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ALBANY — The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday advanced a bill that would carve out a new judicial district just for Staten Island in an effort to end what the sponsor claims is an insidious unfairness in the judicial selection process. Senator John J. Marchi said the current system of choosing Supreme Court justices through multi-county judicial conventions often shortchanges Staten Island. Mr. Marchi, a Staten Island (Richmond County) Republican, said that since Brooklyn (Kings County) is so much larger than Staten Island it holds “an irrefutable monopoly on power in the nomination process.” Staten Island and Brooklyn make up the Second Judicial District. Mr. Marchi observed that Richmond County, with some 400,000 residents, holds only four of the 48 Supreme Court slots in the shared district. “The strikingly unfair distribution of authority to determine justices . . . can only be rectified by separating Staten Island from the Second Judicial District and by creating a 13th Judicial District comprised solely of Staten Island,” Mr. Marchi said in his bill justification. “Without this much needed reform, Staten Island will continue to be ignored in this undemocratic process for selection of justices to the state’s Supreme Court.” Mr. Marchi’s gripe has to do with the fact that candidates for Supreme Court are selected at political nominating conventions where the delegates reflect the population of each county in the district. As it now stands, the Brooklyn population so outnumbers that of Staten Island that Brooklyn’s delegates, if they vote as a block, have total control. Mr. Marchi has been pursuing this issue for several years, but while the bill has support in the Republican-dominated Senate, it has never generated interest in the Democrat-controlled Assembly. S1884 arises at a time when judicial selection is a hot topic, particularly in Brooklyn, where District Attorney Charles J. Hynes has convened a grand jury to investigate the selection process. [See "Probe Will Follow Funds Raised in Electing Judges," page 1] Mr. Hynes’ initiative stemmed from last week’s indictment of Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gerald P. Garson, a product of the judicial convention system, on corruption charges. Critics, like the district attorney, complain that the convention process ensures that judges are handpicked by political operatives rather than the electorate in communities such as Brooklyn, where one party dominates. Mr. Marchi’s proposal would not result in the open primaries advocated by Mr. Hynes. Rather, it would retain the current process while ensuring that Staten Island delegates would select the Staten Island judiciary. Also yesterday, the Judiciary Committee advanced Chairman John A. DeFrancisco’s bill to restrict the position of administrative judge to elected Supreme Court justices. Earlier this year, the appointment of Erie County Family Court Judge Sharon S. Townsend to the administrative post in Buffalo caused a local uproar and unusually sharp criticism of the Office of Court Administration. Western New York Supreme Court justices resented the appointment and accused the OCA hierarchy of inappropriately foisting its candidate on the local judiciary. Mr. DeFrancisco’s bill, S4429, would affect only future administrative judge appointments. He said the “breadth of experience” of Supreme Court judges make them most suitable to “provide administrative services for a judicial district.”

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