Saturday, July 28, 2012

Keith Wright's Secret Screening Panels

Note: The following was written before the 18 June 2012 N.Y. County Democrats judiciary committee meeting where the committee voted to make the screening panelists names public at the time they begin their work. It's worth reading. As the dean of the screening panel process attorney Stanley Geller says, “The panelists' names are public; their work is confidential.” Judiciary committee co-chair District Leader Louise Dankberg said that making the names public at the outset provides transparency of the process. The County's Supreme Court screening panel has convened and is working since July, but Keith Wright still refuses to make the names of the panelists public.


In 1977, the New York County Democratic party incorporated a screening panel for judges in its rules. These were to be--and were--open panels. The names of the panelists were made public before they began their interviews. In fact, at one time the New York Law Journal also published the names of the panelists.

Under County Leaders Miriam Bockman and Herman Denny Farrell (1977 to 2009) the panelists’ names were public at the outset of their work. Indeed, Farrell's co-law chair Arthur Grieg stated at the March, 2012, County District Leader meeting that he gave the panelists names to all applicants. "Candidates have an absolute right to know the names of panel members reviewing their applications and which group designated them. I always gave the list to any candidate who requested the list. . . I found that candidates having the names of panel members aided the process by identifying possible issues of bias, conflict with a panel member. . . . "

With the advent of Keith Wright as County Leader, the panelists names are kept secret, and he has been chastised thrice for doing that in Daily News editorials. Former N.Y.C. Councilmember and former chair of the New Democratic Coalition's Manhattan Judiciary Committee Jane Trichter says "Keith Wright is destroying our legacy."

Former panelist and panel administrator attorney Steven De Castro wrote in part: "It is absolutely right that the panelists have a duty to protect themselves from outside influence, but that is not related to the issue of whether the panelists' names are released. . . The complaint of potential conflicts of interest commonly arises every year, but I don't see how this problem can ever be addressed if the panelists' names are kept secret. . . ."

Secrecy from the public causes the appearance of impropriety said former Lexington Dems Club State Committeeman Bud Plautz. And former Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman said: "I was the first panel administrator under reform rules when Miriam Bockman became County Leader. No-one ever said they were secret or treated them that way; in fact, every panelist was introduced to every applicant by name and organization whose leader sent them." Indeed, attorney Stanley Geller, who started the panel screening (initially called "The Geller Panels") said "The panelist names are public; their work is confidential."

Secret Keith Wright Panels. Yet here are the current myriad open panels where all the panelists' names are made public before they interview candidates: The Governor's four Appellate Division screening panels; the State Constitution's Court of Appeals screening panel; the Mayor's Committee on the Judiciary [for Family, Criminal, & interim Civil courts]; the Office of Court Administration's thirteen judicial qualification panels; Sen. Schumer's screening panel for the Federal judiciary; and--lo! [after Clarence Norman went to prison for selling judgeships]--the Kings County "Regular" Dems screening panel is public. BUT NOT KEITH WRIGHT's, who has secret screening panels after years of open panels under Bockman and Farrell (1977 to 2009)! This is a serious attack on the whole screening panel system and an attempt to go back to the Tammany Hall DeSapio days.


Now is the winter of our fiscal discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of Mario;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our Senate
In the deep bosom of the Catskills buried.

Tele.: (212) 840+12.34

Thursday, July 26, 2012

L.H.D.C. B.B.Q. Cancelled:

From David Menegon, L.H.D.C. President:
With a 100% chance of rain at 7 P.M., and an impending thunderstorm powerful enough to prevent even our poncho-wielding grill-master from cooking in the rain, tonight's cookout is postponed.

Lenox Hill Democratic Club Rescheduled Cookout
To Thursday, 9th August, 2012, 6:30 P.M. - 9:30 P.M.
Reif's Tavern backyard, 302 East 92nd Str. (between 1st & 2nd Aves.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

July, 2012, Events, Olde & New Items [Judge Wannabees, pay attn.]


The Talk of the Town

Espied at the Brooklyn Museum of Art's First Sat. Night: In June, Michael Meade, Eric Schneiderman's Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison, with his two lovely children, Emma and Miles. In July, East Side D.L. Frank Wilkinson (he's hard to miss in a crowd) a/k/a The Baron of Yorkville, with relatives from Pittsburgh, Penna., exploring the Egyptian galleries.

