Jan 24, 2018
Brooklyn’s judiciary has seen a lot of firsts recently—the first Iranian-born and the first Hasidic judges were sworn in last year. The first Russian-born and Cuban-born judges were already sworn in earlier this year. On Thursday night there was another first—the first ever Dominican-born judge, Patria Frias-Colon, was officially inducted as a Civil Court judge in Brooklyn.
More than 200 people packed into the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill for the “Community Celebration” of Brooklyn’s Frias-Colon.
The entire evening was a celebration starting with the drum band that escorted Judge Frias-Colon into the building. There were three national anthems sung — the U.S. anthem, the Dominican anthem and the black national anthem by Christopher Farmer, Pamela Fernandez and Donna Perry, respectively.
Assemblymember Erik Dilan and former Assemblymember Annette Robinson shared duties as masters of ceremony. They introduced the long list of speakers that included Public Advocate Letitia James; Hon. Frank Seddio, chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Committee; state Sen. Roxanne Persaud; Assemblymember Maritza Davila; and district leaders Ari Kagan, Melba Brown, Arelis Martinez, Anne Swern and Olanike Alabi.
“This induction is the greatest rebuke and rejection of racism and an act of defiance against race-based and skin-color immigration policy,” James said.
“About a year and a half ago, I met with our Hispanic district leaders and I said that we need to do something to get more Hispanics on the bench,” Seddio said. “There was a shrinking number occurring, not because they were leaving, but because they were being promoted. We agreed to do that and worked hard.”
After a musical selection by Doreen Figueroa, that caused a standing ovation, there were remarks from judges Hon. Faviola Soto, of the NYS Court of Claims; Hon. Evelyn Laporte, of the Brooklyn Supreme Court; and Hon. Lillian Wan, of the Brooklyn Family Court. Zachary W. Carter, of the NYC Law Department, also spoke.
“I happen to be the first elected Dominican-American judge in the USA,” Soto said. “I'm here to pass on the gavel to a new generation. I know that Patria will provide justice to everyone who appears before her regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status.”
“Last year five women of color were elected to the bench, two were Latina. In addition to that we elected a district attorney who is also Latino,” Laporte said. “That was not an election, that was a movement.”
Speeches continued from Milady Baez, deputy chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, District Leader Darma V. Diaz and Rev. W. Taharka Robinson. Then Frias-Colon’s husband literally wrapped it up the speeches with a rap about his wife.
“In the county of Kings, that's where she rests,” Robert Colon rapped. “Over 23 years, one of Brooklyn's best.”
Finally, Frias-Colon was sworn in by Hon. Jenny Rivera of the NYS Court of Appeals. Afterward, Brooklyn’s newest judge thanked her family, friends and everyone who helped her during her campaign. She also shared a bit about her rise to becoming a judge.
“I came from one of those countries that was described by the president recently,” Frias-Colon said. “Certainly, we the people from those countries do not feel that that's who we are.”