Integrity in the Courts, a grassroots public interest organization based in Manhattan, today announced the formal movement to ensure that Brooklyn Surrogate Judge Margarita Lopez Torres becomes New York’s next Chief Judge. “The groundswell has been enormous,” said Frank Brady, one of the founding members of the year-old group, Integrity in the Courts. “New York needs a change- away from the corrupt, political favor-type system- to an impartial process that citizens, judges and attorneys can trust.”
Margarita Lopez Torres is nationally known as the maverick judicial candidate who fought New York’s corrupt, make-believe election process. She took her cause to ‘take the political clubhouse out of the courthouse’ all the way the United States Supreme Court. The Nation’s highest court told New York to clean up its own mess, and Judge Margarita Lopez Torres is just the person to get the job done.
New York's Constitution requires that "Supreme Court" judges (state trial court judges)be elected. But the candidates for election are nominated by a byzantine convention system mandated by statute. The only way to become a Supreme Court judge is to gain the nomination at the convention, and the only way to gain the nomination at the convention is with the approval of the local leader of the dominant political party. And we all know how corrupt that can be.
As U.S. District Court Judge Gleeson put it in Lopez Torres’ federal district court case, "[t]he labyrinthine, burdensome procedures ... ensure that the entrenched party leaders can install as delegates persons who will do their bidding.... Faced with an inability to get supportive delegates elected, it is cold comfort for a challenger candidate to be told not to worry, she can try to convince the delegates selected by the party leaders. The current system for selecting judges does not work that way and is not structured to work that way.” (Dist. Ct. Opin. p. 32. )
And the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed, "‘the uncontested evidence…is that across the state, the system for selecting candidates for the Supreme Court [in New York] vests almost total control in the hands of local political leaders.’ ... The Commission is hardly the only entity to reach this conclusion—it merely is the latest. Since 1944, New York’s judicial nominating system has been described as exclusionary and boss-dominated; reports and newspaper editorials from that time forward have decried an electoral practice ‘that mocks choice,’ and criticized a system in which ‘voters can never know the candidates and have to accept party slates,’ while the ‘real choice is ... left to political bosses ... who control nominations.’”
Attorneys appearing for Judge Lopez Torres before the United States Supreme Court called the New York Courts the “worst of all worlds.” And most non-political-hacks agree. The time is now for a Chief Judge of New York with courage, and that person is Judge Margarita Lopez Torres.
By law, New York State Governor Paterson must pick a Chief Judge from a list of seven candidates presented by the state’s 12-member Commission on Judicial Nomination.
“We are calling on Governor Paterson, the legal profession, all statewide elected officials and the public to become actively involved in the Chief Judge Lopez Torres movement,” says Mr. Brady, adding, “No one is more qualified.”
Additional details are to be announced later in the week.