The City of Newburgh City Council appointed lifelong Newburgh resident Joanne Matthews Forbes as the new full-time City Court Judge, following former Newburgh City Court Judge E. Loren Williams heading to the New York State Supreme Court.
Forbes is a “blue collar first generation daughter of this community,” who has a special love for where she grew up and is a dedicated youth advocate. With this being the first opportunity for her to work in the City of Newburgh in her career field, she knew she had to jump on it and apply.
She has 25 years of experience as a counselor and attorney at law. Her interest in law started as early as at the Newburgh Free Academy, with her involvement in their Youth and Government program which allowed her to go to Albany and debate in her first case. Also in high school, the student body elected her to the court of appeals. She said from that moment on, she was “enthralled with public service.”
From there, she received a bachelors in history with an English minor and went on to Brooklyn Law School where she graduated with her juris doctorate in 1992. She worked as a student clerk and law fellow at the Chambers of The Honorable Tina L. Brozman, who is a United States Bankruptcy Judge. She went on to work as a litigation and real estate associate for ten years in Manhattan.
She landed a job in White Plains as a Confidential Law Secretary but was able to switch gears not long after to serve in the appellate division’s second judicial department as a senior principal law clerk. When her superior retired, she switched gears again working for the surrogate’s court of Westchester County.
“I didn’t want to work in Westchester anymore,” said Forbes. “I wanted to be closer to home and when the opportunity came up to apply to this position, I said why not. If not now, when?”
She said for her it’s a dream come true.
“I don’t want to be the kind of judge that only has to deal with something when it’s become a problem,” said Forbes. “I’d like to work with community-based organizations to make sure the people of our community are served before there is a problem.”
She spends her time off out in the community volunteering and helping with events. This past year she has spent time handing out food during the pandemic, marching for Black Lives Matter and giving back to her community. She hopes to bring resources to Newburgh to serve the community like mediation, mentorship and helping the youth and those who “may have not received the resources they need.”
She’s taken on a positive spin on her not practicing in the city before professionally. She believes it will allow for a fresh voice and attitude with no preconceived notions.
“Everyone will get a fair opportunity to present their issues to me,” said Forbes.
One initiative she plans to explore is a raise the age court, which would allow for a better way to address crimes among the youth instead of incarcerating.
“I’m all about the kids and helping the youth of our community to be the best people they can be, and it’s been what I’ve done my entire adult life,” said Forbes. “I’ve always volunteered to work with the PTA, classroom teachers and volunteer on organizations that provide services to our kids.”
Forbes will also be entrusted with developing a domestic violence court in the city, which she believes “every community needs because domestic violence unfortunately plagues every community.”
When she’s not on the bench or at community-based events, she enjoys being in Hudson Valley’s beautiful outdoors, spending time with friends and family and watching school sports at the Newburgh Enlarged City School District.
For now, Forbes is settling in to her new space here in the City of Newburgh. Just last week she saw her office.
“I looked out the window and I could see the building where I was born and we first lived,” said Forbes in a moment where she felt her path became full-circle. “Right across the street, I saw what was the restaurant my mother worked in for 25 years, which is now a barbershop. I find it comforting that I can look out the window and those memories come back.”
With the new position kicking off, she said she is ready to jump in.
“I want to be here and help and I’m going to work my body to the bone serving this community,” said Forbes. “With all due respect to those who came before and are there now, my dream is to be the best judge the city has ever had.”