Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wright is Wrong: The Daily News

Manhattan Democratic leader Keith Wright shouldn't play games with judgeships

N.Y. Daily News editorial, Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Democratic leader Keith Wright's handling of judge appointments undermines confidence in the quality of the city's judiciary.

Manhattan Democratic leader Keith Wright has begun to play faster and looser with picks for judgeships. He needs to hold to standards that have enabled his organization to boast it had found the way to infuse patronage with quality.

Democrats in the other boroughs are more, uh, relaxed than their counterparts in Manhattan about installing friends, family and party faithful on the bench through uncontested elections. The only real check on whether a lawyer has what it takes to be a judge is a nod from the boss.

In contrast, the Manhattan Dems have required would-be jurists to be stamped as qualified by independent screening committees. The party has followed the practice of inviting nonpolitical bar associations, lawyers' groups and law school deans to recommend panelists who would pass judgment on whether candidates for the bench made the grade.

Committee members have operated in private and under the direction of a nonpolitical administrator. The party has also made public the names and sponsoring groups of all panelists.

Wright doubles as a Harlem assemblyman. Now in his second year as Manhattan Democratic chairman, he chipped away at the process as the party picked five Supreme Court candidates for election in November.

Wright's administrator sat in on all the interviews and asked questions. Wright also declined to make public the names of screeners and their appointing groups, releasing only their illegible signatures under the list of approved candidates.

That kind of game-playing will only undermine confidence in the quality of the city's judiciary.


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