Brooklynites, get ready to vote. Again?,you may wonder… Yes, again.
Tuesday, June 25 is primary day in New York City.
In a highly contested race in City Council District 45, incumbent Councilmember Farah Louis, who was just sworn in last Thursday after winning the May 14 special election, is being challenged by several candidates for the upcoming term. There are also various judicial races to which you should pay attention, including the one for the 6th Civil Court Municipal District — one of the largest districts in Brooklyn.
The 6th Civil Court Municipal District includes Flatbush, East Flatbush, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights and is responsible for civil cases of up to $25,000 in claims and also includes a small claims part for the informal resolution of cases involving amounts of up to $5,000.
Judges elected to this court serve ten-year terms, can run for re-election until the age of 70 and may also be designated to other jurisdictions including the family, criminal or housing courts. Despite the fact that these judicial primaries are usually low-turnout and low-information contests, it’s worth paying attention to them, because the judges’ decisions can affect you in a very direct way.
“A civil court judge, when assigned to the criminal court, will make decisions on the issues of bail or release,” explained Chinyelu Udoh, one of the four candidates running. “When assigned to the family court, a civil court judge will make decisions regarding custody and visitation rights. So you definitely want someone who has a level of compassion, empathy and knowledge to serve the diverse community of Brooklyn.”
Meet the candidates.
Tehilah H. Berman
Tehilah Berman has gained 25 years of experience in various practices including civil and commercial litigation, labor and employment law. She currently serves as a law clerk at the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Berman discovered her passion for law at a young age, she said, and began her undergrad studies at NYU at age 16, continued her graduate studies at Brooklyn Law School and was admitted to the bar at age 23.
“As a judge, I want to serve all of our diverse Brooklyn communities,” Berman said. “Steady temperament, varied experience and heartfelt compassion are the qualifications that make for a superb judge, and these are the characteristics I’ve always worked hard to achieve.”
Berman has been endorsed by lawyer and judicial scholar Alan Dershowitz, for whom she worked as a pro-bono attorney.
Caroline P. Cohen
Caroline Cohen positions herself as an experienced litigator and vigorous community advocate who is running to “modernize the courts.” Throughout her career, she has focused on fighting gender and pregnancy discrimination, as well as protecting the civil rights of tenants.
She was previously employed by the New York City Housing Authority, where she litigated a variety of cases including discrimination cases brought before the New York State Division of Human Rights, New York City Commission on Human Rights, the EEOC and the New York State Supreme Court.
In September 2018, Cohen was re-elected as a judicial delegate of the 42nd Assembly District. She has been endorsed by Councilmember Brad Lander, Assemblymembers Walter Mosley and Rodneyse Bichotte, as well as the Brooklyn Young Democrats, the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
Cohen said her decision to run for Civil Court Judge was inspired by her late mother, who always wanted to attend law school with the goal to join the bench. However, her mother’s father refused to support her financially, proclaiming that “she was educated enough for a woman.”
Alice A. Nicholson
Alice Nicholson has practiced in New York since 1986 and specializes in foreclosure prevention law to protect families from displacement from their homes. She champions rent stabilization and affordability, and wants all tenants and landlords to know their rights to “level the playing field in the courts.”
She began her career as a social security advocate at Bedford Stuyvesant Legal Services and Queens Legal Services, where she fought for SSI and social security disability benefits. She has also worked as a court attorney at the Appellate Division, Second Department.
As a law student at NYU’s School of Law, Nicholson worked on police brutality cases at the Center for Constitutional Rights and interned with the ACLU.
Nicholson said that “during my 30 plus years as a lawyer, I have focused on my mission to protect and defend the rights of those who would otherwise not have a voice,” and she plans to bring that passion also to the 6th Civil Court Municipal District.
With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, and as a child of immigrant parents from Nigeria, Chinyelu Udoh believes in protecting the most vulnerable of New York City’s citizens and is dedicated to justice and fairness for everyone.
A former criminal defense attorney, she currently serves as a principal law clerk at the NYS Supreme Court.
Udoh has been active in her community for over 20 years; she has served as a board member of Brooklyn Community Board 3, as well as vice president and general counsel at the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association. Additionally, she is a member of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association and the Nigerian Lawyers Association.
She has received endorsements from Assemblymembers Jo Anne Simon and Nick Perry, former Assemblywoman Joane Millman, as well as the Independent Neighborhood Democrats and the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.
“I absolutely believe that I am the most qualified candidate, because I have practiced in all of the judicial court jurisdictions,” says Udoh. “I’ve practiced in family, matrimonial and criminal court, and I currently work with an NYS Supreme Court judge in civil court.”
Polls will be open on Election Day, June 25, from 6:00am to 9:00pm. To find your polling stations and other general information about the 2019 NYC primaries, go here. The general election will take place on Tuesday, November 5.
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