Brooklyn Civil Court Judge leverages social media to empower and educate the public on conflict resolution

July 14, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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In an unconventional move for a civil court judge, Heela Capell, who presides over the Brooklyn Civil Court, is taking her mission beyond the courtroom and into social media. She aims to educate and empower the public on conflict resolution, equipping them with essential tools and techniques to handle disputes.

“I don’t want to empower myself to protect people. I want to empower people to protect themselves,” Judge Capell stated, stressing her goal isn’t about advocacy but education. “It’s not so much about me advocating for people, since as a judge I must be impartial. It’s about educating people to know how to resolve disputes and navigate the legal system.”

Utilizing her presence on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, Judge Capell has so far released over 200 videos. These encompass a plethora of topics from active listening techniques to emotional awareness. It’s on TikTok where she engages with her largest audience, answering questions posted in the comments section.

Having been appointed to Housing Court in 2018 and elected to Civil Court in 2021, Judge Capell’s decision to venture into social media education was largely influenced by her in-court experiences. Her candidature for the New York State Supreme Court in Kings County is a testament to her commitment towards the legal field.

Leveraging her training in mediation and arbitration, Judge Capell’s goal is to share her wealth of skills with the general public. Reflecting on the frustration and discord she frequently witnessed in her courtroom, she realized that she could guide the public not only on legal matters but also on how to effectively communicate and seek their desired resolutions.

In her videos, she educates viewers on how to use their voices to express their wants and desires, and how to engage in dialogues during challenging situations. Judge Capell’s mission is to equip community members with resources that could potentially resolve issues before they escalate into court cases.

“It’s an art to be able to be clear about what you want. People can be succinct about what they want and express that clarity to opposing parties and resolve their own issues,” Judge Capell explained. “They just need to use the right language and understand some of the necessary tools available to them.”

Whilst she can’t actively teach these methods in her capacity as a judge, she maintains that, “as a private citizen,” she can show the public how to use these conflict resolution techniques.

Judge Capell’s use of social media serves a dual purpose: it allows her to connect with her local Brooklyn community and reach a wider audience. The skills she disseminates are universally applicable, helping anyone embroiled in a dispute, regardless of its size.

Judge Capell is a first-generation American with Jewish immigrant parents. Having personally encountered domestic violence and familial substance abuse, Capell’s approach to law is steeped in empathy, impartiality, and structure.

Capell graduated from Benjamin Cardozo School of Law and initially served the public as a litigator at a real estate litigation firm, dealing with landlord-tenant disputes. She later served on the Citywide Housing Court bench before her election to the Civil Court bench.

Passionate about improving court accessibility, Capell advocates for childcare and Wi-Fi provisions in court premises. She also co-chairs the mentorship program at the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, guiding newly admitted attorneys.

You can follow Judge Capell’s conflict resolution journey on Facebook and Instagram at @judgeheela or on TikTok at @judgeheela.


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