Profile of the Year
By Dr Dhanpaul Narine
The 2021 November elections were historic. They brought us a new crop of judges. These talented and remarkable women are trailblazers that have left an indelible imprint in their communities. Their scholarship, and service, span several countries, but what they have in common is the ability to dispense justice, without fear or favor, in one of the greatest cities of the world.
Judge Karen Gopee was born in Tunapuna, in Trinidad and Tobago. She rose to become the first Indo-Caribbean Judge in New York. Karen is from a working-class family. She worked hard with the support of her parents, Basmatee and Prakash Gopee. She attended Franklin K. Lane High School and graduated from Binghamton University and St. John’s University. Karen has deep roots in the community and was appointed a Judge by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015. She will be a Judge in the Supreme Court in Queens County. One of her mentors is Judge Alex Calabrese who has always encouraged Karen to reach for the stars.
Cassandra Johnson was born in Far Rockaway, and was raised in Queens Village, New York. In 1991, her mother Andree Sylvestre came to Queens, from Haiti. Andree was determined to improve herself. She worked hard, became a social worker, and put herself through law school. This served as a tremendous inspiration for the young Cassandra. She worked in her mother’s office since High School and saw at first hand Andree’s passion for service and the care she took to make her client’s lives better. Cassandra went to St. John’s University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics, after which she went to St. John’s University Law School. After graduation, Cassandra was in her mother’s office as an associate attorney, representing mostly Queens residents of West Indian and Caribbean descent. She then worked for the City of New York as a staff Attorney, until her assignment in the Queens Supreme Court. Cassandra says that she is humbled by the opportunity to serve as a Civil Court Judge and she hopes to make the court less intimidating to self-represented clients.
Soma Syed was born in Bangladesh and migrated to the United States with her parents when she was twelve years old. Her dad Aftab Uddin Syed was a District Commissioner in Bangladesh, while her mom Amina Khatun Syed was a Principal at a High School for girls. Soma attended I.S. 238, Jamaica High School, and the Albany Law School of Union University, where she qualified as an attorney. She has spent over eighteen years helping people with housing, unemployment, immigration, and other matters. She is the immediate past president of the Queens County Bar Association and she currently serves as the Chairwoman of the New York State Bar Association Lawyer Referral, and Information Service.
Andrea Ogle was born in Guyana. Her family has prized education, an untiring work ethic, honesty, and respect for others. Her participation in her community has enriched the lives of many. She is admired as a changemaker. Andrea attended Queens College, Hofstra University and Seton Hall School of Law. As an attorney, Andrea has represented hundreds of litigants and has handled complex matters in the Family Court, Housing Court, Criminal and Supreme Courts. She has also represented clients in New York Family Treatment Court and has participated in aftercare releases, mediation and settlement negotiations. As a result of her intervention, many persons have turned their lives around and have become productive members of the community. Andrea’s experience in Family and Criminal Law makes her ideal for a seat on the Bench. In addition, she has deep roots in the community that gives her a unique perspective in which to dispense justice.
The community is proud of its four women judges. They have shown that through hard work and determination, they can scale any mountain. They bring to the Bench backgrounds from Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Bangladesh, and Guyana, that show the American Dream is alive. Justices Karen Gopee, Cassandra Johnson, Soma Syed and Andrea Ogle have blazed the trail, and are role models, worthy of emulation. They are grateful to the community for its support. We are proud to name these distinguished women as our PROFILE OF THE YEAR, 2021.