Immediate Past President’s Message

Message from Judge Walter Rivera, Immediate Past President

August 23, 2023

As I reflect on my presidency, I want to thank each member of the Latino Judges Association for allowing me to serve as your President for the last two years. Of course, the work that LJA accomplished during my term was a collective undertaking. In that vein, I was honored to work hand in hand with our dedicated Officers and Board. I want to thank the Officers – Vice President Hon. Lourdes Ventura, Secretary Hon. Pilar Sanchez, and Treasurer Hon. Jessica Bourbon for their tireless efforts and working as a team to carry out our mission. I was fortunate to have a strong, hardworking, and dedicated Board: Immediate Past President Hon. Sallie Manzanet-Daniels, Hon. Wilma Guzman, Hon. Joanne Quinones, Hon. Llinet Rosado, Hon. Connie Mallafre Melendez, Hon. Betty Calvo-Torres, Hon. Elena Goldberg-Velazquez, Hon. Javier Vargas, and Hon. John Howard Algarin. This was a 24/7 working board who always rose to the occasion and have lifted our Association to new heights. In that regard, I would like to highlight some of the work that LJA accomplished during my term.         

Process for appointment of a new Chief Judge:  LJA closely monitored the process for the selection of seven candidates by the Commission on Judicial Nomination, the nomination of Presiding Justice Hector LaSalle by Governor Kathy Hochul, and the confirmation process that followed at the NYS Senate in Albany.  While LJA could not endorse a particular candidate, LJA was at the forefront by sending letters to the Commission on Judicial Nomination, Governor Kathy Hochul, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins on the need for a Latino candidate and for a hearing before the full Senate once the Governor nominated Presiding Justice LaSalle. Those three letters are part of the record and can be found on LJA’s website. They were circulated to the members after each letter was drafted and approved by the Board.

I want to acknowledge Presiding Justice Hector LaSalle of the Appellate Division, Second Department, for the manner in which he so graciously and ably represented us during the confirmation process for Chief Judge. Although he ultimately did not get confirmed, he held his head high and continues to serve the judiciary well as Presiding Justice and as a member of the Administrative Board. Needless to say, LJA is thrilled at the appointment of Justice Joseph Zayas as Chief Administrative Judge by our new Chief Judge, Hon. Rowan Wilson. LJA looks forward to being of whatever assistance is required to the new administration at OCA.  It is our collective hope that we will one day see a Latino Chief Judge of the New York State Courts as well!!!     

Pandemic Practices Working Group [“PPWG”]:  LJA’s PPWG Working Group filed a Statement to the Commission to Reimagine the Future of the NY Courts and I testified before the Commission on September 28, 2022. Our report was well received, and a section of our report was quoted in the Commission’s final report issued in January 2023.   

Upstate Initiative: LJA has continued to focus on the need for more Latinos and diverse judges in upstate New York. To this end, we co-sponsored a Symposium/CLE entitled “Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Judge” held at Buffalo Law School on April 24, 2023. This was a day-long hybrid program that was presented in collaboration with the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission. A similar program was held at Albany Law School on May 3, 2022.

LJA History Project: This project is co-chaired by Justice Sallie Manzanet-Daniels and Justice Wilma Guzman. Under their leadership, the Committee undertook the important work of chronicling the history of the Latino judiciary in NYS and creating a documentary film to preserve it. The committee was established and began its work in January 2020. The LJA History Project Committee debuted its documentary film chronicling the history of Latino’s in the New York State Judiciary on January 14, 2023, at the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College. Justice  Manzanet-Daniels & Justice Guzman are coordinating the uploading of the film to our LJA You Tube page so that we can provide a link to the film on our website. 

A CLE entitled “Technology and the Courtroom-Future Practices in NYS Courts” was held virtually on March 30, 2023. The presenters included Justice Craig J. Doran, Chair of the Pandemic Practices Working Group (“PPWG”) of the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts, and the following PPWG members:  Justice Patria Frias-Colon, Scott Reents, Esq., who served as the Reporter, Leanne Lapp, Esq., and Roger Maldonado, Esq. I was also honored to serve on the panel.  

