FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM OCTOBER 1, 2020 • THE QUEENS COURIER 17
Q&A with Judge Tracy A. Catapano-Fox
BY DEAN MOSES
Schneps Media is sitting down with judges
across the city’s court systems to discuss
their roles and how they’ve changed in the
age of COVID-19. Th is week’s interview is
with the Hon. Maurice E. Muir, Supreme
Court justice and Civil Court judge in
Schneps Media: Could you describe
your duties as a supervising judge?
Hon. Tracy A. Catapano-Fox: I am a
supervising judge of Queens Civil Court.
My job is overseeing the operations and
administrations. Our cases are housing
cases and civil cases. We have been incredibly
Remote workers depend on collaboration
BY DOUG CLAFFEY
Communication and collaboration
are more important than
ever. Many of us are now working
from home, using technology
in new ways. How can you
promote and strengthen crossdepartmental
among a dispersed workforce?
Draw on these six ideas from
Recreate collaboration using
tools and technology: For folks
who are accustomed to working
together face to face, collaboration
includes both verbal and
nonverbal body language. Th e
ability to duplicate as much of
that as possible using tools like
Zoom and GoToMeeting is really
important to team collaboration.
Be intentional about interdepartmental
Because you can no longer
rely on impromptu gatherings,
establish more formal connections
between departments. Be
intentional about it. Th ese liaisons
will help ensure, for example,
that product development is
working with customer success
or sales. At a senior leader level,
ensuring this level of collaboration
is occurring is even more
important in a remote work
Show appreciation through
communication and collaboration:
Th ank people and acknowledge
them for their contributions.
Demonstrate gratitude in
informal ways. Show appreciation
for their work as well as for
the stress and diffi cult challenges
employees are facing.
Apply company values in
decision-making: Values show
up most powerfully in how
they influence decision-making.
This is especially true
when an organization is under
stress, as many are right now.
The extent to which values are
part of the conversation and
the degree to which employees
refer to your company values
are essential behaviors. It’s
about getting out there and
being explicit about your company
values. Bring them into
decision-making through discussion
Ensure employees are
clued-in to critical decisions:
Remember: communicate, communicate,
sure information is getting out
to employees frequently and
through multiple channels. Use
video chats, regular email correspondence
and team conferences.
Employees want to feel cluedin
– but they also don’t want
to be overwhelmed. Use bitesized
communications more frequently,
rather than fewer, more
comprehensive updates. Be sure
communications are confi dent
but not overly confi dent. Be candid
around those topics, and
share what you know.
Encourage social interaction
among employees: You
may have employees who are
alone without the opportunity
to socialize. Th e inability to
interact with others is a problem
for everyone. For people
with mental health challenges
such as depression and anxiety,
isolation can add extra stress.
Check in with people on topics
outside of work. Zoom happy
hours, interest groups or virtual
breakout rooms are some examples.
In other words, fi nd creative
and engaging ways for people
Doug Claff ey is founder of
Energage, a Philadelphia-based
research and consulting fi rm
that surveyed more than 2 million
employees at more than
7,000 organizations in 2019.
Nominate your company as a
Top Workplace at amny.com/
active since the pandemic began, even
though we had to switch to a mostly virtual
SM: How has the position/proceedings
changed during the pandemic?
TCF: All the cases involving two attorneys
are actively proceeding through virtual
conferences. In July, I’ve done two
virtual trials since the pandemic began.
I have more trials scheduled for next
week and the coming weeks that we are
doing virtually. It’s more time consuming.
You take for granted how much you
can accomplish when you have an entire
courthouse fi lled with people. Everyone is
there working together and we’re able to
resolve things. We have had over 13,000
conferences since April virtually. We have
been really working hard here to keep
things moving as much as humanly possible.
But it’s much harder online.
SM: Is there a silver lining that you can
fi nd from the pandemic?
TCF: We’ve been able to get to know
each other better than in the court because
of the volume. You really don’t have a lot
of time to speak to everyone because you
were running from courthouse to courthouse,
and trial to trial. Now, doing it
online, there is this sense of trying to connect
with each other.
SM: Are there more technical
advancements that have been implemented
since the pandemic?
TCF: Chief Judge Janet Marie DiFiore,
head of New York courts, has been phenomenal
in getting our IT department
to really bring us into the 21st
century. We started off using
Skype and now we are using
Microsoft Teams to be able
to do our trials. Judge
Anthony Cannataro is
judge for the Civil
Court, and he has
been there every
Silver, who is
the deputy chief
administrative judge for all of New York
courts is someone who wants to make
things work. It’s been exciting to work
for people who are all about passion for
SM: Have the technical advancements
made the workload more seamless?
TCF: Th e calendars that I am doing
now are longer, but we are getting more
work done. I had a 12 p.m. conference
with 300 cases. We did it from 12 p.m. to
1:15 p.m. We just ran through it because
it’s all online. No one is talking unless you
have to. We could never do that in the
courtroom. We have managed to increase
our calendar capacity because of the virtual
nature. However, today I have to do
a daily activity report for the 300 cases
I conferenced that will take about two
hours. Now, there are more steps involved
since we are not together.
SM: What are some of the most common
cases you deal with at work?
TCF: One of my favorite parts of my
job is doing name changes. On any given
month I will sign about 200 name changes
for people. Sometimes it’s minor things
because they need to have their birth
certifi cates corrected to fi t their Social
Security card. But then we have a tremendous
number of transgender people, particularly
younger people, who are trying
to fi nd themselves and assert who they are
in this world. So, part of my job is to help
them change their names to something
that they believe really and properly demonstrates
their person, and I love that part
of my job. I feel like I am helping people.
A lot of the trial work we do is great, but
that is not at all a big part of what we do.
Th ere is so much we do behind the scenes
with helping people and helping people
fi nd justice. It gives me the chills when I
do it. Th at’s why I wanted to be a judge
to try to help people and to do justice in
Th ere are also women who are domestic
violence victims and no longer want to
carry their husband’s name. Th at’s such a
powerful thing for them. You never really
think about it when you hear name
change, but it is such an important part.
SM: What prompted you to follow a
career in law?
TCF: I really do love the law. I love the
fact that you can learn the law and use it
to help people. It is just such a sad time
for us since we lost Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg because that was a woman who
spent her entire life working to making
things better for everyone, not just
women. Th ose are the type of people that I
admire, and it makes me want to do better
with the law. It makes me want to be a better
judge. I met Justice Ginsburg in 2004,
I think we were fortunate to have her for
so many years on the bench and she is an
example for all of us.
SM: Are there some hobbies or pastimes
you enjoy partaking in during
your free time?
TCF: My youngest son has been my personal
trainer since the pandemic. When
he was younger, he was diagnosed with
autism. Now, he is considered amazingly
medically recovered. In 2009 I started
running marathons. I ran fi ve marathons
every year for Autism Speaks. I haven’t
been running as much because of the pandemic
and work, so Ethan my son said,
“I’m going to train you.” We are doing a
Batman/DC Comic 5K virtual run.
Photo courtesy of Judge Tracy A. Catapano-Fox