Queens Democrats pick five new candidates for state Supreme Court

Civil Court Judge Maurice Muir was designated as a candidate for the state Supreme Court bench by the Queens County Democratic Party Thursday.  Eagle  file photo by Andy Katz

Civil Court Judge Maurice Muir was designated as a candidate for the state Supreme Court bench by the Queens County Democratic Party Thursday. Eagle file photo by Andy Katz

By David Brand

The Queens County Democratic Party designated five candidates for positions on the state Supreme Court bench and renominated one veteran justice at the organization’s judicial convention Thursday in Queens Village.

Current New York City Civil Court Judges Lourdes Ventura, Donna-Marie Golia, Maurice Muir and Phillip Hom were among the nominees. The county party also nominated defense attorney and former Queens prosecutor Wyatt Gibbons for a position in Supreme Court, less than two months after Gibbons lost a Democratic primary for a civil court judgeship on June 25.

“I’m thrilled and I’m happy to be part of such a diverse class of Supreme Court judge candidates,” Gibbons told the Eagle. The primary defeat actually works out well for Gibbons — a Supreme Court judgeship comes with higher pay and a longer term in office than the city court role. Gibbons was rated as “qualified” by the Queens County Bar Association in May. 

Wyatt Gibbons was designated as a candidate for state Supreme Court by the Queens County Democratic Party Thursday night.  Eagle  file photo by David Brand

Wyatt Gibbons was designated as a candidate for state Supreme Court by the Queens County Democratic Party Thursday night. Eagle file photo by David Brand

The five state Supreme Court candidates represent various races, ethnicities and backgrounds, and comprise one of Queens’ most diverse classes of candidates — a key factor in party leaders’ decision-making, said one source familiar with the nominating process.

“The county was screaming for diversity and this was a really good group,” the party insider said. 

Gibbons’ mother is Japanese and he said he frequently traveled to Japan during his childhood.

Ventura is the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and is the past president of the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County. She was elected to the civil court bench in 2018. 

Hom is Asian-American and previously served at State Sen. John Liu’s chief of staff when Liu was a city councilmember. He was elected to a judgeship in 2017.

Muir, a former public defender, was also elected to civil court in 2017. He is African-American.

Donna-Marie Golia was the senior judge in Queens Civil Court and her nomination to the Supreme Court bench was a long time coming, a party insider said.

Ali Najmi, vice president of the South Asian Indo-Caribbean Bar Association of Queens County hailed the group of candidates after the convention Thursday night.

“Kudos to the Queens Dems for nominating such a diverse group of candidates to Supreme Court tonight,” Najmi tweeted. “Having qualified and diverse judges reflective of the community is an essential component of a fair and impartial judiciary.”

The county party also nominated Supreme Court, Criminal Term Justice Stephen Knopf for a second 14-year term. Knopf has served on bench in city and state court since 1996.

Critics have consistently questioned the lack of transparency in the party’s nominating process and say only politically connected, dues-paying members of the party get tapped for key positions.

“Here is the problem. Maybe he is a worthy candidate, maybe not. But bc the process … appears to be more about loyalty than representation we will never really know,” said Queens County Committee member Heather Dimitriadis in tweet about Gibbons’ designation.

The party was able to nominate five new candidates because of changes on the bench and in state Supreme Court districting. Former Justice Gregory Lasak retired in Sept. 2018 in order to run for Queens district attorney, opening up a spot on the judiciary.

The state added a new Supreme Court judgeship in Queens in January. ‘We were given a gift,” one party member said.

Several of the candidates are also seeking the Conservative and Republican party lines in the November general election. The Conservative Party had a meeting to discuss judicial meeting on Thursday night and the Queens GOP was scheduled to meet Saturday.