On April 20, 2023, LJA co-sponsored a CLE on “Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a NYC Family Court Judge” that was held in a hybrid format at Supreme Court, New York County.   

Bylaws: The Bylaws Committee, chaired by Justice Wilma Guzman, proposed several key amendments to the Bylaws, which were ratified by the body at the Annual Meeting held on June 13, 2023. 

Three Kings Holiday Party:  Chaired by Justice Lourdes Ventura, the committee organized the annual LJA Three Kings Day / El Día de Los Reyes celebration, which was held at the Appellate Division, Second Department, on January 6, 2023.  Presiding Justice Hector LaSalle graciously hosted and welcomed the audience of approximately 60 attendees. LJA gave a special recognition to retired Family Court Judge Jeanette Ruiz, who served as Administrative Judge of the New York City Family Court from October 2015 until her retirement in October 2021.

LJA Outreach & Connect Initiative:  LJA board members continue to conduct outreach by connecting with LJA members, providing support, and establishing relationships within their local bar associations and communities to expand LJA’s reach.

National Dominican Day Parade: On August 14, 2022, LJA members marched in the Dominican Day Parade held in midtown Manhattan.  LJA purchased a large banner that was displayed for the parade. Due to its success, LJA is considering marching in other parades.  

Trip To the Dominican Republic: Justice Lourdes Ventura and I worked on organizing a trip to the Dominican Republic.  With the assistance of Justice Manuel Mendez, we were in direct contact with one of the top-ranking judges in the Dominican Republic, Magistrado Modesto Martinez, and the Escuela Nacional de la Judicatura, which is the teaching arm for judges in the Dominican Republic. A trip initially planned for October 2023 has been postponed and is under consideration for next year.

LJA Community Service Committee:  The LJA’s High School Speaker Series Program continued through the 2022-2023 school year.  It was created in 2020 by the chair, Justice Connie Mallafre Melendez. The program aims to motivate high school students to continue their education while offering insight into careers in the legal profession through conversation with a LJA volunteer. We target high schools whose students are underrepresented in higher education collaborating with high schools in New York City and upstate regions. LJA wishes to thank all the judges that have participated to date.

LJA also sponsors a Judge-to-Judge Mentorship Program and encourages anyone that is interested in participating in the mentorship program to contact Justice Connie Mallafre Melendez.

LJA Summer Internship Program (“SIP”): This year marks the 8th anniversary of our Association’s Summer Internship Program.  This year we received 12 applications from law students attending the following laws schools: University of Buffalo, UC-Hastings, Cardozo, CUNY, Fordham, Hofstra, Liberty, University of Mississippi, Rutgers, Suffolk, and Washington & Lee. The Committee, chaired by Justice Joanne D. Quiñones, reviewed all the applications, and ultimately selected two students as the 2023 LJA SIP recipients: Sofia Gomez, a 1L at CUNY School of Law, and Edianys Lima Enriquez, a 2L at Rutgers Law School. 

LJA expresses its thanks to the LJA Foundation, chaired by retired Court of Appeals Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick and retired Appellate Division Justice Ariel Belen, for the Foundation’s support of this program. The Foundation’s contribution to LJA enabled both interns to receive a $5,000 stipend for their 10-week summer internship with LJA. Their assignment rotations included the Appellate Division; City Court; Civil Court; Court of Claims; Criminal Court; Family Court; Housing Court; and Supreme Court, Civil and Criminal Terms.

As you can see, much work has been done and much work remains to be done. I want to congratulate our new President Lourdes Ventura and the newly elected Officers and Board as we march forward to tackle the work ahead. In that regard, LJA will continue to be a significant voice in the Unified Court System and in our respective communities and advocate for equal representation on the bench that, at a minimum, reflects the percentage of Latinos in the state. LJA counts on each of you to play a role in this process. Thank you.


Hon. Walter Rivera

Immediate Past President                                                                                                   

Judge, NYS Court of Claims