ALBANY – The group formed by attorneys to promote a ballot question permitting some judges to stay on the bench until age 80 raised more than $350,000 in its first month of existence.
The Justice for All 2013 committee reported to the state Board of Elections that the bulk of its donations—$277,000—was received from law firms.
The group’s largest benefactor so far is Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore of Manhattan, which donated $100,000 on Sept. 4.
One of its partners, Thomas Moore, is among the three dozen lawyers who formed Justice for All 2013 this summer to advocate for passage of the proposed amendment on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot (NYLJ, Sept. 9).
The attorneys, who include former chief judge Judith Kaye and former Court of Appeals associate judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, said they wanted a privately-funded vehicle to promote the ballot question. The Unified Court System is prohibited from using taxpayer resources to promote or oppose a proposed constitutional amendment.
As a political advocacy group, Justice for All 2013 must report its contributors and expenditures to the Board of Elections. The spending report covers the period through Oct. 4.
Other firms making large contributions were Block, O’Toole & Murphy ($25,000), Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz ($25,000) and Torgan, Cooper & Aaron ($25,000). Eight others kicked in $10,000 each: Cohen, Clair, Lans, Greifer & Thorpe; Trolman, Glaser & Litchman; Greenberg Traurig; Fleming, Zulack, Williamson & Zauderer; Latham & Watkins; Wachtell Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and Cooley LLP.
The largest individual contributors came from John Dearie ($10,000) of the Law Offices of John Dearie. Contributing $5,000 each were Alan Levine of Cooley; Lawrence Mandelker of Kantor, Davidoff, Mandelker, Twomey & Gallanty; James Quinn of Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell; Robert Haig of Kelley Drye & Warren; Roy Scaffidi of Scaffidi & Associates; Roy Reardon of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Leo Milonas of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
Fifty-one individuals and 21 law firms contributed to the committee between Sept. 4, when it was formed, and Oct. 4, the final day of the Board of Elections’ filing period ending 32 days before the general election.
John Conklin, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, said there are no limits on individual or corporate contributions to committees promoting or opposing statewide ballot questions.
Moore said he has long criticized the judicial retirement age of 70, which he called a “crying shame,” and jumped at the chance to back the amendment with his firm’s $100,000 donation.
“It escapes me that there is even an issue here,” Moore said in an interview Tuesday. “For the life of me, I simply can’t see a legitimate downside to this proposition. I just can’t see it.”
He said that between now and election day, he hopes the committee can raise and spend about the same amount it raised in its first month to promote the ballot question.
The committee has spent all of its money through the Manhattan-based MirRam Group, a political consulting and advocacy firm. In addition to the consultant’s $10,000 retainer, the committee paid MirRam $15,000 to design a website (NYLJ, Oct. 4), $40,000 for a poll and $99,500 for a pro-amendment mailing.
The committee said it had just over $200,000 cash on hand as of Oct. 4.
The proposed amendment would allow elected Supreme Court justices to be re-certificated for two extra two-year terms than current law allows, or until age 80. It would also extend the mandatory retirement age for the Court of Appeals from 70 to 80.
In other news related to the amendment, the New York City Bar issued a statement explaining the constitutional amendment and urging its passage.
The group said the state’s retirement age of 70 for judges was set in the Constitution in 1869, when general health and life expectancies were far different than today.
The Office of Court Administration has estimated that about 40 judges a year would be affected by the limited expansion of the retirement age.
The city bar noted that Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has said he intends to use some of the judicial resources freed up by the amendment to assign more judges to Family Court, where caseloads have soared in recent years.
“While the proposed change might seem relatively small, the potential impact on our strained court system is significant,” the city bar said. “By ensuring that experienced, productive judges continue to serve, the amendment provides the clearest path to increase judicial capacity in the foreseeable future.”
The city bar said its executive committee considered comments from various committees before endorsing the constitutional amendment.
Also Tuesday, MirRam announced that Bruce Gyory, an Albany-based political consultant, has been brought on to direct the advocacy efforts of the committee over the next month.
Gyory said Tuesday that he is “thrilled” by the fundraising numbers.
“It’s a real reflection of the merits of our message: No New Yorker should be discriminated against because of his or her age,” he said. “Able-bodied, competent judges should be allowed to continue serving our judicial system.”
@|Joel Stashenko can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.