Surrounded by her husband and six children, colleagues and the Brooklyn political elite, the Hon. Linda Wilson was officially sworn in as Judge of the Civil Court on Jan. 24 at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn Heights.
Mistress of Ceremonies Celeste Morris led through the program, which opened with the Presentation of Colors by the New York State Court Officers Ceremonial Unit, the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the National and Black National anthems, and the invocation by Pastor Sharmaine Byrd.
Wilson was sworn in by the Hon. Janice A. Taylor.
Speakers included elected officials like State Attorney General Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, City Council Member Crystal Hudson, close friend and former candidate for New York City Mayor Maya Wiley, and Wilson’s husband Alfonso and son Eric, among others.
In her speech, State Attorney General Letitia James described Wilson as a “truly remarkable” public servant who has worked for the Kings County Judicial system for 30 years in various capacities ranging from principal appellate court attorney, supervising attorney, and senior principal law clerk to a Justice of the Supreme Court Appellate Division, to name a few of Wilson’s long list of accomplishments.
“Linda is committed to ensuring equitable, accessible, and proactive justice. She also cares deeply about the rule of law, which you all know right now is facing challenges,” James said. “Linda understands that judges are basically key to our fight for freedom, for civil rights, for human rights right now. And she knows that everyone should be treated fairly in our courts regardless of your income, regardless of your race, your religious affiliation.”
Beep Reynoso shared that he endorsed Wilson not solely based on her stellar record but because Wilson “came with a strong foundation of goodness.”
“I feel like in this day and age, we really lost that being good is a value that should be essential in any work we do,” Reynoso said. “It’s almost like it’s not important anymore. You could be mean. You can be disrespectful. You can be loud, power-hungry, ambitious. And all that is par for the course; it’s fair game. But being good and having goodness is a low priority. I would say that especially in our court system, where people need more than anything, even more than justice is goodness.”
Council Member Hudson has known Wilson for 30 years and calls the inductee her mentor.
Hudson, who lives three doors down from the Wilson family, joked that they lived on the “most winning block in Brooklyn” because both won the first elections they ran in.
Hudson called out the Brooklyn political establishment that told Wilson it wasn’t her time and to wait her turn because somebody else was in line.
“I may ruffle a few feathers here, and I say this respectfully because to serve and sit on the bench is a privilege. And there are so many people who do so and make us all proud,” Hudson said. “But there are also people who sit on the bench who are appointed, who are anointed, who are selected by few, and there are a few on the bench who are elected by many.”
Wiley was beaming with pride as she told the crowd that she’s loved Wilson since they met in 1986 when they both attended Columbia Law School. She shared that white students asked black students about their LSAT scores to determine whether they would invite them into their study groups.
“So you know what we did?” Wiley asked the crowd. “We had a Black study group, y’all.”
Wiley shared a quote by the late Shirley Chisholm, the first black female congresswoman: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, you bring a folding chair,” before presenting Wilson with a decorated chair.
“What it says, as Shirley Chisholm said it, ‘I am black, and I am proud. I am a woman, and equally proud of that. I am not a candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests. I stand here now unbought and unbossed,” Wiley read, eliciting cheers from attendees.
Political strategist Musa Moore, who has known Wilson since he was 16, said that Wilson’s campaign was “us against the world” because the Kings County Democratic machine did not endorse her. In the end, Wilson won 20 out of 22 assembly districts.
Addressing Wilson, Moore said, “Like I told you from the first day when we talked about this campaign, and every day since ‘I got your back no matter what.’ We’re gonna do what we’re going to do. Nobody’s gonna tell you or us no. They could say it, but it’s not going to work out in their favor.”
Wilson’s son Eric praised his mom as fair and a seeker of truth who understands the “different nuances of the human experience.”
“It is no easy feat to raise six kids, prioritize family, and also never miss a beat at work,” Eric Wilson said. “Whether it’s skipping two grades, attending college at 16, or being a lifelong purveyor of justice. She has always been a shining example of what it means to be great. I feel extremely lucky and blessed and grateful to have you as my mom.”
After her induction, Wilson shared she was about five years old when she realized that she had to be a champion for the people based on a conversation she had with her grandmother.
“The spark that set it off for me was when my Italian grandmother said to me, ‘Linda, people are going to think they’re better than you just because you’re black.’ And I said, ‘What, I’m Black?'” Wilson recounted. “I immediately realized that it meant, in some spaces, I’m a second-class citizen. And what do I do with that? How do I impact that?”
From an early age, Wilson said she would recognize the people who were ignored and who felt they didn’t matter.
“So my life has been centered around making people feel good, making them feel kind, letting them be seen and heard, and giving them the encouragement to go out in the world,” Wilsons said. “So help me, folks, to continue to show them who we are. Let’s continue to shine together. We are one now and forevermore.”