ADAMS STREET — Yesterday afternoon, the judges of Kings County came together on the steps of the Brooklyn Supreme Court. In a show of solidarity and in celebration of the integrity and independence of the judiciary, over 60 judges united outside the Civil Term courthouse for Law Day.
This is the fifth year the judges have maintained this annual tradition, which, in the past, was a call for adequate judicial compensation and to draw attention to the fact that New York state judges had not received a pay raise in over a decade.
However, with the long overdue salary increase finally taking effect last month, the judges united yesterday with a new goal — to raise public awareness of the problems and dangers caused by budget cuts to our courts.
“The public must understand that the effects could be life-changing,” said keynote speaker Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, of the New York State Judicial Institute. “Justice and freedom are at risk.”
Defendants linger in jail awaiting trial, victims await justice, children with no guardians sit in limbo, and litigants languish after years of dispute. Judge Newton told a story about her own brother who nearly had his college dream crushed by a legal system that slowly lagged along and a case that just kept getting adjourned.
“No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”
That was this year’s Law Day theme.
In addition to Hon. Newton, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Marsha Steinhardt, Kings County Administrative Judge for Civil Matters Sylvia Hinds-Radix and Kings County Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters Barry Kamins also spoke.
Hon. Kamins, now the administrative judge for all the New York City criminal courts, had been one the principal speakers at Law Day in 2008, when the Brooklyn judges first assembled on the courthouse steps. At the time, Kamins was the president of the New York City Bar Association.
Yesterday, Brooklyn Bar Association President Ethan Gerber also addressed the crowd of lawyers, court employees and passers-by in Columbus Park. Gerber demanded better resources for our courts.
“Courthouse doors must be open,” Gerber said. “The pillars of our justice system cannot be bartered away with budget cuts.
Also speaking yesterday was Meghan Faux, director of the Foreclosure Prevention Project at South Brooklyn Legal Services on Court Street.
Law Day was officially May 1, with several judges from Brooklyn attending the official ceremonies in Albany.
Of note on Tuesday, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that beginning next year, people seeking admission to the bar in New York will be required to perform at least 50 hours of pro bono service at some point prior to their application. According to Judge Lippman's speech, this service can be performed during law school or prior to the admission process.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle