Honoring a history-making legal luminary

Federal and State Bench and Bar gathered in Ranju & Ravi Batra’s New York home to celebrate Milton A. Tingling, the first African-American County Clerk of New York County, who earlier served as New York State Supreme Court  Justice.

It took over 300 years for Hon. Milton A. Tingling to make history by becoming the first African-American County Clerk of New York County. Members of the federal and state courts, and Bar — Democrats and Republicans alike — gathered at Ranju & Ravi Batra’s New York home recently to pay a rich tribute to Judge Tingling for his lifetime of achievements.

The speakers included eminent attorney Ravi Batra, SDNY Judge George Daniels, Judge Aija Tingling, Jasmine Tingling, Appellate Division Justice Paul Wooten, A.J. Lawrence Knipel, Surrogate Brandon Sall, Justice Lewis Lubell, J. Kathie Davidson, Justice Verne Saunders, Justice Michele Rodney, and Lloyd Williams.

Judge Tingling addressing the gathering of legal minds. He famously struck down Mayor Bloomberg’s so-called soda ban law. The decision pushed for working through legislative processes as against levying mandates.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer issued a Proclamation lauding the Judge Tingling’s lifetime of achievements. The Proclamation was presented by Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins. The Judge enjoyed exercising his Right of Reply, with his loving wife, Lisa White-Tingling, enjoying every part of it.

The Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New York, then a colony of England, was established by the New York Assembly on May 6, 1691. Americans, led by John Hancock, declared their Independence on July 4, 1776. Our Constitution was created on September 17, 1787 and ratified on June 21, 1788. New York State was founded, little over a month later, on July 26, 1788.

A native New Yorker, Justice Milton Adair Tingling was born to Milton F. and Eunice Tingling. He was born into a legacy where community service, education and social activism were the vehicles used for the betterment of Black people. Destined for excellence, Justice Tingling assumed his calling for greatness as he ascended through the legal ranks to be the first of many whose tendrils of leadership and guidance has produced a generation of lawyers, judges, politicians, and impactful laws and policies.

Rich tributes were paid for his lifetime of achievements to Justice Milton J Tingling, including by his daughter Aija Tingling, who is serving as judge at the Civil Court of the City of New York.

A graduate of Brown University, Justice Milton A Tingling pursued his Juris Doctorate, Cum Laude from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 1982. This same year, his father, the Honorable Milton F. Tingling, was elected to Civil Court. Returning to New York City, Justice Tingling was admitted to the Bar in 1983 and clerked for Justice Milton H. Richardson, Justice Wilford O’Connor, Justice Dennis Edwards, Jr. — three Harlem Judges. Thereafter, he established a solo practice in the heart of Harlem.

In 1986, he became the first Black person to ever be elected to a judgeship from the 7th Municipal Court District. His assignments included presiding both in Criminal and Civil Court. In 2000, he was elected to New York State Supreme Court. During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Tingling had several notable decisions. He is internationally renowned for striking down Mayor Bloomberg’s so-called soda ban law. The decision countered an authoritarian style of levying mandates and pushes for working through legislative processes.

For him, his best decision was permanently enjoining the statewide policy of shackling youths being transported to Family Courts demonstrating his commitment to marginalized and often voiceless communities. In that same vein, Justice Tingling reestablished the Special Election Court in Harlem in 2001 and presided over every primary and general election for the next 13 years. In 2014, he was re-elected to the Supreme Court. Less than two months later, he retired to accept an appointment by the New York State Appellate Division First Department as New York County Clerk, Commissioner of Jurors and Clerk of the Supreme Court. With this appointment, Justice Milton A. Tingling made history as the first and only Black County Clerk and the first Black Commissioner of Jurors ever in all 62 counties of New York State.

Ravi and Ranju Batra, their daughter Angela and son, Neal, with Justice Tingling and his wife Lisa White-Tingling.

His legal leadership extends outside of the Courthouse with his participation on the Appellate Division First Department Character and Fitness Committee and The Appellate Division First Department Attorney Grievance Committee. Aside from his legal leadership, Justice Tingling serves in leadership roles on various nonprofit and community organizations. He is the founder of The Initiative, a volunteer project in collaboration with the New York County Lawyers Association. “The Initiative” educates, facilitates and assists formerly incarcerated individuals in obtaining Certificates of Relief and Certificates of Good Conduct. The project also educates the formerly incarcerated on voting rights while registering eligible individuals to vote. As Commissioner of Jurors, he has instituted changes in the system that promote qualified ex-offenders serving on jurors.

The Tingling judicial legacy continues with the election of daughter Aija Tingling to the Civil Court of the City of New York. The Tinglings are the nation’s first three-generation family of Black Judges. She is also an alumna of NCCU School of Law where his son, Marcus, currently matriculates. Justice Tingling is married to his sweetheart, Lisa, and is the proud father of 5 children and 2 grandchildren.

Image courtesy of (Photos provided)

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