Sandra Elena Roper
"Justice Not Politics"
As a first time candidate, Roper ran a truly grassroots campaign with the orchestration of John O’Hara, Judge Phillips’ campaign manager. During that election the incumbent threatened to have her disbarred and attempted to do so by all means thereafter. Although The Grievance Committee found Roper had committed no offense, as the saying goes a prosecutor “can indict a ham sandwich”. Indeed, the incumbent did just that by falsely claiming that a special prosecutor had been assigned to prosecute Roper for fraud of a litigious former client that was well known to the incumbent as questionable in veracity.
Governor Pataki refused the incumbent’s request for a special prosecutor. Likely, indicating that Governor Pataki refused to sully his hands with the prosecution against Roper, leaving the incumbent to do his own “dirty deeds” against his former opponent. The incumbent used Roper as an example to frighten away other opponents when he continually reminded the press as to the woes he inflicted against Roper. So mean spirited was incumbent that he actually attempted to have Roper taken to Rikers Island even though she had in full cooperation personally surrendered. Roper refused to succumb to his attempts to have her admit to any wrongdoing after attempting several times for an Alford Plea. Roper’s faith and Mom gave her the strength and tenacity to endure this David and Goliath fight.
Roper opened the doors much to her peril for subsequent opposition campaigns against the incumbent culminating on that fateful day. On November 5, 2013, Roper and her Mom, an integral part and her primary confidante during her campaign for DA, watched the election results in Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital as it was announced that the incumbent DA had finally lost. Even though her Mom was very weak and was about to be transferred to hospice, she mustered up enough strength to give a smile and thumbs up. At her mom’s insistence, Roper attended the victory party of the new Brooklyn DA, where she was introduced to the late Ken Thompson. Ken greeted Roper ebulliently and she was so very humbled as he thanked her for being a progenitor for his ultimate victory against the incumbent. Roper’s Mom succumbed to ovarian cancer that Monday thereafter.
Roper as an Afro-Latina American from Panama is the eldest from Ralph and Norma Roper and Grandparents Lionel and Cecilia Scott. Her educational background was so much in the sciences that she was frequently pushed to become a doctor, instead opting to become a Hospital Pharmacist in1980, later on attending Brooklyn Law School and New York University Law School for her LLM degree specializing in pharmaceutical law. Never did Roper know that she would be lead to civil rights law in a small storefront practice on Fulton Street in Bedford Stuyvesant. Roper says often that she was quite fortunate to have had many exciting albeit challenging experiences; whether successfully fighting predatory lending; race or sex discrimination, police excessive force, voting rights in the Supreme Court of the United States, unfair trade practices against local pharmacies by big corporate pharmacies, just to name a few.
But, Roper’s greatest attribute, that she lives by the motto- upon whom much is given, much is expected, which was instilled in her by her Dad. Roper believes that with all she has already done thus far for society and the law, that she has more to give in the rendering of Justice as a Brooklyn Civil Court Judge
Sandra Elena Roper ran for Brooklyn District Attorney in 2001 as the first African-American Latina candidate for that office - taking the baton from Judge John Phillips with help from John O’Hara. With very limited funds and running against an incumbent, she still received an impressive thirty-seven percent of the vote. Roper ran a truly grass-roots campaign with the help of members of her Lions District 20K-1, Habitat for Humanity, NAACP-Brooklyn Branch, and Decatur Stuyvesant Seniors. Through the efforts of those dedicated people, two grass-roots countywide judgeships were won.
Roper fought aggressively against predatory lending in New York State, which was decimating minority homeownership in our communities from 1996. With rigorous opposition from federal and New York State banking departments that refused to acknowledge predatory lending mortgage practices, Roper’s pioneering advocacy led to a State Attorney General and Banking Department $12Million Settlement. The settlement established a legal precedent against Predatory Lending Practices. Roper’s Federal and New York State Appellate Court litigation helped to promulgate protective mortgage banking regulations in New York State. Unfortunately, such practices had become so widespread nationally to include lower income homeowners of all stripes, which ultimately resulted in the devastating global financial crises of 2008.
Roper was admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in January 12, 2004 to file an Amicus Curiae Brief for a writ of certiorari in a case of first impression as to the constitutionality of New York State Election Law’s definition of residency. The action was to oppose John O’Hara’s conviction for illegal voting, which was ultimately overturned by the Brooklyn District Attorney Conviction Review Unit on January 12, 2017.
Roper created the JUSTICE CARD and JUSTICE CARD HOTLINE for the NAACP-Brooklyn Branch to provide guidelines on how to respond when stopped by the police or arrested. The Justice Card empowered, enlightened, and advised our community of their rights after the tragic death of Amadou Diallo in 1999.
Roper drafted legislation on February 8, 2003 to amend Bank account restraint law (freezing bank accounts for debt collection) and forwarded citizen petitions to the New York State Senate and Assembly Banking Committees. As a civil court attorney, Roper observed alleged debtors appear for order to show causes due to frozen bank accounts, where they directly deposited social security and pension payments; these payments were exempt from seizure by creditors. Of note, most of the alleged debtors were seniors and claims of identity theft affected those senior-payees disproportionately. Roper advocated that the shift of the legal onus to prove that the bank balance was not exempt should be borne by the creditor and not the debtor. Roper proposed legislation was titled the Decatur Stuyvesant Seniors Bank Restraint Bill **. Roper’s Bill was in part a precursor to the codified 2008 Exempt Income Protection Act, Laws of New York, 2008, Chapter 575.
