Hon. Sallie Manzanet-Daniels
As I approach the last few months of my tenure as President of this incredible association, I am proud to launch our very own LJA website. The need for one was made all the more evident this past year as we have had to grapple with this global pandemic.
At the outset of my administration, our board was filled with great enthusiasm and looking forward to building on the tremendous success of the leadership that preceded us.
Instead, we were immediately thrust into the state-wide debate about the proposed “Court Merger/Court Consolidation” Plan being advanced by our states Chief Judge. On behalf of our membership, the LJA advocated and urged that any plan that would alter our state constitution and our court structure be preceded by an analysis and assessment of the impact on diversity that such a plan would have. During my testimony at the public hearing held by the NYS Senate & Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, I outlined in painstaking detail the disparity of representation of Latinos in the NYS Judiciary, by court and by region. In response to our advocacy OCA compiled the long-needed data regarding the demographic breakdown of our courts throughout the state. That data confirmed our findings, that Latinos were underrepresented state-wide.
LJA also advocated for judicial pay raises before the Commission, for accountability of court personnel that engaged in racial discrimination, for reconsideration of the denial of re-certification of 46 Justices at their mandatory retirement age and for the increased advancement of Latino judges to supervisory and administrative positions & appointment to Commissions, Task Forces and Court Committees. The LJA Board was invited to meet with and present our concerns to Secretary Jeh Johnson, who was appointed by Chief Judge DiFiore to conduct an “Equal Justice Review of the NYS Courts”. We outlined the indisputable disparities in Latino representation in all spheres of the court system and offered suggestions on areas of improvement. Secretary Johnson issued his report in October of 2020. The extensive report confirmed the basic conclusions reached by our own analysis (as documented in the report I prepared for our association) and as had been previously concluded in the Franklin H. Williams Commission Report, examining the same issues, thirty (30) years ago.
Before our world changed however, we were able to come together in a historic first for our association with the “Un Cafecíto con U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor” Reception, chaired by our Immediate Past President, Judge Joanne Quiñones. Justice Sotomayor blessed us with her engaging, enlightening and uplifting intimate conversation. The evening will forever be an LJA treasure. We sponsored a free film-screening of “Decades of Fire” in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Our Community Service Committee, chaired by Judge Connie Mallafré Mélendez, organized an afternoon dedicated to Seniors during the Thanksgiving season, at the Providence Rest Senior Center, making holiday arts and crafts and has spearheaded our LJA High School Speakers Series which connects our members with schools seeking additional virtual programming opportunities.
At our last in-person event, over a year ago, the LJA together with the Judicial Friends Association and the Asian American Judges Association of NY sponsored a Judicial Mixer in NYC to provide our respective members an opportunity to meet in a social space and forge deeper connections between and amongst our communities. A great time was had by all, and I for one look forward to the next one. Prior to our first virtual Annual Meeting in 2020, Judge Mary Ann Brigantti, as Chair of the Foundation Committee, led the board to complete the vision of our Immediate Past President in establishing the Latino Judges Association Foundation. We announced at the 2020 Annual Meeting that the incorporation process of the LJA Foundation was completed. It has since been formally entrusted to its three Incorporating Directors, retired Justices Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Hon. Ariel Belen and the Hon. Luis A. Gonzalez.
Despite the obvious limitations, post-pandemic the LJA has provided meaningful programming via our new virtual platforms. We honored our tradition and kicked off the new year with our annual Three Kings Day Celebration featuring the live performance of Latin Jazz Flutist Carlos Jimenez & his band. The event is dedicated annually to honor our retiring members and to celebrate our newly elected and appointed judges. We organized and co-sponsored with the Judicial Friends Association, a Black History Month Literary Program moderated by CBS Anchor, Maurice DuBois – featuring the 2020 National Award winning book “The Dead Are Arising” by Les Payne & Tamara Payne. We also sponsored a Wellness Program, the “Road to the Appellate Division, Part II” program, “The Upstate Experience: The Latin Bench – Why our presence matters” program. Most recently our 74th Anniversary 0f Mendez v. Westminster Project Committee, chaired by Hon. Patria Frias-Colón, sponsored our CLE program “Para Todo Los Niños: Mendez v. Westminster – A Case Toward Desegregation” which was a resounding success.
As my parting contribution to our association, we have embarked upon the “LJA History Project program which is Co-Chaired by the Hon. Wilma Guzman (Director & former Past-President) and yours truly. The History Project Committee, which is comprised of sixteen (16) board members and members-at-large, have been hard at work for the last five (5) months researching, drafting historical narratives, gathering photographs and recording video profiles of our early pioneers in order to preserve our rich and diverse history in New York State. The committee expects to submit our material for production of the “documentary film” that we are creating early this Summer. It is our hope to present our LJA Historical documentary in time for our 2021 Hispanic Heritage Month programming. Lastly on Wednesday, June 16 2021 at 6:00 pm we will hold our bi-annual Elections whereby we elect the incoming 2021-2023 Board of Officers and Directors.
Our Association continues to reach new heights and it is our abiding hope that you will join us in the vision and work of your association. We invite and encourage you to reach out to the Chair of any of the many committees you may be interested in and that are available for your energy, dedication and contribution. After all, we are in this together! Continue to stay safe, be well and do justice!
Best Always and
Con Cariño y Respeto,
Hon. Sallie Manzanet-Daniels