Ecuadorean Judge Makes History

Carmen Velásquez was elected in last Tuesday’s vote. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Carmen Velásquez was elected in last Tuesday’s vote. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Carmen Velásquez, the first South American to be elected judge for the Queens Supreme Court, attributes her achievement to her humility and determination to get ahead.

“As an Ecuadorean, I feel very proud, but most of all as a Latina,” said Velásquez about her victory in the Nov. 4 election. She obtained 131,926 votes in the Democratic ballot.

Born in Quito and raised in the city of Portoviejo, Velásquez came to New York when she was 14 with her mother and her two sisters. For her, it was hard “to climb up the hill,” but she says that, today, she is a “positive and happy” person.

“I never forget where I came from,” said Velásquez, adding that, in her speeches, she always makes a point of mentioning that she came to the U.S. as a teenager, speaking no English and with several financial limitations, but that she studied hard and was able to do so with the help of grants.

Velásquez is the first person from South America to become a judge for the 11th Judicial District of the New York Supreme Court. The first Latina to become a judge in the Supreme Court for Queens County was Dominican Diccia Pineda-Kirwan, who has served the same district since 2009. Puerto Rican judge Jaime Ríos was the first Latino to win a Supreme Court seat in 1995, serving the 2nd and 11th judicial districts. He retired in 2013.

Another Hispanic elected in one of New York’s 13 judicial districts last Tuesday was Puerto Rican-born judge Evelyn LaPorte, who will serve the 2nd Judicial District, located in Kings County.

Velásquez, who has served in Queens Civil Court since 2008, thanked Queens Democratic leader Rep. Joseph Crowley and Assemblymember Michael DenDekker for their support. She added that they were “vital” in obtaining the unanimous vote of the party’s judicial convention, the approval process which all aspiring judges must pass in order to be nominated.

“It all takes time, and it must be taken step by step. It took 10 years of hard work to become a judge for the Supreme Court. That is why I am so grateful that [Crowley and DenDekker] trusted me and backed my candidacy,” said the magistrate, who will assume her new post on Jan. 2.

The judge received her B.A. from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and her Juris Doctor from Temple University. Her experience and curriculum vitae were also instrumental in her achievement, she recognizes, as she has made more than 18,000 decisions and a dozen decisions have been included in publications. One of her decisions is studied in law classrooms.

Her biggest legacy, says Velásquez, will be to enable younger people to follow her steps. “I feel that I opened doors so that those who are coming behind me can follow my example, study and prepare, so that they can have better opportunities,” said the judge.

(Marlene Peralta collaborated in this article.)

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