Judge, and designated to the Appellate Division by Governor Hugh Carey in 1980.

He retired from the bench in 2001 and became of counsel to the law firm of Roger Victor Archibald, PLLC, then later a mediator with National Arbitration and Mediation. Thompson was recognized as one of the top ten mediators in New York State in 2010 and 2011.

In addition to his legal career, Thompson was involved in various organizations and served as a regional director of the NAACP. He served in World War II and earned several commendations for his service.

Justice Wilson is an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals who was born in Pomona, California, in 1960 and grew up in Berkeley, California.

He graduated from Harvard College in 1981, and his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1984. After working as a judicial law clerk for two years, he joined the firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City in 1986, where he was elected to partnership in 1991, a position he held until February 2017.

District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Susan Mauro.

On January 15, 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo nominated him to serve as an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals, and the New York State Senate confirmed his nomination on February 6, 2017.

Throughout his legal career, he has embraced the role as a legal advocate, serving as chair of the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem since 1996, leading the pro bono work at Cravath, and taking on cases tackling antitrust, intellectual property, contract, securities fraud and entertainment and media issues. He also serves on the board of Wide Horizons for Children, an organization centered on protecting orphaned children globally.

Hon. Rowan Wilson, associate justice of the NYS Court of Appeals, who was honored at the event.
Hon. Verna Saunders, president of the Judicial Friends Association.
From left: Hon. Deborah Kaplan, Hon. Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, Hon. Rowan Wilson, Hon. Tamiko Amaker, and Hon. Anthony Cannataro.
From left: NYC Corporation Counsel Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, BWBA President Susan Mauro, and Linda Wilson.

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