Members of the Kings County Democratic Party have voted down a proposal that could reform how the party selects judges. During last weeks meeting of the partys Executive Committee, which is comprised of two Democratic District Leaders from each of Brooklyns 21 Assembly Districts, the committee voted 22 to 9 not to adopt a motion that ensured that New York Supreme Court nominees shall be determined by a majority of ballots. The ballots will be cast by members of the Executive Committee attending a regularly scheduled meeting of the Kings County Democratic organization, the motion reads. While proponents of the motion want to see the selection of judges become a more democratic process, several political heavyweights in the organization most notably Kings County Democratic Party Boss Assemblyman Clarence Norman have remained firm on not changing anything, even though critics have said that the selection process has led to a bevy of crooked judges as well as the selling judgeships scandal currently swirling around the party and Norman himself. Norman is currently facing an indictment for allegedly coercing judicial candidates to solicit vendors chosen by the party, officials said. Calls to Norman were not returned as this paper went to press. In past interviews, he said sternly that the party shouldnt change the process for selecting judges. Currently the Democratic Party largely controls the judicial selection process. Potential judicial Supreme Court candidates go before a screening committee. Until recently, Norman handpicked those on the screening committee. This led to allegations that candidates had to cough up money and jobs to Norman cronies to get the party nomination. From there potential candidates go to a Judicial Convention, where the party endorses candidates. Proponents for change said that the present system only allows Committee members to vote yes or no on a slate of names selected rather undemocratically by Norman based on an informal poll he conducts. The results of his poll are not shared with the group just the names of the candidates chosen, proponents charge. Norman has said that criminal charges against jurists, such as the bribery charges against Judge Gerald Garson and the guilty plea offered by former judge Victor Barron in 2003 are isolated cases. We shouldnt fall for all the hype in the newspapers, said Norman. Democratic District leaders who supported the reform included Alan Fleishman and JoAnne Simon (52nd AD), Lori Knipel and Jacob Gold (44th AD), Ralph Perfetto and Joanne Seminara (60th AD), Amanda Bonilla (51st AD), Dilia Schack (46th AD) and Councilmember Lewis Fidler (41st AD). As elected officials, we should conduct business openly with the greatest degree of transparency possible, said Fleishman. But the present method of developing the slate of nominees for the Supreme Court is shrouded in mystery. We want a more democratic process and thats the direction we should be heading in, said Councilman Fidler. While the system may have been good in 1885, it is not necessarily good in 2005. We need to move with the times.
©2005 Community News Group
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