Politics

Who’s On The Ballot For Democratic Primary Elections: Civil Court Judge

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Photo by Fort Greene Focus.
Photo by Fort Greene Focus.

The New York State Democratic Primary is coming up on September 13, where residents can cast ballots for District Leaders, State Assembly Members, State Senators, and County Judges.

“It’s the elected officials that really matter for every person in Brooklyn,” Consuelo Mallafre Melendez (a.k.a Connie Melendez) told FGF.

Principal Law Clerk Consuelo Mallafre Melendez is running for Kings County Civil Court Judge, a countywide seat, in the Democratic Primary.

Judges elected to the Civil Court serve 10-year terms. In New York there are 120 Civil Court Judges, about 50 sit in the Civil Court and the rest are assigned to other courts that include Criminal and Family Court.

Learn more about Melendez in our introductory Q & A below.

Photo courtesy Consuela Mallafre Melendez.
Photo courtesy Consuela Mallafre Melendez.

Melendez is currently the Principal Law Clerk for a New York State Supreme Court Justice in Kings County, Marsha L. Steinhardt. In this job, she resolves issues of law, procedure and evidence arising from medical malpractice, negligence actions, foreclosure matters and trials. Melendez works to negotiate the settlement of multi-million dollar cases; listens to legal issues presented by attorneys in the courtroom; and resolves legal conflicts.

“I’ve been with [Steinhardt] for more than seven years,” said Melendez, “I’m heavily involved in drafting the judge’s decisions, I research and discuss evidentiary matters, assist in trials, I’m her right hand,” Melendez told FGF.

She believes that her experience as a Principle Law Clerk has prepared her to be a Civil Court Judge, who handles misdemeanors, family issues like custody, adoption, juvenile delinquent matters. The judge also handles smaller civil matters, meaning up to 25 or 35 thousand dollars in civil suits. [The Civil Court] is a people’s court. It’s more hands-on than the Supreme court,” she said, and mainly presides in Civil Court at 141 Livingston Street.

Background and Education

“As human beings we don’t live in a vacuum,” Melendez told FGF, “our life experiences and education comes with us.” If elected, Melendez says she will bring her background and experiences to the bench.

Melendez was born in Cuba, and came to the United States as a young child, where she learned English in school. “We came to the U.S. looking for freedoms and liberties taken away by the Castro regime,” she said. Both of her parents were college educated, but had to take jobs that paid enough to support their kids. “Our family struggled financially because we had to start from scratch in a country with a new language. We were, and I consider myself still, hardworking.”

After the trials of learning a new language in school while adjusting to a new country, Melendez put herself through college at Rutgers and then Brooklyn Law School, taking night and summer classes to maintain a full time job.

After college, she became a social worker focused on children in crisis, like juvenile delinquents, battered children, and domestic abuse cases. “I found myself taking the children to court, and since I was so involved in their lives, I would go before the judge and tell them how each child was doing. And even though I was a young social worker, the judges were listening to me. I thought I could do more good work as a lawyer,” Melendez said.

Melendez served as a medical malpractice litigator for 11 years, doing depositions and all aspects of discovery, argue motions before the court, conduct trial work and case resolutions. “I thoroughly loved that work, which involves little battles that you may not win — in fact mostly you want to settle —  but to do well in a deposition and be a good advocate for your client, that gave me a thrill,” Melendez said.

Why are you right for this position?

“There are smart, creative lawyers appearing in court on a daily basis, and both sides or even three sides argue compelling positions. But a judge has to be able to see through everything and decipher the underlying facts and issues in any particular case. Having worked with the judge for all these years, I’ve learned a lot, and I am skilled at legal analysis and conflict resolution,” Melendez said.

“On a personal level, I’m in-tune with the Brooklyn experience and Brooklyn neighborhoods. My experiences as an immigrant from a working class family, and my education is also something that I share with the community. I’m on the Puerto Rican Bar Association, and do community outreach. I’ve been endorsed by the citywide LGBT organization. I’m a little bit of everything, so that people coming before me in court can rest assured that I understand where they’re coming from,” she said.

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