Hispanic Power Increases
From El Diario
August 5, 2003

By Enrique Soria

The number of members of minority groups occupying ranking positions in the administration of justice in Queens continues to increase, now with the recent naming of new Hispanic judges and of an African American as Borough Chief Clerk of the county’s criminal court.

Joseph A. Zayas, Fernando Camacho, and Gene R. Lopez have been the three latest judges named by mayor Michael Bloomberg to the criminal court in Queens, while Serena Springle assumed the position as Borough Chief Clerk, in charge of all the employees of the court, not including the judges, of the same county.

Zayas and Lopez, both of Puerto Rican ascendance, were the last to be named judges for the criminal court in Queens on July 2. The magistrates received a welcoming tribute on the part of the Hispanic-American Organization for Progress and Excellence (HOPE), this Wednesday afternoon, in the installations of the court.

Judge Zayas, 41, said that he received this position with “humility,” because as a child he grew up in the “projects” but learned how to solve all the problems he was dealt.

“I believe that what makes a good judge is the experience he acquires in life, in the community, and being familiarized with these kind of problems. [This experience] has helped me make the best decisions and gives me more knowledge as a judge,” said Judge Zayas. “I don’t want to say that one must be poor or Latino to be a good judge, but I believe that because I have had these experiences, it made me a better judge.”

Judge Lopez, 52, could not be located for comment.

Judge Camacho, a 42 year-old Cuban, who was assigned as judge for Queens in 2002, also functions as president of the Association of Hispanic Judges, Inc.

Judge Camacho best remembers the case of the Martinez brothers, who belonged to the “Gerry Curl” gang, known for its "cruelty," which occurred when he was fiscal assistant in Manhattan. Now a Judge, Camacho, who arrived from Cuba at age 9, is taking care of judicial room AP4, with the majority of domestic violence cases.

Springle is the first African-American and the first woman to be named to this position. She began as a functionary of the court in 1985 and has been ascending to various positions up to now, as Borough Chief Clerk of the court in Queens.

“I believe that that the courts are professional, respectable, and dedicated says a lot about one, and what one represents,” said Springle. Another woman in a ranking position is Suzanne Melendez, who was the first Hispanic woman named Judge in the criminal court in Queens.

Although the number of Hispanic judges has increased, it still remains low, considering that Hispanics now constitute the largest minority in the United States.

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Translated from Spanish by Charlotte Triggs

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