‘What government’s about’: Bernard Graham sworn in as Kings County Surrogate Judge

NY: Induction Ceremony Surrogate Court Judge Bernhard Graham
The Hon. Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix adminsters the Oath of Office of Surrogate Court Judge Graham at Brooklyn Law School on Jan.10, 24.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The Hon. Bernard Graham was officially sworn into office as Kings County Surrogate Judge at his alma mater, Brooklyn Law School, on Jan. 10 after filling the position as acting surrogate judge since Jan. 2023. 

The Forchelli Center at Brooklyn Law School was filled with family, friends, elected officials, and colleagues as Graham, flanked by his wife, Rosemary, and two of his children, Alexandra and Aidan, was sworn in by New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix.

The induction ceremony began with a bagpipe processional, the Pledge of Allegiance, and opening remarks by Master of Ceremonies, Kings County Supreme Court Judge Lawrence Knipel.

Speakers included former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for NYC Courts Deborah Kaplan, President and Dean of Brooklyn Law School David Meyer, Assembly Member Robert Carroll, Graham’s kids Aidan and Alexandra, and Henry Butler, vice chair of the Kings County Democratic Party and district leader of the 56th Assembly District, among others. 

(L-R) Brooklyn Democratic Party Vice-Chair Henry Butler, Judge Frank Seddio, former BBP Marty Markowitz, Judge Bernard Graham, and Judge Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix at Graham’s induction ceremony at Brooklyn Law School on Jan. 10, 2024.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Markowitz had high praises for his friend of over 25 years. The former Brooklyn borough president was confident Graham, who won the seat in a special election last November, would excel. 

“Because you’re an honest, good, balanced, fair person. That’s all a person coming to court seeks,” Markowitz, known for being Brooklyn’s biggest cheerleader, said. “May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face.” 

Dean David Mayer said it was a source of pride for Brooklyn Law School to see its alumni serve on the courts.

“We are also very proud that Judge Graham, in taking on this new role, is extending a deep tradition of partnership between the judiciary here in New York and Brooklyn Law School that now goes back almost 100 years,” Mayer said.

The Forchelli Center at Brooklyn Law School was packed for the induction ceremony of Surrogate Court Judge Bernard Graham on Jan.10, 24.

The Hon. Deborah Kaplan knew Graham would excel when she appointed him interim surrogate court judge in Kings County after Judge Harriet L. Thompson resigned from office in January 2023 after being accused of misconduct in the courthouse.

Kaplan described Graham as highly qualified, knowledgeable, conscientious, fair and thoughtful.

“[Graham] has been serving as your acting surrogate for about a year, and not surprisingly, he has been doing it exceptionally well,” Kaplan said. “I speak from experience when I tell you that Kings County is so incredibly fortunate to have the Honorable Bernard Graham as a surrogate court judge.”

Aidan and Alexandra Graham had nothing but high accolades for their dad. 

“I just want to say how proud I am of you. How lucky Brooklyn is to have you in a position of public trust,” Aidan said.

“Your professional accomplishments are nothing short of amazing, but by far your biggest accomplishment is how much your family loves and adores you and how much your kids are proud to be your kids,” Alexandra said.

Henry Butler shared that he did his diligent research when he learned that Graham was running for surrogate judge. 

“I did ask around about Judge Graham, where he stood, and what people thought of him. I can honestly say, not a bad word came back about Judge Graham, not one,” Butler said before presenting Graham with a State Assembly Citation on behalf of Assembly Member and Kings County Democratic leader Rodneyse Bichott Hermalyn.

The Hon. Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix, Surrogate Court Judge Graham, Alexandra Graham, Aidan Graham, and Rosemary Graham at Brooklyn Law School on Jan.10, 24.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Assembly Member Carroll was confident that the scandals that rocked the Kings County Surrogate Court in recent years were a thing of the past with Graham as surrogate court judge. 

“So many working-class people who were at the mercy of that court were hurt,” Carroll recalled. “Graham is going to make sure that average everyday people, when they enter that courthouse, they’re actually able to get service because that’s what government’s about.”

Before the swearing-in ceremony, Hinds-Radix pointed out that this was the third time she was administering the oath of office for Graham.  

“I did this when he went to civil court. And when he went to Supreme Court and when he told me he’s going to become surrogate, I said, ‘Well, I’m swearing you in,'” Hinds-Radix said. 

The Hon. Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix speaks at the induction ceremony of Surrogate Court Judge Graham at Brooklyn Law School on Jan.10, 24.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Graham’s career on the bench began in 2005. He served as Kings County Civil Court judge, acting judge at Kings County Family Court, and Kings County Supreme Court justice.

In his speech, Graham said that, in his opinion, the Surrogate Court was the most important court in New York, which deals with handling wills, distributing assets, adoptions, and overseeing trusts, among others.

“It is the most challenging court, and it has the most impact on people in New York,” Graham said, one of two Surrogate’s in Brooklyn.

Surrogate Court Judge Bernard Graham poses for a photo op with elected officials after his swearing in ceremony on Jan. 10, 2024.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Graham went on to thank the slew of supporters and Brooklyn democratic clubs that supported his bid for surrogate judge.

“There are many people who are responsible for my election,” Graham said. “JFK once said, ‘Things don’t just happen. They are made to happen.’ Without these people helping me out, I would not be standing here right now.”

Editor’s note: Justice Bernard Graham is the father of Schneps Media employee and Brooklyn Paper alum Aidan Graham.