While the media spotlight has been largely focused on the NYC mayoral candidates, when you head to the polls for the June 22nd primary you'll also find a number of judicial posts on the ballot.
Most of the judges are running for open seats in Civil Court, which, unlike other judicial posts appointed by the mayor and governor, are elected positions. Judges in these courts—broken up into municipal districts per borough and a countywide court—decide on a slew of cases, including commercial tenant-landlord disputes, seeking repairs from a landlord, and small claims of up to $25,000. Unlike most elected officials, judges do not have to live in the borough in which they hear cases. There is also a race for Surrogate's Court, where judges hear cases involving wills and testaments, estates, and adoptions. Those terms last for 14 years.
Here's a breakdown of the candidates who have made the ballot, listed in the order in which they'll appear (note: voters will not choose these candidates through ranked-choice voting):
Judge of the Civil Court for Manhattan's 2nd Municipal District
Edward Irizarry: Edward Irizarry has brought his experience as a litigator to the New York City Council, New York Senate, Consumer Protection Committee, and as a Queens assistant district attorney. His legal background consists of writing executive orders for the Bloomberg administration, including barring local police from inquiring about someone's legal status. He's also helped draft state legislation that increased protections for children impacted by toxic toys.
Betty Lugo: An attorney for more than 30 years, Betty Lugo currently manages a practice that specializes in general and commercial liability, labor law, and real estate. Lugo unsuccessfully ran for Queens District Attorney, advocating more for victims rights, but lost to Melinda Katz.
Judge of the Civil Court for Manhattan's 5th Municipal District
Hasa Kingo: An attorney working on the city, state, and federal levels, Hasa Kingo is currently the principal court attorney for at New York State Supreme Court, sorting through complicated legal matters for Deputy Chief Administrative Judge George J. Silver, who oversees daily trial court operations. Kingo began as a legal intern for the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009, before briefly serving as an assistant state Attorney General under disgraced litigator Eric Schneiderman.
Orlando Molina: An attorney specializing in landlord-tenant disputes and fighting debt collectors, Orlando Molina previously ran for the Supreme Court in the Bronx's 12th Judicial District. Unlike the rest of the candidates in that race, who were "approved" by the New York City Bar Association for demonstrating "qualifications necessary for the performance of the duties of the position for which they are being considered," Molina was not.
Judge of the Civil Court for the Bronx's 2nd Municipal District
Jessica Flores: A candidate backed by the Bronx Democratic Party, Jessica Flores holds 20 years of experience across the state, handling divorce, adoption, labor law, and malpractice cases. She also runs her own Bronx-based law firm while holding an adjunct position teaching law at Hostos Community College. On her website, she infers the court system remains homogenous and wants to help bring diversity to the bench.
John Rodriguez: John Rodriguez has practiced law for the last 33 years in New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Illinois. He's litigated criminal, civil rights, personal injury, and labor.
Angel Cruz: An attorney who lives in Queens but has had a longstanding relationship with the Bronx Democratic Party, Angel Cruz unsuccessfully ran for a Queens Assembly seat last year. Cruz runs his own law firm that specializes in criminal, probate, and election law alongside his wife, who is now a civil court judge in Queens.
Verena C. Powell: A prosecutor and defense attorney with 30 years experience, Verena Powell currently works for the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, offering input on how to reform the criminal justice system. Powell also applied her experience working in criminal defense, federal civil rights, and employment law while running her own law firm for over a decade. Powell also worked as an assistant district attorney for the Bronx District Attorney's office for ten years.
Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor: The Bronx-born litigator and former Army reservist has mainly worked for New York City, notably with the NYPD in 2006 as an assistant public advocate which hears disciplinary matters, and as an administrative hearing officer for the city Department of Education. Gonzalez-Taylor has handled more than 1,500 of these cases where students were accused of serious incidents inside the school system.
Judge of the Civil Court in Queens (Countywide)
Michael H. Goldman: Michael Goldman is hoping 25 years as an attorney will help him win the bench. A Boston University School of Law alum, Goldman's background includes experience working in the Queens Criminal, Civil, and Supreme Courts. If elected he will be the first openly gay judge elected in Queens County history.
