Equal Justice Under Law
Background  Case Calendar  More Options
Critiques of the Judiciary
"Where do you go when judges break the law?  You go public!"

How to Become a Judge, Part 1
"Today," Judge Ciparick said in her welcoming remarks, "you will meet the people who can help make it happen for you."  "It," of course, being a judgeship — the judge-makers being the city's Democratic political bosses.
The following editorial, which appeared in the New York Daily News on December 15, 2002, describes the process of becoming a judge in New York.  Similar corrupt practices were exposed earlier by attorney Doris L. Sassower, who in 1991 was rewarded for her whistleblowing activities by having her license suspended without due process.

This [editoral] page has written extensively about how political bosses in New York turn their handpicked cronies into (unqualified) judges — particularly state Supreme Court justices. Yet who would have suspected the existence of a vocational conference that brazenly and audaciously explains the whole sleazy process? Welcome to "How to Become a Judge," a day-long session held a week ago Saturday at, of all places, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, a supposed bastion of judicial reform. So much for bastions.

In attendance were a couple of hundred lawyers/judge wanna-bes. Along with a member of the Daily News Editorial Board who thought the public ought to know what transpired. It was a sad spectacle. Made sadder by the appearance of the state's respected chief judge, Judith Kaye, as keynote speaker — her presence giving an undeserved imprimatur of probity to the day.

Another speaker was Kaye's Court of Appeals cohort, Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, who, it turns out, also is vice president of the bar association. What's wrong with that? Plenty. A member of the state's highest court should not be an officer of what is essentially a lawyers' lobby. The bar association does many fine things, but it is a private organization that promotes the narrow interests of one group of citizens: lawyers. Judges work for the people — all the people, not a single profession.

"Today," Ciparick said in her welcoming remarks, "you will meet the people who can help make it happen for you." "It," of course, being a judgeship. The judge-makers being the city's Democratic political bosses: Brooklyn's Clarence Norman, Tom Manton of Queens and Staten Island's John Lavelle. They were joined by Manhattan and Bronx honchos and the chairmen of the mayor's and governor's judicial screening committees.

As Deputy Mayor Carol Robles Roman explained, she was there "to share ... the inside story, secrets, tips, lucky charms" on how to become a judge. She should know. Last month, her husband was made a Supreme Court justice through an uncontested election. His lucky charm was the Bronx Democratic machine.

The most intriguing panel focused on how to become a judge in Brooklyn, Staten Island or Queens. Norman was the star speaker, deriding merit selection in favor of the phony elections he controls. "I believe in democracy," he declared. Sure. The kind of democracy where nonmachine candidates get tossed off the ballot by clubhouse-appointed judges. The kind of democracy that favors closed judicial nominating conventions with handpicked delegates and candidates over party primaries open to all comers.

Only New York countenances such cronyism. The other 49 states have competitive elections or merit selection of judges, a system that weighs experience, temperament, judgment, scholarship, knowledge of the law. Here, it's all about the bosses.

Norman used his platform to condemn The News' editorial "crusade" that has been documenting the judicial disaster in his county and advocating merit appointment of judges. Thanks, Clarence. We appreciate the recognition.

The News didn't fill the Brooklyn bench with hacks. Norman did. In the last year, 10 of the borough's 60 elected Supreme Court justices have been found guilty of criminal acts or ethical violations.

Lavelle also blasted us, harrumphing: "I'm tired of reading the Daily News. They seem to know what's best for everyone. It infuriates me." He then proceeded to advise would-be Staten Island judges to "get known by the party organization." Manton, king of Queens, where the judicial quality rivals Brooklyn's, was even more upfront. "Membership in your local Democratic club is not hurtful at all," he counseled, because the party's "nomination in Queens is tantamount to election." He didn't need to say "tantamount."

Perhaps the most profound comment of the day came from one of the attendees, a young lawyer who said she had always wanted to pursue a career on the bench. By lunch, she was crestfallen. "I have no chance to become a judge," she said. Why? She's a Republican.

By the way, there were no GOP leaders at the confab. Not one. As a panelist explained: "When was the last time we had a Republican [elected] in Kings or Queens? Since it's not a circumstance we have to consider, we didn't invite them."

That's Clarence Norman's "democracy" for you. Only the invited need participate.
– END –

Help Balance the Scales of Justice!
Help Balance the Scales of Justice!

Web site created November, 1998     This section last modified February, 2003
|  Home Page  |  Site Map  |  About Bernofsky  |  Curriculum Vitae  |  Lawsuits  |  Case Calendar  |

|  Judicial Misconduct  |  Judicial Reform  |  Contact  |  Interviews  |  Disclaimer  |
This Web site is not associated with Tulane University or its affiliates

© 1998-2014 Carl Bernofsky - All rights reserved
Send me an e-mail