Wednesday, July 4, 2018

How judges are elected





Political Machine Bosses Elect Judges

Judicial Conventions Elected NY's Supreme Court Judges:
From the Daily News "I attended the Kings County Democratic judicial nominating convention Tuesday.  It was orchestrated "Soviet-style." Short, sweet, lady- and gentleman-like, the script called for the eight candidates to be designated or re-designated without opposition, even for supposed "open" seats. Before adjournment, each judge candidate got up and gave a short thank-you speech. Every one of them expressed gratitude to the party district leaders for their support, and they also expressed effusive thanks to and praise of County Leader Vito Lopez. One 're-up,' John Leventhal of the Appellate Division, Second Department (after inquiring if the press was present) thanked now-imprisoned county leader Clarence Norman as well, and another called Lopez "the greatest county leader ever." After adjournment, I spoke with a number of delegates who voted "automatically" and didn't seem to know for whom they were voting. They didn't know, and were just told for whom to vote." - Daily News 2008




 
The Supreme Court is a trial court and is not the highest court in the state. The highest court of the State of New York is the Court of Appeals. Second, although it is a trial court, the Supreme Court sits as a "single great tribunal of general state-wide jurisdiction, rather than an aggregation of separate courts sitting in the several counties or judicial districts of the state." There is a branch of the Supreme Court in each of New York's 62 counties. Under the New York State Constitution, the New York State Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases, with the exception of certain monetary claims against the State of New York itself. In practice, the Supreme Court hears civil actions involving claims above a certain monetary amount (for example, $25,000 in New York City) that puts the claim beyond the jurisdiction of lower courts.[3] Civil actions about lesser sums are heard by courts of limited jurisdiction, such as the New York City Civil Court.





Battle of the Grifters
Disgraced Brooklyn Party Boss Regains Influence  (Independent)
Theodore Hamm June 28, 2018
He’s retired, out of politics,” says Brooklyn district leader Geoffrey Davis regarding former Democratic party boss Clarence Norman. But then again, Davis adds, “Does anyone ever really retire?”

Since his return from prison in 2011, Norman has indeed steadily reasserted his influence. Starting with Ken Thompson’s successful 2013 effort to topple his nemesis, District Attorney Joe Hynes, Norman has played a key role in local elections. This past May, Norman effectively chose the Brooklyn party’s candidate for surrogate court judge on this fall’s ballot.
Judge selection may not sound like a consequential move, but backing candidates is one of the party organization’s main functions. And picking judges has been a primary concern of the current Democratic boss, Frank Seddio.
Norman went to prison for a slew of campaign violations, including extortion in civil court judge campaigns. His return to backstage influence raises important questions about the future of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party. That’s especially the case because many insiders predict that Norman, via his ties to the ascendant Hakeem Jeffries wing of the party, will exert plenty of influence when it comes to choosing Seddio’s successor.





'Smoke-Filled Rooms' Still Rule New York Judicial Elections (WNYC) * More on How the Machine Runs Judges Unopposed (NY1) * Party Boss Has Firm Grip On Judgeships (NYT) * Borough Dems chief involved in 'illegal' fund-raiser for judicial candidates (NYDN) * Did Silver Corrupt the Manhattan Court?  * All About Judicial Races and Corruption     Bronx cheers as DA playsmusical chairs with judge. (WNYC) * Johnson Gets Judge Nod; Clark Tapped To Run For D.A.(Bronx Chronicle) * Johnson’s quick transformation from a candidate for re-election to a nominee for state court justice – without a vote being cast – is raising questions about the clout that state election law gives to party leaders and shedding light on New York’s largely obscure judicial electoral system.



What is a Machine Back Fill?
The sleazy deal that allowed Robert Johnson to trade his Bronx district attorney’s job for a judge’s seat in state Supreme Court will come with a mega payday. Johnson, a Bronx native, announced plans to resign almost immediately after winning the Democratic primary on Sept. 10.   That allowed the county’s party leaders to choose his replacement on the November general-election ballot, Appellate Division Judge Darcel Clark.  In the heavily Democratic Bronx, the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election.  Johnson denied widespread reports and criticism that he was approached by fellow Democrats to time his resignation to avoid a possible primary.  But government watchdogs said his actions and those of Bronx Democratic leaders smelled.  “They want to be able to control who holds that office if you open it up to the voters, which is the Democratic way, you can’t control who goes in there,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union.  “That ability to determine who is representing their interests in law enforcement is being undermined by this electoral process.”
Johnson presided over a DA’s office that perpetually had the worst conviction rate in the city for major crimes. When it came to government corruption, it was US Attorney Preet Bharara who brought cases that sent Bronx politicians to prison — not Johnson.


