By John Alexander
Derefim Neckles is currently running for Civil Court judge in Kings County’s Sixth Municipal Court District. Neckles was born and raised in Munich, St. Andrew’s in Grenada.
She came to the United States and received her bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and her Juris doctor degree from Miami School of Law.
She was admitted to the bar in New York and Florida, and has over 18 years of legal experience in private practice and public service.
For the past 13 years, Neckles has been serving as volunteer arbitrator in the Small Claims part of Brooklyn’s Civil Court. She took the time to speak with the Brooklyn Eagle about her experience as an immigrant coming to America, what motivated her to want to pursue a career in law and her qualifications to become a Civil Court judge.
Eagle: So, you were born and raised in Grenada. When did you come to the United States to study at Brooklyn College? And did you live in Brooklyn?
Neckles: I was born and raised in St. Andrew’s which is the second largest district in Grenada. Although education is valued in my country, it is difficult to become a lawyer. I came to the United States as a teenager to study, and I live in Brooklyn.
Eagle: How did your childhood in Grenada influence your decision to seek a career in law?
Neckles: When I was growing up in Grenada, my country was under a dictatorship, which discriminated against anyone who was not supporting it. Because my older sister was not supporting the dictatorship, she could not find a job. It was completely arbitrary. As I was exposed to discrimination at an early age, I wanted to become a lawyer to be able to defend people’s rights.
Eagle: How does the Grenada Judicial system compare with the one in the United States?
Neckles: Grenada’s judicial system is similar to that in the US. It has a common-law tradition dating back to the British authority. The civil cases in Grenada are adversarial in nature and consist of a series of oral hearings and trial.
Eagle: What are your current duties as a volunteer Arbitrator in the Small Claims Part of Brooklyn’s Civil Court?
Neckles: To hear each party, review documents, assess credibility of witnesses, apply the law, and issue decisions from the bench.
Eagle: As a successful attorney, what made you want to run for the Civil Court bench seat?
Neckles: My experience and commitment to public service. Between 2002 and 2012, I was involved in all aspects of bench trials, case conferences, decision-drafting, and settlements, as a Court Attorney and Principal Law Clerk in the Kings County Courts. Since 2012, I have been presiding over trials and hearings as a Court Attorney Referee in Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, making recommendations and writing reports.
I have a total of 15 years of legal experience in the Brooklyn Court System. That’s in addition to my 3 years of prior legal experience in private practice.
Eagle: Do you have opponents for the judge’s seat, and who will make the ultimate selection?
Neckles: I have three opponents in the Primary race. I’m privileged to say that I was found “qualified” by both the New York City Bar Association and the Judicial Screening Committee for the Democratic Party in and for Kings County. The ultimate selection, however, lies with the voters.
Eagle: What will be your judicial district?
Neckles: Brooklyn’s 6th Municipal Court District. It covers the areas of East Flatbush, Midwood, Crown Heights, Kensington, Prospect Heights, Lefferts Gardens, and Park Slope.
Eagle: What are some of the organisations you belong to and activities you perform within the community?
Neckles: I’m a member of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Catholic Lawyers Guild, and the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc.
My community activities include participation in the Brooklyn Legal Pipeline Initiative which provides mentorship and guidance to college students from diverse backgrounds; career day presentations to high school students; the Read Across America project; Summer Youth employment project at the Brooklyn Supreme Court; women’s imprisonment project; Thanksgiving Day volunteer.
Eagle: Do you feel that your background as an immigrant brings something new and unique to the bench that has been missing?
Neckles: As an immigrant myself, I am keenly aware and respectful of the multicultural aspects of the Brooklyn Civil Court practice.
Eagle: Do you ever go back to visit Grenada?
Neckles: Yes, occasionally. The last time I visited Grenada was in 2015.
Eagle: What do you hope to accomplish as a Civil Court Judge?
Neckles: To work hard to reduce the backlog of existing cases. To resolve disputes fairly and according to the law. And to publish a few decisions that hopefully will be of help to the bench and bar.
(John Alexander was reporting for Brooklyn Daily Eagle)