Brooklyn Dems Nominate 2 Orthodox Judges to Supreme Court

By Reuvain Borchardt

BROOKLYN — Two Orthodox jurists are among the six nominees for the New York State Supreme Court selected by Brooklyn Democratic Party leaders.

The nominations of Judges Rachel (Ruchie) Freier and Saul (Shaul) Stein, along with Caroline Piella Cohen, Heela Cappell, Sharon Clarke and Joanne Quinone, were announced after the annual meeting of the Brooklyn Democratic district leaders Monday night.

“This has been an incredible journey for me, and it just proves that when Hashem wants something to happen, it’s going to happen,” Freier, the niece of former New York Supreme Court justice David Schmidt, told Hamodia on Tuesday. “The incredible people who came out to support me were just amazing, and some of them were from the most unexpected places.”

Freier, 58, attended Bais Yaakov of Boro Park for high school and seminary. She got a late start to her legal career — she began Touro College at 30 years old, and graduated Brooklyn Law School at 40 in 2005 — but quickly shot to fame when, in 2016, she became the first Chasidish Civil Court judge in New York history.

“I have tremendous hakaras hatov to people who supported for me,” she said Tuesday, “and I will never forget that it was the people who voted for me in 2016 who made this possible.”

Though her career path has been atypical for a Chasidish, Boro Park mother of six, she says she has received nothing but encouragement from members of her community and her rabbis.

“I think what’s significant about it is that I had incredible support of so many rabbanim who understood the need for this,” Freier says. “There are baruch Hashem quite a few frum male judges, but I think it’s also important, from a standpoint of diversity on the bench, to provide the perspective of a frum woman. There are so many cases involving women and children.”

Freier has been an acting Supreme Court justice since January of this year, working in the Guardianship Part, in which people who have become incapacitated have others appointed guardians over their finances. She says she plans to stay at Guardianship even after becoming a full justice: “It’s a fascinating part; there’s so much you can do to help other people.”

She has founded several community organizations, including Ezras Nashim, B’Derech and Chasdei Devorah.

Stein, at 42 years old, would be one of the youngest New York Supreme Court justices when taking office next January.

A Montreal native, he attended Yeshiva Gedolah of Providence, while earning a BS in Finance from Providence College. He spent five years in beis medrash in Providence, then attended Cardozo Law School in Manhattan, graduating in 2005. He later earned an MST from Baruch College in 2010.

After working at the Clifford Chance law firm, Stein clerked for Supreme Court Justice David B. Cohen in Manhattan, before winning his own judicial election in 2020. He has been assigned to both Criminal and Civil Courts, presiding over a variety of cases and jury trials.

Stein serves on the executive committee of the Flatbush Community Fund, and previously served as a member of Community Board 14. He volunteers for the Met Council, which honored him with its Community Service Award this past June.

Lenny Markh, a deputy chief of staff for state Sen. Iwen Chu and one of the district leaders who boosted Stein, praised the nominee in a conversation with Hamodia.

“Judge Stein is the rare kind of judge who embodies the best of our community and someone whose counsel I value greatly,” Markh said. “His wisdom and temperament on the bench, and the amazing work he does as a volunteer for organizations like Met Council, are but some of the many reasons why I am proud to support him for Supreme Court and help shepherd his candidacy to this momentous occasion for the community.”

There are no primary elections for party nominees for the Supreme Court (New York’s trial-level court). Rather, the nominees are chosen by a vote of the party district leaders, an unpaid elected position, with one male and one female district leader in each of the borough’s 22 Assembly districts. The nominations voted on at Monday’s meeting will be formalized at the party’s judicial delegates convention on Thursday. With Democrats having a large registration advantage in Brooklyn, the party’s judicial nominees are virtually assured of winning election next November.

Councilman Kalman Yeger, another district leader who boosted Stein, told Hamodia, “Judge Shaul Stein’s askanus long predates either of us holding public office. He is immensely respected by his colleagues, both attorneys and members of the judiciary, for his legal scholarship, his practical common-sense, and the manner in which he comports himself on the bench. He has assisted countless mosdos in our community, and even as a judge, he has dedicated himself to serving the less fortunate through his work in charitable organizations feeding those in need. His election is universally supported by our community’s leadership, and I’m proud to join in making this nomination possible.”

The six nominees were selected from a 16-candidates field. Multiple politicos who spoke with Hamodia on Tuesday say this is the first time any of them recall there being two Orthodox Supreme Court justices nominated in one year.

“It’s a historic day for the frum community, in that we have elevated two of our finest judges to Supreme Court,” Democratic former Councilman David Greenfield said. “Tremendous credit goes to Chair Rodneyse Bichotte and the rest of the Brooklyn Democratic leadership for ensuring that the Orthodox community is well-represented in the judiciary across Brooklyn.”

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