Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Judge Gleason Rules: Judicial Screening Panels Controlled by County Leaders

"TWO MEMBERS of the committee that screens judicial candidates in Brooklyn quit the panel Monday night, saying it did not live up to their expectations.
Panel member Robert L. Begleiter announced his resignation and that of Jane N. Barrett at the start of a meeting of the newly restructured Kings County Democratic Judicial Screening Committee.

A letter from the pair to panel Chairman Martin Edelman was distributed to its members yesterday. . .

We resign with regret, as we both had high expectations that the Panel, as reconstituted this year, would further merit selection of judges in Brooklyn and would restore the perception of integrity to a process that has been severely criticized," it said. "Unfortunately, our experience with the Panel has convinced us that it will not, under current procedures, be a vehicle for that reform. . .

We strongly urge the Panel be charged with providing short lists of recommended individuals for judges' positions," rather than rating candidates as "qualified" or not qualified," the letter says. The pair urged that the committee identify "the most merited among the qualified." That is similar to the New York County Democratic Party's method and the process for selection of U.S. magistrate judges. . .
They claim the panel reached the same conclusion by consensus at its first meeting. Ms. Barrett and Mr. Begleiter said in their letter that the indicted pair participated in a June decision about the panel's charter. However, Robert Liff, the party's spokesman, said Mr. Norman has presided over executive committee meetings without voting and Mr. Feldman is not a member."
Law Journal, July 22, 2004

"The executive director of the Brooklyn party, Jeffrey Feldman, declined to give a reason for the two lawyers' resignations, and said they would be replaced after the panel has finished its business for this year. "The panel is in the middle of the process," Mr. Feldman said. . .

"They just got cold feet from all the press," said one Brooklyn Democrat. They resigned without any formal letter, he said. "These are not letter-writers."
New York Sun. May 7, 2003

"Though three judicial screening panel members resigned, none of the others followed suit. And Jeffrey Feldman, executive director of the county organization, said Brooklyn is still a leader in judicial reform. "We're one of only about five organizations to enjoy the input of the screening panel," he said. "We've always been on the leading edge."
Newsday, May 21, 2001

"The First District's selection process is the best in the state because of its screening panel, which is discussed further below, and because of the intense involvemnet of Manhattan Democratic Clubs in judicial politics. . . Nevertheless, even in the First District, New York County's Democratic leader controls the process. Farrell assembles a package of candidatges for presentation to the convention and the delegates approve it. Candidate who Farrell decides should be nominated get nominated. . .

More specifically, the overwhelming majority of these disputes involves rival Democrats clubs in Manhattan. These clubs' members, who must pay dues, represent approximately 1.3% of the registered Democrats in Manhattan. That there are occasional frights for control at the upper levels of the political structure of an AD or a county does not mean the delegate selection process is open to a challenger candidate who seeks her party's nomination. To the contray, it is yet another window into how closed the process is to the ordinary voters. "
From Judge Gleason' Decision

Thursday, May 1, 2003

State Commission on Judicial Conduct leaks?

"More on leaks: The state Commission on Judicial Conduct is seeking to remove Brooklyn elected state Supreme Court Justice Reynold Mason for abusing an escrow account (using it to pay for child support and political donations). Mason, who is appealing to the state's top court, presented an affidavit last month alleging that the commission leaked word to Brooklyn Democratic Executive Director Jeff Feldman that the judge would be ousted. Feldman denies it, but if true, it would be a breach of the panel's duty to conduct its affairs in confidence and evidence of a pipeline to the party. Information is power."
Daily News, May 1, 2003