 
The Civil Court of the City of New York is a civil court of the New York State Unified Court System in New York City that decides lawsuits involving claims for damages up to $25,000 and includes a small claims part (small claims court) for cases involving amounts up to $5,000 as well as a housing part (housing court) for landlord-tenant matters, and also handles other civil matters referred by the New York Supreme Court.  It handles about 25% of all the New York state and local courts' total filings. The court has divisions by county (borough), but it is a single citywide court. An regular election occurred for civil and surrogate courts candidates. Candidates for the supreme courts are chosen indirectly by delegates and appear only on the general election ballot.








 

Boss Crowley Uses His Control of the Queens Surrogate Court to Fund His Machine and Line His Pockets

 

 

The Brooklyn Boss Made Millions Closing A Hospital for A Development and Dumped A Judge Who Tried To Keep the Hospital Open

The uninitiated might imagine that judges in New York City ascend to the bench by destiny, the only sound the swishing of their black robes. But the selection of judges may be one of the few areas of local politics where back-room deals are still the rule, and where the county political leaders exercise the greatest control

Judge Jacobson Who Tried to Keep A Hospital Open
is Suing Brooklyn Boss Seddio and His Fake Screen Panel for Dumping Her  * More on Closing Long Island College Hospital* Boss Seddeo * Judge Jacobson's Case Update  Brooklyn Democratic Boss Seddio

5 Million Dollar Lawsuit filed By A Judge Jacobson Who Was Dumped By Boss Seddeo

 

The Brooklyn Boss Made Money Off of Closing A Hospital to Build Affordable Housing

Million $ Lawsuit filed Against the Brooklyn Machine By Judge Laura Jacobson Who Was Dumped By Boss Seddeo and his Judicial Screening Panel For Trying to Keep Keep LICH Open, People in Their Homes, More . . .





"The Surrogate Court is A Political Toll Booth Exacting Tribute From Widows and Orphans" 
                      - Robert Kennedy, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia 
In the 1930s, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia called Surrogate's Court "the most expensive undertaking establishment in the world." He believed it was control of the Surrogate's Court of New York County, more than any other factor, that kept the Tammany Hall political machine alive through the lean years when he deprived it of city jobs and President Franklin Roosevelt denied it federal jobs. All wills are probated in this court and all estates of people who die without a will are handled in this court. Unclaimed property of the deceased without wills is handled by the Judge of this court. It also handles adoptions. There is a Surrogate's Court in each county in the state.

Senator Kennedy Serious Try to Reform Surrogate Court

Queens  A Court, Not Votes, Sustains a Political Machine in Queens (NYT, 11/28/11)

Bronx  Bronx Surrogate Judge, Facing Discipline (NYT)

Brooklyn Lawyer makes millions with no details on fees - New York Daily News

Staten Island Expose Corrupt Courts: Cover-Up Continues in Surrogate's Court 

Facts About Manhattan Surrogate Court 2008: Feinberg Disbarred ...How insiders snatch millions from estates in the scandal-scarred Surrogate CourtsTo clean up corrupt Surrogate Courts, wake up and vote - NY Daily ...The Fall of the Phillips Empire | Local Brooklyn News and Features ...A TRAIL OF SWEAT, TEARS  Jimmy Breslin    *For Cleaner Courts in Brooklyn (NYT)* Brooklyn New York Surrogate Court Judge Michael Feinberg Ousted For Corrupt Practices State Commission Seeking Ouster of Surrogate Judge in Brooklyn ... * Surrogate's Court And Why It Should Go (True News)

 


Party Puppets Rubber Stamp The Political Bosses Pick for Supreme Court Judges

"A dozen delegates, in recent interviews, said they could not even remember the handful of candidates they had nominated for the State Supreme Court last year. They said the convention, as always, had been a carefully scripted event lasting less than an hour.  Whether the candidates were potentially outstanding judges, the delegates said they never knew. Before the convention, the party never makes an effort to inform them about which candidates are going to be nominated. In fact, the names are often secret." NY Times 2003

