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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Politics plays key role in appointments

(Page 3 of 3)
By CUNY Graduate School of Journalism investigative reporting students in conjunction with Riverdale Press editors
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Bronx Supreme Court
“The problem you really confront as a judge is this, you have a list of people in front of you who want to be considered for these appointments, but you don’t really know the quality of their work,” Judge McKeon said. “Often, you’re going to turn to someone who you’ve had experience with and who you believe can do a good job.”

But The Press’ review found that politically connected attorneys have continued to prosper.

Furthermore, court documents on guardianships that should be immediately available to the public were kept under seal. They were only released after Judge McKeon agreed to redact personal information.

The practice contradicts the official policy of the Office of Court Administration, which oversees the courts and that of every other borough’s courthouse.

Ravi Batra, a Brooklyn attorney who in the past has been accused of benefiting from his own chummy relationships with judges, said the court system supplies politicians, who have few avenues for making extra money, with an easy side gig.
“By and large, it’s pure patronage,” he said.

Adam Skaggs, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said attempts to change the law to prevent county committees from having exclusive power over putting judges on the ballot — and thus owing favors to the people who put them there — had gone all the way to the United States Supreme Court, but had fallen flat.

Changing the system, it seems, is a classic catch-22.

“The same party apparatus that controls the judgeship makes it difficult to move meaningful reform through the legislature,” he said.

The intractability of this problem may be why James Sample, professor of Hofstra Law School, counts the way judges get on the ballot as one of the last vestiges of the old party boss system.

“It’s kind of a byproduct of Tammany Hall,” he said.

—Reporting contributed by Cesar R. Bustamante, Jr.

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4 comments on this story | Add your comment
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MannyG

I commend the RP for writing this article exposing how these elected officials are part of a club you and I aren't in. Finally some real journalism.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 | Report this
unodostres

Hi MannyG

I believe students from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism deserve the credit for this superbly written and well researched article...with additional props to the RP Editorial Staff. Great work guys (and girls).

Now my two cents...

The Hon. Nelida Malave-Gonzalez is actually a fair Judge and actually considerate of Bronx residents, especially in credit card collection cases. She was very much aware of the credit card industry's unscrupulous collection practices - especially against low income residents of the South Bronx - and the many times I appeared before her in pro se matters she made sure I understood the process. I have to commend her for that.

Insofar as Dinowitz is concerned...let's be clear, Riverdale politicians can make (or break) your political career in the Bronx if you decide you want to cowtow to their demands and rely upon Riverdale funds for your campaign. Look at BBP Ruben Diaz Jr! It's seems BBP Diaz walks around with Jeffrey Dinowitz arm so far up his a-- that if you look hard enough you can see the Assemblymans pointer and thumb fingers trying to YANK Diaz Jr.'s wisdom teeth out of his head...as he controls Diaz Jr.'s every word. Its sad and its sickening. If only Assemblyman Dinowitz were trampled into resignation by angry Bronx residents at the Loews Paradise a few years back, maybe we would not have to bear witness to his control of the BBP in such an emasculating, embarassingly dominatrix-y fashion. As fate would have it, he was spared from serious injury and we are now all subject to his narcisstic maneuverings as well as his sneaky bag biting brand of politics.

It is a shame a judge like Hon. Nelida Malave-Gonzalez is also beholden to the Dinowitz/Koppell/Engel Riverdale machine. I guess this dynamic can also account for all of the Riverdale arrests/violations being thrown out (dismissed) for Riverdale residents...while the lower income areas are subject to higher penalties/fines/violations and astronomical incarceration rates.

"Religion is the opium of the people." Marx

Friday, March 1, 2013 | Report this
Rosemary

This is a great piece, it rare to see this level of print journalism..Thank you!

Sunday, March 3, 2013 | Report this
MannyG

to Unodostres, yes I agree with your post. Very well written. I used to write for the RP very briefly in 2007. At that time, one of the first things I participated in was an organized softball game with Dinowitz and his staff against the staff of the Press. Now, it was fun and we had a great time, but in the back of my mind I was thinking "how are we going to report on this cat if we're buddy buddy playing softball with him?"

It was obvious that the local political establishment and the management of the RP were more friendly than they should have been. That cozy relationship has not served anybody well, and I'm very glad to see a little crack appearing with this article. Let's hope its the beginning of a trend. Although I have no faith in politics or either party, it's obvious that these entrenched career pols who think they have jobs for life need a little comeuppance. And it's not acceptable for them to be foisting their puppets on us either.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | Report this
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