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Indian American Lawyer Hemalee Patel Facing Objections to Her Judgeship Run in Brooklyn

Indian American Lawyer Hemalee Patel Facing Objections to Her Judgeship Run in Brooklyn

  • A general counsel at New York City Board of Elections, she has taken a leave from absence to pursue her bid while still drawing a salary.

Hemalee Patel, a general counsel at the New York City Board of Elections, is facing objections after she announced her candidacy for a judgeship in Brooklyn’s civil court. Her campaign has been facing objections, as her nomination petitions were called into question.

The Indian American lawyer has taken a leave of absence to pursue her new role in the judiciary. She is still receiving payroll checks as a lawyer for the Board of Elections. “Patel, a Democrat, who makes about $200,000 a year, will remain on the payroll and collect a check while using her ‘vacation’ or ‘annual leave’ time, the New York Post report reported, citing a BOE rep.

Immediately, objections were filed against Patel’s petitions of voter signatures, “putting election officials, including potentially her subordinates in the counsel’s office, in the position of having to recommend to the board whether she qualifies to get on the ballot for Brooklyn Civil Court judge in the 5th District,” the Post reported. 

Patel “could face a stiff challenge in the general election, if she survives objections to her petitions and a potential Democratic primary challenge,” the Post added. Ben Lieberman, an orthodox Jewish lawyer from Borough Park, is seeking the Republican nomination for the seat.

Patel previously ran for judge in 2017, seeking to become Brooklyn’s first judge of South Asian descent at the time. She told PoliticsNY that she considers herself “privileged to be a civil servant,” and that she ‘tries always to be one in the truest sense. This means, to my mind, that I must not only do my best but convey that intention by being at all times honest, fair, and courteous to the parties and attorneys who appear before me,” she said. “Beyond that, I believe that the quality of my work and persona must inspire confidence in our judicial system and address the needs and requirements of both the litigants and the court.”

She was tapped to be the BOE’s top lawyer after then-longtime counsel Steve Richman was forced out following allegations that he harassed an intern and a subordinate. Richman pleaded guilty in New York County Criminal Court to two counts of Official Misconduct, class-A misdemeanors.

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Patel came to the U.S. at age five and lived with her family in Queens, New York. After graduating from New York University, Patel came to the borough in 1988 to attend Brooklyn Law School and has been here ever since.

She has practiced law in private practice and also has lengthy experience in the judicial system. She has worked as a Supreme Court clerk in both New York and Kings County under the Judges Deborah A. Kaplan and Rachel A. Adams. She is also a member of several legal associations including the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, the South Asian Bar Association of New York, and the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association.

(Top photo, Hemalee Patel with New York Attorney General Letitia James. Courtesy, Hemalee J. Patel/Facebook.)

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