Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spitzer proposal ends elections for state Supreme Court judges

The Business Review

More campaign promises Spitzer is keeping...................andy

New York Supreme Court judges would no longer be elected under a reform package proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer April 26.
Instead the governor wants to be able to appoint justices of the Supreme Court, the lowest level of New York state court, to be chosen by regional judicial nominating commissions. Supreme Court judges are elected for 14-year terms.
This change would require an amendment to the New York state constitution. An amendment approved by the Legislature elected in 2006 would have to be approved by the Legislature that will be elected in 2008 and then go to the voters in 2009.
The proposal does not effect county court judges who would continue to be elected.
Under Spitzer's plan local judicial commissions would vet candidates and forward a list of potential justices to the governor, who would make the final selection. The same system is used to pick judges for the four Appellate Division courts.
In the interim the governor is proposing legislation that would replace the current judicial nominating convention system, which has been judged unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, with a new system for selecting judicial candidates.
That change would simply require the Legislature to change the law.
Spitzer's reform package also calls for consolidating the state's trial courts into a two-tiered statewide system.
The governor would also allow the number of Supreme Court judges to increase. Currently that number is fixed in the constitution. This has resulted in judges in other courts, such as family court, to be named acting supreme court justice so they can handle excess cases.
Finally the governor's plan calls for increasing judicial salaries, a measure promoted by Chief Justice Judith Kaye. The increases would be retroactive to April 1.
Under Spitzer's plan, Supreme Court judges would receive an annual salary of $162,100, and effective April 1, 2006, Supreme Court judges would get $165,200. Salaries of all other judicial officers would be based on a percentage of the salary set for Supreme Court Justices.
The governor is also proposing constitutional amendments which would allow the creation of a fifth appellate court division to handle cases, and which would allow the appellate division districts to be redrawn every ten years instead of being fixed.

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