And aboard the Hudson River sailing sloop "Clearwater" N.Y.C. Friends of Clearwater annual sail, Mary Ellen Cronley, Ansonia Ind. Dems., and Alan Flacks, Three Parks Dems.

Deceased: Gustin Lewis Reichbach, Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Kings County, Saturday, 14th July, 2012, at the age of sixty-five. Judge Reichbach, a Columbia Law School graduate, had pancreatic cancer, and recently made national news with an "op-ed" article on legalizing medicinal use of marijuana. Readers of The Flacks Report were previously sent the New York Times Op-Ed piece by Justice Gustin Reichbach on the legalization of marijuana for medical use and the New York Law Journal article commenting on that. Sadly, the N.Y. bill (Gottfried & Savino) won't pass the State Senate absent a miracle, and the Republicans have outlawed miracles. . . The Governor, "Chris Christie Light," is against any bill in his quest for popularity for President of these United States. . . . Congressmaven Jerry Nadler reports that the House debated a legalization for medical use of marijuana bill, and it got nowhere. A memorial service is planned for the Fall. Notes of condolence may be sent to his family at 148 Bond Str., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217. Here are two links to newspaper obituaries (copy and paste into your browser).

The N.Y.C. Board of Elections Commissioners' follies takes place every Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 P.M. at the City H.Q. office, 42 B'way (across from the N.Y.P.D.-guarded bull). If you have the free time in the afternoon, subway downtown or walk down from the courts to observe how these supposedly politically astute patronage appointees pool their ignorance. It's hilarious. Thanks to the New York Daily News for keeping the public abreast of these inanities.

25th July, 2012, Wednesday, 5:30 P.M. The Three Parks Dems. holds its annual Picnic in the Park in Central Park. Enter on Central Park West at W. 103rd Str. All welcome. Kindly bring a comestible or potable for four persons.

26th July, 2012, Thursday, 6:30 P.M. The Lenox Hill Dems. BBQ cook-out at Reif's Taberna, 302 East 92nd Str. (betw. 1st & 2nd Aves.) Cash Bar.

"Advance Sheets":

2nd August, 2012, Thursday. C.F.D. Judiciary Cttee. field trip to Civil Court to observe open-court settlement conferences.

4th August, 2012, Saturday. Bklyn. Museum's 1st Sat. Night.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

City Board of Elections Dodges Responsibility

The New York City Board of Elections dodges accountability in vote-counting fiasco in race between Rep. Charles Rangel and Adriano Espaillat as the Board has let the process go haywire since adoption of electronic vote scanners.

By Michael Aronson / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I have seen all manner of idiocy at the Board of Elections.
I’ve seen Election Night workers waste hours tabulating vote totals by hand — never mind that the city’s electronic vote scanners are equipped with memory drives that could tally votes instantaneously and exactly.

I’ve seen the board’s 10 members talk themselves into silly paralysis about finding a new and better way — never mind that every other election board in the state gets quick, accurate results by plugging the memory drives into computers for tabulations.

And now, almost a week after indicating that Rep. Charles Rangel had defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a congressional primary by 2,331 votes, I see the consequences of the board’s stubborn incompetence. After finally getting around to checking the memory drives, the board says that Rangel’s true margin is 802 votes, with three times that number in absentee and affidavit ballots yet to be tallied.

It has been widely reported that Rangel’s advantage narrowed in the vote-counting process. This is false.

The board is also blaming the police for the botched Election Night results. This, too, is false.

What’s true is that the board is dodging every which way to avoid accountability for an all-too-predictable and nationally embarrassing fiasco.

The first thing you need to understand is that Election Night results are a quick, unofficial count that has long entailed writing down numbers produced by voting machines and transporting the figures to a police stationhouse for entry into a computer and then distribution by The Associated Press.

The system worked smoothly when voters used the old mechanical lever machines. But the board has let the process go haywire since the adoption of the electronic vote scanners —
which were supposed to simplify things.

