NEW YORK — March is Women’s History Month and we are shedding light on women who continue to pave the way for others.
CBS2 recently sat down with the Honorable Karen Gopee, the first appointed Indo-Caribbean justice of the Supreme Court in New York.
“It’s also me knowing that I’m leading the way for other people who look like me and sound like me,” Gopee said.
She currently presides in Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term.
“I love the law, and I love knowing I can help people and make a real impact,” Gopee said.
In her first sit-down television interview, she told CBS2, at first, her family had objections.
“Being a female, being a minority … practicing criminal law, becoming an attorney — these are things that were not necessarily expectations,” Gopee said.
She migrated to the United States from the Caribbean island of Trinidad with her parents and was the first in her family to go to college. She went on to receive a full scholarship from St. John’s University to go to law school — and continued to set the bar high.
“I was the first Indo-Caribbean judge appointed by the mayor in New York state in 2015. In 2021, the first Indo-Caribbean judge appointed or elected to Supreme Court,” Gopee said.
She says at age 5, she knew she wanted to help her community.
“I grew up in a very poor immigrant neighborhood … Immigration issues or issues around domestic violence,” Gopee said. “They needed a voice. They needed someone they were comfortable with.”
But her journey wasn’t easy.
“When you come from families of immigrants, because they were not educated here, they don’t trust themselves to fill out these questions or understand some of the technical stuff,” Gopee said.
Even after she became an attorney, people rushed to judgment.
“You could be dressed in a full suit with your briefcase, and you’re assumed to be the paralegal,” Gopee said.
But these days, Judge Gopee says when she’s faced with adversity, she remembers the sacrifices her parents made, how far she has come, and how much her culture has shaped her.
“When things get stressful at work, I have a TV in my office, and I actually I play soca music,” Gopee said.
The mother of two says when she puts her robe on and walks into her courtroom she has a strong commitment to justice — a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly.
“Becoming comfortable with yourself and believing in yourself,” Gopee said.
Judge Gopee said she hopes other women in her community follow in her footsteps and take the bench.