Modern Courts to File Amicus Brief in Lopez Torres Case
New York, NY – The Fund for Modern Courts announced that it had decided to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections in support of U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson’s finding that New York State’s current judicial convention system which nominates candidates for Supreme Court Justice was unconstitutional. Modern Courts will join The Brennan Center in its opposition to overturning this critical decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Victor A. Kovner, Chair of the Board of Modern Courts said, “Our amicus brief will suggest appropriate remedies to reform the system of selecting Supreme Court justices, including the creation of independent judicial qualifications commissions in combination with substantial restructuring of the current judicial convention system.”
On the issue of remedy, Modern Courts will indicate that it does not believe that open primaries offer the best solution. But if there are to be elections for judicial office, public financing is essential.
“The holding in Lopez Torres presents a mandate for the Legislature to act in the coming months, and independent judicial qualifications commissions are the linchpin of any serious judicial selection reform,” said Mr. Kovner.
Mr. Kovner noted that the recent Rule 150 of the Chief Administrator, which establishes Independent Judicial Election Qualifications Commissions (IJEQC) to review the qualifications of candidates for public election to the Supreme Court and all other elected judicial positions, provides a framework for developing such commissions.
“Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman are to be congratulated for their leadership on this issue,” said Mr. Kovner. “But the Legislature now has the opportunity to strengthen the commission process by involving representatives from other branches of the government and from non-governmental groups in the designation of commission members. In addition, the process should be extended to gubernatorial appointments as well as to judicial elections.”
Milton L. Williams, Jr., Chair of the Executive Committee of Modern Courts, said that, “Modern Courts recognizes the enormous contributions made by the Feerick Commission regarding the judiciary in general and the reform of the convention system in particular. Its recommendations warrant serious consideration by the Legislature.”
Counsel to Modern Courts on the amicus brief will be its Board member, Katherine B. Forrest, and her colleague, Daniel P. Murphy, both of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
Founded in 1955, Modern Courts is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, statewide organization dedicated to improving the courts in New York State through advocacy, public education and in-court programming.