The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA), the oldest incorporated Women’s Bar Association in New York State, Wednesday night bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on a Caribbean-born judge in Brooklyn.
Justice Sylvia Gwendolyn Ash, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago to Vincentian and Grenadian parents, received the award during BWBA’s Centennial Awards Gala Celebration at the Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
The other honorees were: Jenny Rivera, associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, who received the Beatrice M. Judge Recognition Award; and Attorney Helen E. Blank, who received the Sybil Hart Cooper Award.
BWBA said it honored Justice Ash, a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York and the presiding justice of the Commercial Division in Kings County Supreme Court, for more than 30 years of service in the legal community.
“BWBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an outstanding individual who has dedicated herself to law and policy before courts, agencies, US Congress, State Legislatures or other institutions,” BWBA said.
“Justice Ash is receiving this award in recognition for her commitment to law and policy spanning over 30 years,” it added.
Justice Ash was the fifth recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in the 100-year-history of the association.
The award was presented to Justice Ash by her long-time friend and colleague, Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix, the Barbadian-born Associate Justice of New York State Appellate Division, Second Department.
“I was very humbled to be the recipient of this award, especially coming from such a well- established and revered organization as the BWBA,” Justice Ash told Caribbean Life on Thursday.
“I am not sure if I am deserving of a Lifetime Achievement Award, given the fact that I believe my legal career is still a work in progress,” she added. “Nonetheless, I must give thanks to all whose shoulders I have stood on, those who have paved the way, cleared the path and accompanied me on my legal career journey.
“I will continue to dedicate my legal career to ensure that everyone who comes before the court seeking justice is given the opportunity to be heard and is treated equally with compassion,” Justice Ash continued.
Justice Ash is a graduate of Howard University School of Law in Washington, DC.
After 20 years of legal service in the private community, in 2010, she was elected to Kings County Civil Court.
Justice Ash was the first Caribbean-born woman to be elected to the Civil Court in a county-wide race.
She is also the first person of color to hold the position of presiding justice of the Commercial Division in Kings County Supreme Court.
Prior to her election to the New York Supreme Court, Justice Ash served as a New York City Civil Court Judge in Kings County.
After graduating with a Juris Doctorate degree from Howard University School of Law in 1984. Justice Ash was admitted to practice law in the State of New York in 1985 and in the United States District Court, Southern and Eastern Districts, in 1990.
In 1984, immediately after graduating from law school, Justice Ash accepted a position as a Judicial Law Clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey. She was also the first person of color to serve in this position.
In 1985, Justice Ash said she joined the legal staff of District Council 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services.
In this labor union-setting, she said she provided legal representation to the Council’s 125,000 State, City and Municipal employees.
She was the Supervising Attorney in the Family and Administrative Law Units and the Chief Counsel of the Immigration Law Unit.
Prior to taking the judicial bench, Justice Ash was a practicing attorney for over 20 years.
In this capacity, she said she was the general counsel for the NAACP’s Social Services Chapter in New York City, where she provided pro bono legal services to the chapter’s members.
Additionally, Justice Ash said was very active in her community and volunteered her legal talent and acumen to numerous civic, religious, labor and not-for-profit organizations, including serving as a victim services liaison for battered women and abused children.
In addition to her current judicial responsibilities, Justice Ash said she serves as a Board Director on the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, the Judicial Friends Association, Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert Association, a Master in the Nathan R. Sobel Kings County American Inns of Court, and an Executive Committee member of the NYS Bar Association Commercial and Federal Litigation Section.
Justice Ash was a member of the NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct and previously served as the first female Chair of the Board of Directors of the 100-year-old New York Municipal Credit Union.
Justice Ash has been the recipient of numerous citations and awards, including the Brooklyn Bar Association Award for Recognition of Outstanding Achievement in the Science of Jurisprudence and Public Service.