For Kings County Civil Court Candidate D. Bernadette Neckles respect goes beyond just wearing the judicial robes. It is something that must be earned regardless of one’s station in life.
Thus, while at the Park Plaza Diner in Downtown Brooklyn, she offered this kind of mission statement of how she would handle her courtroom if elected, and it begins with respect for the litigants before her.
“The first thing I would do is make sure I’m on the bench at 9 or 9:30 a.m. I should be on time,” Neckles said. “I will also make sure everyone gets treated with respect and dignity regardless of race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or ethnicity. I will make sure everyone gets a fair opportunity to be heard and most importantly, I will ensure justice will be served.”
It is this sense of prompt fairness that Neckles wants to bring to the Civil Court, which deals with civil matters under $25,000 such as credit card debts, small claims court, no fault cases, name changes and some landlord-tenant disputes.
As a candidate, Neckles brings a wealth of both courtroom and legal knowledge legal knowledge with her. After earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics with honors from Brooklyn College and her Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree from the University of Miami School of Law, she began her legal career in 1998 in private practice handling civil rights, employment discrimination, landlord-tenant and contract matters.
In 2002, Neckles began an 11-year tenure in the Kings County Court System, starting as a court attorney in the Kings County Civil and Criminal Courts and eventually advancing to a confidential principal law secretary/legal adviser to a Kings County, Supreme Court Justice and later to the Administrative Judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term.
During her tenure as the judge’s legal advisor, Neckles counseled and advised the judge on a multitude of legal matters, researched complex issues, drafted hundreds of decisions and orders, mediated and settled cases. Additionally, she assisted the administrative judge in the development of court policies and procedures, and in the implementation of new programs for the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term.
For the past seven years, Neckles has assumed a quasi-judicial role as a Court Attorney Referee in Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term. In this capacity, she worked in the residential foreclosure part in which she successfully conferenced hundreds of residential foreclosure cases, many of which resulted in affordable loan modifications to homeowners.
While Neckles’ wealth in the courtroom is extensive , she also is an active member in various professional and civil associations including participation in, among others, Summer Youth Employment Program, National Read Across America Event and the Women in Prison Project. Additionally, she mentors students from elementary, intermediate, and high schools.
In so far as her courtrrom manner, Neckles said often lay people have a fear of coming to court, and that they won’t get a fair trial, particularly if they are coming as a pro-se litigant representing themself and they see the other side has an attorney.
“For the pro se litigant court can be an intimidating process,” said Neckles. “I always tell these litigants they will get a fair trial, and always ask them if they have had the opportunity to obtain an attorney, and to make sure when they are not represented by counsel they are not intimidated and disrespected by the opposing attorney.
“I expect attorneys to conduct themselves in a professional manner, and they are held to a higher standard. They must be respectful, come prepared, know their case, respect the court and respect the opposing counsel,” she added.
Neckles finished the last of her salmon burger, and began to put her coat on to head back to work from her lunch break. She paused for a moment to contemplate a last question before her: In front of every courthouse there is the Goddess of justice and law holding a scale, but why in your opinion is she blindfolded?
“Because as a judge sitting on the bench you’re supposed to be impartial without any outside position and influences,” she answered. “The bottom line is to make a decision on the facts of the case and the law, and to treat everyone fairly in your decision.
The Primary Election is June 25.