This year marks my twenty fourth year as an attorney. While I have seen positive changes, I believe there is still a significant disparity in the diversity of the bench. As a Puerto Rican female residing in the Bronx, I represent a large majority of persons who appear in the Bronx Courthouses. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for jurists who are tasked with making such important decisions in people’s lives.
Having appeared before numerous New York City Family Court judges for over twenty years, I believe that to be effective, a great Family Court judge must possess knowledge of the applicable law, empathy, a calm, but authoritative demeanor and certain analytical skills. I strongly believe that my extensive and diverse experience within the Family Court system has endowed me with each of those necessary characteristics. Moreover, my experience with the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial program and work during my tenure as Commissioner at the Civilian Complaint Review Board has provided me with great insight into Criminal Law.
My commitment to Law began in 1995 when I was still in college. While a student intern at the Erie County Department of Social Services, I had the opportunity to observe investigative child protective caseworkers at work. There, I learned how a child protective investigation is initiated, investigated and often times referred to Family Court under an Article 10 child abuse/neglect petition. My interest in Family Law continued in law school. There, I was able to immerse myself in a culture of public service and focus on Family Law. My Family Law concentration introduced me to the breadth of the family law area with three required courses: Family Law, Domestic Violence Law and Children and the Law. Through additional elective courses and practice experiences, I was able to round out my education in Family Law. My final writing project provided me with an opportunity to explore the importance of interpreters in accessing Family Court services.
After graduating from law school, I began working as an attorney for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). It was there that I learned how to litigate a case in Family Court and also how to advocate for the rights of abused and neglected children. During my five years with the agency, I prosecuted well over 1,000 Article 10 cases from arraignment to disposition. I have earned a reputation for being well prepared, tough, and extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of the children in our care. Additionally, I have learned to be comfortable in a courtroom, to make sense of a large volume of cases, to prepare a legal strategy based on solid research, to creatively think of reasonable solutions when problems and unique situations arise, and to further develop my writing skills.
Upon leaving ACS, I joined the Family Court’s 18b Assigned Counsel Panel as I believe that families and vulnerable children can only protect their rights if they can access the judicial mechanisms that serve them. For seventeen years, I continued to litigate in almost every Family Court within the city and surrounding counties. I handled cases involving juvenile delinquency and PINS petitions, parents accused of abuse or neglect or domestic violence against a family member, and adults involved in custody, visitation or support of a child disputes. In running my own practice, I mastered all areas of family law, become comfortable with representing both children and parents, and developed a high level of organizational skills for managing my calendar and caseload. My experiences have helped me become a better lawyer; I now have the ability to evaluate legal issues through a social justice lens and have made a positive difference in the lives of my clients and community.
My experiences further prepared me for my role as Principal Court Attorney for Justice Ramirez. During our time in Family Court, I conferenced hundreds of matters, at times leading to settlement. I also drafted decisions on motion and child support objections. In February 2022, we transitioned to Supreme Civil. While the subject matter was completely new to me, the skills I learned in my years as a practitioner helped me acclimate relatively quickly. In this new role, I conferenced many cases, assisted in Jury trial matters and drafted several of the almost 300 motions rendered by Justice Ramirez.
All of my legal experience and involvement with Family Law prepared me for my most recent and perhaps most rewarding role as Family Court Judge. As of February 2023, I oversee custody, visitation and family offense matters. I have a clear understanding that those appearing before me are plagued with emotions and may not be their best selves. However, I am able to express my empathy and understanding of their plight in an effort to make their experiences less stressful and have them understand the ultimate decision I render.
My commitment to family law is also evident in the work I do outside the court room. While serving as President of the Bronx Family Court Bar Association from 2010 to 2012, I was particularly interested in creating educational programs for family law practitioners and in advocating for legislation that works for our community’s families and children. I also served as a member of the Children and the Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association as well as the Family Court/Family Law Committee, where we have worked on such issues as raising the age of criminal responsibility and extending foster care beyond the age of 18. This commitment to family law has been amplified through my current role as President of the Bronx Women’s Bar Association. As President, I have strived to collaborate with other organizations to expand upon the Inclusivity and Empowerment of Women in Law. I am now a proud Board Member of the Latino Judges Association where I hope to be integral in our efforts to promote Latinos to in the judiciary as well as in administration roles.
Of note, for the last nine years, I have successfully balanced a thriving legal career, participated with various Bar Associations and community events while also maintaining my role as wife and mother. I believe that the law can only fulfill its potential to deliver justice and protect rights with the help of a passionate and dedicated cadre of judges