Picking Judges: Party Machines, Rubber Stamps - New York Times 2003
For decades in New York, the law has required that political parties nominate candidates to run for State Supreme Court at judicial conventions, not in primaries. The conventions are attended by delegates who are elected on the neighborhood level and who are supposed to evaluate candidates before offering the best ones a spot on the November ballot. In theory, the conventions are intended to help achieve the civic goal of allowing citizens, through their votes, to decide the makeup of the state's highest trial court. But in practice, according to legal experts, prosecutors and even the delegates themselves, the conventions have long been highly cynical exercises, just another cog in the operations of political party machines. There is, for instance, often no debate about candidates, and party leaders wind up dictating nominations, frequently handing them to loyalists who have donated to the party or worked on campaigns. In fact, the nominating conventions have received so little attention that the City Board of Elections says it does not even keep an official record of those who serve as convention delegates -- the people legally charged with helping determine who gets on the bench.

Judicial Selection for Supreme Court Justices December 2006   * Who Really Picks New York's Judges? | Brennan Center for Justice 2015  * 'Smoke-Filled Rooms' Still Rule New York Judicial Elections - WNYC ... * NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS ET AL. v. LOPEZ TORRES ET AL.Longtime Bronx DA Secures Nomination for Judge - Norwood News * Judicial Sausage Factory Continues, Almost Nobody Noticed



Seddio's Flack Arzt Lied When He Said the Money Raised at the August Fund Raiser Would Not Be Used to Any Individual Campaign
The invitation to the Seddio's Fund Raiser said it was a "Fundraiser to Support Our Contested County Wide candidates." The only contested the Brooklyn machine was having this year were the 5************* judges.  

From Arzt's Press Release:
"The event on August 23rd is to raise money for the Kings County Democratic County Committee Campaign Committee, and all of its proceeds will go to support the Committee’s activities.  The event is not being held in financial support of any particular candidate or campaign cycle, none of the money raised will be directed to any individual campaign, and a candidate’s presence at the event does not signify political or financial support for the Democratic Party or it's candidates.  In fact, it is not remotely illegal for a judicial candidate to attend a political event or fundraiser so long as they are not raising money for their own campaign. Judicial Candidates are permitted by the rules governing judicial conduct to purchase two tickets at a cost not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars. Simply attending a politically sponsored event to meet people with the hope that they will support your candidacy is perfectly legal, and explicitly authorized by the rules.  The assertions demonstrate desperate times for desperate candidates."


Brian Krapf
Executive Vice President

 
The County Committee Fund Raiser That Arzt Said Would Not Be Used for Any Candidate was Used to Attack the Judges Running Against Seddio Slate
Arzt's press release was reacting to complaint filed by the Independent Democratic slate running against Boss Seddio's judges.  Well not only was the money from the illegal fund raiser used to help Seddio's judicial candidates, it was used to pay for a mailing attacking the honesty of 4 of the judicial candidates running on the independent slate, Sandra Roper, Thomas Kennedy, Patrick Hayes and John O'Hara.  Team Seddio's attack centered on a Canard that the Independent Democratic slate was corrupt because they refused to go in front of a screening panel controlled by Brooklyn Democratic Machine.  It is against judicial campaign rules for judges to attack one another so Boss Seddio created a slush fund inside the county committee to get money from developers and other party contributors to elect his judges by attacking their opponents.  Still Boss Seddio lost 2 of his 5 judges.  But he lost more than an election.  A lawsuit will be filed this fall against the Brooklyn machine will drive Seddio and his mini me's from control of the party.

Machine's County Committee Speculated in a County Wide Mailer That the Independent Democrat Slate Not Going A Judicial Screening Panel They Control Have Something to Hide
Opponent’s Conduct. The Committee has advised that a judicial candidate may comment on an opponent’s conduct, subject to certain limitations (Opinion 12-129[A]-[G], at Question 4). A candidate: should take steps to ensure the accuracy of the information he/she includes about any opponent, and make every effort to avoid misleading the public with mere speculation or innuendo Moreover, any reference to an opponent must be made in a manner which maintains the dignity appropriate to judicial office.
 
The Times and Post Ignored the Judicial Challenge to the Brooklyn Machine the Old Reformer Clubs Backed the Machine's Candidates 
The NY Times called the New Kings Democrats Challengers to the Party Establishment (NYT) but the paper of record never wrote about the first real challenge in 20 years to Boss Seddio control of electing judges.  Many of the progressives who attack Seddio now for control of a state senate race supported his judges. The two leading progressive clubs in Brooklyn whose names include the word "Independent," Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and Independent Neighborhood Democrats back Seddio's machine picked judges.  The leaders of the anti-Vietnam protests who formed the reform clubs CBID and IND included independent in their names to state they were against the Brooklyn machine. For forty years those two clubs were the backbone of opposition to the Brooklyn machine total control of judicial elections and the courts.

