Members of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association were in Manhattan on Thursday, where they got an opportunity to sit down with Administrative Justice Deborah A. Kaplan, the administrative judge of the New York County Supreme Court, Civil Branch, as part of the “Lunch with a Judge” series.
“Lunch with a Judge” is a regular program that the BWBA hosts, where members get an opportunity to sit, have lunch and network with judges and their staff in a relaxed atmosphere. The judges typically talk about their careers, becoming a judge and issues facing their particular courthouses.
On Thursday, Justice Kaplan, a past president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, discussed how she became a judge and tried to impress upon the newer or prospective members how the BWBA assisted her journey.
“Early on, I was asked to prep a bio for Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin because they were giving her an award at a bar association event,” Justice Kaplan said. “I was a legal aid attorney at the time, so normally I would never have gotten a chance to meet her. But from that one meeting, I got the greatest mentor of my life. That’s an encounter I never would have had if not for the BWBA.”
Justice Kaplan, a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society early in her career before becoming a judge. As she explained it, joining the bar association helped open a path to the bench for her.
“You create this support system through the bar association,” she said. “When I became a judge, some of the recommendations I got were from people who I became friends with through the bar association.”
Kaplan explained that she was always politically active in her community, especially as vice chair of Community Board 6 in Manhattan. She was president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association and the Women’s Bar Association for the state of New York. It was her local political club that encouraged her to run for judge. She was elected to the Civil Court, but was assigned to Criminal Court.
She went on to serve as an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, Civil Branch and eventually she presided over the Matrimonial Part. Justice Kaplan served as Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives and later as Chief Management Analyst and Project Counsel for the NYS Drug Treatment Program. She also served as principal court attorney to Hon. Juanita Bing Newton.
Justice Kaplan went on to discuss meeting and working with Hon. Jacqueline Silberman, former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and even getting a phone call from then Westchester District Attorney and current Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, describing some of the projects she worked on with those individuals.
“The true value of a bar association is to form relationships,” Justice Kaplan said. “I have known and worked with Carrie Anne Cavallo for 15 years. That is a friendship that was created through the bar association.
“If you have not met me, or Judge Silvera, or Judge Wan — now you have,” she continued. “Hopefully we’re less imposing after meeting in this casual way.”
The BWBA Young Lawyers Committee is hosting a speed networking event at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Sept. 26. The BWBA will be hosting a Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Bar Association.
The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association hosted its annual Membership Party on Monday Sept. 17. Look for coverage coming up in the Brooklyn Eagle.