April 18, 2019: State Bar Association Approves New Measures for Evaluating Judicial Candidates

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) adopted new recommendations for the evaluation of candidates for judicial office at its April 13 House of Delegates meeting in Albany.

The recommendations were part of a report by the Task Force on the Evaluation of Candidates for  Election to Judicial Office, established on June 1, 2018, in connection with the disbanding of the statewide network of Independent Judicial Elections Qualification Commissions (IJEQCs).

While many local, affinity and specialty bar associations, including NYSBA, already had screening committees that effectively evaluate judicial candidates, some county bars did not have processes in place. Vetting processes needed to be in place for the next cycle of judicial elections.

NYSBA acted immediately, calling on a number of past and present local and state bar leaders to join a task force to assist and support local bars in setting up screening and evaluation mechanisms, and to develop best practice guidelines for the process. Because some local bar associations lack the resources and membership needed to establish such committees, task force members also developed guidance for establishing regional screening committees, as an alternative.

“Fair, effective, non-partisan evaluation of candidates for election to judicial office is fundamental to the effective administration of justice. With the termination of the IJEQCs, we needed to have something in place quickly to properly evaluate candidates for judicial office,” said NYSBA President Michael Miller, who praised the task force for doing extraordinary work under strict time constraints. “Under the leadership of Robert L. Haig (Kelley Drye) and retired Court of Appeals Judge Susan Phillips Read (Greenberg Traurig), the task force completed a superb and comprehensive study and offered concrete recommendations of best practices so that all who seek election to judicial office may be evaluated fully and equitably.”

“Having effective, partisan-free judicial evaluation and screening processes in place throughout the state is critical to ensuring that candidates for judicial office in New York possess the essential qualities to be a good judge. I am thankful to the New York State Bar Association for its prompt actions in response to the vacuum created by the disbanding of the IJEQCs, and commend Michael Miller and the task force members for their outstanding efforts as we strive to promote the highest standards of the judiciary,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Task Force Co-chairs Susan Phillips Read and Robert Haig said, “If we are to be successful in our mission of developing effective non-partisan evaluation and screening of candidates for election to judicial office and improving those efforts that already exist, it is vital to help create and support systems that will truly foster the best judiciary possible.”

The task force noted that its mission did not include tackling a split in the way judges in New York are selected: the state’s appellate courts and the New York City Criminal and Family Court judges are all appointed; nearly all other judges and justices are elected. NYSBA supports a commission-based selection process for all judges, similar to the one used to appoint judges to the Court of Appeals.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Joan Fucillo
jfucillo@nysba.org
518-487-5670