Under the leadership of Chief Judge Judith Kaye, the state has taken an important first step in cutting the Queens judiciary free from the apron strings of the county's Democratic Party machine.
The state has adopted stringent new rules that govern fiduciary appointments. These rules substantially broaden the qualifications for appointment and limit the number of appointments that fiduciaries may receive. Under the new rules, county political leaders and their associates will no longer be allowed to receive fiduciary appointments.
Judges are frequently called upon to name someone who will oversee the finances of a child or a senior citizen who is no longer capable of running his or her own affairs. The appointment requires little effort and pays extremely well. In the past these appointments were handed out to the party faithful without regard to the person's qualifications. Under the new rules, county political leaders and their associates will no longer be allowed to receive fiduciary appointments.
All candidates for fiduciary appointment will be required to complete a certified training program. The Bar Association will assist in the training process. These appointments will no longer be part of the patronage system. The judges who are handpicked by the Party bosses will have to find another way to show their gratitude.
The next step in the reform process will be far more difficult. Under the present system, candidates have no chance of being elected judge in Queens unless they are on the Democratic Party line. And the party machine exercises absolute control over who gets on the party line.
Competence, experience and skill count for little in the process. Said former Queens County Bar Association President Ed Rosenthal, "The first requirement I think is to be a good loyal party member. And the second qualification is to be a good lawyer. But I think that has to be secondary."
We are witnessing in Brooklyn how this spoils system for electing judges has turned the courts into a corrupt cesspool. We have no evidence that the Queens courts are equally corrupt. But if they are not, it's an accident. To protect the integrity of the judicial system, sweeping reform is need that will take the selection process out of the hands of political machines.
Save the Queens Zoo, good.
Keep the libraries open, even better.
But fighting to keep the Fire Marshal base open at Fort Totten? Give us a break.
One Fire Marshal actually said closing the base will encourage arson. Everyone who wants to get rid of their house and cars are just going to burn them for insurance money," said Robert Rostkowski, a supervising fire marshal based at Totten. "People are going to get away with arson."
Does this marshal really thinks arsonists will find encouragement in the fact that investigators will have to travel from Brooklyn? We doubt it.
At a protest last week, the marshal was joined by the omnipresent council members Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Mark Weprin (D-Hollis). They understand that the mayor has to cut spending as long as he doesn't cut any services in Queens.
©2003 Community News Group
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