Legal Aid Alumni Picked as Judges for New York City’s Courts

Former members of The Legal Aid Society filled the list of judges who have been appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to preside in the city’s courts.

POLITICO New York reported Judges Judith Waksberg and Mildred Negron were selected as Family Court Judges, following careers that included years of work at Legal Aid. Both had already received interim court appointments. Waksberg spent over 30 years at the Society, where her roles included 17 years as the Director of the Juvenile Rights Practice’s Appeals Unit. Negron worked for Legal Aid from 1992 to 2002, rising to roles as Attorney-in-Charge of the Juvenile Rights Practice’s Manhattan and Queens offices.

Judge Bahaati Pitt was another former Legal Aid member picked by the mayor. Judge Pitt, who has been sitting in Civil Court since June, worked for Legal Aid’s Criminal Defense Practice early in her career before taking various roles in the state court system.

According to POLITICO New York, de Blasio tapped 15 new judges in all for the city’s Family Court, Civil Court and Criminal Court, while reappointing six other judges. A number of jurists have joined the bench after working for Legal Aid; currently, more than 40 Legal Aid alumni are judges in the federal and state court system.

De Blasio appoints 15 new judges to local courts
By Colby Hamilton
January 4, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed 15 new judges to family, criminal and civil court bench positions, his office announced Wednesday. The judges include numerous former local prosecutors, former chief judge Jonathan Lippman’s counsel and a three-decade veteran of the Legal Aid Society.

The appointments include 10 new judges to the criminal courts alone. In addition to the new appointments, de Blasio reappointed an additional five criminal court judges and one civil court judge to the bench.

“New Yorkers deserve judges who are impartial and who are committed to fighting for justice and fairness,” de Blasio said in a statement. “I look forward to working with these 15 new judges, and I welcome back the five judges I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I’m confident that they will fight for New Yorkers’ best interests across the five boroughs.”

Both of de Blasio’s selections for family court judgeships, Mildred Negron and Judith Waksberg, have extensive experience as public defenders. Negron spent a decade with Legal Aid, rising to attorney-in-charge in both the Manhattan and Queens offices, before being appointed an interim civil court judge in March 2016.

Waksberg was herself appointed an interim civil court judge in July 25 and has served in the family court. She’d spent the previous 32 years with Legal Aid, primarily in its Juvenile Rights Appeals Unit where she was director for 17 years.

Six of de Blasio’s criminal court appointments served as prosecutors in all five district attorneys’ offices. Phyllis Chus spent 23 years in the Brooklyn office and rose to lead the homicide bureau. Michael Kitsis spent over 30 years in the Manhattan office and became bureau chief for frauds and senior investigative counsel for major economic crimes. Kim Peterson was most recently bureau chief of criminal court in Staten Island.

Other appointees come from different backgrounds. Charlotte Davidson came from the other side of the the bench/bar divide, having served in the state’s court system for 13 years where she at one point served as Lippman’s counsel. Bahaati Pitt, who’s been civil court judge since June 2016, formerly served with Legal Aid’s criminal defense division.