Trinidad-born jurist, Wavny Toussaint, has become the first woman and person of color to serve as a presiding judge in New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Term. The Second Department, for the 2nd, 11th and 13th Judicial Districts made history with a bench comprising all women.
The other members appointed are Associate Justices Lisa S. Ottley, of Kings County, Brooklyn, whose father hailed from Trinidad and Tobago; Marina Mundy, of Richmond County; and Lourdes Ventura and Cheree Buggs, of Queens County.
Justice Toussaint, who was elected to the New York Supreme Court in 2014 and appointed to the Appellate Term in 2020, is regarded as a jurist of “high integrity”.
The court hears appeals from the New York City Civil Court, including its Housing and Small Claims Parts, and the New York City Criminal Court.
“There have been many before me who struggled to ensure that the day would come when someone like me could step into this position, without the fanfare of being a ‘first’”, Justice Toussaint told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“I am grateful for their struggle. I remind myself, as I move forward as the Presiding Justice that only history will tell whether, for all litigants, I ensured prompt decisions that were just, fair and based on the law,” she added.
Justice Wavny Toussaint’s colleagues on the Appellate Term bench include Justices Buggs, who was appointed in 2021, and Ottley, who was appointed in 2023, along with Justices Mundy and Ventura.
Justice Mundy is the first woman jurist on the New York Supreme Court, Criminal Term, in Richmond County; Justice Ventura is the first Latina to be appointed to this Appellate Term; and Justice Ottley was the first African American Woman to supervise the Civil Court in Kings County.
“I’m extremely excited but more so honored to be a part of this historic bench with the Hon. Wavny Toussaint,” Justice Ottley told CMC. “I have a great deal of respect for her and her vision for the court, as well as for my colleagues who are part of this bench.”
Last May, three Black women justices in New York including Trinidadian Michelle Weston, also created history by hearing cases together from the bench in the Appellate Term, Second Department, in the New York Supreme Court.
“Today is an historic occasion for the Appellate Term,” said Justice Weston, a lifelong Brooklyn resident, adding “I have had the honor and privilege to serve on this court for 28 years, for many of them as the only woman.
“It was just a year ago, last February 2021, when Justice Donna Golia, joined our court, that we made history with the first all-female panel. Today, we are making history once again. Today marks the first time the Appellate Term has a panel comprised of three judges that are women of color.