‘Lunch with a Judge’ event offers insight into Judge Jill Epstein’s life and legal journey

April 20, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Judge Jill Epstein shared her journey, life experiences, and wisdom during a virtual “Lunch with a Judge” event, hosted by the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA) on Tuesday.

President Susan Mauro, a longtime friend of Epstein, expressed gratitude for the judge’s presence and praised her fairness and dedication to the legal profession.

“We met when I was litigating the infamous case involving the closure of Long Island College Hospital in Downtown Brooklyn,” Mauro said. “There were many ups and downs involved in that case, but I’m glad I’m part of it because of the time I got to spend and to get to know Judge Epstein.”

“She’s always fair and true to her word and helps the parties through litigation. She is small in stature, but she is fierce and she is focused.”

Judge Genine Edwards, the event’s moderator, provided a brief overview of Epstein’s 38-year legal career. A graduate of Cardozo School of Law and Binghamton University, Epstein has been involved in civil rights law, general litigation, and even served as general counsel for Rhino Records. She took the bench in 2019, working in both Richmond County and Kings County Civil Court.

BWBA members get an opportunity to meet judges during the monthly Lunch with a Judge event. It provides an intimate opportunity to ask the judge questions about their life and their courtroom.

Epstein discussed her various roles throughout her career, including her time as law clerk in Bronx Family Court and as counsel at a civil rights firm. She noted that her role as general counsel for Rhino Records was the most enjoyable experience she had as a lawyer. While working for Rhino, Epstein had the opportunity to interact with musicians like Frankie Lymon and Billy Joel, and even joked about being plagiarized by now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito while he was still a district court judge.

When asked about the status of the Civil Court today, Epstein highlighted the progress made since the pandemic, with juries coming in and out, and dispositions increasing incrementally. She also shared her approach to maintaining fairness and civility in the courtroom, urging attorneys to communicate effectively and treat each other with respect.

“We’re trying very hard to get back to where we were,” Judge Epstein said of the Civil Court. “The only thing I’m doing now virtually are no fault motions and some no fault trials. I actually miss seeing the 100s of lawyers in the no fault part in the morning. When I was a law clerk, that was so much of what we did.”

Judge Epstein also provided advice on balancing work and personal life, emphasizing the importance of setting boundaries and recognizing the need for time off.

“I used to get calls on Sunday morning and I would never do that now,” she said. “You always have to respond to your clients, but you don’t have to be on call. You’re not a doctor and unless you are a criminal defense attorney you have to set boundaries otherwise you will not have a home life.”

Reflecting on her experiences in private practice, she admitted that she was a better lawyer than a business person and always wanted to be on the bench.

“Being a solo, I found out that I was a better lawyer than a business person,” Epstein admitted. “I didn’t like running a business, I didn’t like book keeping. I ultimately would have wanted to be on the bench anyway. I was 28 or 29 when I went into private practice and at that age I didn’t necessarily understand what I needed to do. The business end of it is a whole different thing, it really is.”

Lastly, she recounted her journey to becoming a judge, stressing the importance of maintaining relationships and staying true to oneself in the world of politics.

The “Lunch with a Judge” series allows members of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association to gain insight into the lives and careers of prominent judges in the community, fostering greater understanding and appreciation for their work.

The BWBA will host a panel at the Brooklyn Bar Association on April 27 at 6 p.m. entitled, “Special Education Law in Theory and in Practice in New York,” with speakers Regina Skyer, Linda Goldman, Greg Cangiano, Alex Abend, and Kerry McGrath.

On May 3, the BWBA will host an online continuing legal education seminar entitled, “The Perils of Prenups,” at 12 p.m. with speaker Chaim Steinberger.

Finally, on May 18, the BWBA will host its annual gala at the Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook at 5 p.m. This year’s honorees include NYC Corporation Counsel Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix, and BWBA Past President Michele Mirman.

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