Gavel Grab

Opinion: Cuomo Needs to Open Up Merit System

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to appoint a judge for the New York Court of Appeals, replacing Judge Carmen Ciparick, who is nearing the mandatory retirement age. Governor Cuomo will choose from a list of seven candidates chosen by a screening commission.

The commission recently pushed back their filing deadline from August 1 to August 15. A New York Daily News opinion piece suggests that moving the deadline back indicates that the panel is not getting enough applicants.

According to the piece, there is good reason why applications have become scarce. Interest has fallen in the past few decades as judges and lawyers have begun to realize that the court is often stocked with insiders.

In 1983, the commission interviewed more than 40 applicants for the position, but in 2008 there were only 12 applicants. The editorial named a few examples of governors who have appointed political insiders for the court. “But the cumulative effect of the appointments has been to prompt many lawyers who are superbly qualified but poorly connected to reasonably ask: Why bother?,” the editorial stated.

“Cuomo now has the responsibility to restore faith in merit selection,” the editorial said. Judith Kaye, former New York Court of Appeals judge and current member of the screening commission said, “The message we’re getting out is that the only thing we’re looking at is quality.”

With more court vacancies approaching, Governor Cuomo will possibly remake New York’s entire highest court, the editorial said.

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