Soma S. Syed: Soma Syed pegs herself as an activist attorney, providing pro bono services to aid those with housing, immigration, and unemployment matters. She currently serves as president for the Queens County Women's Bar Association.
Judge of the Civil Court for Brooklyn (Countywide)
Charles Finkelstein: Charles Finkelstein has sought a Civil Court judgeship as far back as 2012, when he ran unsuccessfully. According to reports, Finkelstein has practiced law for more than 30 years, serving as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, assistant Office of Special Narcotics prosecutor, and an administrative law judge for the New York City Department of Finance.
Inga O'Neale: Inga O'Neale's experience includes working as a court attorney researching cases on behalf of judge's, while also providing free legal help to persons who couldn't afford an attorney. O'Neale has also lent her legal experience on a volunteer basis, serving as a volunteer arbitrator in the Kings County Small Claims Court.
Casilda Elena Roper-Simpson: Casilda Elena Roper-Simpson's experience in the legal world stretches back to the 1990s, when she was part of the legal team that sued the city on behalf of Abner Louima, who was brutally sodomized by police. The founder of her own law firm, Roper-Simpson specializes in criminal defense, personal injury, civil rights, and family law.
Judge of the Civil Court in Brooklyn's 2nd Municipal District
Lisa Lewis: A supporter of the cashless bail system, Lisa Lewis has worked for District Council 37's matrimonial unit, clerked in the New York Criminal Court, and served in the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Appeals Bureau. Along with notching an endorsement from DC37, Lewis has won the support of Councilmember Darma Diaz, Assemblymember Annette M. Robison, and several district leaders.
Lola Waterman: A Michigan native, Lola Waterman's involvement in the law is a personal one: her father was murdered in a carjacking incident in Nigeria, with virtually no investigation into his death. Following the tragic incident, Waterman became a lawyer, practicing immigration, elder law, and estate planning. She currently serves as a principal law clerk to a Supreme Court Justice and as a small claims court arbitrator.
Marva Brown: An attorney with the Legal Aid Society for 14 years, Marva Brown is not just positioning herself as an attorney representing clients accused of misdemeanor crimes but a community-minded candidate highlighting her experience beyond the courtroom and on the local community board and Friends of Brower Park.
Judge of the Civil Court in Brooklyn's 7th Municipal Division
Keisha M. Alleyne: Keisha M. Alleyne's career began 18 years ago, serving as a corporate attorney to handle contract disputes and tax issues in civil and supreme court before moving on to start her own practice helping to navigate any legal hurdles for minority-and-women-owned businesses. Along with holding her own practice, Alleyne is the founder of two youth-centric non-profits in Brooklyn—Elite Vision Enterprise, LLC and Collegiate M.I.N.D.S.
Carmen Pacheco: Like her fellow co-founder of her own law firm, Betty Lugo (see Manhattan's 2nd Municipal District), Carmen Pacheco looks to transition out of practice law to serving on the bench. Pacheco has handled civil matters, white collar crime, and real estate cases while also offering pro bono services to those in need.
Judge of Brooklyn Surrogate's Court
Dweynie Esther Paul: The first Haitian-born New Yorker elected to a judgeship in the state, Dweynie Paul looks to make the switch after five years presiding over small claims cases. She has already received an endorsement from the Brooklyn Democratic Party, which was deemed controversial since Paul's home health aide sued her in court for allegedly paying low wages. Before she was a judge, Paul practiced law, representing clients involved in contract disputes, personal injury, commercial real estate claims.
Rosemarie Mantolbano: Even though she began her 14-year term as supreme court judge in 2020, Rosemarie Mantolbano is also looking to land a 14-year career on the Surrogate's Court. She has risen through the ranks of the legal world, beginning as a lawyer before being elected to Civil Court in 2015. Despite not receiving an endorsement from the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Mantolbano has received backing from notable figures and groups, including the New York State Court Officers Association, Representatives Nydia Velasquez and Carolyn Maloney, and state Senator Julia Salazar.