Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Governor Paterson was pretty unhappy with the process that brought him Jonathan Lippman as his nominee for Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and Wayne Barrett is fuming. It is a little troubling that Judge Lippman has only ever worked in the court system-- some time actually representing clients is a nice qualtity in any judge. Barrett's beef is that Lippman is a crony of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. His other rabbi was Chief Judge Judith Kaye, which suggests that Judge Lippman's rise isn't as tawdry as Barrett suggests, but the Voice article is worth reading for its portrayal of New York judicial politics. The NYTimes is gentler in its coverage, emphasizing Judge Lippman's accomplishments as an administrator. In that connection it is interesting to consider that one of the candidates on the list that the governor had to pick from included the Hon. Eugene Pigott, the former Chief Administrative Judge for the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. It is also still interesting that Judge Carmen Ciparick who has been on the Court of Appeals for 15 years, and who the other five Court of Appeals judges voted to serve as the acting chief judge after Judge Kaye retired, was somehow not on the list of finalists. The question of what qualifies someone to be a good judge is an interesting one, and being Chief Judge is certainly a job that calls for an unusual set of skills, but it is not a unique skill set. I'm a fan of the merit selection process that New York uses to appoint Court of Appeals judges, but that's not the same as saying that it is not a political process. It obviously is, and like any political process it could always stand a little more sunlight. Judge Lippman breezed through the Judiciary Committee, and the full State Senate will now vote on his appointment

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