Virtual Conference on Judicial Selection Reform addresses court reform in New York State | Proskauer – Proskauer For Good
Despite the critical importance of a strong and independent judiciary, too often court reform is ignored by civil servants and civic leaders. Earlier this week – at Conference on the reform of judicial selection hosted by Suffolk County Director Steve Bellone – I had the opportunity to use my perspective as chairman of The Modern Courts Fund talk about the importance of simplifying New York’s archaic court system.
The conference began with remarks from Congressman Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson – who recently released a report on racism and prejudice in the state justice system. Secretary Johnson called the current court structure “inexplicable” and described how some courts, such as family courts and criminal courts, are under-resourced and overburdened. He then explained how in New York City, over time, a “second class justice system for people of color” has developed.
After the keynote speakers, two round tables discussed the history of judicial selection in New York, while proposing reform proposals. Former New York State Bar Association president Steve Younger introduced the New York court system by explaining how the 11 separate and distinct trial courts are a patchwork of various jurisdictional limitations. He examined the different tenures of judges and a multitude of contrasting judicial selection methods, including how some judges in New York are elected, others are appointed and still others are appointed from a defined pool of candidates selected by committees.
One of the panelists, Assembly Member Robert Carroll, discussed a constitutional amendment he recently proposed that would allow panels to select judges, which he believes would lead to a more thoughtful approach and based on the skills of judicial selection. There was a consensus among panelists that too often judicial elections do not offer meaningful choice to voters. It is common for judges to run unopposed after being selected by political party leaders and, even when there is a choice, it is difficult for voters to assess the quality of judicial candidates in these “low” races. information ”.
During my panel, I had the privilege of sharing the virtual stage with John Feerick, former Dean of Fordham Law School, and Alicia Bannon, Executive Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. Dean Feerick detailed the significant reform efforts he has led, while Ms Bannon spoke about the importance of more diversity on the bench. I introduced the constitutional amendment proposed by the Chief Justice which would consolidate the judicial system from 11 trial courts to three. Among the various convincing arguments in favor of reform, I stressed the importance of having a system where resources are allowed to be allocated where they are most needed. Moreover, I hope that through unnecessary reforms, parallel proceedings can be minimized.
The three of us discussed the importance of educating and engaging the public on these compelling and sensible reform issues in order to overcome resistance from those with vested interests to maintaining the status quo. My biggest takeaway is that it’s important to remember that court reform is not an academic matter, but rather an issue that affects the rights, freedoms, health and safety of real people.