Justice Chereé A. Buggs: First Black woman judge in Queens County to be appointed to Appellate Term

Justice Chereé A. Buggs.
Justice Chereé A. Buggs.
Courtesy Justice Chereé A. Buggs

After Justice Chereé A. Buggs was honored late last month, with the Trailblazer Award, by the Queens County Bar Association, she said it was both “awesome and a bit surreal to be regarded as a ‘trailblazer.’”

“There are so many people who came before me, that it didn’t seem there were any more trails that I could blaze,” Justice Buggs, an associate justice in the New York Supreme Court, Queens County, told Caribbean Life exclusively over the weekend.

“That being said, it is a matter of local history now that I am the first Black woman judge in Queens County to be appointed to the Appellate Term, Second Department, 2nd , 11th, and 13th Judicial Districts,” she added.

The Appellate Term hears and decides appeals of the lower courts. In New York City, the lower courts are Civil Court (including the Housing and Small Claim Parts) and Criminal Court.

The 2nd ,11th and 13th Judicial Districts are Kings, Queens and Richmond Counties, respectively.

Justice Buggs considers the Appellate Term “The People’s Appellate Court.”

Before Justice Buggs, only one African American judge in Queens sat on her appellate court: the late Associate Justice Daniel W. Joy, who was appointed in March 1992, remaining with the court until March 1993, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo to the higher Appellate Division, Second Department.

Justice Buggs’ appointment in 2022 came 30 years after Associate Justice Joy’s appointment.

“So, not only am I the first Black woman jurist from Queens to be appointed, I am the first Black judge from Queens in nearly 30 years to be appointed to my court,” said Justice Buggs, a Queens native, who was raised in St. Albans and Queens Village, and attended Queens public schools.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts from New York University, her Juris Doctor (law degree) from Temple University School of Law (Beasley), and has a Certificate in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation.

Prior to her election to the Supreme Court in 2016, she was an elected judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York, Queens County.

After her 2007 election to Civil Court, Justice Buggs served in Family Court for one year (2008), in Civil Court for seven years (2009-2015), and for one year in Supreme Court as an Acting Supreme Court Justice (2015).

On her appointment to the Appellate Term, Second Department, in January 2022, she became part of an historic panel which, for the first time, included four women among its five members, with three of those women being African-American.

In 2023, the panel became an all-woman bench, again making history. The Appellate Term hears and decides appeals of New York City Criminal and Civil Courts.

Justice Buggs still presides on the trial level in the New York Supreme Court, where she is the judge designated to hear mental hygiene matters in Queens County, and where she also presides over guardianship cases pursuant to Mental Hygiene Article 81.

Her activities outside of judicial duties have included convening community forums in 2019 on the “Raise the Age” law on behalf of the New York State Unified Court System’s Office for Justice Initiatives.

Also, in 2019, she was appointed to the state court system’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, the panel charged with providing guidance to judges on ethics issues.

Justice Buggs also serves on the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York’s Committee on Publications, which is responsible for New York’s Bench Book for Trial Judges. She contributes to the ethics chapter.

Prior to her ascension to the bench, Justice Buggs was an attorney in private practice. Her work included a solo law practice with a focus on elder law guardianship and decedents’ estate matters, and litigating mental health cases for the Health & Hospitals Corporation and Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

While working as a solo practitioner, she also served as a senior administrative law judge with the New York City Department of Finance Parking Violations Operations, and, later, as an administrative law judge for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the City’s Environmental Control Board.

Judge Buggs’ vast legal experience includes two years at the New York City Council, where she served as counsel to the Committees on Aging, Oversight and Investigations, and to the Subcommittee on Senior Centers.

Justice Buggs is a former member of the Queens County Bar Association Board of Managers, has served as vice chair of the Association’s Judicial Relations and Cancer Awareness Committees, and was previously a member of its Judiciary Committee.

She is a longtime member and former officer of the Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association, and served for four years as a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Conference of Bar Leaders Executive Council.

She is a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)-Jamaica Branch, and is a former board member of the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA).

Additionally, Justice Buggs has received myriad awards over the years for her dedication to law and community affairs.

“I consider being a judge to be a calling,” she said. “It’s a natural fit for who I am.

“I enjoy hearing different positions and perspectives on a matter, and then making what I believe to be a just decision based on the facts and the law,” she added.

The Appellate Term, Second Department – 2nd, 11th and 13th Judicial Districts – is headquartered at 88-11 Sutphin Blvd., Jamaica, Queens.