Borough Dems chief involved in 'illegal' fund-raiser for judicial candidates (Daily News)

A Brooklyn spokesman for several judicial candidates told the Daily News that's not the case with an event the head of the borough Democrats is planning for this month.
Gary Tilzer, a rep for five of the 11 candidates vying for six Brooklyn civil court judgeships, sent a letter Monday to the state and city elections boards, as well as to the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center with the Office of Court Administration, saying borough Dems chief Frank Seddio is hosting an "illegal" fund-raiser on Aug. 23 at a law office in Downtown Brooklyn.
Seddio, an attorney, sent the red, white and blue invite to more than 185 people -- including sitting judges, judicial candidates, attorneys, developers, politicians, lobbyists and members of the Judicial Screening Committee. The invite vaguely touts fund-raising "to support our contested countywide candidates."

It doesn't specify the candidates who will benefit or the election that's involved.
"The laws are strict on fund-raising for judges in order not to pull these kind of shenanigans," said Tilzer. "I'd like them to put a stop to this illegal fund-raiser."
The Brooklyn Democratic Party, under Seddio's direction, has been active in the campaigns of judges Robin Sheares and Frederick Arriaga, as well as those of David Pepper, Consuelo Melendez and Patria Frias-Colon, Tilzer wrote.
"They even sent the invitation to the candidates they are backing ... This goes against election laws, and whatever judge or developer gave or gives money to this, it's illegal,"Tilzer said.
Guests were instructed to write their $500 to $5,000 checks out to the Kings County Democratic County Committee, an account that's controlled by the Brooklyn Democratic Party, and mail them to Seddio's home address, according to the letter.
Tilzer's three-page letter to the committees said Seddio's fund-raising efforts violate the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and are unethical on seven points, including not disclosing who the event benefits, inviting sitting judges to contribute and, since the beneficiaries aren't named, having judicial candidates raising money with potential nonjudicial candidates.
Tilzer represents judicial candidates Patrick Haynes, Isiris Isella Isaac, Thomas Kennedy, John O'Hara and Sandra Roper.
Seddio, who had a short stint as a surrogate's court judge and stepped down in 2007 amid an investigation into misused campaign funds, was not available for comment.


Battle of the Grifters

Disgraced Brooklyn Party Boss Regains Influence  (Independent)

He’s retired, out of politics,” says Brooklyn district leader Geoffrey Davis regarding former Democratic party boss Clarence Norman. But then again, Davis adds, “Does anyone ever really retire?”

Since his return from prison in 2011, Norman has indeed steadily reasserted his influence. Starting with Ken Thompson’s successful 2013 effort to topple his nemesis, District Attorney Joe Hynes, Norman has played a key role in local elections. This past May, Norman effectively chose the Brooklyn party’s candidate for surrogate court judge on this fall’s ballot.
Judge selection may not sound like a consequential move, but backing candidates is one of the party organization’s main functions. And picking judges has been a primary concern of the current Democratic boss, Frank Seddio.
Norman went to prison for a slew of campaign violations, including extortion in civil court judge campaigns. His return to backstage influence raises important questions about the future of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party. That’s especially the case because many insiders predict that Norman, via his ties to the ascendant Hakeem Jeffries wing of the party, will exert plenty of influence when it comes to choosing Seddio’s successor.
   
For various county party organizations, the local courthouses function like a Tammany Hall patronage mill, albeit for white-collar types. Queens Democratic boss Joe Crowley, for example, has long ensured that his cronies control that county’s surrogate court, where unclaimed estates serve as a piggy bank for connected lawyers. Crowley’s consigliere, Gerard Sweeney, reportedly collected more than $30 million from 2006-2016 for his work “administering” the estates of people who died without heirs.