Rather than have poll workers plug the memory drive in each scanner into a computer, the board has poll workers print out paper tapes that show voting tallies, cut the tapes into fragments by election district, add the numbers for each election district — and then enter the figures onto sheets of paper to be taken to stationhouses for manual entry into a computer.

The poll workers get a lot of things wrong — and that’s what happened in the Rangel-Espaillat contest. The votes in dozens of districts were never added up so that, four days later, when the board finally got around to checking the memory drives, Rangel and Espaillat got wildly different numbers.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gus Reichbach Dead

Gustin Lewis Reichbach, Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Kings County, died Saturday, 14th July, 2012, at the age of sixty-five. Funeral was Sunday, 15th July, at 3 o'clock P.M., Congregation Mount Sinai, 250 Cadman Plaza West, Brooklyn Heights. Judge Reichbach, a Columbia Law School graduate, had pancreatic cancer, and recently made national news with an "op-ed" article on legalizing medicinal use of marijuana. A memorial service is planned for the Fall.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012 Manhattan Dem. Supreme Court Screening Panel

The New York County Regular Democratic organization is forming a screening panel to interview candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for the New York State Supreme Court trial bench in the First Judicial District (New York County = Manhattan). There are four vacancies this year, and the panel will recommend between eight and twelve people as "most highly qualified" of all the applicants.

Here, below, are the 42 organizations which are being solicited to designate a screening panelist (id est., the head or chief of each organization does so acting in his/her individual capacity). Unfortunately, only about half have responded. If you are a member of one of the organizations or know them, please help by seeing to it that a panelist is named. Notify Randolph Michael McLaughlin, the panel administrator, forthwith as the panel convenes shortly.

Mr. McLaughlin may be contacted at (212) 619-5400.

Also copy: The Party's County executive director Mr George Lucas at (212) 687-6540; the co-law chairs, Robert Levinsohn at (212) 969-3810 and Jeanine Renee Johnson at (917) 213-4393; the co-judiciary committee chairs, Curtis von Arluck at (917) 757-9247, and Louise Dankberg at (646) 541-8716.

The Organizations are:
Asian American Bar Association of NY

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Asian Americans for Equality

Association of Black Women Attorneys

Association of Legal Aid Attorneys

Association of the Bar of the City of NY

Brehon Law Society

Cardozo Law School

Columbia Law School

Columbia Lawyers Association

Community Association of Progressive Dominicans

Community Healthcare Network

CUNY School of Law

Dominican Bar Association

Fordham Law School

Fortune Society


Jewish Board of Family and Children Services

Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Inc.

Jewish Lawyers Guild

Korean Bar Association

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Service Center

Lesbian & Gay Law Assn of Greater NY

Matrimonial Lawyers Assn

Metropolitan Black Bar Association

MFY Legal Services

NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch

National Employment Lawyers Association/NY

Neighborhood Defenders Service of Harlem

New York Immigration Coalition

New York Law School

New York State Defenders Association

New York State Trial Lawyers Association

New York University School of Law

New York Urban League

NY Criminal Bar Association

NYC Mission Society

Puerto Rican Bar Association

South Asian Bar Association of New York

West Side SRO Law Project

Women’s Bar Association

Women’s City Club

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Up-date: Adriano vs. Charlie / Charlie advs. Adriano

Your correspondent was at the N.Y.C. Board of Elections commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, 3 July, ’12, and at the Supreme Court proceeding the day before. I spoke with a number of reporters and listened to their questioning. With the exception of the Daily News man, those reporters knew nothing about the State's Election Law nor understood the convoluted proceedings. The N.Y. Times woman came from the Arts section of her newspaper. There were a good number of--as they called themselves--interns (cubs they were called in my day). The political Board of Elections and their permanent workers leave much to be desired (Civil Service exams anyone? Hello, Geo. Pendleton & Bridgeman Eaton!), and the E.L. requires up-dating to account for today's electronic medium. The problem lies mainly with the poor recording of results from the scanners by the poll workers (many of whom appointed here to their position by Espaillat and Rangel district Party leaders) augmented peradventure with inaccurate N.Y.P.D. entries and incomplete A.P. data. The Daily News is pushing the use of the U.S.B.s (“flash drives”) in the scanners to report results, which would not be any worse than--and in most cases--more nearly accurate, for "instant" returns. There's always the paper ballot trail should there be a close election or need for a recount.

