Lawyer and community leader Marva Brown is running for Kings County Civil Court Judge in Municipal District 2, which comprises parts of Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant.
The Civil Court consists of general civil, housing, and small claims cases. Judges of the Civil Court are elected and serve terms of 10 years. There are 120 Civil Court Judges and about 50 of those in the Civil Court. The rest of the judges elected to the Civil Court sit in various other courts, like Criminal Court and Family Court.
Brown, originally from Tarrytown in Westchester County, made the move to downstate and settled in Brooklyn in 2003. She said she comes from a very law enforcement-heavy family, with several family members being corrections officers either in the city or upstate. “And my grandmother said to me, maybe you can help people before they get to jail, so when I went to law school it was with the intention to practice criminal law,” said Brown.
Brown has represented clients as a public defender in the District Court of Nassau County, the Bronx Hall of Justice as a legal aide, and the Kings County Criminal Court and the New York State Supreme Court of Kings County – Criminal Term as a senior trial attorney. She said being a public defender is explicitly about building trust between clients, and the community in a larger sense.
“It’s a very thankless position, it’s hard. There’s a lot of mistrust,” said Brown. “Sometimes meeting a client is the first hurdle, saying you know ‘are you working for me or the district attorney.’ It’s a job where you don’t give up until the clients’ satisfied.
“The unfortunate thing about having a criminal case is that all aspects of your life are affected by the criminal case. I always have to advise clients on immigrant issues, family law issues, housing issues,” she added.
Brown said that because of how criminal cases intersect with other areas of law, she’s much more well-rounded as a litigator and counselor. She said there are some civil judges who have never tried a criminal case, but that’s where she wants to dive into the deep end because that’s where the community needs it. She hopes to improve people’s lives and not just punish people.
“It’s an opportunity to meet people from all different areas of Brooklyn and people from all different walks of life and build connections with them,” said Brown. “It’s also not a 9 to 5, you can’t leave it all at the office. You get the full experience of being out in the community and I love it because I get to talk to people.”
Brown said she’s lived in Crown Heights for 14 years, and is comparatively new to the district but happy to serve the neighborhood in which she’s raising her family. She said her campaign is grassroots and cash apps at this point in which she’s very appreciative.
“This is my home, Municipal District 2, and this is where I want to be,” said Brown. “We’re not rich people but the wealth of our connections is strong. I’m running this campaign because I want to create access to justice for my neighbors, friends, and family members. And being on the ground in this community is my way of being a resource.”
Also vying for this seat on the bench are Lisa Lewis and Lola Waterman.