Legal Organizations Submit BriefIn NYS Judicial Selection Case

Wednesday, August 1, 2007 - 00:00

The City of New York, the New York State Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the Fund for Modern Courts jointly submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on July 13 to the U.S. Supreme Court urging that the current judicial selection system in New York State be struck down in the case of New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres.

In Lopez Torres, which is scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a federal district court ruling from Brooklyn that the nominating system for state supreme court justices as presently conducted is unconstitutional. The courts imposed an interim process of direct primary elections until a new process is established by state legislation. That interim process has been postponed until after the U.S. Supreme Court hears the case, and will not affect this fall's judicial elections.

The brief, whose principal author is former New York State Solicitor General Preeta D. Bansal, notes that the city, the State Bar, the City Bar, and the Fund for Modern Courts "for long have recognized and publicly reported upon the many severe shortcomings of the present judicial selection system for trial court judges in New York State."

As noted in the brief, all four signatories favor a constitutional amendment to institute a merit-based appointive system for state court judges in place of elections. However, because such an amendment, if adopted, would take several years to take effect, the signatories support reforming the judicial convention in the short term to curb the abuses of the current judicial selection system. Each of the signatories oppose open primary elections for judicial candidates because of the negative effects such as the conflict of interest that arises from the need to raise large sums of money to fund campaigns - often from those who may appear before the judges once elected.