Lumarie Maldonado Cruz is an accomplished attorney and mother of three who made history last June when she defeated Wyatt Gibbons in the first contested Democratic primary for a Queens Civil Court judgeship in decades.
Maldonado Cruz won the race by 17,000 votes, despite Gibbons’ endorsement by the Queens County Democratic Party.
Typically, the Queens County Democratic Party selects candidates for judicial openings, and those picks often run unopposed. Many voters probably aren’t even unaware that they can vote on candidates for judgeships.
“Vision and courage, that’s how I define my wife,” said Angel Cruz, a fellow attorney and Maldonado Cruz’s husband. “It’s been 50 years since the last time someone had enough courage to challenge the status quo. She had the vision to believe in herself and the courage to, despite what everyone said, run a race.”
Maldonado Cruz is also the first Latina to win a county-wide election in Queens, seizing a victory by more than 20 percent of the vote. On Thursday, she assumed the role of Civil Court justice with a ceremony that was unequivocally her own.
In a tribute to her Puerto Rican roots, the evening included a performance of La Bomba y Plena, as well as renditions of "La Borinqueña" (the National Anthem of Puerto Rico) and “Preciosa” by the judge’s cousin Magda Rodriquez Lupeschi.
Guests included state senators Leroy Comrie, John Liu and James Sanders, president and CEO of Hispanic Information Television Network Mike Nieves, and judges representing a variety of the city and state courts.
Judge Jenny Rivera from the State Court of Appeals made an appearance through pre-recorded video message.
With a tremendous smile, Maldonado Cruz was sworn in by Judge Luis Antonio Gonzalez. She was joined on stage by her son and two daughters, her husband, and her mother and father, who flew in from Puerto Rico for the ceremony.
“Throughout my life, I’ve had to earn with much struggle all that I have accomplished,” said Maldonado Cruz. “I come from humble beginnings, where bare necessities were seldom met.
“So I applied to school and exercised the same principles that allow me to survive a challenging childhood: determination, discipline, hard work and the sheer will to succeed,” she added.
A graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, she was already married and a mother of two young children by the time she went on to pursue her law degree.
Drawing from the strength and support of family, Maldonado Cruz graduated from CUNY School of Law.
“But that same attitude also created in me a rebel,” she said of her determination. “A challenger of authority and norms, a young woman who never conformed to the different set of rules that apply to me as a woman of color.”
Maldonado Cruz dedicated her career to public interest, first as a private practice lawyer and then as an attorney for the Character and Fitness Committee in the State Supreme Court Appellate Division, helping evaluate candidates for admission to practice law.
It was her concern for equal access to justice and the underrepresentation of minorities by judges who do not reflect the borough’s racial diversity that inspired her to run for a spot on the Civil Court bench.
“Today is not about me, not really, because this campaign belonged to you,” Maldonado Cruz said. “I stand here today as an example of the formidable strength of a united community, a community that has regained a political voice through their vote. You must never take that right for granted.”