Mayor Bill de Blasio will swear in a group of 26 judges Monday to serve various courts throughout the city.
The group of 11 new judges and 15 re-apointees all live in the five boroughs and have strong experience in the legal system. De Blasio is touting the diversity of the new group of courtroom leaders; more than half of the new judges are minorities — three are black, one is Latino, one is Asian and another is Indo-Caribbean.
“With these strong additions to our judicial system, I am confident that the people of this city will find fair and effective judicial oversight of our courts,” he said in a statement.
Two of the judges who will be part of the swearing-in ceremony Monday morning at City Hall spoke with amNewYork about their accomplishments.
Karen Gopee, Brooklyn Criminal Court
Judge Gopee said she had an interest in law from an early age.
She and her family immigrated from Trinidad, where women weren’t traditionally encouraged to pursue professional roles. She said she searched for a career where she could share her opinions and make a difference.
“I’ve always wanted to do public service and I’ve always wanted to debate,” said Gopee, who declined to give her age.
She caught the law bug in a special program at Franklin K. Lane High School, a closed institution formerly in Cypress Hills, where she was involved with mock trial and legal internships. She graduated from Bighamton University and St. John’s Law School before working with the Brooklyn DA’s office on the prosecution team for seven and a half years.
Subsequently, she worked for a judge in the Queens DA’s office and then at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Gopee said she admired the balance that men and women behind the bench must strike when delivering justice.
“I’ve been able to observe their temperament and I’ve been inspired by their ability to help people,” she said.
Gopee has been assigned to serve as a criminal court judge. She said she’s proud to be a minority on the bench and that she will aim to make use of her background to help newcomers to the city through her work.
“It makes me think about my parents. How do they know about their rights? How do they know the system? How would you want them treated?” she said.
Marguerite Dougherty, Brooklyn Criminal Court
Judge Dougherty’s journey to becoming a Brooklyn Criminal Court judge began next to the bench.
The 52-year-old Levittown, L.I. native worked as a court officer 30 years ago, beginning a lifetime of professional experience that led her to Monday’s re-appointment.
“It gives you a different perspective being on the bench and seeing those things,” she said of her previous court experience.
Dougherty worked as a court officer during the day and attended St. Francis College and Brooklyn Law School at night, earning her JD in 2001. After working as an attorney in the private sector for 14 years, including three years as the executive director and assistant general counsel for JP Morgan Chase, Dougherty applied for a city judge position and was appointed as an interim civil court judge last February.
She said she was drawn to the challenges and rewards of being on the bench and wanted to bring her years of courtroom insight toward the creation of a fair legal environment.
“Beating your chest and saying ‘I’m the judge. I’m the judge,’ doesn’t work. You need to make everyone feel they’re on the team,” she said.
Dougherty credited her husband, who works as a deputy chief clerk in Brooklyn Criminal Court, and her father-in-law as the people who influenced her path. She encouraged New Yorkers to pursue their passions, even if it feels intimidating.
“It took me 15 years to get my bachelor’s degree. If I can do it you can do it,” she said.