The Honorable Patria Frias-Colón began her term as a Kings County Civil Court judge last night, during a judicial induction that was both a political celebration and a jubilant nod to her roots.
About two hundred elected officials, fellow judges, family and friends witnessed the induction at the majestic Brown Memorial Baptist Church, 484 Washington Avenue in Fort Greene where Judge Frias-Colón and her family worship.
Before her bid for the Civil Court position, Frias-Colón had worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, under former District Attorney Charles Joseph Hynes and in the education sphere for 11 years. She has served as Brooklyn Borough Chief for the New York City Law Department’s Family Court Division since 2009.
Her campaign focused on the value of fair and compassionate judicial temperament, reducing the lifespan of cases in the system, and proper representation for often-underserved immigrant, black, and Latino communities in Brooklyn and NYC.
“I came from one of those countries that were described by the president recently. But certainly, we the people from those countries do not feel that that’s right,” said Frias-Colón, who immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic as a child.
“Maya Angelou reminded us that though she may be changed by what’s happened to her, she refuses to be reduced by it. In this climate, we truly have to believe that. We might be changed, but we will not be reduced by words of hate,” she added.
The event began with the sounds of drumming and music from the back of the church. As the crowd stood up, a procession of smiling family members, fellow judges, and finally, Frias-Colón, came down the aisle to sit at the front. The church erupted in applause as Frias-Colón danced to the music and greeted the crowd before taking her seat.
Assemblyman Erik M. Dilan (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick) introduced Deacon Brown, the head of the Trustee Board of Brown Memorial Church, who led the group in a prayer. Then the crowd stood for the American National Anthem, the Dominican National Anthem, and the Black National Anthem.
Various elected officials, judges, and colleagues gave remarks throughout the night, speaking to Frias-Colón’s abilities and stressing the importance of equal representation in the justice system.
“This induction is the greatest rebuke and rejection of racism and an act of defiance against race-based immigration policies. This induction is a refusal to ever capitulate to the wholesale demonization and vilification of immigrants. This induction of Judge Colón is a sign of things to come,” said Public Advocate Leticia James. “Judge Colón, may that same wise Latina ember burn in your heart and in your soul every day. May you never grow weary in the struggle for justice under the law, and may you never be satisfied with a criminal justice system in desperate need of reform, where justice is often denied, where poverty is often perpetuated and mental illness overlooked.”
“This year we had three candidates, one running for reelection and two new candidates who were elected, out of the five that were running for office,” said Frank R. Seddio, Chair of the Kings County Democratic Committee. “We’re here in your honor and your great success in this position, and I look forward to it being the first of many steps that will occur in your judicial career.
Honorable Justice Faviola Soto from the New York State Court of Claims, the first Dominican American to judge to be elected in the United States of America, congratulated Frias-Colón, and expressed confidence in her abilities as a new judge.
“I am here to pass on the gavel, to you, and the new generation,” said Soto. “I know, Patria, that you can do justice to everyone who appears before you, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, and yes, immigration status.
Towards the end of the event, Robert Colón, Frias-Colón’s husband, spoke to the audience about Frias-Colón, her work, and the belief in service shared by their entire family.
“The struggle that we grew up in made us humble, it made her a very humble person. She never really knew how beautiful she was. She still doesn’t. Inside and out,” said Colón, who has had three children with Frias-Colón in their 27-year marriage.
“That humility also made us understand and gear our lives toward a life of service. We’ve always known, and taught our children, that a life worth living is a life of service. It’s how you travel that road, not the destination,” he added.
The Honorable Justice Jenny Rivera wished Frias-Colón luck and strength before officiating the Oath of Office.
Reverend Clinton Miller blessed the robe, and Frias-Colón put it on. She then turned to the crowd and opened the robe to reveal a shirt her son Galen had made for her, the words “ALL RISE” across the front.
Frias-Colón thanked her mother, whom she called her “revolutionary warrior.” She thanked her husband, children and extended family for their constant support and hard work. She thanked her campaign team, the clubs, elected officials and district leaders who had supported her, and the political, judicial, law, and education “families” that she had worked with over the years.
Above all, she underlined her commitment to an honest and fair judicial temperament, and said she hoped to garner respect in the communities she served.
“These significant votes will allow me the privilege to continue in the service of others. Justice Thurgood Marshall reminded us that we must never forget that the only real source of power that we as judges can tap is the respect of the people that we were put there to serve,” said Frias-Colón. “And I expect to tap that power source.”