Picking Judges: How To Do It and Why It Matters

May 2, 2006

The Fund for Modern Courts co-sponsored with the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Citizen’s Union, and the League of Woman Voters of New York City a forum on Picking Judges: How to Do It and Why It Matters at the Bar Association of the City of New York.

The panel was moderated by Victor A. Kovner, Chair, The Fund for Modern Courts. The speakers were Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel, New York City,

Deborah Goldberg, Director, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Bettina B. Plevan, President, Association of the Bar of the City of New York and Paul Wooten, Paul Wooten & Associates.

The panel debated judicial selection reform, an issue that has dominated policy and political discussions in New York especially since U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson in Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections Brooklyn enjoined the use of the judicial convention system to nominate candidates for Supreme Court Justice and ruled that such nominations be made through primary elections. This panel explored the various methods of selecting judges, including commission-based appointment or merit selection, direct primaries with and without public financing, and a reformed judicial delegate convention system. In addition, the New York State Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections (the “Feerick Commission”) recommendations were reviewed: the establishment of independent judicial qualifying commissions, retention elections, improved voter education and campaign financing disclosure.

This forum was supported, in part by a grant from the League of Women Voters Education Fund and the Program on Constitutional and Legal Policy of the Open Society Institute.

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