It took over 300 years for Hon. Milton A. Tingling to make history by becoming the first African-American County Clerk of New York County. Members of the federal and state courts, and Bar, Democrats and Republicans alike, gathered at Ranju & Ravi Batra’s home recently to pay rich tribute to Judge Tingling for his lifetime of achievements. The speakers included Ravi Batra, SDNY Judge George Daniels, Judge Aija Tingling, Jasmine Tingling, Appellate Division Justice Paul Wooten, A.J. Lawrence Knipel, Surrogate Brandon Sall, Justice Lewis Lubell, J. Kathie Davidson, Justice Verne Saunders, Justice Michele Rodney, and Lloyd Williams.
Westchester County George Latimer issued a Proclamation lauding the Honoree’ lifetime of achievements, which Proclamation was presented by Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins. Judge Tingling enjoyed exercising his Right of Reply, with his loving wife, Lisa White-Tingling, enjoying every part of it.
The Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New York, then a colony of England, was established by the New York Assembly on May 6, 1691. Americans, led by John Hancock, declared their Independence on July 4, 1776. Our Constitution was created on September 17, 1787, and ratified on June 21, 1788. New York State was founded, little over a month later, on July 26, 1788.
A native New Yorker, Justice Milton Adair Tingling was born to Milton F. and Eunice Tingling and two siblings. He was born into a legacy where community service, education and social activism were the vehicles used for the betterment of Black people. Destined for excellence, Justice Tingling assumed his calling for greatness as he ascended through the legal ranks to be the first of many whose tendrils of leadership and guidance has produced a generation of lawyers, judges, politicians, and impactful laws and policies.
A graduate of Brown University, Justice Milton A Tingling pursued his Juris Doctorate, Cum Laude from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 1982. This same year, his father, the Honorable Milton F, Tingling, was elected to Civil Court.
Returning to New York City, Justice Tingling was admitted to the Bar in 1983 and clerked for Justice Milton H. Richardson, Justice Wilford O’Connor, Justice Dennis Edwards, Jr. — three Harlem Judges. Thereafter, Justice Tingling established a solo practice in the heart of Harlem on West 125th Street.
In 1986, he became the first Black person to ever be elected to a judgeship from the 7th Municipal Court District. This District, encompassing Harlem and Washington Heights, is the largest non-county-wide District in the State. His assignments included presiding both in Criminal and Civil Court. In 2000, he became the first North Carolina Central University School of Law Graduate elected to New York State Supreme Court.
During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Tingling had several notable decisions. He is internationally renowned for striking down Mayor Bloomberg’s so-called soda ban law. The decision countered an authoritarian style of levying mandates and pushes for working through legislative processes. For him, his best decision was permanently enjoining the statewide policy of shackling youths being transported to Family Courts demonstrating his commitment to marginalized and often voiceless communities. In that same vein, Justice Tingling reestablished the Special Election Court in Harlem in 2001 and presided over every primary and general election for the next 13 years.
In November 2014, he was re-elected to the Supreme Court. Less than two months later, he retired to accept an appointment by the New York State Appellate Division First Department as New York County Clerk, Commissioner of Jurors and Clerk of the Supreme Court. With this appointment, Justice Milton A. Tingling made history as the first and only Black County Clerk and the first Black Commissioner of Jurors ever in all 62 counties of New York State.
His legal leadership extends outside of the Courthouse with his participation on the Appellate Division First Department Character and Fitness Committee and The Appellate Division First Department Attorney Grievance Committee. He is a member of New York County Lawyers Association, the New York City Bar Association, The Metropolitan Black Bar Association, The Judicial Friends and The Tribune Society.
Aside from his legal leadership, Justice Tingling serves in leadership roles on various nonprofit and community organizations, including the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce; Belafonte Family Foundation; Not On My Watch; The West Harlem Development Corporation, Chair; and Community League of The Heights (CLOTH), Chair. Additionally, Justice Tingling serves on the City College President’s Advisory Board and the North Carolina Central University School of Law Board of Visitors.
Justice Tingling is the founder of The Initiative, a volunteer project in collaboration with the New York County Lawyers Association. “The Initiative” educates, facilitates and assists formerly incarcerated individuals in obtaining Certificates of Relief and Certificates of Good Conduct.
The project also educates the formerly incarcerated on voting rights while registering eligible individuals to vote. As Commissioner of Jurors, has instituted changes in the system that promote qualified ex-offenders serving on jurors.
The Tingling judicial legacy continues with the election of daughter Aija Tingling to Civil Court of the City of New York. The Tinglings are the nation’s first, three generation family of Black Judges. She is also an alumna of NCCU School of Law where his son, Marcus, currently matriculates. Justice Tingling is married to his sweetheart, Lisa, and the proud father of 5 children and 2 grandchildren.