Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Governor Paterson has been getting blistered for his appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to the Senate seat HRC left to become Secretary of State. It seems to me that he more or less had to pick a woman after he made such a point of criticizing the Commission on Judicial Nomination for failing to include a woman on the roster of candidates to replace Chief Judge Judith Kaye. The Judiciary Committee of the New York State Senate is presently holding hearings on the state's merit appointment process, and I am more than a little concerned that they will find a way to screw up a system that has worked well since 1977. It is peculiar that Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, the senior associate judge on the Court of Appeals, did not make the list, but I don't think that a single event like that can be taken as evidence that the system as a whole is broken. It's a problem that the timeframe within which the Commission operates is so long-- barring an unexpected resignation it'll be four years before there is another vacancy. This makes it difficult to determine if the process that resulted in the nomination of chief judge-nominee Jonathan Lippman, (the presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department) is typical, or some sort of outlier. I'd say that a process that has resulted in the appointment of four women, three blacks and one Hispanic to the state's highest Court has been a process that is pretty good when it comes to promoting diversity, and I'd go a step further and say that the process has been friggin' great when it comes down to making quality appointments. The Court of Appeals is a deep bench, and has been for quite some time. I would not be in a hurry to tinker with a process that is pretty clearly working.

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