Brooklyn Bar Association welcomes newcomers, lauds legal process at Judiciary Night

NY: Brooklyn Bar Association Judiciary Night
Joseph Rosato, the Hon. Bernard Graham, the Hon. Lawrence Knipel, the Hon. Keshia Espinal, the Hon. Matthew J. D’Emic, he Hon. Kevin McClanahan, the Hon. Amanda White, the Hon. Dweynie Paul, and Andrew Fallek pose for a photo at the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Judiciary Night.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The Brooklyn Bar Association hosted its annual Judiciary Night and cocktail reception at its Brooklyn Heights headquarters on Tuesday, April 9.

Joseph Rosato of The Rosato Firm in downtown Manhattan and current president of the Brooklyn Bar Association told Brooklyn Paper that Judiciary Night was one of the group’s “best nights,” where bar association members have a chance to mingle and network with New York’s judiciary and learn more about the happenings at the courts. 

“[The supervising judges] get to introduce us to the new judges who have now come on to their courts,” Rosato said. “So it’s a very casual and fun evening, but very honorary to see the new judges who have been now appointed to the bench.”

Rosato described the relationship between the bench, judiciary, and practicing lawyers as “unique.”

“It’s one built on respect for what each of us does, but also respect as human beings,” the trial lawyer who practices all types of litigations said. “Treating each other as we’re supposed to be treated, but also doing what we need to do to respect the judiciary and to give justice to those people who need our courts.”

Steven Richman, Richard Klass, and Adam Kalish attend Judiciary Night at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Apr. 9, 2024.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

New York Supreme Court Judge, 2nd Judicial District (Matrimonial Term), the Hon. Theresa Ciccotto, enjoyed the evening “immensely.” 

“It’s an opportunity for lawyers and judges not only to see each other in the courtroom; it’s an opportunity for us to see each other out of the courtroom and enjoy each other’s company and engage in conversations that normal people do that aren’t necessarily legally related,” Ciccatto said.  

Political strategist Musa Moore has attended the event for 20 years. 

“It’s networking [and] it is coming to say hello to everyone. You get everybody under the same roof,” Moore said. 

After some mingling and opening remarks by Rosato and Brooklyn Bar Association Chair Andrew Fallek, it was time for the supervising judges to introduce the newly elected and newly appointed judges and share a few words about their respective courts. 

BBA Chair Andrew Fallek introduced the judges.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Addressing the crowd, Fallek pointed out the diversity of the newly elected judges. 

“We’ve got a lot of new faces, and these faces look a little bit more like the communities they were elected in,” Fallek said before introducing the judges to talk about their respective courts and the new judges to the courts. 

The Hon. Lawrence Knipel, administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, shared that the two issues he was primarily concerned about were motions and trials. 

“Our goal is to have motions decided faster and move more trials,” Knipel said. “So expect that this year, we’re going to have a substantially higher number of trials than we had last year, and your motions,  god willing, will be decided much faster than before.”

The Hon. Lara J. Genovesi and Anthony W. Vaughn Jr attend Judiciary Night at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Apr. 9, 2024.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The Hon. Matthew J. D’Emic, administrative judge for criminal matters in the Kings County Supreme Court, joked that Judge Knipel was a hard act to follow “because I don’t care about trials and motions” before introducing the newcomers to his court. 

Kings County Surrogate Judge, the Hon. Bernard Graham, reported that things at the surrogate court had improved dramatically. 

“I happen to be very fortunate to have a terrific staff of very good attorneys. The clerks and the staff have a very good morale going, and we celebrate everything from baby showers to holidays and still get the work done. So we’re in good hands,” Graham said. 

The Hon. Dweynie Paul, Kings County Civil Court Judge, pointed out how “extremely” hard everyone at the courthouse worked. 

“And I don’t have to tell you how extremely important it is what we do. They don’t call us a People’s Court for no reason,” Paul said. 

Paul urged attorneys to sign up to become an arbitrator: “I have a plea for attorneys who are interested in getting access to becoming an arbitrator, adjudicating cases, and helping us move our cases; please sign up to become an arbitrator.”

The Hon. Lawrence Knipel, the Hon. Caroline P. Cohen, the Hon. Heela Capell, and Joseph Rosato attend Judiciary Night at the Brooklyn Bar Association.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The Hon. Keshia Espinal, supervising judge of the Kings County Criminal Court, reported that her court had over 8,000 misdemeanor cases pending — an increase of 8% compared to last year. 

“We are busy in criminal court,” Espinal said. “And we do more with less because at the start of 2020, we had 22 judges on our roster, including the supervising judge, our STEP MBTC judge, and our Red Hook judge. Today, including those three judges, which I’m one of them, we have 16 judges.” 

The court is open 365 days a year, and Espinal pointed out that the judges sometimes work late hours. 

“[Judges] work to one o’clock in the morning and sometimes more, trying to get all these people arraigned so that they are not spending any more time in jail than they need to be,” Espinal said. 

The Hon. Amanda White, supervising judge of Kings County Family Court, shared that the court was busy. 

“We have about 29,000 cases pending right now as we speak,” White said. 

The Hon. Kevin McClanahan, supervising judge of the Kings County Housing Court, said that the housing court was “ground zero” regarding poverty hitting the city. 

Tehilah Berman, Musa Moore, and the Hon. Katherine Levine attend Judiciary Night at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Apr. 9, 2024.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“We are dealing with [an] increase in terms of mental illness and passing through and how we balance that in terms of the court and in terms of due process, and simply just the volume that is increasing exponentially as NYCHA gets on board with their holdovers and their non-payments,” McClanahan said.

McClanahan also declared that the housing court was not an eviction court.  

“I find that that is somewhat disparaging to the jurors that work in the court, the court clerks, court officers, and court attorneys that strive every day to meet our justice and represent this county in an extremely efficient and impressive manner,” McClanahan said. “If anything, we’re a problem-solving court trying to address the balance of competing interests to the same property.”