Our board was able to bring “Demystifying Judgeship” back for a second year, thanks to the hard work of Sahng-Ah (2014-15 Co-President) and Eileen (Judge Serita’s intern)!
Come to “Demystifying Judgeships II” to learn how Judge Toko Serita and Judge Robert E. Torres forged successful legal careers that led them to the judge’s bench!
Justice Robert E. Torres
Bronx County Supreme Court, Criminal Term
Justice Robert E. Torres is presently the Administrative Judge of Bronx County Supreme Court, Criminal Term. Prior to his appointment as Administrative Judge, he served as Deputy Administrative Judge of both the Civil and Criminal Term in the Bronx County Supreme Court.
Admitted to practice law in 1978, Justice Torres first ascended to the bench in 1995. He has presided over matters in Criminal Court, Family Court and both the Criminal and Civil Terms of Supreme Court. He also sat on the Appellate Term, First Department, for several years.
In addition to his regular judicial duties, he is a member of the Franklin H. Williams Commission and a member of the Judges’ Advisory Council. He is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Supreme Court Justices Association of the City of New York and the Bronx County Bar Association. He has lectured at the New York State Judicial Institute, Bronx County Bar Association, Monroe College Summer Law Program, and John Jay College and City College of the City University of New York.
In 1974, he started his legal career as a paralegal for the law firm of Fotopoulos and Rosenblatt, a general practice firm specializing in personal injury. He remained with the firm once admitted to practice law. While in private practice, he appeared at every level of trial court in the State of New York, in addition to the federal District Courts. In 1981, he went to work for the New York City Department of Transportation as Associate Counsel. While there, he handled labor and contracts issues and represented the Department at inter-agency meetings on both the city and state levels. In 1984, he started working in the courts as Court Attorney to the Honorable Elbert C. Hinkson, J.S.C., where he remained until he went on the bench.
His commitment to service in the community is reflected by his involvement in a number of activities, such as serving as a founding member of The Bronx Hispanic Foundation; past Trustee, The Bronx Museum of the Arts; former member, Boy Scouts of America, Bronx Council and Executive Committee; past President, The Bronx Council of the Arts Board of Directors; past Chairperson, Community Board 9; and former member, Urban League Advisory Board for Bronx County.
He is a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and attended Brooklyn Law School for a period of time. He completed his legal education by clerking for the law firm of Fotopoulos and Rosenblatt.
Judge Toko Serita
Acting Supreme Court Justice
New York City Criminal Court, Queens County
Toko Serita was appointed to the New York City Criminal Court in 2005 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and is the first Japanese-American Judge in New York State as well as the first Asian-American woman appointed to the Criminal Court. In January 2014 she was appointed as an Acting Supreme Court Justice.
Judge Serita presides over the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court and the Queens Mental Health Recovery Court. She has also presided over the Human Trafficking Intervention Court since 2008, the first and largest court in this state solely dedicated to serving trafficking survivors and those arrested on prostitution charges by providing alternatives to incarceration through a collaborative effort with trafficking victims service organizations, the Queens DAs Office and the defense bar.
She is the author of a law review article titled, “In Our Own Backyards: The Need for a Coordinated Judicial Response to Human Trafficking,” in the NYU Review of Law and Social Change (2013) which provided the framework for the creation of eight new human trafficking intervention courts throughout New York State in an unprecedented initiative started by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in the fall of 2013.
Prior to her appointment, Judge Serita joined the court system in 1999 and served as the Executive Assistant to the Administrative Judge of the Supreme Court Queens County, Criminal and Civil Terms, first to the late Hon. Steven W. Fisher, and then the Hon. Leslie G. Leach, from 2002 – 2005. From 1989 – 1999, Judge Serita was an appellate attorney at the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Appeals Bureau, where she argued before the New York State Appellate Division, First and Second Departments, the New York Court of Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
She is a former co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), and was previously the Citywide Chair of the Gender Fairness Committee of the New York City Criminal Court from 2007-2010. She is currently a member of the statewide Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, the NYS Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, the Asian American Bar Association of New York, the National Association of Women Judges, and the newly formed Asian American Judges Association of New York, which she helped found.
Judge Serita was most recently selected as one of ten Japanese-American leaders from around the country to be part of the 2014 Japanese-American Leadership Delegation (JALD), which traveled to Japan in March to promote US-Japan relations, where they met with Japanese leaders in the business, government, academic, non‑profit and cultural sectors.
She is a graduate of Vassar College and City University of New York School of Law and is a lifelong New Yorker.