Read the original story in Spanish at QueensLatino
Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell
To the beat of bomba and plena, Lumarie Maldonado Cruz was inducted into Queens’ Civil Court, making history as the first Latina to become a judge without the blessing of the Queens County Democratic Party.
“My heart hurts I am so proud for my daughter, my girl,” said Claribel Ramírez, mother of the newly-appointed judge, who was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and raised in the city of Caguas. Her swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 16 included speeches in English and Spanish, and was attended by a delegation of Queens judges. Latin food was served, and guests danced to the tune of New York Salsa Band.
Such an event was unprecedented in the borough of Queens. Maldonado Cruz, a graduate of CUNY Law, won her seat in June in a rare contested judicial primary, defeating rival candidate Wyatt Gibbons, who had the endorsement of Queens County Democratic Party (Gibbons has since been appointed as a State Supreme Court judge, according to reports).
“It has been a difficult road, and this is not my victory, but the community’s as well,” said Maldonado Cruz, who thanked her family, her husband Ángel Cruz, and the team of volunteers who collected signatures and motivated the electorate to vote for her.
“Queens will never be the same because this judge will challenge the system, the status quo, with her vision and courage,” she said. Maldonado Cruz had most recently served as staff counsel for the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, according to her website.
Senator James Sanders, Jr. said during the induction ceremony that the justice system needed reform.
“Judges are the first line of defense to initiate this change without compromising our principles,” said Sanders, who also quoted Martin Luther King in saying that justice must emerge.
Luis A. González, a retired justice of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, swore in Maldonado Cruz. As she took her oath, she placed her left hand on a Bible held by her children and parents.
Maldonado Cruz thanked two people for their help: Democrat Hiram Monserrate and political strategist Mike Nieves.
“This is the struggle of Latinos, particularly that of our mothers, daughters and female partners to empower politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jessica Ramos and Catalina Cruz,” said Nieves. “She is the people’s judge,” said Monserrate, visibly moved.
“I have always been impressed by her intelligence and passion, and I am sure that she will bring equality to the Queens justice system,” said Justice Marguerite Grays, a Civil Court administrative judge.
“May God bring justice for all equally,” said Reverend Dan Rodríguez at the beginning of the ceremony, held at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center in Queens.
Judge Sallie Manzanet-Daniel, who hosted the event, praised Maldonado Cruz and highlighted her Latino roots. Mercedes Blanco, from the Queens Lions’ Club, said that the new judge has enough charisma to awaken “the community’s civic awareness.”