The Mayor’s Judicial Appointments – Carey R. Dunne

 Carey Dunne

President’s Column, December 2013

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is about to swear in the last group of judges that he will be appointing to New York City’s courts. As many of you know, the Mayor makes all appointments to the City’s Family Court and Criminal Court, and also appoints interim Civil Court Judges. Every judge now sitting in the Family and Criminal Court has been appointed or reappointed during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure. What has been largely unheralded during the course of Mayor Bloomberg’s judicial appointments is that he has consistently followed the practice, originally adopted as an Executive Order by Mayor Koch, of having an independent committee on the judiciary select a limited number of candidates from which the Mayor must choose in making his appointments.

Mayor Bloomberg further subscribed to a practice first adopted by Mayor Koch: that the New York City Bar Association’s Judiciary Committee would review every potential appointee and that he would not appoint anyone who was not approved by our Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee, which has been in existence for more than 140 years, is comprised of over 50 members and reviews all candidates for judicial office in New York City. The Committee seeks to ensure that judicial candidates have the integrity, impartiality, intellectual ability, knowledge of the law, industriousness and judicial demeanor and temperament that qualifies them for service on the bench.

The partnership between the Mayor’s office and the City Bar’s Judiciary Committee has been a strong and effective one, recognizing that each independent committee brings a different perspective and has access to different sources of information, and that having both review potential candidates better assures that the Mayor’s appointments will be of high quality. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his consistent adherence to this process, and to the principle of judicial independence, which is, after all, the principle on which the City Bar was founded in 1870, when 200 lawyers came together to stand up to the rampant corruption and cronyism among judges in the era of Tammany Hall.

It is our sincere hope that the approach of Mayor Bloomberg and his predecessors to judicial selection will be maintained by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and his incoming administration, because we believe it is the best way to sustain the integrity and strength of the City’s judicial system. To that end, we look forward to continuing the fruitful and important relationship that has been established between the Office of the Mayor and the New York City Bar Association in evaluating judicial appointees.