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Panel Meets to Begin Judge Selection Process

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Who would have guessed it? It seems that public hearings are being scheduled to determine how the Kings County Democratic Party will be selecting its judiciary in the near future. A current panel, led by St. Francis College President Frank Macchiarola, will reportedly hold a public session looking for input in the next few weeks, possibly early next month, political insiders said. The six-person panel has already met a handful of times, said Assemblymember Vito Lopez, the current chair of the Kings County Democratic Party. The public hearing, which had not been scheduled as this paper went to press, is a big step in making the decision more public – a demand of reformers for quite some time. “It’s quite a bold move to open up the panel,” said Lopez, who added that he “has not really gotten involved in their meetings.” “They’re the ones having a dialogue, I’m just looking forward to hearing from them,” he said. Lopez said that, following the public hearings, the panel will come up with a recommendation that would be forwarded to the chair. Lopez would then bring the recommendations to the executive board for a vote. “We were hoping that it was going to be in early January, but now we’re hoping for early February,” he said. Calls to Dr. Macchiarola’s office at St. Francis College were not returned as this paper went to press. Other members of the judicial screening panel include Assemblymember Joe Lentol, Manuel Romero, past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, attorney Gerold Lefcourt, counsel advisor Carl Landrissino, Pamela Straker of Brooklyn Psychiatric Services and Howard Glickstein, president of Touro College. Known far and wide as a great negotiator, Macchiarola took on the judicial screening committee after helping to hammer out an agreement between Radio City Entertainment and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, who refused to play in the historic Christmas Spectacular until they received better wages and employment benefits. Claiming that judgeships had been bought, sold and traded in the borough, reformers have long demanded that the current judicial screening process, which was led by then Kings County Party Boss Clarence Norman, should be torn down and rebuilt. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the fight, claiming in a Daily News op-ed piece that current judicial screenings is a “farce,” which, he claimed, “bears more of a resemblance to voting in the Soviet Union than in the United States of America.” “If we don’t change how we select our judges, and at the same time insist that judges decide cases promptly and fairly, we face frightening consequences,” Bloomberg wrote. “Most judges in this city are dedicated, competent jurists. But some are unquestionably not qualified — and others made it onto the bench because of shady back-room deals. Some judges have been selected because they paid off a local political leader or agreed to hire a particular law clerk. Once on the bench, some issue corrupt decisions based on whom they know or who bought them a box of cigars.” “[Holding public hearings are a great idea,” said Alan Fleishman, the Democratic district leader to the 52nd Assembly District in Park Slope. “Anything that adds transparency to the process and gives the public a window into what’s happening is a good thing.”

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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