Candidate D. Esther Paul Heats Up Surrogate Court Judicial Race

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Surragate Court Judicial Candidate D. Esther Paul.

The Kings County Surrogate’s Court race for the 2nd District has some stiff competition from Civil Court Judge Dweynie Esther Paul, who officially launched her campaign for the seat last week Thursday.

In 2015, Judge Paul was the first person of Haitian-American descent to be elected Civil Court Judge in New York. She said she’s running because she wants to focus on family legacies and preserving generational wealth. 

“I think it’s a testament that people understand how important the surrogate’s court is to minority communities and communities of color. In light of the pandemic and the countless lives that were lost in such a short amount of time, knowing that we’ve been impacted. We understand because we’re watching it happen,” said Paul. 

Judge J. Esther Paul

Paul had a coalition of supporters and various electeds tune into her virtual kickoff with words of encouragement, including Majority Leader and Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, Councilmember Robert Cornegy, District Leader Henry L. Butler, Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, District Leader Edu Hermelyn, former Democratic County Chair Frank Seddio, and current Chair and Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn.   

Paul is the daughter of Haitian immigrants, primarily a hard-working single mother, she said. Her mother, who has since passed and was afflicted with dementia, was a “pull herself up by the bootstraps” kind of provider and invested in a property in Brooklyn.

“Whether you have a will or don’t, you still may end up in surrogate’s court,” she said. “Sometimes [to] even getting access to the house after a parent or loved one has passed away, you might have keys, but to get access to the house for clothes just to bury a loved one or for a life insurance policy that would pay for a funeral.”

Serving in law was a childhood dream of Paul’s that intersected with the tragic death of her brother, who died in an accident at a youth group camping trip. The family was embroiled in a lengthy wrongful death suit that was eventually settled. When her parents also went to family court over custody, she was assigned an attorney to check in on her. 

“I realized how important it was to have an advocate in the court, someone who would listen to me and advocate my position and I would have a voice in the courtroom,” said Paul.  

Paul matriculated from Stony Brook University before going into law school, and then clerking for a judge in Maryland. When she moved back to home to Brooklyn, she was a civil litigator and threw herself into getting more involved in the community. She joined Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) and Community Board 3 as well as the nonprofit The Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant. 

“There’s a big issue with deed theft and keeping the home in the family. One of the projects I worked on was focused on the tax lien and the water lien that was placed on houses. Homeowners were losing their houses,” said Paul. “Some people are absentee homeowners, where it’s just tenants present.”

She said her committee at the nonprofit would pull the tax lien list and go door to door educating homeowners. This evolved into real estate and immigration workshops, clinics, and panels in multiple languages aimed at informing the community from a legal viewpoint.   

The judicial primary is June 22.