Now, Let's address the N.Y.C. Board of Elections issue. They are proceeding properly and in accordance with the Election Law. The law provides for absentee ballots to arrive up to seven days after a Primary election. It provides for a recanvass. It provides for official certification at a set time. And I am no fan of the Board of Elections, whose politically appointed commissioners pool their ignorance--go watch a board meeting! So, who are those poll workers? They were in the main appointed by Rangel's and Espaillat's Democratic Party district leaders (and both Rangel and Espaillat are also district leaders--no Reformers, they!--why do they have to hold on to that meaningless party position today especially when they hold bigger and better public office?).
The Board of Election evolution went from protecting their parties by manipulating procedures to not understanding the procedures to administer election. With all the technology available to them, they do not know how to work it. It is incompetence, not corruption. -–Anonymous.

Thurs., 5th July, 2012
New York Daily News "On-line" Blog by Celeste "Pebbles" Katz

Charlie Rangel/Adriano Espaillat Vote Count Proceeds; A New NY-13 Primary Not Ruled Out

BY Celeste Katz

Board of Elections officials began the slow task of counting absentee and paper ballots Thursday -- as the fate of Rep. Charles Rangel’s political career hung in the balance.

Our Ross, Durkin and Lemire report:

With Rangel holding just a tiny 802-vote margin over state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan), the winner of the Congressional seat that Rangel has held for 41 years could be decided by more than 2,000 paper ballots.

Officials at the Board’s Manhattan office started opening envelopes Thursday morning. (Photo Credit: Erin Durkin/NYDN)

Update: Durkin tweets that with one AD counted (the 69th), Rangel's lead has jumped to 837. The AD had 47 votes for the incumbent and 12 for the challenger.

But the drama over the 13th Congressional district was not confined to the Board of Elections’ Varick St. office as Espaillat’s lawyers also took to a Bronx courthouse to charge voter suppression at the polls.

Espaillat filed a motion earlier this week alleging voter fraud, asking for recount — and even suggesting a do-over election.

Judge John W. Carter [Acting Supreme Court, Bronx County, Criminal Division], did not weigh in on any voting irregularities but agreed to sign a preliminary order that forced the Board of Election to preserve all of the evidence from the election - including a slew of invalidated ballots.

Those ballots could dramatically alter the race’s final count, according to Espaillat’s supporters.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Adriano vs. Charlie / Charlie vs. Adriano

[2 July 2012]

Today, Adriano Espaillat's lawsuit against the Board of Elections et al. over the Congressional race for Charlie Rangel's seat was not heard by Judge Donna Mills. After changing lawyers--and grounds for relief--Espaillat withdrew his lawsuit and shall refile mañana. Originally, his complaint had to do with the N.Y.C. Board of Elections not allowing proper observing of the counting of ballots and other matters. When he refiles, there will be complaints of irregularities and a possible new election request. It's a mish-mash of caselaw coleslaw. You can get the details and the news you'll want to know from the dailies or from the on-line blogs (see esp. Celeste Katz's of the N.Y. Daily News).

Hundreds of people showed up to watch the case at bar; a larger court room was needed. It lasted about a "minute" with the voluntary withdrawal of the Espaillat proceeding. "The usual suspects" were there--pols and lawyers, the men wearing suits in this weather. [In the Florida courts and also the Ninth Circuit C. of A. auxiliary courthouse in sweltering "South Pas" L.A., the judges have been known to remove their robes and invite the gentlemen to remove their jackets.]

A gazillion press reporters and cameramen and women were there, too. Your correspondent spoke with a good number of them, and ascertained that not one seemed to know anything about election law. Par for the course.

P.s. At Tuesday, 3rd July's Bd. of Elections commissioners' meeting, press and television crews showed up. Again, with the exception of the Daily News guy, the reporters appeared to be ignorant of the Election Law procedures. In fact, the number of election districts which had no report on Primary day was proportionate to those "zero" E.D.s in the Rangel Congressional Primary two years ago. Well, anyway, a lot of overtime for the Board's underpaid employees.