By Katie McFadden
First New York had Judge Judy and now we have Judge Janet and Judge Jenny. In a rare occurrence, two bright female attorneys, who happen to live within half a mile of each other in Rockaway, were elevated to the bench. After being appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, on February 15, Janet McDonnell and Jennifer Tubridy officially became judges for New York’s criminal courts.
Both starting on this new, huge step in their careers, it was a surprise to each woman to find a familiar face going through the same process and being sworn in on the same day. “Jenny’s a little younger but we know all the same people. I have four kids and my kids hang out with her nieces and nephews. It’s such a small world,” McDonnell said. “There aren’t a lot of people you know who get chosen as judges, never mind someone that lives 11 blocks from you.” Among the other two criminal court judges they were sworn in with, McDonnell and Tubridy, both local moms, were the only women. “We’ve gotten really close going through this together,” Tubridy said. “It’s pretty cool that it’s two women from Rockaway.”
Although they were sworn in on the same day, they’ve wound up in different places in their new roles, with Judge McDonnell being assigned to Manhattan’s Criminal Court and Judge Tubridy being assigned to Brooklyn. And they both took different paths to get to this point.
A graduate of Iona College, McDonnell started out in the financial field. “I was a finance major, so I didn’t know I wanted to pursue law until I started working in my early 20s. I was working at a bank for two and a half years, and I hated it,” McDonnell said. But using her finance degree, she went on to become a financial investigator for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and discovered her passion. “I was an accountant for white collar crimes and testified at grand jury and I absolutely loved it,” she said. It was that experience in that courtroom in Manhattan that would lead her pursuing law. Little did she know, it would be the same building where she now sits on the bench as a judge.
“I was like, wow, I’m gonna have to go to law school to become an assistant district attorney, so I went to law school and I changed my career path,” McDonnell said. In 1997, she graduated from City University of New York School of Law at Queens College and became a prosecutor. She would work for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office for 21 years and went on to become Deputy Bureau Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau and Criminal Court Bureau for five years before becoming First Deputy Bureau Chief of the Criminal Court Bureau for the Staten Island District Attorney’s office. But that position would be short lived. She had all the experience she needed to pursue something bigger.
For Tubridy, she was attending Columbia University and had gone on a fellowship in Ireland for a marketing position for Allied Irish Bank. With so many options ahead of her, Tubridy ultimately decided to go to law school. She went to night classes at Brooklyn Law School while working at a cousin’s restaurant, Metro 53, during the day. Through that, she was able to make a solid connection to further her law career. “I spoke to a manager and got a job with a federal judge, working three years in the Southern District, where I was a courtroom deputy clerk. I swore in the witnesses and took in the jury, and I kind of had this front row seat to the courtroom and it made me realize I liked criminal law,” Tubridy said. After graduating law school, she applied for the Queens DA’s office. “I started in the misdemeanor part and became a rider, who goes to lineups and on search warrants, and I went on to do felony trials,” she said. She worked as an Assistant District Attorney for 10 years. Tubridy then went on the work as a court attorney law secretary for Judge Barry Schwartz in Queens until he retired, so she started working for Civil Court Judge Nestor Diaz at the New York County Criminal Court as principal attorney. Judge Diaz went on to the Queens Supreme Court in January and Tubridy followed, but that position would be short lived.
After all, both had their eyes on becoming a judge. After applying for the judgeship position in 2020, things got delayed for the ladies during their process due to Covid. Then came the change of mayor. But after sending in their applications and enduring several grueling rounds of interviews starting in October of last year, the ladies got the good news. Mayor Adams nominated them to the position of judge for the criminal courts in New York City. After being sworn in at City Hall on February 15, the ladies went through training together.
Reaching such a tremendous point in their careers is a point of pride for McDonnell and Tubridy. “It feels amazing,” McDonnell said on her first official day on Monday, February 27. “I was given chambers! I’m shadowing other judges and it was nice. It’s going to take a while to get used to. There’s going to be a lot of hard work ahead but hopefully it goes smoothly. But this has been fun. My kids are so happy for me.”
“This is surreal. I’m honored and humbled and excited,” Tubridy said. “They already have me taking pleas on record because I have some background in this but it’s busy and it’s good. I’m excited and eager to learn from the judges that are already there and I’m grateful to be here. My family is very excited.”
So, order in the court! Judge Janet McDonnell of Manhattan Criminal Court and Judge Jenny Tubridy of Brooklyn Criminal Court will be making those tough decisions on criminal matters, and hopefully, nobody in Rockaway will have to see them besides around town.