Judicial Convention Defense: Spitzer Has Nothing to Do With It

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it’s going to review the New York case about the constitutionality of the judicial selection process.

(Judicial candidates currently get the endorsement of a major party not by running in primaries, but in judicial conventions. More on the initial case here.)

In addition to making it a big day for the Brennan Center, this should be good news for Eliot Spitzer, who has been pushing for judicial primaries as part of a broader reform agenda that includes non-partisan redistricting and new rules on campaign finance and governmental ethics. A victory on this issue in the Supreme Court would hand Spitzer a crushing victory over the party chairs, whose ability to create judges gives them much of their remaining political leverage and influence.

But an attorney working for one of the defendants, the State Supreme Court Justices Association, said Spitzer’s calls change are essentially meaningless.

“It doesn’t change anything,” said the attorney, Joseph Forstadt. “If the law is established, the governor can call for changes, but our expectation is that matters will be returned to the status quo.”

He continued:

“The only public officials, Governor Spitzer and Senator DeFrancisco are the only two public officials who have gone on record in support of primaries for supreme court judges. The State Association of Supreme Court Judges, the bar association, have gone on the record in support of a convention system.

“Michael Cardozza, the city’s corporation counsel, went on record in support of convention system as opposed to primaries. That’s the key issue.”

Is he right? What’s going to happen here?

– Azi Paybarah