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Judge J. Machelle Sweeting  

Civil Court Judge, Only African American Woman Jurist & Acting Justice of the New York State Supreme Court

Judge J. Machelle Sweeting is an Acting Supreme Court Justice in the New York State Supreme Court. She was elected to the bench in 2014 from the historic 10th Municipal Court District in Harlem, New York. Judge Sweeting is the only Bahamian-American legal practitioner admitted to practice law in the state and federal courts in New York; Washington, DC; the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd and 4th Circuits; the United States Supreme Court; and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

For five years, she served with distinction, as the only African American female Judge in the New York County Family Court, where she presided over the most complex cases involving disputes over custody, visitation, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence and juvenile delinquency; and over cases filed by undocumented persons, under the age of 21, seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Additionally, long before the use of technology had been integrated into the court system, she presided over the nation’s first state-wide “Remote Access Part” which allowed persons to appear in court via Skype or other electronic means.

Judge Sweeting majored in U.S. history at Davidson College in North Carolina and received her law degree from Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas. She has also studied law at the University of London and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, England; and at the University of Zimbabwe and the University of Botswana in Africa.

In 2019, Judge Sweeting, together with the Association of Black Women Attorneys and the Institute of International Affairs, led a U.S. delegation of women Judges and lawyers on a pilgrimage to Ghana, Africa, where she spoke on the theme of “reinforcing bonds and connecting with the diaspora.” Judge Sweeting delivered the address on behalf of the U.S. delegation before members of the Ghanian legal profession and dignitaries including Ghana’s Attorney General. Judge Sweeting has also joined U.S. delegations in the countries of Jamaica and Haiti, where she has presented on important immigration topics such as the Deferred Action Plan and the Dream Act, and their impact on Caribbean nationals.

Prior to ascending to the bench, she served with distinction as an Assistant Corporation Counsel (she was a founding attorney of the Special Litigation Division). She also served as a Special Referee in the Supreme Court Matrimonial Division; an Administrative Law Judge; an Assistant District Attorney; a Law Clerk to a Supreme Court and Appellate Justice; and as an Adjunct Law Professor.

Judge Sweeting holds leadership positions in several local, state and national organizations including: the Caribbean American Lawyers Association; the NAACP; the National Bar Association; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.; the Women’s Bar; the Metropolitan Black Bar; the New York State Bar; the Association of Black Women Attorneys; the American Bar Association; The Family Court Judge’s Association of New York; and the Bahamas Bar. She is the recipient of many awards including the unique honor or being selected as a Marshal at the African American Day Parade.

Even more importantly, Judge Sweeting is a dedicated mentor to a countless number of students and is committed to building a successful pipeline for persons interested in pursuing a career in law. She regularly welcomes visitors to her courtroom (including virtually) to observe the inner workings of our judicial system and to empower them with information about their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Her youth commitment dates back to her days as a law student at Rutgers, where she established the law school’s first legal training program for high school students.

Judge Sweeting is a highly regarded motivational speaker, whose words of encouragement continue to inspire a new generation of civic-minded community leaders to pursue a career in law.

Speech Topics

Law; Women; African American History; Education; Motivational Speaker

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