By Jacob Kaye
The Queens County Bar Association Judicial Committee has released its ranking of judicial candidates running in the upcoming general election.
The Bar Association – much like the New York Bar Association – does not share the precise methodology behind the ratings. Unlike the City Bar, the QCBA uses three ratings, instead of two – “well qualified”, “qualified” and “unqualified”.
Of the 12 candidates assessed by the QCBA committee, only one – the Republican candidate for the Supreme Court of Queens, John C. Spataro – was deemed unqualified.
Candidates Denis J. Butler, who is running for a second term on the Supreme Court, Cassandra Johnson, who is running for a seat in the New York City Civil Court Queens, 4th District Bench of the Municipal Court, and Paul Vallone, who heads New York City Civil Court Queens, 3rd District City Court, were all found to be well qualified.
Supreme Court candidates Larentina McKetney Butler, Karen Gopee, David Kirschner, Joseph F. Kasper and Kenneth Holder, who are running for a second term, received a qualified rating. The county civil court candidates, Andrea Ogle and William D. Shanahan, were also reportedly qualified by the committee.
The QCBA ratings did not differ significantly from the NYCBA list, but the two organizations rated some applicants differently.
Kirschner, who currently sits on the Bronx Criminal Court, was not approved by the NYCBA but approved by the QCBA.
There were also several candidates vying for a judicial seat who were not assessed by the Queens Bar and did not participate in the process, including Working Families Party Supreme Court candidates Deborah Axt and Bob Cohen. , Republican Civil Court candidate, 4th Municipal District Daniel Kogan, Democratic Supreme Court candidate Michele Titus and Civil Court candidate for Soma Syed County.
Not all applicants have been approved by the NYCBA, although the score may be applied if a candidate does not participate in the process.
“The members of the Judicial Committee of the New York City Bar and the Queens County Bar are long-serving lawyers,” said ACQB President Frank Bruno. “They have courtroom experience, they are able to observe and determine the judicial sense, tone and temperament and the members of the committee who participate in this judicial inquiry are best placed to render the judgment. .
The process deepens the background and functioning of judicial candidates, said Les Nizen, chairman of the judiciary commission.
Most of the process is done in conjunction with the NCYBA, although individual candidate assessments are done separately.
Applicants must first complete a “very detailed and lengthy application,” Nizen said. Several committee members will review each candidate’s written work, interview lawyers who have worked with the candidate in the past, and, if possible, observe the candidate in a courtroom.
The committee members then draw up a report on each candidate and submit it to the rest of the joint committee. Then the candidates are interviewed.
The two bars went their separate ways for the last step of the process – voting.
The QCBA committee votes by secret ballot.
Nizen said the assessments have multiple benefits – for voters, candidates and bar lawyers.
“If I’m a candidate and being assessed, my peers are the people who know me or have appeared before me and I’d like to know what their perception of me is,” Nizen said. “If I think I am a very nice and kind lawyer, but people appearing before me think I am an SOB, I would like to know that so that I can make amends and change.”
It’s also beneficial for lawyers reviewing candidates, Nizen said, because it gives them some leeway in the process and allows them to arm their colleagues with information they can bring to the voting booth.
Finally, voters get an independent analysis of the candidates they will vote for. Judicial campaigns often give less information about a candidate than campaigns for other public office.
Additionally, candidates for the bench are chosen by political parties – Supreme Court candidates do not have a primary at all and are instead nominated by parties to stand for general election.
“If people don’t vote along party lines, it has some impact,” Nizen said.
In the past, the ACQR Judicial Committee, on which Nizen served for about two decades, participated in the process of reviewing nominations before parties made their nominations. It is a process, he wishes, maybe one day to return.
“Maybe one day it could happen again, but this is a political situation that district leaders or party leaders should be okay with,” he said.