The Honorable Juanita Bing Newton recently retired after a distinguished 45-year career, including 34 years as a Judge of the New York State Court of Claims. She began her career as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County, becoming the first African American woman Bureau Chief in that county. Judge Newton achieved numerous “firsts” as an African American woman — Administrative Judge, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge and Dean of the Judicial Institute.
As Administrative Judge, Judge Newton successfully ended the dreaded overnight “Lobster” arraignment session, using a strategy that did not cause a system overload or breakdown; rather, it resulted in shorter processing time. As a skilled trial judge, she focused on improving the fairness of the trial process and opened the door to the rethinking of the draconian Rockefeller Drug laws, concluding, based on legal principles, that it would be unconstitutional to sentence a 17-year-old girl to a then mandatory life sentence in prison. In addition, Judge Newton became a leading voice in the effort to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York.
In 1999, at the request of Chief Judge Judith Kaye, Judge Newton was tasked with developing a platform for creating and enhancing access to justice in New York. To that end, she worked collaboratively with bar and court leaders, community, government and faith leaders to provide increased attorney pro bono hours, pro se litigant services, civil legal services and assigned counsel funding.
As the Dean of the New York State Judicial Institute, the educational arm of the court system that provides educational programming for all judges and court system attorney employees, Judge Newton updated both the law and skills curriculum and developed a new delivery approach, which led to richer outcomes for the judicial attendees and gave them increased courtroom skills and confidence.
Judge Newton frequently was tapped for appointment to committees and commissions including the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, the City Bar Justice Fund, the NYCLA Task Force to Increase Diversity in the Legal Profession, and the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense. Recently, she was appointed to serve on the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.