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To: Governor Kathy Hochul

Don't Suppress Our Vote: Sign NYS Senate Bill S4379

Don't Suppress Our Vote: Sign NYS Senate Bill S4379

Background

In NYS Supreme court justices must retire at the end of the year in which they turn 70 years old; however, retired justices may serve until the end of the year in which they turn 76 years old if they are certified as competent every two years.

In November 2020, such a process became a bitter point of controversy after the Office of Court Administration ("OCA") Board forced out 46 older judges by denying them certification.

Under current law, the Office of Court Administration ("OCA") board still has discretion over a judge’s certification or recertification, even if they find the judge’s services are necessary and the applicant has the mental and physical capacity to fulfill their role. Source: New Slate of Older NY Judges Seek Approval to Stay on Bench | New York Law Journal.

The Problem

By denying the certification of 46 elected Supreme Court justices, OCA revealed its true motive- to eliminate “certification” altogether of ELECTED Supreme Court justices seeking to remain on the bench past the age of 70 as evidenced by its statement in the March 2021 judiciary budget proposals. (See pages 90 & 91)

We the people live in a democracy where we are governed by our Constitution. We live in a democracy not a dictatorship. We the people have fought, sacrificed and died for the right to vote. Any action or conduct whether governmental or private that seeks, whether intended or not to suppress that right of the people to exercise its will through the franchise, must be met with an unquestioned lawful resolve opposing any such action or conduct.

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) through its action and conduct in denying the certification/recertification of duly “Elected” Supreme Court Justices, has in effect suppressed the will of the people to decide who is best suited to preside as Supreme Court Justices in their respective counties.

This right of the people in NYS to “Elect” Supreme Court Justices is rooted in our NYS Constitution: “The justices of the Supreme Court shall be chosen by the electors of the judicial district in which they are to serve ...” Art VI Sec. C.

Although judges in NYS upon reaching the age of 70 are required to retire, Supreme Court Judges under the NYS Constitution can continue as Supreme Court Judges up to the age of 76 as certificated judges provided that, first there be a need for their continued service and second that they be mentally and medically fit to continue serving. [ACT VI, Sec 25(B)].

In denying the certification/recertification of 46 elected Supreme Court Judges OCA, while seeking to replace them with “handpicked” appointed judges”, is blatant in its attempt at suppressing the will of the community in deciding who is best suited to serve as a judge.

Why is this important?

The Solution

It is the community through its collective vote that is in the best position to decide whether a particular judicial candidate understands the feel, tastes, smell, touch and pulse of the community. This is of particular concern to communities of color that have for far too long, been and continue to a great extent to be marginalized by a judiciary that has been ignorant and insensitive to communities of color. It is only recently that with demographic changes in New York City in particular, that Black and Latino communities have exercised their vote to elect a qualified judiciary more reflective of the community’s demographic make-up.

It has been only through their vote, that communities of color have been able to diversify the judiciary to the extent that is has begun to increase to a certain extent, public confidence in the judiciary and the court system as a whole. Indeed, Judges with diverse backgrounds offer unique perspectives and viewpoints that would serve to provide decision-making power to formerly disenfranchised populations and equal justice for all.

As a result, BILL NUMBER: S4379 has been introduced and passed by the NYS legislature and awaits Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature.

TITLE OF BILL

An act to amend the judiciary law, in relation to making technical changes to provisions providing for certification for service as a retired judge of the court of appeals or a retired justice of the supreme court.

PURPOSE

To make certification of retired Court of Appeals Judges and Supreme Court Justices who otherwise meet the statutory criteria for certification automatic, rather than discretionary.

How it will be delivered

We intend on emailing, and delivering signatures of this petition in person.

Updates

2022-01-07 12:40:01 -0500

100 signatures reached

2022-01-03 22:00:47 -0500

50 signatures reached

2022-01-03 14:45:04 -0500

25 signatures reached

2022-01-03 12:08:47 -0500

10 signatures reached