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Releasing a study that places New York among the worst states for appointing Hispanic judges, members of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund called on Gov. George Pataki to push for parity on the bench Monday. The study says that New York state had the lowest percentage of Hispanic state court judges — 1.6 percent — among states with the 10 largest Hispanic populations as of 2000. New York ranked second to last in percentage of federal judges who are Hispanic, with 2.9 percent, compared with zero for Nevada. The study said Hispanics account for 4 percent of both state and federal judgeships in the country, while constituting 13 percent of the total population. The fund released the study Monday at a press conference attended by prominent members of the Hispanic community, including Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez, D-Texas, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Civil Rights Task Force, and Rep. Nydia M. Vel�zquez, D-NY, also a member of the caucus. The two representatives were among 18 members of Congress to sign a letter endorsing the study. Juan A. Figueroa, the fund’s president, spoke out against Pataki’s past designations to the state’s appellate bench, which have included only one Hispanic among 28 appointments. The first appointment of a Hispanic came last week, when the governor named Luis A. Gonzalez, the administrative judge in the Bronx, to the Appellate Division, 1st Department. The governor also nominated another member of the Hispanic community, Albert Lorenzo, assistant dean of the St. John’s University School of Law, to a Court of Claims judgeship. “Politicians are courting Latino votes, but not appointing [Latinos] to the courts,” Figueroa said. Vel�zquez remarked on the governor’s recent campaign moves, saying it “is not enough that [Pataki] talks about the issue of Vieques.” Vel�zquez stressed that the representatives of the Hispanic community are not advocating for quotas, but rather the appointment of qualified judicial candidates who are Hispanic and active in the Hispanic community. A spokesman for the governor said: “We’re pleased to have recently appointed highly qualified individuals such as Luis Gonzalez and Albert Lorenzo, and will continue looking for highly qualified judges from all backgrounds.” Figueroa noted that there is one judicial vacancy in the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, and he said he hoped the governor would match “his rhetoric with an appointment.” Sources say that Staten Island Supreme Court Justice William F. Mastro, a registered Democrat, is the front-runner for the vacancy, which opened up when Justice Lawrence J. Bracken, the former presiding justice, stepped down upon reaching the age of 70. Bracken has since returned to the supreme court bench in Suffolk County. Among states with the largest number of Hispanics, New York’s state judiciary finished last, with 1.6 percent of judges who are Hispanic, just behind Illinois, whose state judiciary is 1.8 percent Hispanic. With 19 million Hispanics as of the 2000 Census, New York has the second-largest Hispanic population in the country. Next among states with large Hispanic populations was Nevada, which has 2.9 percent Hispanics on its state court bench, followed by Florida (5 percent) and New Jersey (6.3 percent). New Mexico, whose population is 42.1 percent Hispanic, had the most parity among state courts, with 37.3 percent of the judiciary being Hispanic. Nevada finished last in percentage of federal judges who are Hispanic, with zero, followed by New York (2.9 percent), Florida (4.5 percent), New Jersey (5.3 percent) and Illinois (5.9 percent). Texas, whose population is 32 percent Hispanic, topped the federal statistics with a judiciary that is 16.9 percent Hispanic. Among the study’s other findings were that 37 states have no Hispanic judges on the federal bench, while 21 states have no Hispanics on state court benches. Two states had a higher percentage of Hispanics on the federal bench than in their general populations: 14.3 percent on the bench in Kansas, compared with 7 percent in the general population, and 7.7 percent on the bench in Indiana, compared with 3.5 percent in the population. Only the District of Columbia had a higher percentage of Hispanic state court judges (8.8 percent) compared with its general population (7.9 percent).

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