Downtown Brooklyn

Justices Kaplan and Richardson-Mendelson honored during Women’s History Month

April 3, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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Hon. Deborah Kaplan (left) and Hon. Edwina Richardson-Mendelson were honored during a Women’s History Month event by the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee at the Kings County Supreme Court.

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Two of the State’s top judges — Hon. Deborah Kaplan and Hon. Edwina Richardson-Mendelson — were honored during a Women’s History Month event at the Kings County Supreme Court on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday, March 27.

Themed: Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories, the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee, which is chaired by Hon. Joanne Quinones, and its Women’s History Month Committee, co-chaired by Leah Richardson and Nicole B. Smith, not only honored the two judge’s, but they also highlighted 20 court employees including judges, court attorneys, and court officers.

With two keynote speakers and 20 women being highlighted, not everyone got a chance to speak at the events. However, Justices Kaplan and Richardson-Mendelson each got an opportunity to tell their own unique stories.

From left: Nicole Smith, Kiyoko Panzella, Leah Richardson, Sgt. Mido Mary Wu, and Hon. Joanne Quinones.

Justice Kaplan was appointed Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of the New York City Courts in October 2021, where she is responsible for the daily operations of the city’s trial courts, ensuring equal access and efficient case resolution. With more than 20 years of experience on the bench, she has previously served as the Administrative Judge in the New York County Supreme Court, Civil Term, and Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases.

The Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee along with the 20 women who were highlighted for Women’s History Month.

Judge Kaplan currently chairs the New York State Judicial Committee on Elder Justice and co-chairs the New York State Justice Task Force and the New York County Supreme Court Gender Fairness Committee. She is a past president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association and WBASNY, and a recipient of WBASNY’S Marilyn Menge Award. She earned her undergraduate degree from SUNY Albany and her law degree from St. John’s University School of Law.

Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson was appointed in 2017 to lead the New York State Unified Court System’s Office for Justice Initiatives, which ensures access to justice for all New Yorkers in civil, criminal, and family courts. The office administers Help Centers, pro bono attorney programs, self-help services, and resources for unrepresented court users.

Court Attorney Lauren Brown.

Judge Richardson-Mendelson also leads the Equal Justice in Courts Initiative and directs several juvenile and family justice initiatives, including the Child Welfare Court Improvement Project and the implementation of the law raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York State. She oversees more than 300 problem-solving and accountability courts with specially trained judges and staff. She serves on the Court of Claims and the Supreme Court Criminal Term, New York County.

A graduate of CUNY Law School and holder of a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice, Judge Richardson-Mendelson has been an adjunct professor and is actively involved in New York bar associations and court committees.

From left: Leah Richardson, Hon. Joanne Quinones, and Nicole Smith.

Following the judges, five members of the court were given an opportunity to share their own stories including Court Attorney Lauren Brown, Court Analyst Farida Kakar, Senior Court Clerk Maria Leudo, Senior Court Reporter Nancy Silberger, and Court Officer Sgt. Mido Mary Wu.

Farida Kakar is a court analyst at Kings County Supreme Court who was born in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. After her father fell ill, she supported her family by teaching at an Afghan Refugee School and later worked at Roshan Telecommunication Company. In 2009, she joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a Protection Associate, assisting refugees in Greece and Turkey. Her family was evacuated to New Jersey in 2021 due to threats from ISIS. Farida’s siblings have pursued various successful educational and professional paths.

Court Analyst Farida Kakar.

Lauren Brown is a court attorney at Kings County Civil Court with Jamaican and American roots. She is devoted to service, community, and family and aims to be a positive force in others’ lives.

Maria Leudo is a senior court clerk at Kings County Supreme Court (Civil Term) who immigrated to the US from Colombia. She initially wanted to become a doctor, but her career took a different turn, becoming a proud mother and an NYS Certified Spanish Interpreter.

Court Reporter Nancy Silberger.

Nancy Silberger is a senior court reporter at Kings County Supreme Court with 40 years of experience. She has been an advocate for court stenographers and has held leadership roles in various associations. She also volunteers as a teacher and mentor for aspiring court reporters.

From left: Hon. Joanne Quinones, Hon. Lawrence Knipel, and Hon. Nancy Sunshine.

Sergeant Mido Mary Wu, born in China and raised in Queens, NY, serves at the Kings County Supreme Court. A summa cum laude graduate of St. John’s University with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Mary began her career as a court advocate for adolescents at the Osborne Association and the Andrew Glover Youth Program. In 2006, she joined the NYS Courts as a Junior Court Analyst for the Brooklyn Treatment Court. Mary was promoted to a court officer in 2014 and to Sergeant in 2022. As a founding member of the NYS Courts Asian Jade Society, she served two years and was re-elected as the Recording Secretary.

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