Ellen Edwards: Civil Court Judge Candidate That Is Here For the People

If you’ve been in the justice system in Brooklyn at any point then you’ve ran into Ellen Edwards.

The veteran lawyer has served in all facets of the judicial system from starting out as a criminal defense lawyer to working on behalf of landlords and tenants in housing court to litigating contested trials in surrogate’s court, guardianship matters to working on appeals and briefings and even working as a mediator, Edwards has run the gambit.

The Brooklyn native started her private practice almost 27 years ago on Montague Street where she still resides as the head of her law firm specializing in criminal cases as well as housing related issues including guarding tenants against illegal evictions and protecting senior citizens living in rent controlled apartments from harassment and saving homeowners from unfair foreclosures.

“It’s not just my education, it’s my experiences. I have a wide range of experiences and I have been in all of the major courts in New York State,” said Edwards.

Edwards, though at first considered an underdog, has gone on to become one of the front-runners in the race for one of the five open seats on the Brooklyn Civil Court bench. She prides herself on being an independent candidate, a quality she believes makes her that much more adept at understanding the issues of “regular, common Brooklynites.”

Kings County Civil Court Judge Candidate Ellen Edwards. Photo by Kelly Mena

“Sometimes that [party affiliation] can be problematic in terms of fairness and the justice that the regular people [seek]. They need someone who understand their issues, who understands what a certain amount of bail will mean for them, a person who understands how different types of arrests are made and what the basis of those arrests are. Understanding that the police don’t always tell the truth, the defendants don’t always tell the truth and you have to find a balance between those two,” said Edwards.

A graduate of Jackie Robinson Jr. High School, Edwards knows the importance of community work and wants to bring, what she calls, “an integrated approach” to the bench. An approach that will bring a comprehensive and complete approach to the criminal justice system specifically through increased social work.  

“If you have someone who has a larger world view, who takes the person as a whole, not considering them bodies. That’s not a body, that’s a person an individual. They’re maybe a person with mental illness, they’re maybe a person that’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that maybe a person who is evil or just stupid, there’s a lot of different people, or just an innocent victim of circumstance. So when the people enter the system we give a more thorough evaluation of where they are, so they don’t all wind up in the same place,” said Edwards.

Edwards also believes it is her qualities as a person that have made her stand out in the race and have been the base of her loyal supporters who she has helped along the way. Edwards turned in over 16,000 signatures when she filed her petitions on July 13, four times the amount required.

“You need to have someone who is level-headed, who is rational, who listens to people, who has empathy for people, and who has sympathy for people. I have helped a lot of people and I believe that when I asked them to help, they were willing to help me. And I am very loyal to the people I have helped and they are very loyal to me,” said Edwards.

Edwards maintains that her campaign is about the people and for the people. She claims that it’s about common sense and practical level changes that will really make a difference in reforming the criminal justice system borough wide. In addition, Edwards plans on establishing  night court in civil court, restoring the independence of the judiciary from other branches of government and political parties, modernizing the court system with improved signage and technology, and creating more community courts in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn.

“I’ve seen the courts as time has gone on do a lot better but we can still do more. And I think if we add social workers to that equation it will help clear up calendars, it will help with recidivism and will just help with society as a whole,” said Edwards.

As for the competition, Edwards is ready to walk and put her freshly pedicured feet to the test, claiming she will walk the entire borough of Brooklyn in order to get her message out.

I just got a pedicure and my feet feel amazing! I can walk the whole of Brooklyn and meet everybody and talk to them and let them know that I am going to be a real person on the bench that is concerned about them and their needs,” said Edwards.