Tracing Ward’s path to state judicial bench
By Robert J. McCarthy
The Buffalo News
March 14, 2015
But critics ask whether the new jurist’s reward for fueling the party treasury resulted in the most effortless campaign ever waged by a local judicial candidate. Ward avoided fundraising until after his election was assured, endured no bar association rating process before his nomination, and sat out spring and summer campaigning.
It all leads James J. Sample, an associate professor at Long Island’s Hofstra Law School and a longtime critic of the state’s judicial nominating system, to reiterate that “legal acumen means nothing compared to political patronage” in determining who sits on New York’s top trial bench.
“In other states, the typical fear of judicial elections is contributions from litigants to candidates,” he said. “In New York, the problem is the candidates themselves have to ante up to become judges.”
Only New York State relies on a judicial nominating convention system that he still maintains is controlled by party leaders, said Sample, part of the Brennan Center team who brought the suit.
“In Staten Island, it’s through Republican Headquarters,” he said. “And the Democratic Party leader in Erie County has every bit the power the bosses had in Tammany Hall decades ago.”
Sample noted that Albany legislators seriously explored reform of the system following Gleeson’s original ruling several years ago, but all that died with the Supreme Court decision. Because the political parties still exercise such control over the system, he now doubts it will ever change.