The New York City Civil Court is the largest civil jurisdiction court in the U.S, but its elections are usually overlooked. In this year’s June primaries, many current judges have made the jump to the state’s supreme court, leaving 21 vacancies open in the courts.
Based on the state’s constitution, the judiciary courts have both elected and appointed judges.
It’s important to note that judicial races aren’t the same as political races for other citywide or county offices. According to the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center, candidates running can’t ask for or accept campaign contributions, can’t make fancy promises, can’t be involved in politics (except for a weird period of time during the race), and “all fundraising goes through committees” and there is no public financing program as there is for city offices.
Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn also runs the Kings County Democratic (Kings County Dems) County Committee for Brooklyn.
The Kings County Dems endorsed five candidates for countywide Civil Court judges, who represent the borough or districts and are elected to office every 10 years. They handle civil small claims cases, landlord and tenant disputes, and the criminal prosecution of misdemeanors.
Their endorsements include Judge Robin Garson, Judge Craig Walker, and lawyers Phillp Grant, Sherveal Mimes, and Pamela Patton Fynes.
Both Garson’s and Walker’s terms are expiring and they’re running for reelection, while incredibly diverse judges such as Judges Consuelo Mallafre Melendez, Joy F. Campanelli, Dena E. Douglas, and Carolyn Walker-Diallo are getting bumped up to the state’s Supreme Court. In the Supreme Court, judges preside over large felony and civil cases in their districts for 14 years.
“The Brooklyn Democratic Party is committed to endorsing experienced and culturally competent judges who will deliver equitable, fair, and honest justice for each and every Brooklynite,” said Bichotte Hermelyn in a statement. “I’m confident that Brooklyn’s legal system will be in capable hands when these justices are elected to the bench.”
In Queens, two seats are open. Countywide Judge and former Assemblymember Michele Titus and Judge Laurentina McKetney Butler are also moving to the Supreme Court. The Queens County Dems said they endorsed attorneys Thomas Oliva and Karen Lin to replace them. And in Staten Island, (Richmond County) Judge Ronald Castorina Jr. was elected to the Supreme Court, leaving one seat open.
Only Manhattan and Bronx counties have retiree judges.
Judge Marian Doherty retired Jan. 29, 2022, and Judge Eileen Rakower retired Nov. 30, 2021. Judge Barbara Jaffe reached the Constitutional Age Limit for New York State, meaning she hit the mandatory retirement age of 70 years old for judges and justices in the state.
The Manhattan Dems Independent Judicial Screening Panel said that civil court judicial candidates—incumbent Judge Lisa Sokoloff, Allison Greenfield, L. Austin D’Souza, Andrea Krugman, Matthew Bondy, Anna Mikhaleva, Carmen Pacheco, E. Deronn Bowen, Dana Catanzaro, and Terence McCormick—are “the most highly qualified” to fill the open seats.
In the Bronx, Judges Patsy D. Gouldborne, Paul L. Alpert, Marissa Soto, and Naita Semaj are going to the Supreme Court. The Bronx County Dems couldn’t be reached for its endorsements by post time.
For a full list of all judge vacancies, see Vote.NYC.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w