The civil branch of Queens Supreme Court that Crowley and Sweeney run is considered by many to be a “foreclosure mill.” Frank Seddio, whose law firm represents lenders, has been trying to help Brooklyn’s civil Supreme Court match that rep. Two judges who have worked on behalf of borrowers have both fallen out with Seddio (and as a result, both were smeared in the New York Post). In her federal lawsuit against Seddio, former judge Laura Jacobson alleges that the party boss helped ensure a former bank attorney would oversee the accelerated foreclosure process in Brooklyn.
During Norman’s reign as party leader in the 1990s and early 2000s, several Brooklyn judges he helped elect found themselves in the headlines, although not because they were fighting on behalf of the little guy. One Kings County Supreme Court judge accepted cash as wells as cigars and rum in exchange for favorable divorce proceedings. Another was caught taking $18,000 in unmarked bills in court. Meanwhile, one of Norman’s surrogate court judges, Michael Feinberg, steered millions in excessive legal fees to a longtime colleague. After Feinberg was forced out, his replacement was none other than Frank Seddio, who resigned two years later amid allegations that he funneled campaign money to his inner circle.
In 2003, Hynes began to investigate Norman, his former ally, for allegedly “selling judgeships.” The editorial boards and Mayor Bloomberg cheered Hynes’ crusade, although many insiders suspect that the DA was motivated mainly by his anger at Norman, because he felt that the party boss didn’t work hard enough to squash Sandra Roper’s upstart 2001 campaign for him. Between 2005 and 2007, Brooklyn prosecutors — led by Hynes hatchet man Mike Vecchione — brought four trials against Norman. After scoring various convictions for minimal campaign infractions, Vecchione nailed Norman for forcing civil court judge candidates to pay his preferred consultants.
Late in his ill-fated attempt to fend off Ken Thompson’s 2013 bid to unseat him, Hynes began warning of Norman’s role in helping Thompson’s campaign. But the charge didn’t help the six-term incumbent, whose tenure was marked by a large number of wrongful convictions. In last year’s race, Norman — via his longtime ally, political consultant Musa Moore — initially supported Patricia Gatling, one of the two black candidates in the race. After first pocketing between $18,000 and 30,000 from Gatling, Moore then began to work for Eric Gonzalez, pocketing another $30,000 from the eventual winner. Such handiwork puts the former party boss on better terms with the current DA.
   
While Norman has mostly operated behind the scenes, his name surfaced in the headlines last year during the Bedford Armory controversy. BFC Partners, the project’s developer, pledged at least $500,000 to the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights, which Norman oversees. Norman was allied with Laurie Cumbo in her reelection bid last year against Ede Fox, who made the Armory a central issue. Critics of the project fear that it will only contribute to the area’s gentrification, but political players gain far more by working closely with developers than against them.









The transfer of properties at Surrogate Court also can accelerate gentrification. Norman’s pick for that position, Civil Court Judge Harriet Thompson, has been part of a team of Brooklyn judges tasked with reducing the backlog of foreclosure cases in Brooklyn. While Thompson reportedly closed nearly 400 cases in 2017, whether she did so on terms favorable to lenders or borrowers is not clear. Her actions in such proceedings would be fair game if she faced a competitor in the race, however.
But at the moment, Thompson has no challenger. According to veteran Brooklyn political consultant Gary Tilzer, who has managed several successful campaigns by judge candidates not backed by the party, the uncontested race is part of a larger trend. “The reform political clubs in Brooklyn no longer care about challenging the machine,” laments Tilzer. “And the courthouse is the lifeblood of the party.”
One reform-oriented group that is calling attention to party decision-making, New Kings Democrats (NKD), was recently accused of “political gentrification” by a handful of black district leaders. NKD is organizing a “Rep Your Block” campaign aimed at expanding membership in the party committee. “We’re trying to do basic things like get open agendas for the committee meetings, yet we’re seen as the enemy,” says NKD president Brandon West.
District leaders appear to fear that NKD’s effort could eventually undermine their current power to pick the next party leader. Norman, among others, is taking a keen interest in who that figure will be. The current favorite is Walter Mosley, who occupies the Clinton Hill assembly seat formerly held by his mentor, Hakeem Jeffries. Mosley has made no secret of his interest in becoming the next party boss. The only question is whether he will challenge Seddio this September or two years from now.
Mosley’s ascension would expand Jeffries’s control over the party, and Norman has longstanding ties to Mosley too. Seddio’s base is in South Brooklyn but he’s also close to Borough President Eric Adams as well as to the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and other political clubs. Yet other than control over the courthouses, ballots and other turf, it’s not clear what any of the factions of the Brooklyn Democratic Party actually stand for.
What is clear is that Clarence Norman, still only 66 years old, shows no signs of retiring anytime soon.



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