Newburgh has the most and only number of women in municipal court judges’ seats


They are the only female judges in Orange County municipal courts. They are part of the first predominantly female bench of the Newburgh Municipal Court. One is the first woman of color to be a judge there.

Judges Anika Mohammed, 35, and Joanne Matthews Forbes, 54, say it makes sense.

“We reflect the people we serve,” said Matthews Forbes.

Newburgh’s population is 51% female, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau. Almost 60% of residents identify as a race other than white. And 21% of those surveyed from 2015 to 2019 said they were born abroad.

They join the principal judge Paul Trachte. The Newburgh court consists of three judges; one is a 10-year appointment by the city government and the other two are elected positions.

Matthews Forbes and Mohammed are both first generation Americans with close ties to the Newburgh community.

“It’s really a mosaic of people here,” said Matthews Forbes. “We are an inclusive community and I would like to think that we are all working together towards a common good. “

Her father arrived in the United States in the late 1950s and her mother arrived in the 1960s, both from Greece.

Although Matthews Forbes was born and raised in Newburgh, his first language is Greek. She graduated from the Newburgh Free Academy in 1985.

“I consider myself to be a girl from Newburgh,” Matthews Forbes said. “I was created by this city.”

Mohammed, born in the Bronx, came to Orange County with his family and settled in Woodbury. Mohammed moved to Newburgh last month and has volunteered in the community for 11 years, she said.

Mohammed’s father was a Newburgh businessman from Trinidad. He ran a liquor store on Lake Street.

“I think anybody who comes before a judge, at some point, is going to be like ‘Hey, what would it be like to be that person?’ or “How would I have made a different decision?” or whatever thoughts you sometimes have as a lawyer, ”Mohammed said.

Mohammed was appointed by Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey to take the seat of Judge Peter Kulkin when he retired earlier this year. She was appointed on July 12.

Mohammed was a lawyer with his own local law firms in Orange County. She had to close her practice when she was appointed a full-time judge.

Matthews Forbes was appointed by city council for her 10-year term in February after Justice E. Loren Williams won an election to the state’s Supreme Court last year.

“I always dreamed, even when I was in law school, of one day becoming a judge,” said Matthews Forbes. “It was the ultimate goal of my career.”

Before becoming a judge, she spent 15 years as a lawyer in a private practice and 15 years working for the justice system. She worked as a legal clerk at the Supreme Court level and worked for the judiciary in the appeal division and surrogate court.

When Williams’ position became open, Matthews Forbes saw it as a “call,” she said.

“Just when I was hoping this could be a good position for me, someone sent me this photo,” said Matthews Forbes.

She held up a framed black-and-white photo of two men standing on the steps of what used to be Broadway School and is now the city’s courthouse.

One of the men was Matthews Forbes’ father.

“When I saw this picture… it was kind of like my dad was like, ‘Yo, go apply for this job,’” Matthews Forbes said.


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