Judge D. Esther Paul Runs to Preside over Surrogate’s Court to Protect the Most Vulnerable

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By Yehudit Garmaise

      Judge D. Esther Paul, who lives in Bed-Stuy, is running for Kings County Surrogate’s Court Judge because she passionately wants to help those who are most vulnerable, such as orphans, widows, and the disabled, to more easily navigate the court system in times of tragedy.
     A ”surrogate’s court” is a court for people who must be represented by others, who have passed away, are mentally or physically unfit, or who are too young to argue for their interests.
     “Surrogate’s courts are places we go when our loved ones pass away, whether they made wills, or they didn’t,” explained Judge Paul, who proudly said that she was the was first Haitian-American to be elected in the state to serve as a civil court judge, when she was elected as a civil court judge in 2015.
     Brooklynites need more help in the court system, especially in times of tragedy, to transition their life-savings from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, the assets of those who have passed away are public information and sometimes subject to theft from outsiders.
     “Surrogate’s court can be the place where our inter-generational wealth is lost,” Judge Paul explained. “During COVID, unfortunately, surrogate’s court has become even more instrumental to the community because we lost so many loved ones who passed away without writing wills or doing any estate planning.”
     Judge Paul, who presides in Family Court, a job she said she wanted ever since her own difficult experiences as a child when her parents divorced, where now she decides cases of custody, visitation, child support objections, domestic violence, adoptions, and guardianships for minors.
     Judge Paul’s radical compassion for those who are most vulnerable, however, is the result of her family’s challenging experiences after her oldest brother tragically passed away when she was nine.
     On a youth trip, Judge Paul’s oldest brother was involved in an accident on a snowy morning in upstate New York, and he never came home.
     The tragedy wrongful death suit that dragged on for years in King’s County Supreme Court.
     At the same time, her parents, who were trying to figure out the best way to raise her, were involved in a custody case in Family Court: very same court to which Judge Paul was assigned after she was elected in 2015.
      “I grew up in that court,” said Judge Paul, who also serves as a deacon at the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church on 228 Decatur St. and leads many professional community resources and chesed projects. “I really believe the idea that you can do what you want, but when G-d  has a plan and a calling for you, he leads you right in that direction.”
     When BoroPark24 expressed sympathy for Judge Paul’s difficult childhood, she responded, “I believe that is how G-d works.
     “I believe that we go through highs and lows, bitter, sweet, trials and triumphs, all for a purpose. I really do not believe in coincidences. I believe that all of those things happen for a Divine purpose, and that purpose actually has very little to do with you and everything to do with your ability to serve others.”
      Judge Paul learned her faith and her commitment to community service from her mother, a registered nurse, who opened up two orphanages in Haiti and also led a church congregation.
     “We all need to remember to use our skills and talents to help others, in whatever industry in which we happen to be: whether healthcare, finance, or the justice system,” said Judge Paul, who echoed the broad view of askanus that every Jew can attain, as recently explained by Yossi Gestetner, who a co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, as this idea relates to askanus, “You should really be able to effectuate: to put into force or operation, change, and give back to others.”
     “And the Bible in Esther, for whom I am named, it says, “Who knows if you had come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
     “I am clear that G-d has this bigger mission and vision for his people, those who love G-d, who honor Him. We are intended to come with our own gifts and talents for His glory and to serve the community.
     “Whatever realm we are in.
     “I am in a fight for the community and to make sure that our wealth is preserved and that the court is really working for people and that the people are not working for the court.”
     “I want to be the ‘people’s surrogate,’” said Judge Paul, who has the endorsements of many Jewish community leaders, such a Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, Rabbi Aaron Raskin, Rabbi Yankel Raskin, Rabbi Elimelech Lebowitz, Assembly member Helene Weinstein, and many labor unions, such as UFT, DC37, TWU local 100, the Teamsters, local 237.