This November 7, New Yorkers will be asked to participate in a general election to elect a judge for the New York City Civil Court in Queens County. On the ballot is Republican William Shanahan.
He will be squaring off against Democrat Evelyn Gong who won the Democratic primary on June 27 with 56.9 percent of the vote, beating out John Ciafone and Steven Beard. Shanahan ran unopposed resulting in the Republican primaries being canceled.
William Shanahan, known in the community as “Shanny” is a lifelong resident of Queens County. Born to working class parents in Woodhaven, he says he is a product of local schooling.
He obtained his BS in criminal justice from St. John’s University in Jamaica Queens, and obtained his law degree from Saint John’s Law School.
He has spent the past 33 years litigating both criminal and civil cases in New York courts.
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Straight out of law school he served as an Assistant District Attorney in Nassau County where he worked diligently with police and victims of crimes, prosecuting some of the most serious criminal offenders.
He worked in this role for more than a decade before moving to the private sector where he worked on Wall Street, an experience Shanahan says was “not very rewarding.”
“I never found that making money for other people, so they can get richer, rewarding,” he said, adding that, “This can’t be what life is … basically doing legal research in an office all day and never really getting out there and talking to people.”
After his stint on Wall Street he moved on to work for All-State Insurance, one of the largest insurers in the country, where he spent the next several years as a senior trial litigator, specializing in fraudulent claims.
It was in 2005, that Shanahan opened a private general practice, serving communities in Queens and Nassau County, which he runs to this day.
Over the course of his career, he has appeared as a guest expert on various cable news shows including appearances on Fox News and has taken on a number of cases pro bono, fighting for the civil rights of his clients.
“I’ve actually protested with Eric Adams, the mayor, before he was a mayor, on some civil rights cases,” Shanahan told Vision Times.
Currently, Shanahan also serves as a court arbitrator, a quasi judicial role, where he conducts and oversees small claims and civil trials.
‘My second choice was law’
Shanahan said that when he was young he was obsessed with food and cooking, and wanted to be a chef. “My second choice was law,” he said.
He has fond memories of rushing home from school at lunch to watch Julia Childs with his mother.
His passion for cooking continues to this day, “In my office I have a rotisserie, I have a stove, I have a deep fryer; We do deep fried turkey at Thanksgiving,” he said, adding with a laugh, “We have a cheese omelet station on occasion.”
Shanahan said that what really inspired him to go into law was the TV show, Perry Mason and his father’s wish that he become a police officer.
“My father wanted me to become a cop, he didn’t want me to become a lawyer. So, I kind of did the in between, I became a prosecutor … like being in between a cop and a lawyer, and in the meantime I continue to cook,” he said.
Heading into the November election Shanahan says that for him the top issue is people’s lack of faith in the judiciary.
“When I talk to people, they don’t have a lot of faith that they are getting a fair shot when they go to court,” he said.
In order to inspire more faith in the system, Shanahan says that as a judge he would work tirelessly to ensure every case on his docket is resolved in a timely manner.
“I’m going to make sure that every case that comes before me is given a fair shake and I am going to move my cases,” he said before explaining how he is seeing several cases take upwards of six months to be heard.
“I’m not going to let that happen. I’m going to make sure that when I am there, I’m working and I am going to move these cases and make sure that justice is done,” he said, adding that there is a big difference between workflow in the private and public sectors, and that he would take a private sector approach.
“I think too many people, when they come out of the public sector, not that they don’t work but, they are ingrained with this, hour and a half for lunch, and … can’t work past four. When you come out of the private sector, you work until you get it done,” he explained.
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The most diverse and qualified candidate
Shanahan argues that he is not only the most qualified candidate on the ballot this November but also the most diverse.
“I have a broad coalition of support from every aspect of the community,” he said, adding that he has support from New York’s Chinese, Black and Spanish communities, among others.
“I have a broad range and I would say I am the most diverse. I think that word is sometimes misused and it’s used to be very divisive rather than meaning diversity. But, I would say that I am the most diverse when you see who supports me in the community,” Shanahan said.
He says that unlike his opponent, he has been found qualified to sit behind the bench by both the New York Bar Association and the Queen’s County Bar Association.
“The last two years I’ve gone through the screening process, and … I was found qualified,” he said. He was deemed qualified following an intense vetting process that included interviews of past judges he came before as well as interviews of a number of lawyers who are familiar with his work.
“They looked at my opponent and I don’t think you can find one trial that she ever did, at least I can’t, and the bar association said that she’s not qualified,” he said, adding that “She has been practicing about a third of the time that I’ve been practicing. As far as I can tell, I can’t find any work that she has done, any trials or anything like that.”
“If you have to go to court and you’re arrested on a crime, and you want a judge who is going to give you a fair trial, do you want someone who is learning on the job, or do you want someone who has done hundreds of trials before this?” he said.
The election for New York Civil Court judges will be held on November 7 this year.