Roper has made formal pleas to stop the unfair closing of local pharmacies by oligopolistic corporate pharmacy chains to local congresspersons through an amendment to strengthen 2015 New York State Public Health Law Section 280-A . Roper argued that the amendment should be more in line with successfully enacted laws in Kentucky and Oregon, and the federal bill S.1058 - Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Act of 2011. Roper having been injured in an accident became mobility disabled with invasive procedures, to which she relied on such local pharmacies. These local pharmacies seemed to disappear, because of unfair audit practices by benefit managers.
Roper set the legal precedent for name-clearing hearings for employees of New York State Office of Mental Retardation Developmental Disabilities in a successful Article 78 NYS Supreme Court Proceeding for due process (May 25, 1995).
Roper founded the NAACP-Brooklyn legal clinic from 1990 through 2001, as she was thrust into Civil Rights advocacy through her pro-bono work with the NAACP. As the community’s demand grew, Sandra and her sister Casilda Roper-Simpson, Esq., began a rotating paralegal/ law student/ law graduate internship program for the NAACP legal clinic.
Roper has served and advocated under the membership of many community and public service organizations for many years since 1989: NAACP-Brooklyn Branch, Stuy Park Lion Clubs, Inc. (President, [PUT YEARS/]), President Carter’s Habitat for Humanity (Brooklyn Chairperson, [PUT YEARS]), National Action Network, The Rotary Club of Bedford-Stuyvesant, National Association of Negro and Professional Business Women, Community Board #3, Decatur-Stuyvesant Senior Citizens Center, Inc., CMC-St. Louis Senior Citizens Center, Battered Women In Hiding, CMC Health Fairs, Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Antioch Development Corp., Vanguard Community Development, Inc., United African American Business Association, and the Panamanian Drum Corp. of New York.
Sandra Elena Roper was born in Panama, Central America and is the eldest of 6 children. Wanting to give their children a better life, her late parents and grandparents, Ralph and Norma Roper and Lionel and Cecilia Scott saw great opportunity in the United States. Sandra’s family immigrated to the States in the mid-sixties and settled in Brooklyn. Her family provided a loving, supportive, and spiritual home environment that instilled in Sandra strong work ethic, family values, moral integrity and a sense of societal duty. Often, her Papa would quote her Luke 12:48 - to whom much is given, much is required. This sense of societal duty has influenced how Sandra lives her life.
Sandra’s grandfather was an active UAW member. Her grandmother was also an active member of 1199 Hospital Workers Union. Accompanying her grandmother to meetings and participating in children’s activities, young Sandra saw herself as an 1199 Union kid. Starting with part-time jobs as a teenager, Sandra herself joined 1199 when she became a hospital pharmacist 37 years ago. Sandra continues to be a membership presently.
Working while in high school and college, Sandra was an honor student, achieved high grades, and garnered a number of scholarships. An avid reader and writer, she also excelled in math and science. Sandra attended an unusually socially conscious Catholic school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Our Lady of Victory. It was there that Sandra first heard her call to public service.
Through a United Federation of Teachers Scholarship, Sandra Roper attended Long Island University College of Pharmacy. While a student at LIU, she married and had two children, Donald and Norma. Sandra graduated from LIU and began as a hospital pharmacist with Catholic Medical Centers. She was a hospital pharmacist for almost 30 years, until she was injured by an accident.
Sandra received a Thurgood Marshall Scholarship and the Evelyn B. Ward Graduation Award in 1987. The scholarship and award allowed Sandra to attend Brooklyn Law School. She decided to attend Brooklyn Law, since it was the only school that offered a part-time day curriculum, which allowed her to continue her full-time hospital pharmacist position. For her law school thesis, Direct Prescription Drug Advertising to the Consumer, Sandra was awarded the very prestigious Washington-based Food and Drug Law Institute’s Fellowship in 1987. The fellowship provided an LLM from New York University School of Law, which was granted in 1989.
Sandra passed the Bar in 1987 and was admitted to the Bars in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC. She was later admitted to the Supreme Court of The United States of America.
When Sandra completed NYU, her father was also diagnosed with inoperable terminal cancer. He passed away on September 19, 1988. One day before his passing, a fire destroyed their family home and left Sandra’s grandfather permanently disabled, and her aunt in a comma to which she never recovered. During this turbulent time, Sandra was a Food and Drug Administration regulatory counsel for a pharmaceutical corporation.
Sandra then became a poverty law associate with the Bedford Stuyvesant Legal Services in 1989. In August 1990, she began a general practice with an emphasis in civil rights (January 2002 to July 2003). Roper also held a position as a City of New York Civil Court Attorney.
Sandra is an avid reader of non-fiction - currently devouring US Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer, The Court and the World. She loves to crochet and is a follower of national politics and political commentary programs. Sandra continues to inspire and mentor the youth to make a true difference in the community, notwithstanding her mobility-challenged disability. In 2005, Sandra collaborated with her daughter on her memoirs titled, Velvet Gloves, Steel Balls, ©2005, NA ROPER.
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