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New York's Judicial Selection Process is Fine - It's the Party System that Needs Fixing

Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-006

New York State Bar Journal, Vol. 79, September 2007

18 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2007  

James A. Gardner

University at Buffalo Law School

Abstract

New York's system of electing lower court judges has long been notorious for providing the appearance of democracy without any of the substance. Although the people are given an opportunity to vote for judges, the really meaningful choices about who will run, where, and whether judicial elections will even be contested have for years been made by party insiders. Last year, in a case soon to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Second Circuit invalidated New York's method of electing judges on the ground that it violates the associational rights of party rank and file. In this brief essay, I argue that the Second Circuit misanalyzed the problems plaguing New York's judicial selection process. New York's method for choosing judges is basically sensible and structurally sound. The problem lies, rather, in New York's party system, which is utterly moribund. Until the state develops a well-functioning system of competitive and publicly accountable political parties - something that will require, at a minimum, breaking up the longstanding bipartisan gerrymander of the state legislature - no reform to the judicial selection process can be expected to produce meaningful change.

Keywords: Democracy, elections, judiciary, gerrymander, parties

Suggested Citation

Gardner, James A., New York's Judicial Selection Process is Fine - It's the Party System that Needs Fixing. Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-006; New York State Bar Journal, Vol. 79, September 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=978484

James A. Gardner (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

Room 514, O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-3607 (Phone)
716-645-2064 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.buffalo.edu

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