View From Here: The Kings County Civil Court Judge Primaries Look Like a Battle 

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One of the facts that’s brought to light in “Black Brooklyn: The Politics of Ethnicity, Class and Gender” by John Flateau is the recurring instants of increased white voter turnout when there was a white candidate opposing a nonwhite person and the overall power of ethnic identity in voting.  This suggests there should be considerable concern on the part of the Democratic Party in this year’s judicial Democratic primary where there are ten candidates running for five judgeships and the five highest vote-getters win.  Five of those running are backed by the Democratic Party and five or not.

How will first-time Kings County white voters make their choices?  How will longtime white residents, uncomfortable with the increasingly diverse judiciary, vote?

Voting for city, state and federal offices are very different from voting for civil court judges that the voter and the voter’s community will be standing in front of.  All of the candidates insist they will administer justice fairly, but the tribal instinct still asks, “Will this person be fair to me and my community?”

A reading of Flateau’s “Black Brooklyn” suggests looking at identification with the community, which may be different than the party, and it is that which motivates the voter. In terms of gender, we can expect the women in the race to do well.  And because the contest for District Attorney features Eric Gonzalez, we can expect the Hispanic candidates to do well also.

The problem for the county Democratic machine is the presence of Thomas Kennedy, John O’Hara and Patrick Haynes, whose names signal white heritage to the 17.8% of the county that voted for Donald Trump, as well as the white supremacist-lite community who decry the privilege while they lap it up.

And insurgent Isiris Isella Isaac may also be helped by the possible increased Hispanic turnout, now only enhanced by the pardoning of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, while Sandra Roper is emphasizing her Caribbean heritage.

On the plus side for the party, candidate Patria Frias-Colon may also benefit from an increased Hispanic vote, but they’ll have to go down a bit to find her–she’s on the 14th ballot line.

Judge Carolyn Wade is unopposed and safe, and incumbent Judge Robin Sheares from Bedford-Stuyvesant is number one on the line for the judges.

No one should feel that their candidate is safe or doesn’t have a chance.  This is a vote for the people who one day may determine the direction of your life or of someone you know.  Because if we don’t come out to vote, some other community will come and snatch the office away from us.

Civil Court Judge Candidates

Frederick C. Arriaga

Arriaga received his B.S. from the University of Florida and his JD from the Brooklyn Law School (1992). Arriaga began his career in 1992 as a senior attorney for South Brooklyn Legal Services. He then worked in 1996 and 1997 as a senior attorney for the Legal Aid Society’s Brooklyn Office for the Aging before returning to South Brooklyn Legal Services in 1997. He served there as a senior attorney until 2004 when he became counsel to the Brooklyn Borough President.

Patria Frias-Colon

Frias-Colon currently serves as the Brooklyn Borough Chief for the New York City Law Department’s Family Court Division where she supervises and oversees the juvenile delinquency practice.  Prior to that, she served the NYC Department of Education as Agency Counsel in 1998 and later promoted to Assistant Deputy Counsel to the Chancellor.  Previously, Patria served as Assistant District Attorney in Kings County and an Adjunct Professor with St. John’s University School of Education.

Patrick Haynes

Patrick Haynes is a former Brooklyn prosecutor now in private practice at the Law Office of Patrick Haynes.

Isiris Isella Isaac

Principal law clerk to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Shawndya Simpson; NOTE: Approved by the New York City Bar.

Thomas Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy, an associate at Glancy Prongay & Murray, represents plaintiffs in white-collar fraud cases.

John O’Hara

John O’Hara, a Brooklyn attorney who made headlines when he became the first person to be convicted of illegal voting since the 19th century by then-District Attorney Charles Hynes.  It was an unlawful conviction and overturned 20 years later by the Conviction Review Unit and finalized by Acting DA Eric Gonzalez.  O’Hara told the Daily Eagle that being a convicted felon for 20 years has given him an unusual “perspective”; it’s “an experience that you bring to the bench”.

Connie Melendez

Melendez is the Principal Law Clerk for Justice Marsha L. Steinhardt at New York State Supreme Court, Kings County. In this capacity, she researches, analyzes and resolves issues of law, procedure and evidence arising from medical malpractice, negligence and foreclosure actions.  Melendez graduated from Rutgers University magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, received a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School in 1986.

David C. Pepper

Pepper is the Principal Law Clerk to Civil Court Judge Martin M. Solomon where he participates in all aspects of trials, hearings and proceedings. He is fully responsible for conducting and scheduling discovery conferences for an inventory of over four hundred commercial cases and conducted and participated in settlement conferences in commercial, civil and landlord-tenant matters.

He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton and also holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

Sandra Roper

Born in Panama, Sandra Roper’s father was Costa Rican and her mother, Panamanian. She immigrated with her grandparents, UAW member Lionel Scott, and 1199 member Cecilia Scott, and lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on Pacific Street. Roper has won many academic and public service awards. She attended  Sheepshead Bay High School, Long Island College University and received her Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School and a Masters of Law from New York University (NYU). Roper was a member of 1199 member for 37 years and was a candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney in 2001

Hon. Robin K. Sheares

After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, Sheares continued her education at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Years later, she earned a Juris Doctor degree from St. John’s University of Law, and in 1986, she passed the New York State Bar Exam.

Upon receiving her law degree, Sheares found work as a court attorney, assisting judges on legal matters regarding landlord-tenant laws. During this time, she also worked on Dunaway hearings, which are hearings conducted to determine whether the evidence used in a case was obtained from an illegal arrest.

Sheares continued to work as a court attorney for nearly twenty years before deciding to start running for Civil Court Judge. After two unsuccessful campaigns, she was elected in 2007, becoming the Honorable Judge Robin K. Sheares.