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Charles J. Hynes Hynes Probe Targets Judges’ Election Funds xxxxxxxxxxxxxx BROOKLYN District Attorney Charles J. Hynes pledged yesterday that a special grand jury he convened to examine the way Democratic nominations for Supreme Court in Brooklyn are secured will follow the money trail. In a meeting with Law Journal editors and reporters, Mr. Hynes asked why is it necessary for Democratic candidates, whose elections are a “fait accompli,” to raise large sums of money. The grand jury will examine “why the money is raised, where it goes and how much is involved,” he said. Mr. Hynes announced last week that he had convened a special grand jury on April 7 as his office was winding down an eight-month investigation into allegations that bribes were being paid to steer matrimonial cases to Brooklyn Justice Gerald P. Garson. Last Thursday, Justice Garson was arraigned on two felony counts. One count accused him of accepting a box of cigars for offering matrimonial lawyer Paul Siminovsky ex parte advice on how to present a case; the other accused him of accepting $1,000 from Mr. Siminovsky for referring clients to the lawyer. Mr. Siminovsky was charged with the more serious crime of bribing Justice Garson by buying him meals and drinks in Brooklyn establishments. Mr. Siminovsky also was accused of bribing Justice Garson’s former clerk, Paul Sarnell, to steer two cases to the judge. Mr. Sarnell was accused of bribery-related charges in the scheme, as were a court officer, a Brooklyn businessman and three of Mr. Siminovsky’s clients. Mr. Hynes left open the possibility that the special grand jury’s work could lead to further criminal charges, but said that at a minimum the grand jury will raise “very serious questions going to the very heart of the integrity of the [nomination] system.” The issue, Mr. Hynes explained, is the appearance of impropriety in fund raising. In an elective system, he said, there are “obscene numbers that must be raised from sources that raise very serious suspicion — lawyers who practice in the court, title companies, other real estate interests, banks and the like.” Mr. Hynes declined to comment on published reports that Justice Garson told investigators after being confronted with the evidence against him that candidates pay more than $50,000 to obtain Supreme Court nominations, and that the judge agreed to wear a recording device to collect evidence of that claim. Mr. Hynes acknowledged that the claim that judgeships are being bought and sold had been “repeated often enough” to warrant investigation, but added that he was not “as sanguine” that the probe would yield proof of the charge. Election Versus Appointment Only last week Mr. Hynes said he was not backing political appointment as the method for selecting Supreme Court justices, but yesterday he came out firmly for doing away with judicial elections entirely. “The plain fact is,” he said, that “to continue to have an elected position which requires so much fund raising is just plain wrong. . . . The bottom line is, they [the politicians] have to get out of the system at long last.” He acknowledged, however, that given the current political climate, the prospect of a constitutional change, which would be required to switch to an appointive system, is not “realistic.” Mr. Hynes said that for now he is pressing for a change in the law to replace the present convention system — in which delegates are elected to choose judicial candidates — with an open primary election system for elections because that can be accomplished with the passage of a new state statute. Mr. Hynes suggested that as a prosecutor armed with subpoena power, he is in a unique position to unearth information that will build “momentum” for “historic change.” Mr. Hynes said that information developed in the probe of Justice Garson had provided the material basis required under Criminal Procedure Law §190.55(c)(2) to permit him to convene a special grand jury. During the entire 24 years he has headed the Brooklyn office or served as a special state prosecutor, he said, there has only been one other occasion on which he had a “material basis” for convening a special grand jury to examine official misconduct, whether “criminal or otherwise.” Mr Hynes declined to elaborate on the information the Garson probe had generated to meet the material basis standard for a grand jury probe. Mr. Hynes also said he hoped to meet with the state publishers’ associations, community newspapers and court reform groups to build support for an open primary system for the nomination of party’s Supreme Court candidates. Helene Weinstein, D-Brooklyn, chairwoman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, yesterday indicated that Mr. Hynes may face tough sledding in his press for a legislative change. “If you look at the mix with some judges elected and some appointed, I think on the whole we have a good mix of judges,” Ms. Weinstein said. “There is something attractive about having that mix.” Senate Judiciary Chairman John A. DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), however, was more receptive to Mr. Hynes’ proposal. Moving to a primary system, he said, “would help open up the process and give more individuals the opportunity to participate as a candidate,” he said. In the Law Journal meeting, Mr. Hynes pressed his case that the convention system is fatally flawed. The convention delegates, who are named by district leaders, have no independence, he said. Party leaders are quite open in admitting that “the delegates are told for whom they vote,” he said. “The pernicious reality,” he said, “is that, where a party dominates, there is no real election.” The notion that the public elects the Supreme Court judiciary is “illusory,” he added.

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