By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Kings County Supreme Court Gender Fairness Committee and the Brooklyn Women's Bar Association joined together once again, on Thursday, to acknowledge the accomplishments and achievements of distinguished female members of the Brooklyn legal community.
Four women—Lizette Colon, Charmaine Henderson, Izetta Johnson and Arlene Markarian—were presented with the annual Ruth E. Moskowitz award for their dedication to judicial independence and civil rights.
The theme for this year’s event, “character, courage and commitment,” was the embodiment of the individual the award is named after. Moskowitz, in 1976, was the first woman elected to the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gloria Dabiri, the chair of the Gender Fairness Committee, served as mistress of ceremonies for the event and introduced the musical guests St. Augustine Gospel Choir. Addressing the audience, Administrative Judge for Civil Matters Lawrence Knipel made note of the recent appointment of his counterpart in Criminal Matters, commenting that Hon. Matthew D’Emic was a “home-run appointment.”
Returning to the honorees, Knipel referred to the “distinction” by which the women serve the “court system and the Brooklyn legal system.”
“These women have all left footprints,” said Brooklyn’s Chief Clerk for Civil Matters, Charles Smalls.
Members of the late Moskowitz’s family were in attendance, including her husband, her sister and her stepson Robert Gershon.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to me before,” exclaimed the event’s first award recipient, Arlene Markarian. Markarian is the chief of the Elder Abuse Unit for the Brooklyn DA’s Office and oversees the prosecution of those who commit crimes against elders and other forms of domestic abuse.
“Her expertise has been nationally recognized,” noted Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Karen Rothenberg. Markarian was cheered on by a number of her colleagues from the DA’s Office who were present in the audience.
Introducing award recipient Izetta Johnson was an easy task for court attorney Yvonne Marin. “Clap if you know Izetta,” Marin remarked to a roar of cheers. Not needing an introduction but definitely deserving of one, “Izetta is committed to her job, the community, and every man, woman and child,” Marin said. “It is the contagious smile,” Marin noted, as Johnson could not contain her cheerful grin.
Johnson proclaimed how “humbling” it was to “be thought of in association with this year’s theme and Ruth Moskowitz.” As a woman, the “everyday annoyances test our courage,” Johnson said as she fought back tears. “We forge on in spite of ourselves.”
Charmaine Henderson, who works with divorce litigants, gave her acceptance speech in a soothing voice that evidenced her commitment to mindful meditation retreats, as referenced by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jeffery Sunshine, who enthusiastically introduced Henderson and presented her award. “When I need to be calm, I think of Charmaine,” Sunshine remarked.
A quiet force, Henderson commented that she was initially unsure “how someone who deliberately keeps a low profile was being recognized.” Henderson accepted her reward on behalf of “all of those in the court who get things done in an inconspicuous way.”
The event’s final recipient, court attorney Lizette Colon, “displays this year’s theme in her professional and personal life,” said Grace Machuca. After an active career in the U.S. military, Colon went to law school at night while working a full-time job and raising an autistic son.
“I have been blessed having a wonderful family and a pack of wonderful colleagues,” Colon said in her acceptance speech. Colon reminded the audience of the “long way” women have come and of the “road that lies ahead of us.”
As harrowing as the road may seem, Johnson reminded the audience that “being of courage, character and commitment is what we do as women all day and everyday. When life throws you a curve ball, catch it.”