“An accomplished and diverse group of jurists.”
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, was aptly describing Justices Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Darcel Clarke and four other eminent jurists he had just elevated to the State's Appellate Bench, one of the busiest in the country. His choices were made after careful consideration and the inclusion of the two female Black judges as well as Justice Randall Eng, an Asian-American immigrant who was born in China and who was made presiding judge of the Second Department of the Appellate Division, underscored the importance of diversity and judicial temperament, qualities to which the state’s chief executive indicated he paying close attention as he selects judges for the highest branches of the court system.
The choice of Justice Hinds-Radix, a Caribbean immigrant, who is currently the administrative judge of the civil division of the State court in Brooklyn enhances the caliber of the bench that settles legal disputes in 10 counties in New York. The same holds true for Justice Clarke, who has served with distinction and dignity as a judge in the Bronx. Both Black women are graduates of Howard University School of Law in Washington D.C. and they embody the qualities we all look for and expect in our high judicial officers.
Their appointments are important for a key reason. They send a strong message to the judicial and legal communities that Cuomo intends to search for the best legal minds, people who are accomplished and are representative of the communities served by the courts. That means we can expect more attorneys of color to be appointed to the bench, correcting an obvious deficiency in the system which remains dominated by whites. In addition, Cuomo shows he understands only too well that the Appellate Division was in dire need of some of his attention. Until he selected Justices Hinds-Radix, Clarke, Eng, Judith Gische, Joseph Valentino and Gerald Whalen, the Governor had seemingly left the Appeals court far too short of qualified judges. He had not chosen a single justice to the Appellate Division in the past two years, allowing several positions to remain vacant in every Department.
A word or two about Hinds-Radix. She first ascended the bench as a civil court judge in Brooklyn more than a decade ago. Three years later, she won a seat on the State Supreme Court in 2004 and then proceeded to demonstrate that she possessed the even-handed qualities and knowledge of the law that the state needs. They have been the defining characteristics of her legal career, which included a successful stint as chief counsel of the immigration program of District 37, one of nation’s largest public service unions.
That she was able to attract the support of the Democratic and Republic parties when she ran for the State Supreme Court was a clear indication of her high standing among some key decision-makers in the Empire state. That’s not all. She was recently elected as the President of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, the first Black person to occupy that top position in the august body.
Nadine Fontaine, President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, stated it eloquently when she said of Justice Hinds-Radix, she “has repeatedly demonstrated a strong commitment to the principles of fairness and justice and the advancement of the members of our diverse community.”
What also sets her apart from many of her judicial colleagues is her deep interest in the growth and development of our young people. Her interest doesn’t rest simply on her desire to keep teens out of the courts but to serve as a role model, someone with whom they relate. She goes regularly into City Schools and churches telling the youth about making sound career choices and traveling along the path that leads to being productive members of society.
Another role model is U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Democrat of Brooklyn, who has just been given a high rating by the Institute for Policy Studies for her voting record on Capitol Hill. She made the list of 14 members of the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representative who were given an “A” for doing the most “to narrow America’s economic divide over the past two years.”
Two other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, John Conyers of Michigan and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas made the “honor roll.”
Clarke, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, who is up for re-election to the House in November, distinguished herself by supporting an array of bills that would, among other things raise the minimum wage, index inflation and establish the Buffet Rule” minimum tax rate that all wealthy Americans must pay.
The Institute, a liberal think tank, graded lawmakers on their approach to a series of bills that either feathered “the nest of America’s most affluent” or enhanced economic opportunities of our 99 per cent.” It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that Congresswoman Clarke aggressively supported the measures that seek to ensure that all Americans share in the country’s wealth. She did the same thing as a member of the New York City Council and it didn’t come as surprise to those who have followed her legislative career that she would be so highly rated.