Recognizing the Achievements of Judge Alex Calabrese

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 3, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. VELAZQUEZ. Madam Speaker, I rise to recognize the achievements of Judge Alex Calabrese, the presiding judge of the Red Hook Community Justice Center in my district in Brooklyn, New York. Judge Calabrese began his legal career as a public defender in the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Defense Practice and went on to serve as the court attorney for the Honorable Leslie Crocker Snyder. He was later appointed to the bench in 1997, presiding in Kings County Criminal Court prior to his tenure in Red Hook. While sitting through Kings County arraignments of low-level cases, he recognized the return appearances of those who had previously came before him. He began incorporating supportive services as part of sentencing including a follow-up approach which had not been done before. This brought him to the attention of Center for Court Innovation which was opening the Red Hook Community Court. As the first and only presiding judge in the Red Hook Court, Judge Calabrese handled cases from three jurisdictions: criminal, family, and housing, the first in the country to do so.

Judge Calabrese kept to his belief in people, viewing each who came before him as unique and deserving of respect, and most of all, the opportunity to live up to their full potential. Under his leadership, he fostered the Peacemaking approach of the Navajo Nation where the community comes together as part of decision making. A key innovation is Red Hook Youth Court where young people are trained to serve as jurors, judges and advocates for their peers who have committed minor offenses. This approach helps restore the harm done in the community and ensure those involved receive the help they need to avoid getting caught up in the justice system, addressing early-on underlying issues that prompt criminal behavior in the first place.

Judge Calabrese has shared his unique approach from the bench by presenting and teaching extensively, both nationally and internationally. Lord Woolf, Chief Judge of England and Whales said: ``the Red Hook Courthouse is the finest example of restorative justice I have ever seen and should be emulated by courts throughout the world; then justice will truly have meaning.'' For his greater than two decades of service on the bench to reform justice in our communities, I recognize Judge Alex Calabrese for his invaluable service to us all.