AUGUST 31, 2006
In a huge blow to political party leaders, a federal court ruled that the process for selecting New York state judges is unconstitutional because it automatically excludes candidates who refuse to tow the party line.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a lower court’s ruling that candidates’ and voters’ First Amendment rights are violated by the method of electing state judges because candidates who lack support from political party bosses are left out of the nominating conventions in which politicians single-handedly pick judges.
The court’s 82-page decision said that the system unconstitutionally denies party outsiders a chance at a nomination. New York’s unique practice includes using political conventions, rather than primaries, to decide which candidates will appear on the ballot, rewarding allies of party leaders while shutting out all others.
Not surprisingly, the court’s ruling is heavily opposed by Democratic and Republican party officials as well as New York gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer in his role as state attorney general. The two political parties as well as Spitzer and the New York Board of Elections were defendants in the case. They all claim that elections are open and vigorously contested even though between 1990 and 2002 almost half of the state’s elections for Supreme Court justice were
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